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How to Become a Portfolio Manager
Portfolio management is a core topic in the CFA® Program curriculum, so it’s not surprising that “portfolio manager” is one of the most common roles for CFA® charterholders. Although portfolio manager is typically not an entry-level position, some portfolio manager roles begin at the associate level (with only a few years of relevant experience required) and contribute analysis and research to the investment decision-making process. At the mid-senior level, portfolio management roles often involve directing a team of investment professionals or a larger portfolio of assets. In addition, many private wealth management firms employ portfolio managers who work directly with individual clients or provide support for client-facing advisors. The portfolio manager track can lead to management positions with broader responsibilities, such as a managing director or head of portfolio management. Senior portfolio managers often report directly to a chief investment officer (CIO), which makes portfolio management a potential career path to an executive position in an organization, whether as a CIO or a similar executive function with higher-level responsibility for the investment process.
Is Portfolio Management Right for Me?
Practitioners typically go into investment-decision making roles after several years working as an analyst. If you like generating investment ideas, developing and implementing investment strategy, can manage risk, and can remain resilient and decisive when faced with potential underperformance and poorly performing financial markets, this role could be right for you.
Key Skills for Portfolio Managers
Succeeding as a portfolio manager and in investment decision-making roles requires key skills in three areas:
- Investment strategy and process
- Portfolio construction and execution
- Performance measurement and risk management
Typically, a portfolio manager holds a Bachelor’s degree in finance or a related field. To showcase proficiency in a relevant interdisciplinary field, coursework should demonstrate a mastery of information, love of reading, conceptual thinking, and idea generation. Employers also frequently give priority to candidates with the CFA designation as they have demonstrated a mastery in investment management.
Typical Portfolio Manager Salary
According to a 2019 CFA Institute compensation study of charterholders and members, portfolio managers reported a typical, global total compensation of US$177,000 (US$126,000 base salary).
Other Possible Career Tracks in Investment Decision-Making
Throughout the investment industry, regardless of the industry sector or the type of firm, investment decision-makers are the ones who determine what funds and assets to buy and sell and when. Their approach to building portfolios and resource allocation will usually depend on their firm, their clients, and the financial goals the portfolio is trying to achieve. Managers typically start their careers in financial analyst roles. Other types of decision-making roles include:
How Can the CFA Program Help Me?
Investment professionals looking for portfolio manager roles need to demonstrate mastery of in-depth investment knowledge, which is exactly what the CFA® Program curriculum is designed to provide. Moreover, because portfolio managers are in demand around the world, the global reputation of the CFA charter as the “gold standard” for investment credentials can help open professional opportunities with financial institutions in diverse markets around the world.
Explore whether CFA Program is the right choice for your next career steps
Average Portfolio Manager Salary
Avg. Base Salary (USD)
The average salary for a Portfolio Manager is $88,185
What is the Pay by Experience Level for Portfolio Managers?
An entry-level Portfolio Manager with less than 1 year experience can expect to earn an average total compensation (includes tips, bonus, and overtime pay) of $61,427 based on 26 salaries. An early career Portfolio Manager with 1-4 years of experience earns an average total compensation of $73,064 based on 567 salaries. A …Read more
What Do Portfolio Managers Do?
A portfolio manager is a financial professional responsible for investing money. The portfolio manager may be a client-based advisor who works with individuals and businesses to manage a group of investments and assets; they may also handle financial products such as mutual funds. Many portfolio managers work within larger financial institutions, processing analyses from their company's risk and investment research teams and acting upon this information. The portfolio manager may seek to meet …Read more
Job Satisfaction for Portfolio Manager
Based on 366 responses, the job of Portfolio Manager has received a job satisfaction rating of 3.98 out of 5. On average, Portfolio Managers are highly satisfied with their job.
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Portfolio Manager: Career Path and Qualifications
Portfolio managers work for wealth management firms, pension funds, foundations, insurance companies, banks, hedge funds and other organizations in the securities industry. They oversee the daily management of investment portfolios on behalf of individual or institutional clients. A portfolio manager is typically responsible for all aspects of an investment portfolio: everything from creating and managing an overall investment strategy that matches client needs to implementing that strategy by selecting an appropriate mix of securities and investment products and managing that mix on a continual basis.
A portfolio manager usually oversees a team of senior financial analysts who produce analytical reports and recommendations to inform investment decisions and strategy formation. A portfolio manager also communicates with analysts from investment banks and other sell-side firms to identify products that may be good fits for a particular portfolio. Some portfolio managers, often including those who work in wealth management firms, may also be required to meet and communicate with individual clients to discuss investment strategy, explain investment decisions and provide updates on portfolio performances.
- Portfolio managers work with a team of analysts and researchers to craft investment strategies and decisions for institutional or individual investors' portfolios.
- Portfolio managers typically begin their careers as financial analysts.
- Although it's not required, most portfolio managers hold master's degrees in finance, business administration, economics or another numbers-oriented field.
- Working in portfolio management requires licensing by FINRA, registration with the SEC, and often professional certifications like that of Chartered Financial Analyst.
Portfolio Manager Career Path
It is common for a portfolio manager to begin his or her career as a financial analyst working on stocks, bonds or other securities for a firm in the securities industry. Junior analyst positions are typically open to bachelor's degree graduates. After several years of experience, many junior analysts return to school to obtain master's in business administration (MBA) degrees or other relevant master's degrees before moving into senior analyst roles. An appropriate master's degree may immediately qualify a new applicant for a senior analyst position.
A senior financial analyst who works on investments typically produces reports and recommendations on particular securities under the direction of a portfolio manager. Senior analysts often specialize in particular categories of securities, spending most of their time conducting new research and analysis, updating research according to new developments, communicating with industry contacts and presenting recommendations to management and clients. Senior analysts also supervise and direct the work of one or more junior analysts.
With good work performance and demonstrated expertise, a senior financial analyst can become a portfolio manager. If the portfolio performs well, the manager may graduate to larger portfolios with more money under management. A senior portfolio management position is usually the end of the career path, although some people move into leadership positions in their firms or strike out on their own to start new firms.
Portfolio Manager Educational Qualifications
A bachelor's degree in a relevant field is a basic qualification for work as a portfolio manager. However, many employers require master's degrees, and most portfolio managers hold them, even if they are not absolutely required.
A variety of undergraduate subjects are generally considered good preparation for entry-level positions in this professional, including quantitative business disciplines such as accounting, finance, and economics. Other relevant disciplines include statistics, mathematics, engineering, and physics, all of which focus heavily on the development of quantitative and analytical skills.
At the master's level, an MBA in finance or another relevant field such as business administration or economics is the norm among portfolio managers. A master of science degree in the area of finance is also a worthy option.
The average portfolio manager's annual salary in 2021, according to salary.com.
Other Portfolio Manager Qualifications
Most employers require portfolio managers to hold financial analyst certifications. The most prominent certification in the field and the most in-demand by employers is the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation awarded by the CFA Institute. This designation is open to any financial analyst who has a bachelor's degree and four years of acceptable work experience. It is awarded to qualifying candidates who pass a series of three exams. Many employers also name the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation, awarded by the CFP Board, as an optional qualification.
Depending on the sort of assets they work with, portfolio managers must also hold appropriate licenses from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the oversight body for securities firms and brokers operating in the U.S.; taking the qualifying exams generally requires sponsorship from one's employer. If the job involves asset management exceeding $25 million, managers will be required to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Level portfolio manager entry
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