Annual competition offers rare exposure
by Grace Chan
In its second year running, the UFFM competition, kicking off at the end of this month and concluding at the beginning of May next year, will involve about 500 students in the individual challenge and 80 teams in the group challenge. One top performer will be offered a 2011 summer internship with the firm.
"Among our goals with the competition is to increase the next generation's knowledge of long-term asset management and to enhance awareness of our brand among this group," says Terry Pan, managing director, head of Hong Kong business, J.P. Morgan Asset Management.
The competition lays an interactive platform for the company to exchange views with future industry players on asset management, as well as the company's products and services. "Since they're our potential customers along the line, we value their ideas and benefit from incorporating their suggestions into our product offerings," he adds.
The firm's training school, the JPM Investment Academy, will be running a series of customised investment education programmes, covering basic knowledge of fund investing, portfolio management and market analysis and key topics such as behavioural finance and hedge funds, to help participants prepare for the five-month challenge.
Candidates in the group challenge will also attend an investment discussion forum, where J.P. Morgan investment specialists will share their insights and address questions.
Participants in the individual challenge, in turn, will be granted US$1 million in virtual money to build and invest in a portfolio of funds, with the best performer in terms of returns during the five-month span of the competition emerging as the winner.
"In real life, a truly competent fund manager should be able to maintain a consistently good investment performance," Mr Pan stresses.
The group challenge will involve a hypothetical case study, requiring participating teams to combine thorough market analysis with textbook knowledge to tailor an investment proposal that meets a virtual client's financial goals. Short-listed teams will be adjudicated by a panel of financial veterans in a presentation and Q&A session.
"The objective is to test candidates' investment knowledge, as well as analytical, organisational and presentation skills," Mr Pan points out. "Since client interests must always come first in asset management, we want to assess their ability to understand their customers' needs and to build long-term relationships with them. Above all, we're looking for creativity and innovation."
The winning teams will attend a sharing session with an acclaimed fund manager, who will elaborate on his investment experience and insights. "University students these days aspire to listing work experience with high-profile companies on their resumes, so we intend to offer a top performer in the group challenge a summer internship next year," says Mr Pan.
Since leading asset management companies such as J.P. Morgan Asset Management seldom hire inexperienced people because of the sheer size of the assets they need to manage, the internship promises to be an exclusive experience, he emphasises. "There are comparatively few openings in this profession. Some fund managers start off by joining research teams, while others may have previous experience as brokers. Young graduates may have to start with small fund houses."
Demand for talent
Hong Kong is well positioned to offer diverse investment opportunities and benefit from the increasing regional demand for wealth management services. Consequently, there is a growing need for good fund managers, according to Mr Pan.
With its headquarters in the city, the firm has recorded a 52 per cent growth in staff numbers in Hong Kong since 2005—from 320 to the current 500. "We continue to hire quality staff to support our business expansion in Asia," he reveals.
Accomplished asset managers can count on a high professional status and considerable financial rewards, but they work in a demanding profession, Mr Pan notes. "Situations that arose in developed countries 20 years ago may now be repeated in developing countries. High-calibre fund managers should be able to learn from history and forecast potential market trends before making investment recommendations," he remarks.
Technical skills such as good numerical ability and an analytical mind are crucial for fund managers, but the best practitioners are not necessarily winners on a daily basis. "Most important is that they help their clients to achieve long-term returns by maximising gains and minimising losses," he emphasises.
Taken from Career Times 26 November 2010, A5
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