Exclusive Interview: Michael Kennedy on How Candidates Should Prepare to become Chief Investment Officers

Is there a secret trait recruiters look for?

What happens to a young allocator's career if they want to quit their job within a year or two?

If an asset owner employee is poached by one of their asset managers, will the asset owner be sore?

There are so many questions rising star allocators might be hesitant to ask. But we’re going to be asking them, starting with our very first Bridging the Gap interview, which is part of a new Markets Group series.  

Oftentimes at Markets Group events, I meet up with A-list allocators who believe they are ready for the Chief Investment Officer seat. Within the post-COVID world, with teams working remotely and the markets roiling, they sometimes feel there is little opportunity for career advancement. “Do you have any advice on the skills some one like me needs to have to be promoted to Chief Investment Officer?” is becoming a common question at conferences.

In this spirit, we thought it would be fun to have a Bridging the Gap series, starting by asking a rising star to interview one of the top CIO recruiters in the United States, Michael Kennedy, partner at Korn Ferry. We asked Ratna Kota, a senior portfolio manager at Maryland State Retirement and Pension System, to come up with a list of questions that most up-in-comers would want answers to. He certainly delivered.

Watch the fascinating interview here. You can see the questions he’s asking, timestamped, in the notes below. For example, during the course of the interview, at 06:28, Kota asks Kennedy:Should a candidate reach out to an executive recruiter directly in order to be on their radar?” Spoiler alert: Kennedy, known to be a gracious recruiter, says yes, but also gives advice on exactly how to doit.

Another question Kota gets to the heart of sticky situations, when candidates accidentally accept a job in an environment that they find too stressful, or that isn’t quite what they’re looking for. During the interview, at 21:15 Kota asks, “If a candidate needs to leave within a year or two years or so from a stressed environment, how should a candidate address the departure during the interview process?

Oftentimes, young allocators find themselves in roles that are handling deputy CIO responsibilities without the official title. At 23:20, he asks, “If 2 candidates are competing, and one is a deputy CIO and the other is handling an asset class, how should the non-deputy-CIO handle the interview?” The interview holds many more details on “How Candidates Should Prepare to become Chief Investment Officers” that would be worth a listen to

We’d love to hear from you, as this is a new venture. Let us know if you have questions you’d like to ask a top recruiter or CIO, or if you have any suggestions to help others in the spirit of career advancement.  Would also love to know what CIOs you’d like to learn from.

By Christine Giordano