Multiple colors, representing for example the multiple dimensions of the RIASEC assessment in vocational coaching.

How Asset Managers Leverage Vocational Coaching

One of the types of coaching I usually provide is vocational coaching. Despite starting with months-long vocational coaching and career planning programs, I’ve come to find specific techniques useful for increasing productivity and performance in other areas. One of them is in asset management.

The RIASEC Model

Known as the Holland Codes or the RIASEC Assessment, this short 10-15 assessment that can found online in open source format allows you to define your vocational affinity with six areas (therefore the RIASEC): Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, Conventional. In detail:

  • Realistic. People with a high Realistic component love to be with others, in the outdoors, travel, and perform physical activities;
  • Investigative. People with a high Investigative component need to process and digest information;
  • Artistic. People with a high Artistic component are drawn to non-structured, innovative work;
  • Social. People with a high Social component are drawn to helping, mentoring, tutoring others, and helping those in a position below them;
  • Enterprising. People with a high Enterprising component love to persuade others, to perform on a stage, to influence others’ behavior in some aspect;
  • Conventional. People with a high Conventional component are drawn to structure, repetitive work with numbers, figures, statistics or others;

This allows us to draw vocational inferences in general (e.g., someone with high Realistic and Enterprising dimensions is usually an excellent in-person salesman or public speaker; someone with high Artistic and low Conventional will love new, unstructured work but will hate repetitive, structured one).


Some conclusions from the RIASEC assessment can have direct consequences in terms of vocational coaching for an existing CEO/CIO, especially if they want to reach institutional quality. Namely:

  • High Realistic: Good in face-to-face situations, like raising capital or IR in-person, and managing talent face-to-face;
  • High Investigative: Good for research and/or compliance. Possibly other functions that demand a high level of data processing;. If still doing trading/research, these are the ones that take research to its deepest level. When fund managers describe exceptional traders as the ones that “know their names” (the ones that really go deep into their picked stocks and know every single thing about the company, more than anyone else), these are the ones. Think Bill Ackman of Pershing Square;
  • High Artistic: Good at generating ideas and coming up with unique and fresh angles for trades, analysis, ideas and/or other elements. Great for contrarian trades that require courage and risk. Might, however, be impulse or let emotions get in the way, as high Artistics have an innate drive to express themselves;
  • High Social: Good at helping others. Great at developing talent. If dealing with allocators/IR, will be especially helpful in terms of provisions and providing necessary materials, documents, transparency;
  • High Enterprising: Good for attracting capital, institutional sales, IR. Good at influencing talent and eliciting alignment;
  • High Conventional: Excel at processes. If trading, won’t be the contrarian executors, preferring conventional plays. Excel at creating replicable processes for the whole company. A CEO/CIO with high Conventional is an amazing asset for creating institutional-quality funds as they are focused on processes above all else;

This allows you to ruthlessly optimize based on your results. If you have a high Enterprising but not Realistic, you will be able to persuade and convince but probably won’t prefer to do it in person, so you can be involved in capital raising and IR through phone calls or email/providing materials, but maybe not in physical meetings – either have someone else participate in the raise or get a third-party marketer/placement agency. If you have high Social, you’re probably a natural-born leader, nurturing your talent and guiding them forward.

In many cases, interest inventories/assessments like the RIASEC only consolidate what you already know instinctively. If you have a low Realistic and don’t like meeting people face-to-face, you probably already knew it to some degree. But the particular combination of dimensions helps you further craft your position.

The RIASEC PM/Trader

Vocational coaching RIASEC conclusions for PMs/traders are similar to the CEO/CIO ones, although focused on investment execution and more operational in nature:

  • High Realistic: Good in face-to-face situations. Will like to discuss ideas and research face-to-face and probably likes to participate in in-person brainstorms for idea generation / analyst-trader collaboration / “traders anonymous”;
  • High Investigative: Very good at doing their own research and drilling down. Like the CIO, the ones that “know the names”;
  • High Artistic: Like the CIO, great for unique idea generation and unique trade contrarian trade ideas. Possibly more susceptible to emotion;
  • High Social: Very good in terms of collaboration. These are the types of traders that collaborate closely with analysts, that share the most vulnerability in “traders anonymous”-style meetings and that probably most contribute to firm processes;
  • High Enterprising: Good at persuading. If dealing with customers, good for IR. Drawback might be their need to persuade others might get in the way of data (charisma may subsume pure data from their research);
  • High Conventional: Excellent at processes. These are the people that might not come up with unique, contrarian ideas, preferring mainstream conventional ones, but they are very good at creating replicable processes and following them. An asset for creating institutional-quality operations;

The RIASEC Analyst

Following the same logic as from the CIO to the trader/PM, RIASEC results for analysts are basically the same as for traders/PMs except without the actual investment execution part. They’re the necessary skills to perform great research:

  • High Realistic: Good in face-to-face situations. Will like to discuss ideas and research face-to-face and probably likes to participate in in-person brainstorms for idea generation / analyst-trader collaboration / “traders anonymous”;
  • High Investigative: The deepest and most rigorous researchers that go into the deepest details of any stock (or other asset). Like the CIO and/or trader, the ones that “know the names”. These analysts generate the research reports that give the most possible information for traders to build their investment theses out of;
  • High Artistic: Will have a tendency to come up with new ideas, new angles. Excellent for unique strategies such as event-driven plays;
  • High Social: Very good in terms of collaboration. Collaborate deeply with traders and will help the firm and the team the most in terms of feedback and support;
  • High Enterprising: Good at persuading. Not good or bad for an analyst, but it means they will have a tendency to sell their ideas more easily to investment executors;
  • High Conventional: Excellent at replicable, repeatable processes. Great for plays that demand conventional, repetitive research formats like stock research of companies in a specific sector or similar structures;

Sample Case: CIO Vocational Coaching through RIASEC

Sample RIASEC Assessment
(0-32 in each dimension)

This is a sample case study of a CEO/CIO. Some conclusions that we can take from this assessment:

  • This person has a very high Social but very low Realistic. In other words, they love helping others, just not in the real world. It’s no surprise to know this person would send lots of email with feedback and leave extensive notes on research reports, but not give direct feedback in 1-on-1 meetings for fear of starting conflicts;
  • This person has a high Artistic and very low Conventional. Won’t be news to tell you that they are the CIO of an event-driven fund and that they haven’t been able to crack the code on a replicable research template by themselves, one of the last things holding them back on reaching institutional-quality replicable processes. The fact the Artistic dimension is merely a little bit high while the Conventional is very low also tells us that the person doesn’t have that much of a driven to be self-expressive, but they have a great drive to avoid repetitive, scalable processes;

This is a very interesting case as the vocational coaching tackled precisely the weaknesses created by the low dimensional affinities: being better at providing in-person feedback to talent and being more capable of creating and maintaining replicable processes for the company.

A Note on Artistic and Conventional

It’s important to note that, at first sight, the Artistic and Conventional dimensions seem opposite each other. If someone is drawn to structured, repetitive work, they won’t be towards creative, unstructured work, and vice-versa. This isn’t true in terms of vocational coaching, as both are not mutually exclusive.

There are cases of people that have both high Artistic and high Conventional, in which case they need both creative and repetitive work to feel satisfied, and cases of people that have low both, in which case they don’t particularly need any of both.

Case Study: Vocational Tuning of Portfolio Managers

I worked with a fund manager that had some PMs with performance issues. Besides other coaching work done, including performance coaching for the individuals and working on behavior institutionalization for the whole team, we did some vocational assessments.

We figured out that one PM that was coming up with repetitive trades, following a specific process and model, actually had very low Conventional and very High artistic scores. This was not a good side. Upon deeper conversations, we talked about how he transitioned from doing unique event-driven plays to doing more repetitive, consistent trades for long/short equities, which did not satisfy his creative/artistic side.

Since creating an event-driven strategy in his current portfolio was out of the question, we focused mostly on what he could do to treat each trade like a unique, unstructured situation versus a replicable, structured, repetitive situation. We defined requirements and expectations for the trades and the PM decided to obey the minimum requirements for the risk profile and profit targets, and do everything else as a unique situation, case by case. His results improved considerably.

I have also worked with different cases where traders or PMs actually had no replicable system when their vocational preferences dictated they should have them, or situations where the individuals with the highest Artistic component were not asked to pitch in for idea generation while the ones with the highest Conventional were.

Conclusion: Vocational Coaching through RIASEC

The Holland Code/RIASEC assessment allows one to very quickly (10-15 minutes) test themselves on six different dimensions, which can tell that person a lot in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, especially specific for their function. On its own, it already provides some suggestions, but it’s better if paired together and confirmed by other personality/vocational assessment tools.

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