Investment Professional of the Future

Investment Professional of the Future

The Most Valuable Roles in the Future and How They Relate to Technology


There is consensus among the practitioners we interviewed and our survey respondents that technology will be the dominant driver for change in investment management and an increasingly essential element of work for almost all investment professionals. Barbara Petitt, CFA, head of curriculum and learning experience for CFA Institute, said, “As technology becomes the lingua franca, investment professionals must become literate in a language that is not their own and be able to ask the right questions. Asking the right questions is and remains a key competency for our profession.”

Exhibit 11


Portfolio or Fund Managers


Investment decision maker

Investment researcher

Private wealth manager


Data scientist

Applications engineer


Investment thinking and process innovator

Knowledge engineer

Innovation facilitator

As the industry moves to an AI+HI model, investment teams of the future will fulfill three main functions (investment, technology, and innovation) in eight types of roles, as shown in Exhibit 11, at the investment firms of the future (this discussion benefited from the future professional roles section in Susskind and Susskind).xiii

Investment decision-making roles are typically undertaken by chief investment officers and portfolio managers, depending on the size and structure of the firm. Investment research is predominantly provided by research analysts. Private wealth managers are generalists who also serve a relationship function with their clients. These roles exist today, but as seen in Exhibit 10, many investment professionals expect them to change significantly. Among wealth managers, 54% expect the role to be substantially different, compared with 45% of research analysts and 39% of portfolio managers.

Data scientist roles are increasingly present at investment organizations. These professionals are the architects and the applications engineers are the builders; they work together to develop and implement the technology components of the investment process.

Innovators focus on improving the existing investment process. A key role innovators play in the face of technology disruption is to facilitate the collaboration between investment and technology teams. One will find investment thinking and process innovators both among senior researchers in the industry and at leading research universities. Knowledge engineers are subject matter experts who identify key industry trends and emerging investment expertise. They focus on gathering insights from innovators and sharing it with other investment professionals. Innovation facilitators play a similar role to private wealth managers except that they operate in the innovation space.

CFA Institute has discussed the growing force of fintech in the financial services industry in recent years.xiv

  1. Complementary fintech will broaden the industry’s reach. Despite widespread industry concerns and media hype, the early fintech innovations—such as robo advice, mobile payment, and peer-to-peer lending—have proven complementary rather than disruptive to the establishment. Robo advice, for example, has lowered the cost of investment advice and made it accessible to a previously unserved or underserved audience. Robo advice has become a more common offering at incumbent investment firms—often through a partnership or the purchase of a platform—and challenger firms starting from outside the industry remain relatively small.
  2. AI and big data will drive significant changes in investment management. Recently, AI and technologies that exploit big data have started to find their applications in investment management. AI now “comprehends” unstructured data, such as texts, images, and spoken languages, better than an average human being, and it is getting better by the day.xv These investment applications of alternative data sources are increasingly enabling analysts to perform deeper analysis and portfolio managers to make better-informed decisions. Instead of counting trucks outside a warehouse, for example, analysts can now access customer or cargo traffic information collected with sensors at stores and from satellite imaging. As technology improves at an increasing rate and its application in investment continues, we can expect changes in the investment business to accelerate.
  3. Achieving optimum performance requires collaboration. Rather than the simple explanation of machines replacing human roles, we think the substitution mechanism is slightly subtler. AI and human intelligence both have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, AI is better at identifying patterns “hidden” in a vast amount of information, but its effectiveness in investments is limited by the data available to it. In other words, we may find over time that AI proves useful in amplifying an investment team’s performance but is unlikely to be creative enough to replace the investment team.We believe successful investment professionals of the future will be part of an AI+HI combination, where investment and technology teams collaborate to enhance performance. Investment professionals of the future will gravitate toward integrated technology and investment teams, often in shared workspaces. The ideal investment and technology teams will work as equal partners, in much the same way that fundamental and quantitative investors and risk managers collaborate at successful investment firms today—an approach now termed “quantamental.”
  4. Expert human intelligence of investment teams will be highly valued. As repetitive and mundane tasks are increasingly carried out by AI, the less highly skilled members of investment firms are at higher risk of substitution with technology. The most skilled investment professionals are likely to remain highly valued because within the period we are considering (5–10 years), full technology substitution will probably not be possible or successful. As explained earlier, expert human intelligence will become more valuable when it is subjected to a multiplier effect from technology, which suggests that the rarer forms of investment skill are likely to be rewarded more highly than previously.
  5. Innovators will become critical roles at successful investment firms of the future. One challenge to effectively integrating technology is the difference in cultures typically found between investment and technology teams. Another is that professionals are often specialists and not adept at collaborating across disciplines. Solutions led by the investment team tend to address the core investment functions well but fall short when it comes to applying the latest AI and big data technologies, and the reverse is true of tech-led solutions. Innovators thus have a significant opportunity to improve the combination. An organization is likely to go through various iterations when using a team to innovate as it progresses toward a sweet spot—that is, an optimal investment solution that combines leading AI and big data technologies with human intelligence to solve core investment problems and creates the maximum value possible for the resources used.