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Parallels between the Olympics and asset management

On the outset, the Olympics and investing don’t appear to have much in common. But there are core lessons that the sports games can teach us about how to succeed in global asset management.

For starters, let’s take a look at what it means to be in asset management today. The industry is evolving. Regulators are demanding greater transparency, and so are the end investors. Technology, a wider array of investment product types, an increasingly global community and changing market dynamics are some factors that are influencing how asset managers should retarget their businesses. What previously worked in asset management may no longer be effective in coming years.

This will be critical to determine as asset managers are set to take the spotlight in coming years. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) recently reported that asset managers will become more important in the capital raising process that will help support growing urbanization and cross-border trade. This will have a fundamental impact on our global society. The volume of investable assets are forecasted to increase from its current number of about $64 trillion to $102 trillion by 2020, at a 6% compound growth rate, PwC found.

We imagine that there is much work ahead for asset managers and foresee that the industry will become even more competitive in striving to help investors reach their goals. So how do we use the Olympics to help us during this process?

For professionally competitive athletes, the road to the Olympics is no easy feat. Making it to the Olympics, let alone competing in it, requires tremendous dedication and perseverance. Teamwork is paramount for those who are part of a team sport. All the while, Olympic athletes are aware of the tough competition they will face. The caveat about the Olympics is that the competitions themselves are only about 10% of an athlete’s time. The other 90% is spent preparing and training.

Olympians David Silk and Jeff Klepacki from Aberdeen Standard Investments’ Americas offices share their insights on how they channel their Olympic experiences into the asset management industry.

We are fortunate at Aberdeen Standard Investments to have Olympians as part of our team whose mentality has helped shape ours. We draw on their expertise to help us learn how we can improve our business by developing the type of mindset that’s necessary to thrive in the competitive world of asset management.

David Silk, our Director of Business Development based in the Boston office, won a gold medal with the U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team in the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid. Their victory came to be known as the “Miracle on Ice.” Movies have been made about it. But for Silk, there was more to it than luck. For him, it was the result of a singular focus and common set of beliefs held among the team.

“At our core, we believed that our diligent attention to detail, our work ethic, our belief in the abilities and competencies of our teammates and the heart of a collective sum of the parts could overcome any odds,” Silk said. He added that even after 20 years of working in business development, he continues to draw parallels between the Olympics and working in sales with his teams. One of the fundamental traits that competing in sports has taught him is the attitude of positivity despite setbacks, whether on the ice or in a large firm.

Our Philadelphia-based Head of Distribution, Americas, Jeff Klepacki, who has competed in rowing events for three Olympic Games, shared a similar mentality. “You don’t win all the time. It’s having the tenacity to keep coming back at it the next day,” Klepacki said. He added that being a competitive athletic taught him about that kind of tenacity.

This type of persevering mindset is crucial in an investment management firm for multiple reasons. First, meeting clients’ demands require constant dedication. We expect that as investors become more educated, their expectations will only increase. Second, the markets can be volatile and require investors’ mental strength to stay focused on the long term. “You have to commit to the end result,” Klepacki said.

It’s particularly true when working in asset management because, unlike in the Olympics where the competition is expected to be held every four years, we have no certainty of when we’ll need to show our preparation. When it comes to investing, we are constantly preparing and competing at the same time. We are reaching for our goals on a daily basis.

It’s a never-ending road, but it’s one that we are equipped to travel because we understand the importance of the people in asset management. We understand the value of different, individual strengths as part of a group. As we celebrate the Olympics this month, we are reminded of what it takes to be successful not only in sports, but also in our progress as a growing asset management firm.

David Silk and Jeffrey Klepacki were separately interviewed by Ignites, a Financial Times publication, and an article with them speaking on a similar topic is featured this week.

Image credit: Steve Powell /Getty Images

ID: US-160218-57735-1