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Careers in Finance

FUND MANAGER : Peter Marber

Photo of Peter Marber
How would you describe what your job is?
I help large global institutions -- insurance companies, banks, and pension funds -- invest parts of their portfolios in the markets of developing countries. These are new markets for many investors, and my firm is considered an experienced player in this burgeoning arena.

Describe how you got to where you are today. What was your smartest career move? What would you do differently if you had the chance?
I've been very lucky. Essentially I've been doing the same thing for twenty years since I finished graduate school. I started at a large Swiss bank and have worked at two other firms in the same area. My smartest career move was a recent one. In 2005, after six years of managing my own firm, I merged with my partners into one of the largest banks in the world. What once was considered a fringe investment activity -- investing in developing countries -- has now become fairly mainstream. My partners and I felt we needed a larger platform in order to offer our services competitively to a global client base. I am now able to compete with any firm in the world in my area.

What advice do you have for young people considering a career in finance? What did you wish you knew?
First, finance is something of a culture; it takes time to learn it. It's not something that can be accessed completely in school -- even at a good undergraduate business degree program. So know that when you start on Wall Street you will be at the bottom, and that it will take time to learn what it takes to be successful and move up. Second, finance is ruthlessly competitive. There is a daily scorecard that separates winners from losers. You must be prepared for your losing days as much your winning ones. That mindset is paramount to a successful and long career.

What personal characteristics are required for someone to be successful in your job?
First, you need to have strong analytical skills and the ability to communicate. A career in finance is actually an interesting mix of art and science -- you conceive of abstract ideas and then formulate them into actionable products and investments strategies. Second, as mentioned above, you need some flexibility as well as some thick skin. Wall Street is a tough Darwinian landscape filled with adversity: forces over which you have no control, brutal competition, and continuous innovation that forces you to constantly adapt.

What other job could you do with the skills you have gained in this field?
My understanding of developing countries -- their policies, economies, and markets -- could be used by a wide range of businesses. Indeed, any company looking to begin or expand business in these countries could probably use my proven skill set.

What are the biggest challenges in your job?
Managing in a new area, such as investment in developing countries, often requires a fair amount of risk-taking. There's simply no back-testing of data in what we do. Therefore, you must be confident in your analysis. As such, it also requires a serious ability to persuade organizations to take such risks based upon your analysis. That's the huge challenge: convincing large institutions to do new things based on concepts without the full benefit of previous experience or a track record.

Are there many opportunities in your field? What should people do to get started?
Yes, the markets are growing. But young people need to globalize their perspective to fully take advantage of these markets. Most Americans are woefully uneducated on global history, and on non-Western cultures and languages. In addition to more study about international affairs, I'd also encourage as much study and work abroad as possible. There is no better way to broaden one's perspective on the world and its possibilities.

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