Few of the senior asset allocation officers started their careers aspiring to the positions they occupy today. Instead, they grew up in it, dipping their toes into small pools until they stumbled into the ocean.
At least that’s what happened to Catherine Ulozas, CIO at Drexel University’s investment office.
After graduating from an MBA, Ulozas set his sights on a career in corporate finance. She started as an analyst at a large insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut, and from there she moved into corporate finance. Then, in an unexpected turn of events, she became a bond trader.
“All of these things that happened early in my career were opportunities that I saw and applied to or people asked me to apply for,” Ulozas said. Institutional investor. “I really didn’t know. One day I was an analyst in a government bond office, and the next day the head of the unit came in and said to me, “You are a mortgage backed trader. ” Just like that.”
Jose Gonzalez, investment manager at the Teachers Retirement System in Illinois, had a similar experience. “My goal in life was to be a trader,” he said. “But my career path has changed for personal reasons.”
Elizabeth Burton, CIO of the Employees’ Retirement System of Hawaii, majored in history and French during her undergraduate studies in Washington and Lee. She had no intention of going into finance until a summer internship in a fund of funds put her on the path.
“There are a ton of different jobs in investing,” Burton said. II. “Who knows what you’re going to want to be on the road.”
As a mortgage-backed trader, Ulozas remembered feeling scared and upset. She had a mortgage, but that was the extent of her expertise in the matter. Over time, she took the hit, gaining skills and tips in the lion’s den.
“I will always be grateful for those opportunities that were sometimes above me and sometimes, quite frankly, below me,” said Ulozas. “They all taught me a lot – things that I took with me, skills, knowledge and the ability to have a larger group of work colleagues than I would have had if I had just let myself be to classify.”
Go up or out
Over the past four decades, Charles Skorina has seen institutional talent like Ulozas and Burton rise through the ranks and take on top positions.
Skorina is a Managing Partner of Charles A. Skorina & Company, an executive search firm that recruits leadership candidates for asset managers, endowments, foundations, family offices, capital companies -investment and hedge funds. He has contributed to countless research, including the appointment of investment advisor Alan Biller and Associates’ president and CEO last year.
According to Skorina, there are two ways to get a high-level job in an institution: to progress by succession or to relocate. For example, most foundations, like those at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania, have small but powerful staff ranging from 12 to 20, making the succession window obvious and tiny.
“Most of the staff are small,” Skorina said. II. “With a staff of five, six or seven, everyone supports each other. So you are trained in a versatile way whether you like it or not.
But most of the successor choices for senior roles are not internal. At large institutions, succession “looks terrible,” Skorina said – and that’s where executive search firms like hers come in.
When looking for executive talent, for example in non-profit institutions, Skorina said he values diversity of experience, but particularly seeks solid work in private markets.
“Number one: do they have private market experience? Skorina said. “It is interesting to select managers of private equity and venture capital. ”
At public pensions, recruiters are looking for more political skills. Administrative and relational management are priorities for decision-makers in these institutions, Skorina said.
“We must come to an agreement with the elected councils,” he added. “In most cases, it’s less about investing and more about getting along and communicating.
Allocator Breeding areas
Some investment stores are better at moving people than others. In Skorina’s view, only a small portion of existing endowments, foundations and hospital systems are managed by investment managers with strong training programs and strong upward mobility opportunities.
The University of Washington is one such institution. Its investment office has one of the strongest training programs in the country for young talent, according to Skorina.
But others also exist. At Drexel University, the investment office offers co-ops – part-time jobs approved by the university – to undergraduate and graduate students interested in a career in financial services. At the Texas Teacher Retirement System, employees are encouraged to participate in TRS University, an in-house program that allocates at least 20 hours per year for various career development courses and presentations. Activities range from a one-off presentation by an industry leader to week-long courses in corporate finance and accounting, according to CIO Jase Auby. Auby said TRS also has internal mentoring programs.
According to Auby, a public pension plan is a great place to start a career. On the one hand, employees are exposed to all asset classes when working with the portfolio of a pension plan.
“Your exposure is not siled to a single asset class,” he said. “In addition, you have routine interactions with the top executives of the most important investment firms in the investment management industry. There is no better foundation or training for a future as an investor.
At the Kellogg Foundation, the investment team offers junior analysts an onboarding plan, a “buddy,” mentorship and tuition reimbursement for certifications and graduate degrees, according to CIO Carlos Rangel.
“We believe in promoting a flat organizational model where analysts learn and practice investing alongside the leading investment professionals on our team,” he said via email.
While some asset owners are large enough to accommodate streamlined training programs, others, like ERS Hawaii, are small offices with a core team of three or four people. For ISD Elizabeth Burton, training is done by doing the job every day and listening to the wise advice of seasoned colleagues.
“I’m the junior staff,” Burton said. “In a lot of ways, they mentor me. In many cases, they have decades of more investment experience than I do.
TRS Illinois has an equally small team: understaffed and under-resourced, staff have experienced high turnover lately, said Gonzalez, who oversees the fund’s Diverse and Emerging Manager program.
Despite these challenges, TRS of Illinois offers a rotation program for new hires. Under this program, junior employees are placed in one asset class for one year before moving to another.
“If we choose to park in an asset class, that’s what we do,” Gonzalez said.
A strong network is perhaps more important than a training program, Gonzalez said. For junior (and senior) talent with ambitious career goals, it’s a good idea to get a position that allows for frequent networking opportunities, he said.
“If you want to make the jump to the allocator, work for a consulting firm or a general partner – a place where you are constantly networked,” he added.
Networking is the most fundamental part of his job, Gonzalez said. For someone just starting out in their career, a well-connected network of peers and mentors can make the application process easier.
“You can also easily jump from one place to another,” Gonzalez said.
For the next generation of institutional talent, the beneficiaries interviewed for this story universally warned against locking up. Instead, they encouraged the development of a diverse set of skills, to understand who turns the gears inside a company, and to be flexible on the way to the top.
“Don’t plan your career on a fixed basis,” Ulozas said. “The best thing is to be open.”
Auby expressed a similar sentiment: “Be open to the opportunities presented to you and don’t compare yourself to others. “