Hiring demand in Asset Management still high and resolute

As we come close to the end of another post-pandemic year, many of my clients are asking me whether hiring has been increasing or decreasing across the industry.  There were predictions that the widespread hiring freezes, put in place during the worst of the pandemic, could take years to thaw.  That didn’t happen.  Despite the following geopolitical upheavals, the economic downturn,  ongoing turmoil in the global financial system and unrelenting pressure on financial markets, we’ve seen no signs of South African Asset Management firms curtailing their endeavours to fill unoccupied roles.

Research conducted by the Asset Management Research Institute into last year’s key hiring trends mirrors our experience at the frontlines of executive search and recruitment.  They surveyed 90 companies and found that the top five areas for hiring were business development, portfolio management, quantitative analysis, credit analysis and equity analysis.

Another observed trend is the growing demand for more sophisticated talent in client-facing positions. To stay competitive, there’s a heightened need for greater technical expertise, stronger relationship-building skills, and enhanced client service abilities in these roles.

All too often, business development functions are separated, to some degree. The technical experts and client relationship managers tend to work separately, with the technical experts brought when a deeper investment knowledge is required. However, this approach can lead to losing deals to more sophisticated sales forces causing many distribution heads to reconsider their hiring criteria. Simultaneously, there’s mounting pressure to address this challenge internally, more proactively. This is leading to a greater emphasis on upskilling and on-the-job training to effectively resolve this issue.

It’s likely that urgent needs due to critical talent shortages are driving forces behind sustaining hiring efforts.  Perhaps, it also speaks to the resilience of SA Asset Management firms pressing on during adapt-or-die times.  There are also other reasons why many Financial Services companies cannot afford to pause or decrease their hiring.  Boomer-generation employees are retiring en masse  (check out the article Save your firm from the ordeals of succession planning) leaving empty seats in C-suite, business development, portfolio management, operations and investment teams.

While one can frame the sustaining of hiring efforts as a testimony to the perseverance and vigour of Asset Management firms, it’s important to also acknowledge some of the intractable problems that continue to frustrate the hiring process.  The skills shortage in South Africa is real, and it demands foresight and innovation in how firms conceive roles, how they develop and upskill the talent they have in their teams, how they build relationships with the talent they don’t yet have in-house and how they develop and maintain a workplace culture that keeps talent engaged.

Hiring tactics that firms have used in the past are no longer as effective. For instance, firms that neglect investing in the growth of their workforce often resort to recruiting skilled individuals externally, hoping for a swift ROI. There’s a good chance that if a company becomes known for lacking in this aspect, it will face difficulties in attracting top talent. Word spreads fast within the industry, and it could affect the company’s reputation among potential candidates

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