Money Moves

Making the most of the market

by Cho Ka-yan

Amy Cho, managing director and regional head of business development
Pictet Asset Management
Photo: Keith Cheung

A shortage of quality staff and a volatile market are severe challenges to the asset management industry, but at the same time some excellent investment prospects are opening up.

"The challenge now is to convince clients that the volatility actually creates some good investment opportunities," says Amy Cho, managing director and regional head of business development, Pictet Asset Management.

The current tepid market conditions are generally making investors more cautious, Ms Cho concedes. It is therefore essential for the industry to be innovative with regards to product mix.

Pictet Asset Management's response to difficult market conditions has been to "humanise" its investment portfolios. "The funds still have a global spread, but the portfolios follow prevalent themes, such as climate change," she explains.

The aim is that these global, themed funds, which include baskets of different equities relating specifically to certain issues, will allow clients to better understand investment opportunities that are not necessarily linked to the performance of equity indices.

"For instance, many clients are concerned about ageing demographics and resultant higher medical costs," she says. "We can actually translate these sorts of issues into investment growth opportunities by picking out good companies that are linked to medical services or cancer treatments, for example."

Ms Cho believes that tying investments to environmental or social issues will help clients understand and identify with existing opportunities, but that it is the industry's role to master the art of communicating these tools to investors.

"Ultimately, we must convince clients by providing detailed and accurate information about inherent risks and returns," says Ms Cho. "This is why we need skilled people working on the frontline."

In spite of the US sub-prime crisis, Hong Kong's finance industry is still growing at a relatively fast pace. In the past two to three years, the spectacular growth in the wealth management industry has surpassed the rate of new asset managers entering the industry. Ms Cho attributes the strain on the labour pool to the economic downturn during the 2003 SARS outbreak. "Less people were trained at the time, so now we have a boom and a shortage of experienced staff," she says.

It is important for candidates in the field to have the necessary hard skills, financial knowledge and professional qualifications, but, given the customer-oriented nature of the field, soft skills are equally crucial. Attention to detail in every aspect of the job —f rom product presentation to establishing a trusting rapport with clients —i s one of the most important qualities that Ms Cho looks for.

"This job is not always glamorous. There's a lot of nitty gritty to deal with," she says. However, for the right candidate, a career in asset management is not only financially rewarding, it can also open up a global gateway in terms of job development.

"At Pictet we pride ourselves in our staff development initiatives, including a number of international orientation and team building programmes, which help build long-term partnerships with our employees," Ms Cho concludes.

Taken from Career Times 25 July 2008, p. A4
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