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Generating ‘alpha’ as your day job Back  
Profile of Sean Crowe, C.O.O. and Head of Global Fixed Income and Specialist Products Bank of Ireland Asset Management.
I grew up in Limerick and went to Ard Scoil Ris, subsequently went on to study at University of Limerick, where I completed a Bachelor of Business Studies Degree. In the early years of my working career, I completed professional exams for the Society of Investment Analysts and today I am also member of the Chartered Financial Analysts Institute.

What has been your career path to date? I started out with Eagle Star in 1988 as a trainee investment manager and by the time I left in 1993 I was head of Fixed Income Investments. I then joined Bank of Ireland Global Markets as a proprietary bond and derivatives trader. Progressed to heading Global Markets trading business where I was responsible for all bond, credit, foreign exchange and derivative risk taking. During my time in Global Markets I also oversaw the funding of the Bank of Ireland balance sheet and the launch of many new products.
Sean Crowe

I joined Bank of Ireland Asset Management (BIAM) in late 2006 and in my current role I am responsible for the management of all of BIAM’s fixed income, property and specialist products. I also have day to day responsibility for the operational side of the investment team, which is comprised of 46 specialist investment professionals.

Are your peers from similar backgrounds?
Typically, both bank traders and investment managers are graduates with strong academic records in subjects like business, economics, finance or actuarial studies. However, it is still probably a little unusual to have moved from an established banking career to an investment management position. My decision was driven by the belief that the derivative and risk capabilities that have transformed the banking world will increasingly be applied to the management of third party funds in the investment management arena. This is an exciting challenge.

Have you worked abroad? If so where and what did you do? Would you do so again? I have been very fortunate that I have been able to spend the bulk of my career in an international business environment, interacting on a daily basis with dealing floors here in Dublin, London and New York. As a result I feel I have had the virtual experience of working internationally - without having to physically relocate abroad.

Having said that - I have spent a good portion of my career travelling to and from most of the major financial centres – it’s an integral part of working successfully with colleagues and counterparts in this business.

How would you compare career prospects internationally with those in Ireland? I would advise anybody starting out in this business not to be driven by geography. Dublin can provide opportunities equal to, or perhaps better than, London or New York. However, if one of these opportunities doesn’t come your way - then my advice is get on a plane and do something about it!

Have you undertaken any additional professional training since assuming your current role? Over the years Bank of Ireland has invested heavily in me and other staff, particularly in relation to management training. I have completed various courses like the Executive Development Programme at Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania and others from the London Business School.

What skills/aptitude would you identify as being key/beneficial to a career in your sector? When hiring, I look for graduates with a strong analytical and numerical disposition. I also look for team skills – ‘street sense’ and the ability to work with other people. Lastly, as it is often a tough and demanding business, I look for evidence of drive and determination to succeed.

What aspects of the job do you like most? I enjoy the challenge of analysing markets and executing positions to generate performance for clients. I also enjoy working with teams of talented people to ensure that we maximise the return we achieve for our collective efforts!

What aspects of the job do you like least? Even the most successful investors don’t get to call the market right every time. When you call the market wrong - your decision is very transparent and you can, at least temporarily, look foolish. It’s not an easy place to be and for people starting out in the business, it is important to consider whether you have the resilience and determination to make rational decisions - particularly when you are the lone voice in the crowd.

How do you define success in your sector? Success is easily measured by the return on the funds we manage for clients.

Is there anyone in particular you admire in your industry? I admire those who have generated extra-normal returns from markets over a long period of time. The best exponents of alpha generation that I have seen are those such as George Soros internationally and Chris Reilly locally.

What advice would you give to others who might like a career in your sector? Complete your studies - ideally with a post-graduate qualification. In the early years, try to work on different asset classes if you get the opportunity. It becomes harder to switch the more experience that you get.

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