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What’s draining the senior sales talent pool in the investment banking and asset management space?

What’s draining the senior sales talent pool in the investment banking and asset management space?

The classic “Sell this pen to me!” approach might be an appropriate trick to help identify junior- to mid-level sales talent, but in the highly-specialised investment banking and asset management space, unfortunately appointing senior-level sales leaders is by no means as cut and dry.

Recent advancements in digital technology have had a splintering effect on the sector, making it increasingly harder to find suitable and relevant senior sales talent - not to mention the impact today’s politically and economically volatile environment has had on the talent market. 

To gain some fresh insights into how the senior sales market in the investment banking and asset management space is fairing, we caught up with our Client Partner at Morgan Philips Executive Search, Andy Irons.

With over 20 years of experience in fixed-income sales roles, having held senior roles at Merrill Lynch, Nomura International and State Street Global Markets Europe, Andy put his first-hand experience to good use by moving into the executive search space a few years back. 

Here’s some of the many insights into the senior sales leadership market Andy touched light on:

Brexit uncertainty impacts the senior sales talent pool

Brexit has slowed down the senior sales candidate market in the investment banking and asset management space, says Andy, but compared to other markets, he insists that the impact is marginal.
“Organisations still have a strong appetite for fresh senior-level talent, but the candidate pool is noticeably smaller,” he says.

“Brexit uncertainty has made candidates more reserved - they’re reluctant to switch jobs in case they find their new job wasn’t what they thought it would be.”

But this growing concern amongst candidates is only a recent development, Andy points out. 

“One year ago, you could gather a longlist of approximately 50 to 60 candidates, and prepare a shortlist of around five or so very strong candidates to present to your client.”

“Nowadays, you would have to sift through approximately 75 to 100 candidates, and the market for good candidates is tight.”

New tech ushers in an era of hyper-specialisation

The key market differentiators of most investment banking, asset management and FinTech firms is their investment in innovative and often unique technology, and as a result, senior sales professionals have become specialists in their firm’s digital expertise. 

“There’s an increasing amount of fragmentation taking place in the sales sector right now,” says Andy. 

“A couple of years ago, candidates had much more freedom to move across sectors, from investment banking to asset management to FinTech, but this is no longer the case.”

And, as a result, people are less inclined to move sectors, he points out, as candidates increase their market worth the more specialised they get.

“If you take a turn down one avenue, your skills suddenly become less transferable, and if you reach a dead end or end up with a skillset that’s no longer relevant, your expertise become redundant.”

Organisations need creative and innovative executive search solutions 

Despite the ailing talent pool, organisations aren’t willing to compromise on their standards, says Andy, and nor should they.

“In today’s market, my clients have actually become less compromising about the type of talent sent their way. They don’t want to appoint someone who’s good at what they do – they want someone who’s great!”

While many of the organisations Andy works with have very precise profile requirements, they often need help to sharpen that profile and identify the skills they actually need, he points out.

“Of course you need to appoint a leader with the right technical skills, but they also need the right soft skills. For instance, if the role is client-facing, you’ll need someone with real enthusiasm, impeccable communication capabilities and the right mindset.”

For more insights into the senior sales candidate pool in the investment banking and asset management space, get in touch with Andy on

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