Written by Liesl Batz, Executive Recruiter.
Recruiting for the Twin Cities Asset Management community: Flyover country or diamond in the rough?
As an executive recruiter focused on senior investment and distribution placements for Asset Management firms, one might think that I would naturally call one of the coasts home. Actually, I am happily established in Minneapolis and not looking to move anytime soon. I have had the privilege of recruiting for companies based around the country as well as in the Twin Cities and consider myself well-versed in the special skill and finesse required to recruit to our fair city.
The Minneapolis/St. Paul area is home to some well-established and well-respected asset management firms both on a larger scale and at the boutique level. Firms such as FAF Advisors, Thrivent, and Columbia Management make up the larger asset management firms while firms such as SIT Investment, RBC Asset Management and Winslow have a smaller presence in the traditional asset management space. A once thriving hedge fund community, the Twin Cities lost two large players with the closures of EBF and Deephaven. Still, Black River, Whitebox, Waterstone and Varde Partners are amongst some of the better known local hedge funds that continue to thrive.
Nearly all of these firms have at one point recruited from the nation’s top investment centers like New York, San Francisco, Boston and Chicago. The Twin Cities area is often not the top location considered by many of those having graduated from top 10 business schools or working for premier investment firms on Wall Street. I have found, however, that it is the opportunity that often drives a candidate’s interest rather than location. When recruiting for a Twin Cities based position, I rarely lead with the location. It is, after all, only part of the opportunity.
I also have the advantage of having lived and worked in the Pacific Northwest, New York and London before choosing to live in Minneapolis. Therefore I consider myself a sort of ambassador for the area and am easily able to understand and address a candidate’s fear that they will feel unconnected with the “outside world”. While recruiting a senior investment or distribution professional for a position based in the Twin Cities may seem like a daunting task, I would counter that it can and most certainly has been done but not without a bit of digging. It is not entirely impossible to find the candidate much like myself who grew up in the Midwest, ventured out to build a Wall Street career and would like to move back to enjoy the very high standard of living that many of us take for granted. While the contemplation of relocating ones family can often be a deal breaker for a candidate, moving a family to the Midwest can also be a great selling point. There are even instances where living in the middle of the country can be a benefit – like no more long haul flights! You can be nearly anywhere in the continental US for less than 4 hours. When all else fails, it doesn’t hurt to point out that there are many bright minds at some very high quality firms in Minnesota – just mixed in with a little “Minnesota Nice”.
My advice to those looking to recruit top talent to the Twin Cities is simple. 1) Leave no stone unturned and talk to everyone. You can’t imagine how many times I have found the perfect candidate by talking to someone who was has lived in Manhattan for 30 years but sits next to someone from Wisconsin who is dying to move back to the Midwest! 2) Be open minded and creative. If may be a bit more difficult to recruit someone who matches your requirements exactly. Be willing to look at candidates who have good raw talent and a great pedigree who are open to relocation to our great state. 3) Be willing to help the candidate do some legwork on living in Minnesota. Anyone can use google to get a cost of living comparison but speaking with a candidate about what it’s like to live here can be really helpful. We have major sports teams, great colleges and universities, a fantastic parks system and we are one of the most well-read communities in the country. 4) Don’t make the mistake of assuming that someone from a top tier firm will not be interested in relocating to the Twin Cities. My mantra is “you just never know”. Once the candidate has been placed, STAY IN TOUCH! It can be enormously helpful for future candidates to speak with those who have successfully made the transition from one of the coasts.
It may be easier to recruit to a firm based in New York or Boston, but then what fun would that be. Besides, when I recruit for a local asset management firm, I get to crow about how great it is to be a part of this community – and that is a whole lot of fun.