How do I make the leap to chief investment officer?


This week’s issue

I am a senior annuity investment manager with 20 years of experience. The hard-working attitude helped me build my career and achieve top-notch qualifications. But I now want to take it to the next level, the Chief Investment Officer, but I don’t know how. Anonymous

Jonathan’s answer

Years of experience, good work attitude and good qualifications have made it possible for you to be ready and climb another step on the ladder to a higher responsibility position. Despite your industry experience, you are thinking of ways to take you to the next level.

Before you start planning useful actions to take, it is worth analyzing why you want to move on to the next level. You may be looking for higher wages, new intellectual challenges, more line management responsibilities, or leadership opportunities. It is helpful to honestly evaluate your purpose, as the answer may reveal your underlying motivation. The answer can also point in a different direction than what you have identified, so it is always useful to have Plan B and explore other paths.

It is common sense in an organization that you usually need to be at the top of the hierarchy to receive more rewards. Keep in mind that if salary is the main motivation, the leadership role is not suitable for everyone, and there are many examples of good second achievements failing when promoted. Indeed, leaders are not always the smartest or the most diligent, as successful bosses bring other traits to inspire the team.

Audit your skills and the skills you can acquire to see if you have the skills you think will be a good leader, and if so, a chief investment officer. Perhaps more importantly, it’s about assessing whether others think you have the skills you need, especially those who appoint such a role.

Look for people in that role or some of the above roles to get a list of successful CIO skills and experiences, and how well they match and understand. You can use these meetings to find out if the assessments people are doing are not written or difficult to quantify.

Every senior appointment has a big element in assessing human interactions, or in other words, “Do they want to work with you?” Have you already been contacted by a senior colleague from your current or another organization suggesting that you are considered a CIO document? If so, it’s a strong positive signal, otherwise it’s probably an indication that there’s something you need to do to change people’s perceptions of your skills, experiences, and achievements.

Reader’s advice

Create a resume (of a successful CIO) 10 years ahead and map the steps needed to fill that gap. Maxweeney

This step up isn’t about hard work, it’s about coffee breaks and personal meetings. We got support from other seniors and up-and-coming colleagues! BL

Leverage your existing contacts and learn what you need to know. The people you work with, and the others they can introduce you to, should be able to provide you with what you need. LondonReader

Next problem

I have a background in investment banking and running my own business. I am currently involved in asset management and am interested in becoming a non-executive board member. Where should I start? Is there an organization I can join that can learn to be a NED and meet people with similar backgrounds and experiences? Female, 30s

Jonathan Black is Director of Career Services at Oxford University. He answers your questions about personal and career development and work life every two weeks. Do you have any questions for him? Email:

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