Picture: Supplied
Picture: Supplied

A day in the life of a chief investment officer

By Yasmine Jacobs Time of article published Aug 30, 2021

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Every employee at every organisation has an important role to play at a company. We are all familiar with executive roles such as chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO) and chief operating officer (COO). But a chief investment officer (CIO) plays a crucial role in the running of the organisation.

CIO at Momentum Investments, Sonja Saunderson, breaks down what the role entails and details the average day of a CIO.

“Being the CIO at a major investment firm means being able to continuously evolve and challenge oneself, to deliver value for our clients. At the same time, we have a responsibility to transform our industry to be more representative and build teams and cultures that are enticing, and pulling the best talent.

“I interact a lot with fund managers, banks, stockbrokers, academics and other service providers in the industry on a daily basis. This is to ensure we do thorough research and have informed insights into what is shaping the industry, what the market dynamics are, and how that should influence our investment decision-making,” said Saunderson.

Talking to fund managers, banks and stockbrokers is a common occurrence, but another big part of the CIO role is interacting with clients.

“Often throughout the week, I get to spend time with clients, giving them feedback, understanding their requirements, and being responsive to their needs. We need to ensure our portfolios are optimally structured and our offerings are relevant and competitive to clients, which is why taking the time to really communicate with them is essential.”

Saunderson adds that although her day varies, there are still certain elements that remain the same.

“I spend my time internally making decisions based on our research, modelling and forward-looking insights for the benefit of our client portfolios. We need to formulate views according to our processes and position portfolios for the future. We also assess where we may have made mistakes and where we need to change our strategy and thinking.”

Saunderson highlighted the importance of keeping up to date.

“Staying up to date with emerging trends and developments to understand how our clients are evolving is just as important as staying updated with emerging trends and developments in the investment industry. The combination of both of these elements is how we ensure that our investment decisions remain relevant in a very dynamic environment.”

Being in an executive role, managing and strengthening the team is key. According to Saunderson, part of a CIO’s responsibility is to build teams that are diverse and differentiated enough to offer clients something “interesting and unique in terms of investment advice and decisions”.

“I’m constantly on the lookout for skilled professionals who can add value to our dynamic team. Passionate people inspire me. People who want to make a success of things and make a difference in the world. People who think differently, have a set of principles they firmly believe in and act accordingly.”

Saunderson strongly encourages women to enter this line of work and has words of wisdom to aspiring female CIOs.

“My most important advice to young women is that they need to work hard and learn as much as possible. Be strong enough to have a set of principles that govern your ethics and thought process, but also be humble enough to admit when you are wrong, don’t know or have made a mistake.”


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