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From Robo-Advisers To Banks, Here's How To Land An MBA Job In Wealth Management

Paul Schoonenberg, head of MBA careers at Aston Business School, explains how to get ahead

Mon Oct 24 2016

As global investment banks retrench from more risky lending activities, one area of steady career growth in recent years has been wealth management.

From Credit Suisse to UBS, banks are pivoting to wealth management and Asia and away from trading.

Swiss private bank Julius Baer said in July it had snapped up 200 more wealth managers for an Asian expansion, to take just one of many recent examples.

One area of excitement is online wealth management, where start-ups such as Wealth Horizon or Nutmeg, founded by a Stanford MBA, have emerged.

Online money managers using artificial intelligence, or “robo-advisers” such as Columbia Business School start-up Betterment, are particularly hot in asset management.

While the private banking market is controlled by some 20% of banks who hold 80% of wealth management money globally, boutique wealth management firms such as Vestra Wealth and Signia Wealth have experienced growth in recent years. Boutique financial services outfits more broadly are among the most sought-after firms in banking and finance, according to the Vault 50 employer rankings.

Where ever you go in private banking, two skills remain critical: Relationship management and business development. You must use a network to bring in new, high-net worth individuals while simultaneously servicing an existing client roster. For this reason, prior experience in international banking is desirable.

We spoke to Paul Schoonenberg, head of MBA careers at Aston Business School, to find out what you need to succeed in a wealth management career.

This is what he said:

Asia is becoming a wealth management powerhouse. In which regions is demand for talent strongest?

Asian markets are seeing substantial growth. Mainland China and the wider southeast Asia region will continue to see growth as clients become more sophisticated in the depth and complexity of advice that they will require.

Connections are key for private bankers. How much value is placed on this by employers and can this help students to land jobs?

An existing network of clients or an ability to business develop effectively is an essential component to being successful within private banking

Is it essential to recruiters then to have some international banking experience?

This would depend on the scope of the role. If the remit is to develop international business, networks in these markets would be critical. However, if the role is purely UK centric, then international experience would be less relevant.

Which side of private banking are MBAs most in demand — for relationship management roles or investment professional roles?

Both carry equal weight. An ability to manage client relationships will always be essential in the industry. However, technical knowledge and an understanding of new regulations in the industry ensure that a broad base of skills is critical.

Online wealth managers are emerging. Are there opportunities in the digital space?

While there has been an increase in online providers, wealth management has traditionally involved face to face relationship building, so online services may take longer to develop and there will be a continued need for face to face, personal interaction.

The private banking market is controlled by about 20% of brands who hold 80% of wealth management money globally. Are there career opportunities with smaller players?

Boutique wealth management firms have experienced growth and smaller boutiques have been formed out of existing private banking businesses. There are opportunities within the smaller firms, where relationship management and business development skills are seen as particularly important.