Five Interview Questions for Asset Managers

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Investment advisory firms are rebuilding their staffs after an enormously painful two years. Still, just as before the recession, they still want competent money managers who can bring in clients, says Sam Levine, the managing partner of the Buttonwood Group, an investment management executive search firm. Planning on interviewing for one of these jobs? Here are five questions you can expect.

Tell me how you manage clients' money.

This is a slow pitch to get the interview started. It can also be a deal breaker. Emphasize how your style is compatible with the hiring company, or how it can help the company grow. Never engage in a debate over investment styles. Instead, present yourself as open-minded and interested in learning different styles and methods.

Describe your book.

Offer a breakdown of how many clients, accounts, average size per account, attrition, revenue and the portion of the firm's assets you're responsible for. This gives the interviewer a glimpse of the kind of workload you can carry, and whether or not you have experience dealing with the kind of clients who are attractive to the company.

Aside from servicing clients, what skills can you offer us?

To ace this question, do careful research and identify something that would be particularly valuable. For example if you give a killer presentation and know the company is in growth mode, explain how your presentations will help the firm win business.

How do you get new business?

Are you referred business from centers of influence (consultants, internal partners, accountants)? Do you network personally? Explain whether you help close business or are involved from the beginning. Anecdotes are helpful, especially if you can attach a dollar figure to the amount of business you brought in, or the revenue your work generated for your employer.

Can your clients follow you to a new firm?

Have a copy of any nonsolicit/noncompete agreement with you and be prepared to discuss the experience of colleagues who've left your current firm. If there's a core group of clients that will find you no matter where you go, discuss them broadly without identifying them. If you're asked about how much in assets or revenue you could bring to a new firm, give a tentative figure that you think is achievable within one year.