Until now, being an investor relations professional meant being in a mostly qualitative role: assisting in the preparation of marketing materials; performing ad-hoc research; completing subscriptions, redemptions, and simple documentation; etc. However, many growing hedge funds and asset management firms are now looking to hire investor relations candidates who can take their responsibilities a step further, changing their roles from administrative gatekeepers to more investment savvy, client-oriented quantitative professionals. Whereas candidates for investor relations roles may only have been required to prepare marketing materials in the past, for example, they must now be prepared to understand the data within those materials and interact directly with clients regarding that information.
To ensure candidates are well-prepared for these duties, many hiring managers are now giving Microsoft Excel and Portfolio Analysis tests as part of the application and interview process. However, aside from technical skills that can easily be learned on one’s own time, employers are also beginning to include more in-depth subject matter questions in their interviews.
This knowledge is typically learned through on-the-job training, so candidates looking for a leg up on the competition have to be proactive. Whether you’re currently employed and can take advantage of a training program or are unemployed and looking for another avenue to these skills, taking the following steps should make you a more marketable candidate and help you grow into the professional that hedge funds and asset management firms are now seeking:
Network. Simply speaking with portfolio managers or investment relations professionals who are already immersed in these quantitative roles can be an excellent way to garner more knowledge. If you can, seek out a mentor who can invest some time in ensuring you develop the skills and knowledge you need. “It’s important to utilize your internal resources when looking to improve your marketability,” says Eric Sloan, Director of The Execu|Search Group’s Financial Services division. “If you’re employed, that may mean speaking with an accomplished coworker; if you’re unemployed, it could mean expanding your professional network. Doing so will not only afford you the information you need, it will prove to future employers that you’re a self-starter who’s determined to remain up-to-date and relevant in your field.”
Research and educate yourself. Thankfully, the internet has provided a place where basically any technical skill can be learned. Take online tutorials in Excel, focusing on Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) and tools and commands such as Pivot Tables, Macros, and V-Lookups. Also be sure to familiarize yourself with SharePoint, Bloomberg or other financial data systems, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. These are all becoming highly desired and even required skills in investor relations, and can often be the deciding factor between two top-notch candidates.
Develop your soft skills. While technical skills are vital to these roles, soft skills such as communication skills and the ability to remain composed in fast-paced, high-demand situations are no less important. “Investment relations professionals are the first point of contact with clients and need to be able to interface with them and answer questions about performance, returns, and analysis,” says Eric. “Many employers are looking to cut out the middleman aspect between clients and portfolio managers and hire investor relations professionals who can handle basic inquiries about investments. The ideal candidate for these roles will possess both the soft skills and subject matter knowledge to meet clients face-to-face, attend meetings with current and prospective investors, and generally invest themselves further into the process.”