What's it like to work for a major asset management group?
Name: Scott Merkel
Graduation date: May 1996
Major: BA in economics (economic theory and application) and Management Studies Certificate in accounting/finance.
What is your current position?
My current position is as a fund analyst for the Alternative Investment Group at Credit Suisse Asset Management.
What is the nature of your work?
I work in a team of six that creates and manages offshore Fund of Funds (portfolio of Hedge Funds) for Credit Suisse's clients. Because of the nature of Alternative Investments and their lack of transparency and low liquidity, due diligence is a vital part of our business both before and after we make investments. On an ongoing basis, we collect both quantitative and qualitative information from our universe of fund managers through office visits, conference calls, and our network of contacts.
What does a typical day consist of? What do you do? When do you start? How late do you work?
Everyday is spent working on the investment process. Whether it is meeting new managers or following up on current investments, a majority of our time used in this capacity. The remainder is spent on building new business and on the operations side. The typical days starts at 8 a.m. and ends around 6:30 p.m., Monday - Friday.
What's the best way of learning more about the work you do?
Reading basic periodicals and newspapers on a daily basis to build industry knowledge is a great place to start. I would suggest The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times and Barron's. The World Wide Web can also be a source of information (try searching for Hedge Funds on Yahoo). Otherwise, your best bet is through contact with someone already in the field.
Looking back at your undergraduate days at Rochester, what courses or activities were particularly valuable for your current position?
The courses that are most applicable to a career in portfolio management should give a strong understanding of finance, supply and demand, macroeconomics, statistics, business writing and computers. Specific courses from the Economics courses I took that were helpful were Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Financial Markets, Theories and Evidence, Monetary Theory, Econometrics, and International Finance (ECO 207, 209, 216, 229, 231, and 270). I would also suggest starting early and studying for a CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst - http://www.cfainstitute.org).
Being active in social organizations is also crucial to building the interpersonal skills you'll need later on in life. If you enjoy sports, play on an intramural or Varsity team.
In retrospect, were there things you wish you did more of?
Developing my foreign language skills.
What do you think is the next logical career step for you?
I will spend the next few years honing my portfolio management skills while working towards my CFA charter. During that time, taking additional responsibility over one or more of the products we manage would be an ideal step forward.
Is there anything that you would like to advise our majors today about their future?
Regardless of the career path you choose, be sure that you enjoy it.