Betty Buyside: Hedging against a stingy employer

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My bonus prospects are looking good if my first quarter figures are

anything to go by.

I easily outperformed each of the three sectors that I follow,

which was nothing short of a miracle given the grim state of the market.

For some reason the buyside doesn't go in for the orgy of 1Q bonus

payments that the sellside manage each year. There is simply no equivalent

of the sellside bonus season designed to ramp house prices in London each

Easter different fund managers pay out at different times in different


I shall judge myself on how close I get to the 75% of

basic salary that is the upper limit here.

In the meantime, I have been working away on the ultimate hedge strategy

against a grotty bonus: a new job. Justin the headhunter has seen me

through three interviews with his client and the fourth and final one is

next week.

Justin is naturally much more excited about the outcome than

me he can already hear the cash registers ringing in his ears while all I

can think about is the disruption that changing jobs would bring.

City headhunters typically charge between 25% and 30% of the first-year

package and their employees usually earn commission at 40% of fees, so the sums

for a 150,000 package are quite straightforward.

Justin's employers could get 37,500, of which 15,000 would go to him. Ten of those a year on

top of his basic salary and you can see why City headhunting has recently

been as lucrative a career as the City itself.

One of Justin's colleagues, who focuses on corporate finance, and is not yet 30 years old,

was guaranteed 250,000 in order to stop him defecting to a rival. Tactics

poached from investment banks!

Anthony Academic has suggested that we have dinner the night before my

interview. Instead of the usual Indian takeaway in front of a video he has booked a Michelin-starred restaurant in the West End. I think that sounds promising for our


Whatever his reasons, I'm looking forward to going there. It's owned by the

founder of New Covent Garden Soups, a company that got off the ground not so long ago with

the help of some private equity.

Private equity fascinates me - I often wonder what it would be like to work in it, investing people's money into unquoted - and untried - companies. It must be very different to my existence of risk-taking at a much safer level, backed up by every asset allocation and stock selection tool available.

Anyway I am fully expecting a marriage proposal at this dinner date, and if

one is not forthcoming then Anthony Academic may have to be moved aside for

someone who can spell commitment. A girl can't afford to hang around at 31 years old.

I haven't actually asked to see the maternity leave policy of my

prospective employer, but this is an industry with exceptionally generous


Arguably the most famous fund manager of all, Nicola Horlick,

has had no less than six children and managed substantial maternity leave

each time. I firmly believe that asset management is a strong career choice

for a girl who is planning a family.

My interview with Justin's client is going to take place by videoconference from the United States. I have previously been flown to the US for final interview but so many asset managers from the other side of the pond are recruiting in the UK that they have decided to cut costs and go for the technical option instead.

This will mean that I will be seated and ready to go, looking at an empty room in Massachusetts, several minutes before my interrogators appear.

They will saunter in, Starbucks in hand,

and shuffle some papers around before remembering the name of the candidate

and looking at the camera.

I think I can guess their opening line. &quotBetty, hi there, how's the weather

in the UK?&quot

More imaginative questions in interviews for asset management positions

include &quotHow do you review a particular stock?&quot and &quotWhy did you leave

company X for company Y&quot, the latter referring to any job change on the CV.

The answer to the first question should be one that any buyside analyst or

find manager knows by heart, as they do it every day, but it helps to

rehearse it anyway. I shall practise on Anthony Academic, at the risk of

seeming less than romantic.

The answer to the second question of course is &quotMore money&quot, but I suppose I shall have to think up

something less direct.

Wish me luck!

You can contact Betty at: