Kaizen Recruitment's Nupur Gill and Jack Brown from TOM Executive

The goalposts are changing for investment operations teams trying to source new staff according to recruiters, with technological advancements and pandemic-induced shifts changing both the skills employers looking for and the job qualities candidates are attracted to.

According to TOM Executive senior consultant Jack Brown the industry was already changing how it looked at staffing before the pandemic arrived. Skillsets have been evolving to accommodate changes in the way superannuation funds and managed funds operate, he explains, as process-driven roles are being consolidated, outsourced or swallowed up by automation.

“The days of business-as-usual operations are long gone, most processing roles are being automated and offshore,” Brown says. “Everything is going towards project work and client management, it’s very much a forward-thinking evolution.”

Investment management teams are increasingly looking for candidates that can marry tech skills such as programming and coding with soft skills like people management and client services, Brown says.

“They want someone who is tech savvy and can actually manage and improve a process,” Brown explains. “Many core processing roles that used to exist years ago don’t exist anymore; they’re becoming more of a relationship management role with a technology background. It’s less about being reactive and following instruction and more about managing people and processes.”

Data analytics is becoming especially sought after in investment, he adds.

“Being versed in programming systems like SQL, VBA and Python is very attractive in investment operations, all these coding languages help improve processes,” he says. “Reconciliations that used to take hours take minutes now if you’ve got key people with the right tech skills in the right roles.”

Brown is due to speak on sourcing, training and retaining a new generation of staff at the Investment Magazine Investment Operations Conference Digital on Tuesday, March 23rd.

With Brown will be Kaizen Recruitment manager Nupur Gill, who agrees that investment operations roles are evolving to include a broader suite of skills.

“The roles are increasingly becoming more hybridised in that we’re looking at maybe three to four different skillsets in each position, not just one,” Gill says. “More recently, for example, we’re looking at candidates with fund accounting skills but also client service specialists who can dip into middle office functions as well.”

The popularity of programming and coding skills is real, Gill says, but that doesn’t mean investment managers are always looking for high-level specialists.

“Someone doesn’t have to be a programming expert. It’s more about having a broad enough skill base so that you know enough to manage the people that have the knowledge of the programming,” she says.

“That shift towards a broader skill-set base has been happening irrespective of Covid,” Gill continues. “And the talent pool of people that can bring it to the table is shallow, so the right recruits have some leverage.”

Lack of nuance

Among the changes Covid has brought over the last year, work-from-home flexibility has become a hot button issue. A hybrid model where employees have the freedom to work wherever they prefer is a big selling point for candidates, but mandated work-from-home rules can prove unpopular – especially for new starters.

“I don’t think virtual onboarding is a preference,” Brown says. “It’s more of a band-aid solution for now; you don’t get the small talk, the bonding isn’t the same and it’s difficult to shadow people effectively.”

There are also nuances to the way people operate that aren’t picked up online, he says.

“I mean, how do you get a promotion or leadership role if no one is around you? It’s hard to identify those leadership qualities when someone is working from home.”

Tahn Sharpe is a Sydney-based financial services journalist with a background in financial planning. He writes on advice, superannuation, investment, banking and insurance issues, is a certified SMSF Adviser and holds an Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning.
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