Fahim Imam-Sadeque is a business development professional with proven experience in the asset management industry. He has a Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science from the City University of London and is a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries. Fahim’s top skills include asset management, hedge funds, investment management, sales, and consultant & client relationship management.
What are the skills that are most important for a position in your field?
I sell asset management products to institutional investors, such as pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, endowments, and family offices. The products I sell are rather complex, and they involve a long sales cycle, so the most important thing is to understand your potential investor’s issues and requirements. With this information, one can map that to the products that one can offer. That means that my key weapon is my listening skills to help me put myself in the shoes of a prospective investor. Also, directing the conversation in terms of open-ended questions to understand what the investor is trying to achieve, the key issues they face, and how the strategies I represent may help them achieve their requirements.
What special advice do you have for a student seeking to qualify for a position in your field?
To work in a sales and business development role in financial services like myself, you need to have those listening skills, which I just described. That’s really important. You need to be a people person, and you need to have an excellent technical understanding of financial products, which can be learned. But I think most importantly, what can’t be learned is you need empathy so you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes and understand and appreciate the issues they’re facing. That is the key skill that one needs that I don’t think can be taught.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
The toughest decisions that one has to make in a business sense is generally when one might have to walk away from a deal or sale after having done a lot of work on it. That may be because one cannot agree on fees, terms, or some other aspect. That hasn’t happened to me in the last few months, but it has happened to me on numerous occasions over the years. So you must understand where the line in the sand is for what is acceptable. If one can’t agree on terms or if you don’t have a product that works for the other side, that’s absolutely fine. Because in the long term, that prospective investor will respect you more when you come back with something that does fit them and that one can agree on. So you need to have the strength to be able to walk away and not worry, “Well, I didn’t make the sale,” because you’re not going to make every sale.
The toughest decision that I had to make in the last couple of months on the personal side was arguing with my older son about his allowance at university. He’s got his dad’s negotiation skills. We came to an understanding; we met in the middle. He was a tricky negotiating adversary.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
It’s not for me to say that I’m successful or not; that’s the first thing I should say. But if I have been successful, it’s because there have been many generous people along the way who have taken their time to help me, educate me and train me, and allow me to learn from them. Some of them are still with me, some have passed away, some were family, and some were colleagues who became friends. I remember them all. It’s those people who can see what you are and can see your skillset in a way that you can’t see yourself, especially when you’re younger. Those are the most valuable people you meet along the way.
What has been your most satisfying moment in either your personal or professional life?
On the personal front, the most satisfying moments have been getting married to my wife and when my two sons were born. Those are just amazing points in my life, and hopefully, there’ll be many more of those moments going forward and thinking about grandchildren in the future.
On the professional front, the most satisfying moments in life have been when I’ve helped grow a business. You do all the right things without knowing whether you’ll be successful, and you slowly make progress. Then, a year or two down the line, you look back on what you’ve achieved and what you, your colleagues, and your team achieve. It can sometimes just blow you away by how successful as a team you’ve been. There have been a couple of those, two of which I can think of in my career, where I’ve helped build or rebuild a business.
What business books have inspired you?
I loved reading Liar’s Poker by Michael Lewis. It’s actually what made me think I might want to get into sales, but I would never have survived an investment bank trading desk, especially Michael Lewis’s one. I liked a lot of Michael Lewis’s books, particularly The New New Thing, which was about the tech market in the late 90s and early 2000s. That was an amazing book.
When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management, by Roger Lowenstein, was also an amazing read.
The other business book I absolutely loved was Barbarians at the Gate by two authors, Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. Barbarians at the Gate was interesting because I didn’t know much about private equity at the time. But that was an excellent book about the history of the various businesses and individuals and how they all came together in this one deal-making frenzy.
I read all of those books from my mid to late 20s when I was still trying to figure out how I fit into the world of work. I had all these skills, but I wasn’t necessarily using them.
So those four books: Liar’s Poker, The New New Thing, When Genius Failed, and Barbarians at the Gate. I think all of them sort of directed me towards my future career.
What have you found to be the best way to monitor the performance of your work?
I think the simplest thing is, am I enjoying work? If I’m enjoying it and my heart and soul is in it, then everything’s good, and I’m running smoothly.
If I’m not happy at work or with my work, there’s almost a cognitive dissonance within me. It’s like my sixth sense telling me something is not right. Maybe it’s time to change jobs. Maybe you’re not applying yourself or working as hard as you should be. But there would be a reason for that. So then that implies that I need to understand why that is and look to correct that. I’m not sure that applies to other people in the sense of a sort of a self-correcting mechanism in their head. But that’s what works for me.
Do you enjoy the challenge of working in a complex industry with rules that are always changing?
Yes, but it’s nice to have some stability of the framework. It’s nice to be at the cutting edge of an industry, but it’s also where things are constantly changing, and one has to stay abreast of those changes. It is also very nice to have a period where your playing field is relatively level, and you understand the situation and how you can bring solutions or products to your clients, and the product you have at that point in time fixes the issue your clients are facing. Of course, the world doesn’t stand still; products change, the world moves forward. But it’s also nice to have a period to be successful with what one has in one’s back pocket.