What is the investment profession?
Investment is a profession that provides a vital social function for the economy.
The investment profession manages the pool of money that comes from our savings, from the money that builds up in our pension funds, the money that provides an income in retirement, that charities needs to support their activities, that insurance companies need to invest until it is paid out. Investing £5.7 trillion, with 90,000 jobs it’s an activity that touches us all – more than half the population has pension savings, more than three-quarters have insurance products.
The portfolio manager allocates that money to businesses that need it to grow, analysing a company’s strengths and weaknesses, buying the stocks and bonds they issue. As well as companies, the portfolio manager can invest directly in infrastructure projects and property. Investment professionals act as ‘stewards’ by voting and engaging with companies to encourage best practice, monitoring environmental risks like climate change and social risks like a company supply chain that’s dependent on child labour.
Within the investment profession there are different roles. As well as the people investing the money, there are the client relationship team, who build relationships with the different investors, helping them identify their needs and appetite for risk, the product team designing the appropriate unit trusts for individuals to buy to save, or investment solutions for pension funds or insurance companies, and consultants helping investors decide how they should allocate their capital between stocks, bonds and other investment opportunities like property and private equity. They can also advise investors on which portfolio managers to employ.
There are also roles in managing the risks of investment, measuring performance, organising the systems to support investing, the operations team processing the transactions, the compliance team ensuring the business is managed in line with the regulators requirements, as well as the roles you’d find in any company like finance, IT, legal and human resources.
What companies are involved in the investment profession?
There are different firms involved in the investment profession. If we think first of the pension fund there’ll be at least three different entities involved:
- There'll be the people who work for the pension fund, making sure it's properly organised - the trustees, the pension fund CEO and their team
- There'll be the investment consultant who advises the pension fund on its investment strategy - how to allocate the money they're holding for their members - and helps them identify the right investment management firms to work with
- There'll be the investment management firms the pension fund appoints to manage that money: within the firm.
- For individuals, a wealth management firm or private bank may be their main contact point, advising them on their specific situation.
Where does the money to invest come from?
The money that’s being invested doesn’t belong to the portfolio managers: it belongs to individuals or institutions we call ‘asset owners.’ The pension fund mentioned above is one type of ‘asset owner’. Other ‘asset owners’ include insurance companies, charities, local authorities, corporations investing the cash they’ve built up and countries with surplus wealth, often held in a ‘sovereign wealth fund.’
Why join the investment profession?
Sometimes referred to as the ‘buy side’, this is a profession to be proud of with a responsibility to the clients who are trusting us with their money and whose needs are paramount. Investment professionals build specialist skills and knowledge, with on-the-job training that can be supplemented by accredited training including the Chartered Financial Analysts qualification, the Institute of Actuaries and the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments. Those skills need to be kept up to date in an environment where client needs change, companies change and regulation changes.
It’s a rewarding profession where you can help a client have the retirement they want or educate their children; see the companies you invested in succeed; and make a difference to the environment by showing companies we care about their carbon footprint.