The Transition from Trader to Effective Presenter and Successful Manager


You became a fund manager. Your trading was good enough to systematize it, put analytics around it, scale it and offer it to potential investors. You were disciplined, organized, intelligent, accountable and talented. You did your research. You demonstrated a nuanced approach to the markets and an ability to execute exceptionally well.

Going forward, you need to develop marketing skills and implement a sales strategy.  You need to become a business owner. Asset managers, clearing houses, attorneys and regulators have all kinds of advice to offer. Consultants, books and seminars present volumes of “what to do.” “What to do” is changing for you, and you need to change along with it. What to do to succeed as a fund manager requires you to change from trader and risk manager to relationship manager.

As a trader, your carefully honed trading skills generated monetary profit. While you were trading, your mind was developing a “mental model” right alongside your trading model. Your mental model governs how you see your world. Your mental model organizes how you process data, conversations, images and relationships.  Your mental model creates your beliefs and assumptions, and those beliefs and assumptions fuel your actions. You must adapt your mental model to your new work environment.

Communication differences are a good example. You’re in a conversation with a potential investor. He asks you to talk about your investment process and methodology.  He explains his unique needs and criteria. However, trading did not prepare you to listen in the way you need to understand the investor. Nor did trading provide the relational experience the investor expects from you. Instead of a casual narrative laced with stories and emotional connection, you unconsciously drift into the mathematics of your trading system. You start flipping through your pitch deck. You lose the interest of the investor, and you don’t know why.

To you, what you are talking about is fascinating (for us traders, it is!)  Your mental model tells you that what matters are your results and trading methodology. Yet, the investor is as interested in getting to know you as he is your methodology. A mental model more aligned with the situation would have identified relationship and trust as more important than the pitch book.

In short, you possess distorted expectations of your interaction with the investor.  Your perceptions, mental attitudes and beliefs are formed by markets, numbers, risk and returns. Your trading world has those concerns. Now that you are a fund manager, an important element has been added. You need to focus on relationship building and develop interpersonal expertise.

What you believe does not necessarily reflect reality. To succeed, your old mental model gives way to a new mental model that improves listening and communication, corrects distortions and misconceptions and builds interpersonal skills and abilities.

Consultants and industry experts are not able to guide you in adapting to the new challenges. You need different resources. Here are three excellent ways to develop the personal resources for your business:

  1. A mentor can guide you. Not a trading mentor, but an executive mentor with leadership and relational experience. Think sales manager, marketing manager, senior executive, divisional head, relationship manager or professional communicator. Maybe even a pastor. They can mentor you in social interaction competency for business.
  2. Executive roundtables, also called peer advisory boards, are a proven leadership development vehicle. You gain access to the depth of experience and breadth of perspectives of a peer group of business leaders and owners from diverse industry sectors. Statistically, peer board businesses outperform their non-board peers. For Christian business owners, consider the faith-based approach of C12 Group. For business owners desiring a strictly business focus, look at Vistage.  As a fund manager, you market to investors like those business owners–especially if your target is high net worth individuals or family offices.
  3. An executive coach can offer excellent guidance and feedback. An executive coach is specially trained to manage organizational and leadership change. Coaches are widely used in the corporate world to help executives leverage their strengths, listen with more depth, create greater clarity and awareness, identify more nuanced choices and think with less distortion and more focus. In the case of a fund manager, an executive coach helps you move from the quant word to a relationship reality, becoming a better manager and trusted investment advisor.

As a fund manager, your world has fundamentally changed. You are now in the relationship business. You have relationships with investors, regulators, employees, lawyers, fund administrators, pension fund administrators, investment consultants, investment advisors, family office owners, etc. If you cannot carry on a conversation for 60 minutes without looking at one page of your flipbook or give a presentation without a single slide containing a chart or a table of numbers—you have work to do.

Consider these questions. When you talk about your fund, do you speak with depth?  Are you motivated by anything more than profit?  You should have a compelling “why” for wanting to run a fund; what is your mission statement?  What is your vision for your company?  What will your company look like in five years, and why does an investor want to be part of that journey?  Everyone has values–can you articulate yours? Do your values inform how you conduct yourself and your business? Do your values resonate with an investor? These are relational questions that form the basis of a partnership and long-term relationship—answer them.

As a fund manager, you no longer manage assets.  Now, you manage relationships. Develop your leadership capacity to make the transition successfully.  

Tim Holmes is an Executive & Performance Coach, Speaker, and Hogan Assessment Practitioner at Valley Executive Solutions.