by Andrew Holmbeck ’05
After graduating with a degree in History, Andrew Holmbeck ’05 found himself winding a pathway toward a highly satisfying career in the financial services industry. How’d that happen? When he connected with sophomores Katie Li and Ivan Gradinsky during their Sophomore Shadow experience this spring, he took some time to reflect on just that question.
I distinctly remember thinking to myself one day, “So when did Finance become my career?” I didn’t study it at college but I still think Beloit was crucial to where I am now. Beloit didn’t teach me finance, or the markets, or any of that, Beloit taught me how to learn, an infinitely more useful skill.
Fisher Investments (FI) is an asset manager for high net worth individuals. This simply means, if you have over $500k of investable assets, we will manage a portfolio for you for a fee. I started in the firm as a Client Service Associate (CSA). I would help new clients setup their accounts, transfer their assets into those accounts, and enter the accounts into our company’s internal systems so we could managed the clients’ assets. It was a very operationally focused role and suited me well. The training was expansive; roughly 3 months before you were “independent” and could work your own accounts on your own. There was an established mentoring system in which more senior members of the group would be paired up with new hires to help teach them the ropes. The group, as with most of the firm, is driven by metrics (how many relationships did you clear, were there any errors, etc.) and happily I quickly found my feet and excelled. I was the first CSA to clear over 200 accounts in my first year since the recession. With improvements to the business and scaling the department, my numbers are now paltry compared to a current CSA; however, for the time, they were noteworthy.
I was in CSA for about 16 months and then had the opportunity to move to the Institutional Operations team. In addition to managing money for private individuals/couples, Fisher Investments also manages money for institutional firms (Corporate Pension Funds, Sovereign Wealth Funds, City Municipalities, etc.). I became the first Washington associate for the team (my other three team members were in our San Mateo, California office). While CSA was a well machined process, Institutional Operations were exceedingly nuanced. Each client relationship was different due to the individually negotiated contracts between FI and the client. The ramp up time was lengthy; I was in the role for almost a full year before I was truly able to handle anything which arose. Due to the nuance, the work was never dull. Everything was different, and impactful. The smallest institutional accounts were still tens of millions of dollars. My first account was $263 million dollars, far exceeding the combined assets of all of the accounts I had worked with as a CSA.
Just before my two year mark with the group I transitioned again. This time I moved to Sales Support. A friend of mine from CSA basically recruited me to the position. They needed a new member who could do well in an operational environment and I wanted to see how the sales side of our company worked (specifically without having to sell anything myself). While possessing possibly the vaguest name, Sales Support is responsible for lead allocation along with a myriad of other responsibilities. The best way I have come to describe it is as follows: Marketing uncovers prospects and it is Sales Support’s responsibility to ensure those leads are distributed out to the various sales people in an effective manner. We monitor national lead flow and push and pull our sales force appropriately. We also audit the Funding Board. A record of all of the assets each sales person has brought in to firm during the course of the year. The work used to be more operationally oriented, however now we are working to automate a fair amount of what we do, which is giving us opportunities to work on projects to better the firm, an exciting development.
I’d like to say I chose Fisher Investments because I was interested in Finance, or the Market, or something along those lines, but I was mostly drawn to FI for two reasons.
- 1) I was struggling in my new role at the bank (Sales), and
- 2) the compensation FI was offering was head and shoulders above anything else I could find.
Through a stroke of luck, FI has become a great career for me. I am challenged with navigating ambiguous situations, asked to analyze data to help better our company, and above all, I am asked to be successful and excel, all while being given the support and training to do so.