Thursday, January 29, 2009

For Those Who Are Interested in Asset Management

I have recently read this article which is worth sharing. The story described how Madeline Ho, managing director of Fidelity Investment Management, moves from banking to asset management. She had worked from bottom up and personally experienced different challenges within the business.

For undergraduates wishing to prepare themselves for a career in asset management, Ms Ho says that a good learning attitude rather than perfect technical knowledge is pertinent when entering the industry. 

A bachelor's degree is the basic requirment for any entry role.  Consider an Online Degree in case you need one.

Now, let's see what the veteran says.

Managing other people's money
12 January 2009 - Business Times Singapore

An asset management industry veteran shares with JASON LOW what it takes to make the cut in her line.

SHE describes herself as an 'accidental financial person' but Madeline Ho, managing director of Fidelity Investment Management (Singapore), is certainly no accidental success in the industry.

Mrs Ho, who graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 1990 with a bachelor of business degree, wanted to go into marketing. But the markets were slow then, so she had to look for alternatives.

'When I graduated, the markets were not exactly fantastic and it wasn't easy to get a role in marketing . . . so the natural way was to get into the financial institutions and eventually get a role in marketing there,' the 40-year-old says.

She worked her way up and eventually made the cut. Today, she works for one of the world's most prominent fund management houses.

Ms Ho started in consumer banking upon graduation. In 1996, she switched to asset management at Templeton Asset Management, now known as Franklin Templeton Investments.

According to her, the move from banking to asset management was something that she looked forward to, since she was able to learn something different, especially about the foreign institutional culture in a foreign fund house.

'The industry then was very different from what it is now,' Ms Ho recalls. 'Then, the competition was against the local names. Now the competition is more global.'

But the one thing that has not changed over the years in this industry is the principle behind asset management: to help people achieve their goals with better management of their wealth, she says.

Ms Ho believes that having the commitment to serve and help people to manage their money is one of the most pertinent requisites for her work.

'If you're deciding to be in this line, it is imperative that you have the commitment to serve and help people through proficient wealth management. Personally, that's what I think is my biggest motivation at work,' she says.

'A lot of times, the average person on the street doesn't have the necessary knowledge and expertise to manage his own funds and that's where we come in. This industry offers you the chance to help people manage and create wealth; and it is, to me, a very meaningful industry to be in.'

Asked what she thought makes a great fund manager, she says: 'He is one that needs to have the natural interest in this business, not just profit-driven but commitment-driven. Commitment to serve, that is. Someone who has the innate interest, passion and focus to achieve long term objectives. That, for me, is someone who has the potential to rise to the top.'

For undergraduates wishing to prepare themselves for a career in asset management, Ms Ho says that a good learning attitude rather than perfect technical knowledge is pertinent when entering the industry.

'While mastering the technical aspects of the asset management business - such as your valuation measures like P/E and P/B - is important, the attitude to learn and being inquisitive about things are much more important. The former can be learned, but it takes a much longer time to cultivate the latter,' says Ms Ho, who has been at Fidelity since 2006.

Indeed, the willingness to invest in oneself through learning and training is critical.

Says Ms Ho: 'One must be willing to invest in himself. Otherwise, no one would be willing to invest in him. The time invested on self-learning will never go to waste since what one learns stays with him.'

Such self-learning certainly helped Ms Ho on her way up. Sharing her experience in rising to the top, she reveals that during her time at Templeton, she had tried her hands at almost everything - from the most basic tasks such as folding mailers, to more advanced roles of managing people.

'I've done almost everything from bottom to top, personally experiencing the different challenges that one would have to go through while making his or her way up in an asset management firm. Learning it the hard way . . . made it more difficult for people to fool me,' she says.

The bottom line is to be committed to serve and be motivated by the opportunity to help others.

'Having the dedication to serve and proficiently manage the clients' portfolio is one of the cornerstones of asset management,' Ms Ho says. 'You are managing other people's money after all, thus maintaining a high level of commitment and integrity when serving clients is paramount.'

When not working, Ms Ho likes to spend quality time with her family. The mother of two says: 'Both my kids are at school-going age, so weekend movies are a fixture in our family calendar. We also make it a point to bring the kids to different destinations for holidays during the June and December school holidays.'

Having a work-life balance means a lot to her, and she's glad to be able to take time off to spend with her family.

Her final piece of advice for aspiring fund managers: 'The journey is as important as the destination. If you enjoy the journey, you will undoubtedly be able to reach the destination faster.'


ikemen said...

hi Maria,

do you headhunting people in finance/accounting background? i'm from singapore and am interested to work in HK.

fyi, i speak mandarin chinese and cantonese.

Anna Maria D'Souza said...


I am a headhunter, but my blog is not meant to provide recruiting services. I suggest your contacting local headhunting firms in Singapore and tell them your willingness to relocate. Alternatively you should contact some agents in Hong Kong. You can also look for some HK-based online recruiting ads like SCMP online, but they might be meant for mid to entry level roles.