Somewhere, anywhere, nowhere - What global citizens and asset managers have in common
Updated: Jun 22, 2019
I’ve been reading David Goodhart's thought-provoking book, ‘The Road to Somewhere’. This isn't an asset management book, it's social science.
In essence, the book calls out the differences between two broad groups of people in society;
1. The 'anywheres' - people that move about in search of employment and lifestyle.
2. The 'somewheres' – people that, in short, largely stay put, or move very rarely.
So, I can hear your wondering.... what's that got to do with asset management?
What's powerful is the strong parallel between societies anywheres and asset managers. Not so much in terms of travels geographical, but travels ‘organisational’.
Assemble any group of asset managers (perhaps someone can suggest a collective noun) and you will find most are organisational anywheres; – people who migrated from engineering, operations, maintenance, and a few from far, far lands such as customer services and even finance (and we still need far more of those). Often they migrated for interest, advancement or because they want a new challenge.
So what can we learn from this comparison? Well, according to this book, the weakness of being an anywhere as a person is that you are also often a 'nowhere’ in terms of wider society (as politicians have recently pointed out). This could help us explain why asset management is often so difficult to establish in an organisation; it may be common sense, it may be an attractive destination, but it requires people to travel out of there ‘home’ discipline for more than an occasional holiday and become true organisational anywheres. I've heard these called ‘trans-disciplinary’ (as opposed to inter-disciplinary).
This all re-enforces that Asset Managers need strong support structures such as networks and institutes with local chapters and branches. Asset management is still largely a second discipline in terms of a career and so ongoing support such as that from the AMC, IAM, SAAMA, etc is vital to provide somewhere, lest we find ourselves nowhere.