Mutual Fund Manager  What They Do

Just the Facts

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dotWorking as a mutual fund or portfolio manager can be an extremely satisfying career. Mike Ward manages portfolios for high net worth individuals and small institutions. "It differs [so] much on a day-to-day basis," he says. "You really need to be flexible and enjoy following the markets."

A mutual fund manager manages stocks and bonds for clients. Clients can include individuals, groups of investors or institutions such as banks and pension funds. Managers can also specialize in a particular area. Some of these are fixed-income securities, small or large cap stocks and international or hedge funds.

dotIt can be a difficult career to get into. This is particularly true if you try to make a mid-career change. If you have an interest, pursue it as early as you can.

Market trends generally determine job prospects in this field, says Neil Feinberg. He is a portfolio manager.

"Get involved with stock market clubs," he advises. "Try and get a summer job at a firm that invests in stocks or bonds."

dotAccording to a recent article in National Business Employment Weekly, the mutual fund industry "may be opening its doors just a crack to outsiders."

"There is always a demand for great stock pickers. But to be a great portfolio manager takes lots of dedication and education about the stock market," says Darlene March.

"Math is essential to be good at. [The] ability to work under pressure, a healthy skepticism towards information and independence of thought are highly desirable," says Sunil Vidyarthi. Vidyarthi is a chief investment counsel for an investment firm.

dotFeinberg agrees that math skills are important. So is logic. "Confidence is important as well. The ability to make a decision is essential when you're buying and selling stocks."

"Read the business section every day," advises March. "If this is interesting stuff for you, you have the inklings of becoming a successful investment advisor, stockbroker or portfolio manager someday.

"Dabble in the market -- better to do it on paper. That way you can experience the thrill of picking a great stock or fund, and during the downtrends avoid actual monetary losses."

dotAnalyzing companies and financial statements are important parts of the job. "It's a field where you can be judged directly on your performance. It is very competitive," says Feinberg.

dotOnce you get in, working conditions are very good. You may not have the top office, but you'll be close to it. You can expect to work more than 40 hours a week, including some odd hours to accommodate clients' schedules.

Janet Miller is a partner at an investment firm. She says the flexibility of her job is a benefit. "It's not the kind of work that necessitates punching a time clock," she says.

"One doesn't have to be anywhere in particular to competently do the work of security analysis and engineering portfolios, which brings a certain amount of freedom to life. It's not where you are or even how much time you spend. It's what you do that counts."

At a Glance

Manage stocks and bonds for clients

  • Market trends generally determine job prospects
  • Get experience as soon as you can
  • A degree in business or economics is good