Burned-out fund managers show reality of City life's "easy option"

Fri Oct 18, 2013 8:57am EDT
 
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By Sinead Cruise and Tom Bill

LONDON (Reuters) - When Sanjeev Shah quit his job last month, eyebrows were raised. This wasn't another burned-out banker: The 43-year-old was a successful fund manager running 2.8 billion pounds ($4.5 billion) for Fidelity Worldwide Investment, reaping big returns.

His reasons for leaving - "This is a role that demands 110 percent effort, focus and intensity. I don't want that level of intensity" - shed rare light on an industry often dismissed as the easy option in the world of finance.

"Do we have an easy life? If you went back 25 years ago, that may have been the case but people are working significantly longer hours and are rather more professional about what they do now," said one senior fund manager, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.

"There are plenty of people out there who still think we dress in pinstriped suits and sit behind leather desks with cigars all day. I don't know why the stereotypes still exist."

Fund management, so it goes among some City workers, is a '9-to-5' refuge for traders and bankers wanting a quieter life as they approach retirement. But the reality for many of those in the job is entirely different.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, clients bamboozled by unpredictable markets are increasingly needy, while 24-hour, year-round interaction between global markets and 21st century technology make it impossible to switch off, fund managers say.

Investors' funds are permanently 'on', meaning managers live in fear of political or economic incidents beyond their control wreaking havoc.

"Sanjeev's move really struck a chord with me. When I was about his age, I did a similar thing," said David Lis, head of UK equities at Aviva Investors, who swapped a senior fund manager role in 1991 for a five-year stint in investor relations.   Continued...