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Interview With Fahim Imam-Sadeque, A Business Development Professional

Interview With Fahim Imam-Sadeque
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Fahim Imam-Sadeque is a business development professional with proven experience in the asset management industry. He has a Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science from the City University of London and is a Fellow of the Institute of Actuaries.

Fahim’s top skills include asset management, hedge funds, investment management, sales, and consultant & client relationship management.

What’s one trend that excites you?

The trend that excites me the most is that institutional investors are open-minded about how they will allocate and the strategies they’ll use to achieve their return targets. It’s important to me because, typically, I represent niche strategies.

Those strategies often get overlooked by mainstream allocators such as pension funds, endowments, other wealth funds, etc., because they can achieve their returns through mainstream strategies.

However, at the current time, with depressed global yields, many strategies are not returning sufficiently for institutional investors to invest their money. That means that investors/allocators have to be more broad-minded in the type of strategies they’re considering.

So, it excites me that I can put high-quality strategies in front of investors to help them achieve their objectives.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Be kind to yourself because however much you try, however much you push yourself, you can’t get to where you want in a short period of time. Anything worth doing takes a long time to achieve. So be patient and appreciate a bit more of the small wins along the way, and don’t be so tough on yourself about not achieving the big wins. They’re part of what makes a career enjoyable.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Unfortunately, in every low yield, low-rate environment, there comes the point in markets where you see irrational exuberance, a term which Alan Greenspan, the former Fed Chair, used. I’m seeing some allocators, by no means all, starting to be irrationally exuberant in what they will look at.

Even though I am keen for allocators to be broad-minded and consider strategies that they wouldn’t otherwise consider, they should also be wary because the proverbial snake oil salesmen are out there. So, there will be situations where investments are made today, and significant losses will be harvested from those investments over time.

I would counsel all the allocators I speak with to be extremely mindful and consider the downside of what they’re investing into.

How do you build relationships with your clients?

We build trust over time by being honest and straightforward about the strategies we’re trying to sell them. Nothing is perfect. Strategies will have positive and negative aspects to them. There’ll be scenarios in which they’ll perform well and scenarios in which they perform poorly.

I will always be completely upfront and open with my clients about all scenarios the strategy I’m talking to them about could possibly perform poorly. And over time, that’s the way we build trust with an institutional allocator.

How do you stay current on industry developments?

In terms of my industry, I read industry journals, I attend industry educational seminars, whether online or when they can be in person. I like to attend conferences and summits to hear others speak on topics of interest within my industry.

Do you have a specific routine that helps you stay organized and achieve your goals?

I found out about myself early on in my career that I’m naturally quite disorganized. However, none of my colleagues would believe that if you asked them today because I come across as extremely organized, but that’s because I had to force myself.

On top of that, 15 years into my career, I was taught a process called the milestones process, which is about how to sell products or strategies that have a long-tail, long-term sales process. That was like a eureka moment for me. And that’s the routine I use to this day to do the job that I do.

That process entails setting yourself milestones along the way to close a piece of business. Then, you tailor those milestones to the particular circumstance and sales process you’re working on. And over time, it goes from being a process you have to think about to second nature.

How do you recharge your batteries after long work hours?

I enjoy spending time with my family. I like to exercise; it helps me focus. I like to attend football matches with one of my sons who supports the same team.

If you could change one thing about the alternative investments industry, what would it be?

As someone who is not from a white Caucasian background, the unfortunate truth of my industry in both the UK and the US is that it is heavily dominated by white Caucasian men, which leads to a lack of diversity of thoughts and solutions. As someone who’s benefited from this industry, I think it’s imperative that the industry has a more diverse set of participants, whether the diversity is in terms of ethnicity, sex, the LGBTQ community, or whichever form of diversity may be.

If that process can occur, the industry will benefit hugely from that in terms of diversity of thought.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business?

It’s affected my business massively. I never would have believed that an institutional allocator would allocate tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to a strategy without meeting physically with the manager. Still, it’s proved not to be the case anymore.

They are happy with the technology that we have now in the case of virtual meetings and are willing to allocate based on virtual meetings with investment teams, which is mind-blowing to me. I would never have thought that these sorts of processes could occur without people looking at each other in the face across the table. So that’s been amazing.

I’m sure the industry will benefit from some face-to-face meetings, but I’m not sure we’ll ever go back to having as many face-to-face meetings as we had previously. I’m interested to see how things change over time.