Cowboys and…mutual funds? This Texan tells us what you can expect working in mutual fund sales.

This informational interview was written by “David,” to tell us about his life working as a Regional Director, traveling the country to sell mutual funds to large investment advisors. Do you have a financial advisor? Well, he or she teams up with a company like David’s, which designs investment portfolios based on academic research. They sell their funds to investment advisors and institutional investors throughout the country, which in turn sell the solution to an individual like yourself. This is what David spends his time on the road doing, along with a team. They don’t have a direct sales force, nor do they advertise much, so it is possible you may not even be aware of their existence outside of some paperwork sent to you in the mail. If an academic environment, heavy travel, and a consultative, educational approach to sales is appealing, this job may be just up your alley. Giddy up!

Name: David
 Industry: Investment Management, Mutual Funds
 Title: Regional Director, Sales
 Years of Experience: 5
 Undergraduate Degree: Marketing

What do you do?

I am a Regional Director at a large asset management firm that offers predominantly mutual funds to financial advisors and institutions. I cover a territory of advisors and am responsible for servicing existing clients in the field and on-boarding prospects in an effort to raise new assets. I spend about half the year away from the home office traveling to the territory and meeting with advisors. In addition to educating advisors on our investment philosophy and portfolio management and implementation process, I help them scale their practice efficiently and better communicate their value proposition to end-clients (e.g., the individual investor). Investment education and asset allocation assistance help bring money in the door, but the practice management/consultative piece ensures that those assets stay invested in our funds. My overarching mission is to develop strong relationships and help advisors and their clients have a successful investment experience.

What skills and tools do you use most in your line of work?

Soft skills are key being that I’m in a sales role. But organizational skills and time management skills are also very important. I pretty much have complete autonomy in my role; no one tells me how to run my territory. You have to be able to identify which prospects are worth developing and which clients will ultimately become strategic partners who use the funds holistically in their practice. It’s actually not as easy as it sounds, because unlike other investment managers, we turn advisors away if they aren’t philosophically aligned. On top of that, you need to be well-versed in our funds, as well as the competitive landscape, industry trends, and key challenges for advisors. Aside from soft skills, I use Microsoft Office, our CRM system, and Morningstar a lot.

Is there an educational background required to break in?

Bachelor’s degree and a solid GPA required at the entry level. For the middle rung, you need somewhere between 2–5 years’ experience and some sort of designation, like the CFA or CFP. My company really likes candidates who have an MBA as well. For the top rung, or client-facing role, you need 10+ years’ experience, unless you climb the ladder organically.

What are the coolest parts of your job/what do you enjoy the most? What about the least?

I enjoy the autonomy and ability to create my own schedule. At this point in my career, I’ve built a good reputation within my team and the department at large, and people trust that I’m going to exceed expectations. I also enjoy getting to explore other cities on someone else’s dime. There are some good travel perks, too. In terms of things I don’t like, I hate corporate politics and people who play the game to get promoted. There are over 1,000 employees globally, so we have that going on just like any other large organization. I’m not convinced it would be any different elsewhere, except maybe a small, boutique money manager that’s just getting started, so I try to not let it bother me too much. I also disagree with some of the corporate values, which lead to underpaying people who are promoted organically and potentially overpaying people who are hired externally. The incentive structure is also misaligned.

What are the most stressful parts of your job?

We’ve had a fair amount of turnover in the entry-level sales role recently, so I feel like I’ve been doing multiple jobs (although that’s kind of always been the case). In addition to training new hires at that level, I basically have to do their job until they’re up to speed. And that can be difficult when I’m not even in the office half the year and don’t have someone keeping the pipeline at bay. My organization also suffers from a lack of transparency and inadequate managers, so it can be stressful working really hard and not even knowing if it’s going to pay off financially.

How is your work evaluated?

That’s a good question, which brings me back to the transparency issue. There is a running joke around the office between those of us who have been here for a while: “Keep doing what you’re doing.” That’s what my first manager used to say, and I think he meant put your head down, work hard, be patient and things will start to happen for you. That’s good advice when promotions and compensation are merit-based, but that’s really not the case here. People are essentially grouped by tenure and promoted in unison, while only the worst performers are left behind. And those worst performers don’t even get fired; they hang around and collect a paycheck. Everyone is on an unofficial, unspoken “glide path,” and it’s difficult to break away from that. You need to be very skilled at your job (or a corporate a**kisser), there needs to be a significant business need (say, someone quitting and leaving a territory unmanaged), and you need to have a good advocate. So the stars really need to align for you, otherwise you’re probably not straying from the path. I happen to be part of a group that has no advocates, so I’ve had a frustrating career — working harder than the pack while moving with the pack. Our group-head is asleep at the wheel and I don’t think she has any idea what I do on a day-to-day basis, she just sees that I’m on the road and the territory has nearly doubled in size since I’ve taken over. So I get a pat on the back and the same compensation I expected — insert glide path bonus. In theory, someone high up is looking at how we manage existing and new clients, how we work together as a team, and, most importantly, how much money we bring in.

How did you decide on this path? What were the decisions you made, education and work experience you pursued and at what ages?

I fell into it. In college, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I started off as a Business Undeclared major. When it came time to declare, I read the descriptions of each business concentration and decided Marketing was the best fit. I got a summer internship at a company that sells advertising space to local businesses. I ranked #9 out of 150 account executives nationwide in terms of revenue, and everyone else in the top 10 was selling ads at schools 2–5x the size of mine. So I took two more sales-related internships — one at an insurance company and another at a headhunting firm. There weren’t very many marketing jobs available when I graduated in 2009, so I decided to go into sales full-time. I realized very quickly that I didn’t like the eat-what-you-kill lifestyle and pushing unsuitable products and toyed with the idea of becoming an educator. Before I dove head-first into that, I got a call from a relative who referred me to the company I’m currently working for. Fast forward five years and I’m still here today. Since joining the firm, I have passed the Series 7 and 66 and obtained the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation.

What is the sequence of your career path?

I started in entry-level sales as an Associate, got promoted to a Senior Associate in January 2014, and got promoted to a Regional Director this past January. If I want to stay on this track, the next and last title is Vice President, but that doesn’t mean anything in terms of roles/responsibilities. It’s all a matter of if I want to stay in a client-facing role. There are benefits now, but I imagine it will become harder and harder to travel as I get older.

COMPENSATION

I made $45,000/year my first three months out of college. After that ramp-up/sales training period ended, my salary dropped to somewhere between $20–25,000 (can’t remember) and my income was tied to how much I sold. When I quit, I was on track to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $60k per year. My entry-level role at this company paid $55k plus bonus. I think I made $63–65k my first year. My first year as a Senior Associate I made $85k base plus bonus; second year $105k base plus bonus. My highest take-home in that role was a little over $130k for the year. Now, I make $115k base and have a $45k target bonus. I have always gotten at least the target, and I can get a little more if I perform well and the company brings in a lot of new assets. So I’ll probably make somewhere between $160–170k this year. Next year, I expect my total comp to increase $15–20k.

What do you expect to make in the next 5 years?

I expect to be making between $200–225k annually in the next five years, but who knows. Superiors make much more. Base salaries have gotten cut a lot since I joined the firm, and those who get hired externally command a higher salary. If I had to guess, the average compensation for someone in my role is $250–300k today, but there are some people making a lot more than that.

BENEFITS

401(k) with employer match — if you put in 8%, they match 4%. Twenty-two PTO days plus an additional five days when you hit five years with the company. Free Tumi luggage after five years. Two-times salary in group life insurance, and we get disability insurance. We get a stipend when we travel, but it’s not unlimited or anything like that. The travel rewards are ours to keep, and the benefits of that are twofold: 1) you get the AMEX credit card points and 2) you get the airline miles/hotel points. It’s a great perk.

LIFESTYLE

Everyone has complaints about their job, but one major benefit of mine is the work/life balance. Most days I get in at 8am and leave at 5pm. A late night is 6–6:30pm. And while I’m on the road, I do three meetings a day and then carve out a few hours to do follow-up and catch up on emails in my hotel room. I live in one of the fastest growing cities in the US, so rents and housing prices have skyrocketed in the last few years. Right now, I split a one-bedroom apartment with my girlfriend and we pay $2,000 flat ($1,750 for rent, $200 for parking for two cars, $50 for water & valet trash). The apartment is in a hip area of town, two blocks from downtown, and brand new. I vacation abroad once every year. This year I went to Europe, last year I went to South America, Southeast Asia the year before, South America the year before that, and Europe before that. I might go to Europe again this summer. Aside from international trips, I try to take a few domestic trips every year. So far, my girlfriend and I have been to New Orleans and Houston and plan to go to Denver, Nashville, and Charleston. Dating is a thing of the past but my girlfriend and I eat out a lot on the weekends. On average, I’d say we eat out 3–4 meals per week and get drinks twice per week. I don’t have any loans except my car, which will be paid off soon.

What advice would you give to your 21 year old self?

To myself: Be patient; sometimes hard work is its own reward. Be well-networked — talk to others in the industry and within your organization, take their advice, and avoid making the same mistakes. Don’t assume anyone has your best interest at heart, but figure out who you can trust. Don’t get complacent, keep pushing the envelope and challenging yourself. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Stop worrying about what other people think or how you’ll be perceived if you act on something. Accept the things you cannot control. If you cannot accept them, leave and work somewhere else. Be positive even if you’re not in the best mood.

To others: Time is your most precious commodity. If you’re a serious person who’s concerned with getting ahead or having a great standard of living, figure out what you enjoy doing, turn it into a career, and get started right away. If you don’t know what you want to do, that’s okay. Network, find a mentor, and talk to everyone you can. Sometimes figuring out what you don’t enjoy doing is just as valuable as finding something you like. Stop reading stupid lists. They’re generally written by people who are trying to incite change or motivate some action when in reality they never had the courage to leap themselves. If you have a dream, great, pursue it. But remember, why you pursue something is equally important as what you pursue. Everyone is free to wear sunscreen. Baz Luhrmann, out!

Thank you.


Originally published at www.ratraceconfessional.com on June 5, 2016.