One hour with a Portfolio Manager

I was lucky enough to interview Michael Pollard, CFA from Perennial Value Management.

Michael is a Portfolio Manager in the Perennial Value Wealth Defender Team.

Michael has fourteen years of experience managing derivatives portfolios at UBS and Credit Suisse, including eight years spent in London, and most recently ran derivative overlays and tactical asset allocation at a boutique wealth management firm in Melbourne.

At Credit Suisse, Michael managed a global emerging markets derivatives portfolio, as well as a portfolio offering systematic alpha and beta exposure to global equity and volatility markets.

How did you get your first job?

My first job was as an Equity Derivatives Trader in UBS in Sydney.

Things were somewhat different back then. Whilst you certainly had to demonstrate technical ability, there was probably more of a focus on cultural fit. These days cultural fit is still an important part of hiring, but I think there is possibly more accommodation of different personality types, and there is an increasing requirement for technical ability.

I did have good academic results in my Double Bachelor’s Degree in Arts / Commerce with Majors in Banking and Finance, Indonesian and History, which was very important.

The interview process involved two days of intensive testing in the UBS Assessment Centre, where there were over 800 applicants for a range of graduate positions. With so many applicants I think I stood out of the crowd partly because I had somewhat unique answers to the questions that were asked. For instance I used to organise commercial dance parties, so I presented this as evidence of leadership and entrepreneurship.

What are the Top 3 Skills a Finance student must have in 2018?

  • Strong quantitative and coding skills
  • Being able to work independently
  • Hunger to stand out, demonstrate that you have the abilities to get the job done

Can you tell us how does a day in the life of a portfolio manager look like?

My office is very quiet. I spend 50% — 60% of my day coding and back testing strategies.

My role is more quantitative so I don’t do a lot of research on the fundamentals of a company.

However I do macroeconomic research, I need to know about what drives the markets around the world, political developments, central banks, etc.

What do you look in a candidate for a junior position?

a) The way they think, if they take a bit of time and then produce a very good answer or not, how thoughtful they are.

b) The interest they have in the position and how many questions they ask about it during the interview. Good questions include: “What is different about your firm from all the others” OR “What are the growth areas for your business”

c) The effort they put in this special coding project that I sent them before the interview. This shows me how strong is their coding but also how much they actually want the job.

Any final advice for students?

Cultural fit is very important but don’t try to artificially fit into the culture of a company. Just be yourself, try to engage with people, search online for the type of culture of the firm, search for their value and philosophy.

You just need to be honest on who you are.