Resilient fund managers have what it takes to weather pandemic

Core-Asset Consulting - 05-Mar-2021

Resilient fund managers have what it takes to weather pandemic

BATTLE-scarred fund managers in Scotland have harnessed five years of painful experiences to weather the pandemic better than many other areas of financial services sector, according to a new report.

With an estimated £800 billion of funds under management in Scotland, the sector employs around 100,000 and, despite lockdown, was seeing recruitment growth from October 2020.

Now a new report says the resilience shown by Scotland’s fund management profession is in part due to preceding years of adversity, which drove adoption of technology and recognition of the importance of offering employees a better work-life balance.

The findings are in the sixth Annual Salary Guide into Scotland’s crucial financial service sector from Core-Asset Consulting. The report is a forensic review of current salary levels and a guide to the major developments that professionals need to be aware of.

It is also a gauge of market sentiment, activity and the themes that are impacting financial services across Scotland. The latest report predicts the financial services sector will have to wrestle with fallout from the pandemic, Brexit, the climate crisis and the clamour for greater diversity.

Betsy Williamson, founder and MD of Core-Asset, the pre-eminent recruitment and headhunting specialist for financial services in Scotland, said: “For five years larger fund management firms had been in cost cutting mode. Ironically, redundancies had turned from a constant flow into just a slow drip when the pandemic hit.

“However, those experiences meant investment houses had already started to move towards flexible working, with a recognition of the importance of culture and work-life balance to attract a more diverse employee base.

“At the same time, they were also addressing one of the most critical factors facing the industry: attracting, retaining and hiring more female candidates into traditionally male-dominated fields. Working culture was already centre stage, meaning flexible working hours, holiday allowances, maternity and paternity benefits packages were being recognised.”

Its global nature and reliance on IT infrastructure meant the fund management arena was well-positioned to embrace homeworking during lockdown and Betsy added: “Covid propelled the investment industry forward in the acceptance of non-office-based working in a way that no policy, government or corporate had been able to do until that point.

“This focus on health and wellbeing is going to be essential. We have seen candidate willing to take a lower salary if it is deemed there was a ‘good’ company culture.”

Fund management in Scotland provides investment services to UK, regional and global clients and includes a diverse mix of large institutional and retail-focused companies, smaller boutique firms, family offices and local authority in house managed teams.

The 2021 Core-Asset guide states that after five years of streamlining, by Q1 of 2020, many larger houses had started to stabilise, with vacancies increasing. Demand was focused on technical sales, client service and investment specialist positions, particularly for those with European language skills. Also in demand were roles in retail and institutional marketing, regulatory risk, investment risk and market risk, fund compliance, fund registration and key operational roles.

Highest volumes of hiring were at mid to senior level for candidates with 5-10 years’ experience. Volume of vacancies for experienced investment analysts, portfolio managers and fund managers were stable during most of 2020 and across the board recruitment started to increase from October.

Looking forward, the report predicts up to a third of employees may continue to work from home post-pandemic, which could be a strategic benefit to large investment houses still in the integration phase after acquisition or international mergers.

Home working can reduce fixed costs; physical office spaces can be smaller and overheads could be dramatically reduced. There could also be gains in employee productivity, while reduced commuting and improved work/life balance for working parents, could benefit diversity agendas.

However, the report predicts businesses will need to move quickly to understand their employees’ new training and development needs. Meanwhile the need for face-to-face interaction with global clients during a time of restricted travel will continue to be a challenge.

Betsy added: “We anticipated that the top talent will continue to be passive and will take convincing to change career paths. Likewise, we expect that during 2021 and into 2022, the market will continue to be client-driven, with more candidates seeking employment than vacancies available.”

Core-Asset Consulting was formed in 2005. Based in Edinburgh, it is now an £14m business employing 22 people and works across the entire financial services sector, from the smallest boutiques to the biggest global players.

Initially the firm carved its reputation in Scotland’s globally-renowned asset management sector. However, the success of its model allowed it to expand across the wider financial services market. It now boasts dedicated accounting, investment operations and finance teams and also works in Scotland’s thriving legal sector.

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