Changing industry, changing skill-set

Friday 25 January 2019

Man studying at desk

Author: Maha Khan Phillips

This year, the Investment Management Certificate (IMC), the entry-level qualification for the UK investment profession, will celebrate its 25th anniversary. During that time, the asset management industry has changed significantly.


In the 1990s, the skill-set required by asset management professionals was somewhat different. The investment universe consisted primarily of equities and bonds. Alternative asset classes like hedge funds and private equity were accessible only to high net worth individuals and some particularly sophisticated pension funds. Balanced managers were hired to outperform benchmarks, not produce outcomes. And investment professionals were hired from various disciplines outside of finance.

Now, of course, all that has changed. Globalisation, demographic trends, a low yield environment, and technological drivers means the industry has become far more specialised and outcome-orientated.

“We live in a much more data-rich society. The skill-set required for investment professionals has become much more about data analytics and understanding and manipulating large data sets efficiently,” explains Sarah Dudney, client partner at The Buy-Side Club, the talent strategy and recruitment firm. 

It is no surprise then, that the IMC has continued to evolve in line with industry change, extending coverage in areas such as quantitative analysis whilst continuing  to provide an excellent grounding in core areas such economics, security and portfolio analysis and, of course, regulation. 
Themes like ESG and ethics are also playing a wider part in the curriculum, which they did not do 25 years ago. 

“We have a panel of practitioners , working alongside academics, who work in the industry and feed in their opions to keep the qualification relevant. It’s important that we address how the industry is evolving in the IMC curriculum,” says Tim Scholefield, ASIP chair of the IMC Panel at CFA UK, the industry body which offers the exam.

Jeremy Smith, head of benchmark exams at Kaplan Financial, which provides training for the IMC, says it is about providing much needed context to new entrants into the industry. “To me, the qualification would allow new entrants to add context to where they fit into the industry and to their role. It’s not about having all the answers, but it’s about knowing when to ask questions,” he says.

On the 26th of February, CFA UK and Kaplan are hosting a free webinar to talk about how the skill-set that employers want is changing, as well as provide an overview of the IMC qualification.

Graduates of the IMC say it can help in different ways. For Ben Harrop, change manager at Schroders, it was about understanding the industry. “I arrived in Schroders after sixteen years in the British Army in September 2018 and work within Enterprise Change within Schroders. As I work on programmes that affect multiple parts of the business, I felt an understanding of the asset management industry (including formal qualification) was vital in terms of helping me learn the language of the industry and gain credibility working both internally and with external third-parties,” he explains.

He believes the IMC will help with his career progression. “Going forward the qualification will potentially enable lateral movement within Schroders, as it demonstrates an understanding of and aptitude for investment management,” he says.

For Doina Ceban, who is working in an investment risk role at an insurance company, it was about getting some insight into investment management as a whole. “I graduated with an economics degree and the IMC was really targeted for an investment professional. There were specific sections on risk and return. It talked about different risk modelling techniques and analysing an investment in terms of risk and reward trade-off, so that was helpful,” she explains. 

Ceban is thinking of going into portfolio management as a career, and is one of many IMC graduates who go on to study the CFA exams and eventually become a CFA charterholder. 

“What I learnt at the IMC is a very good starting point. They don’t just talk about statistics and numbers but they tell you how you can use them in investment management, and for me it was a very practical approach,” she says.

In contrast, Suliman Mulhem completed the IMC, but does not necessarily intend to work in investment management. “I decided to take the IMC because it provides a solid foundation in a lot of different financial topics,” he explains. Mulhem, a news editor, says he may one day move into financial PR or financial journalism, so having a grounding in finance will help.

According to Dudney, a qualification is like a ‘good housekeeping badge’ that gives participants a fundamental framework to understand the key principals in the industry. “On top of that everybody has to understand the complexities of the business, whether it’s passive, or developments in active, trends going on in ESG, or data analytics. You have to have a real polymath mind and you have to be relentless in learning and asking what things mean for investment,” she says.

Find out more about the future proofing your career with the IMC - sign up for a free webinar on 26th February 2019 – hosted in partnership with CFA UK and Kaplan.


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