Help wanted: Must have proven leadership ability, strong sales skills and big ideas.

Those are the ideal qualities wealth management firms are looking for, according to Michael Castine, the executive search veteran who joined Ridgeway Partners in New York as a partner this week after a five-year stint as chairman of asset and wealth management for Korn/Ferry International.

“Most wealth management firms are starving for good leadership,” says Castine, who has worked in the industry for over two decades. “I’m asked about that a lot as companies think of succession planning. Quality talent at senior levels -- such as CEOs, CIOs, strategists and risk and compliance officers -- is in high demand as the current generation begins to make plans to retire.”


Executives who can bring in net new assets are also highly desirable, according to Castine.

“When all is said and done, regardless of the position’s title, it’s usually really a sales job,” Castine says. “Wealth management firms want to increase assets and looking for multiples of what they have.”

Castine doubts that new “client centric” performance metrics will supplant sales results any time soon when it comes to compensation.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to net assets and net new revenue,” Castine maintains. “That’s what firms are looking for and that’s what they will pay for. Some softer metrics may become more important, but hard numbers take precedence.”

Since so many good firms are looking for top talent, executives should shoot high, Castine advises. “Play above your weight,” he says. “Strive for an ‘A’ company where you’ll really be happy.”


Family offices and wealth management firms that are expanding and buying up other companies are particularly fertile areas for experienced executives, according to Castine, who says he left Korn/Ferry because the firm was shifting its emphasis towards non-search work.

Wealth management executives looking for greener pastures should stay put while they’re job hunting, Castine counsels. “It’s always easier to find a job when you have a job, and the search may take longer than you think.”

Job seekers should do their homework, research the firm they’d like to work for; talk to people who have left the firm and find out why they left, Castine says.

“Look for patterns,” he suggests. “If other executives keep identifying the same problem, don’t think you’re going to be the one who will change everything.”

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