Exciting career opportunities for those keen on helping the country save and invest

05 October 2015 Terence Berry, ASISA
Terence Berry, Principal of the ASISA Academy.

Terence Berry, Principal of the ASISA Academy.

As the custodian of R8.5 trillion of the nation’s savings, the South African savings and investment industry is recognised as one of the country’s biggest contributors to the national GDP.

This fast-growing and vibrant industry offers a variety of career opportunities for ambitious and driven graduates wanting to be part of an industry that exists to help South Africans build a better financial future for themselves. 

The majority of companies that make up the savings and investment industry belong to the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (ASISA). These include asset managers, collective investment scheme (CIS) management companies, linked investment service providers, multi-managers, and life insurance companies.

These companies are hungry for highly skilled professionals with a keen interest in building a career that directly or indirectly involves helping people save and invest in a meaningful way, as well as protect themselves against risks such as death and disability.

To help graduates entering the savings and investment industry bridge the gap between the theory learned at university and the realities of engaging in the workplace, ASISA established the ASISA Academy.

The ASISA Academy is an independent business school that creates high quality learning solutions to meet the practical learning and development needs of ASISA members.

Terence Berry, Principal of the ASISA Academy, describes the savings and investment industry as the employer of choice for talented and passionate individuals capable of innovative problem solving.

“Our industry is about long-term promises, whether it is the promise to pay a benefit when a breadwinner dies, the promise to grow money by investing it responsibly, or the promise to help grow the economy by investing in viable infrastructure projects.

“In order to make good on these promises we need to employ hard-working people with integrity, sharp minds and solid skills. The role of the Academy is to further develop people who want to be part of our industry and help shape the financial future of our country and its people.”

A career in asset management

Asset managers work at the coalface of the South African economy, managing the savings of ordinary South Africans. “Their work involves seeking growth opportunities and investing in businesses and public infrastructure,” states Berry.

He explains that a successful asset management company relies on a highly qualified team of professionals fulfilling different roles. Such a team would typically consist of asset managers, investment analysts, traders, risk managers and performance analysts. The asset management company would also have in place a strong customer relationship team, a legal and compliance team as well as a marketing and communications team.

There are a number of roles open to investment analysts, who are tasked with researching and identifying investment opportunities, and making recommendations to the asset managers. Analysts typically specialise in specific asset classes such as equities, bonds, derivatives, money market securities or property markets.

Asset managers are tasked with making decisions regarding the blend of a portfolio’s assets, taking into consideration the recommendations made by the analysts, investment strategists and economists. The asset manager also ensures that the portfolio is managed in line with its investment mandate.

Berry notes that junior asset management roles typically require commerce-related degrees with a general knowledge of accounting, such as a Bachelor of Commerce, Business Science or Chartered Accountants. He recommends also that aspiring asset managers and analysts enrol in the highly specialised Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) course to improve their grasp of the asset management industry and thereby their employment prospects.

He points out, however, that asset management companies also seek people with industry-related experience, such as mining engineers or scientists, who are able to offer expert insights into very specialised industries.

“Increasingly firms are looking for diverse skill sets – people who are problem solvers who can spot opportunities that the rest of the crowd is missing. Companies need people who can do this but also sell and communicate their ideas effectively,” says Berry.

He states that asset management companies are also increasingly offering analyst roles to people with math-based degrees, whether applied or pure, valuing their analytical and numerical abilities.

A career in life insurance

Berry explains that the role of the long-term insurance industry is to make it possible for individuals to pool their risk and to pay benefits to policyholders and their beneficiaries. Life insurers also play an important role in helping people provide for their retirement.

As with asset management firms, life insurance companies rely on teamwork and input by a variety of professionals, including actuaries, legal and compliance officers, underwriters, claims assessors, accountants, marketers and communicators.

Berry notes that actuaries are particularly in demand in the life industry, as they apply their highly developed analytical and numerical skills to quantify risk and develop appropriate life insurance products.

“Actuaries often occupy leadership positions within the industry such as company CEOs,” states Berry.

Actuarial science is suited to driven, ambitious and mathematically skilled individuals with strong English-language ability. Berry points out that experienced actuaries are well-paid professionals with excellent career security and advancement prospects.

According to Berry, individuals with legal training increasingly have the opportunity to advance in the industry as legal and compliance officers, participating in a particularly dynamic and challenging legal environment.

“This is one of the fastest growing roles in the industry,” says Berry. “The sector is currently experiencing a number of fundamental regulatory shifts and there is a huge demand for people to help companies ensure they are not only meeting the new requirements but also engaging ethically with all stakeholders.”

There are also a number of opportunities available to medical professionals in underwriting or claims assessment, tasked with assessing the individual risks of customers and determining their insurance premiums, or assisting insurers with paying benefits and settlements.

“Professions in demand in the field of underwriting and claims assessment include nurses, physiotherapists, and occupational therapists – basically anyone with a good knowledge and experience of the human body who can apply their understanding to the life insurance risk process,” states Berry.

These roles require detail-oriented individuals with strong analytical, decision-making and interpersonal skills who wish to become part of offering financial security to South African households.

Financial advisers

Financial advisers intermediate between the industry and consumers, fulfilling an important responsibility to clients by matching correct products to the individuals’ circumstances and needs, says Berry.

“Companies need financial advisers to interact with individual consumers and help them make the best possible decisions. Financial advisers work at the face of the industry, building relationships with clients, doing the necessary research and offering professional advice.”

Financial advisers often start their careers by working for a financial services provider. Referred to as tied advisers, they focus on products exclusively from one company. Independent financial advisers (IFAs) can advise on and sell products from many financial services companies, provided they are licensed to do so.

Those interested in becoming advisers should have strong interpersonal and communication skills, as well as numerical and research ability.

Financial advisers will typically have completed a relevant finance-based degree as well as the Chartered Financial Planner (CFP) qualification, and require an operating licence as a financial services provider (FSP) issued by the Financial Services Board (FSB) following completion of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary (FAIS) Act regulatory exams.

Generic roles

Berry notes that there are a number of other generic roles available across the industry including accountants, IT technicians and developers, forensic investigators, sales and marketing specialists and communications personnel.

These roles offer people the opportunity to utilise their passions and skills while making a difference to the lives of ordinary South Africans, becoming involved in product development, fraud detection and consumer education projects.

The ASISA Academy

“Undergraduates should keep a look out at universities for opportunities to engage with the academy, typically towards the end of their degree,” says Berry.

“We also act as a placement organisation in a sense, as we can match students with employers that may help pay for work experience courses for interns.”

The Academy has partnered with TSiBA Education to pioneer the Investment Management Administration and Client Servicing (IMACS) programme for final-year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) students, taught by expert industry practitioners.

Student participation in the year-long course is sponsored by ASISA members, and these students are also offered the opportunity to work as interns at their sponsoring company in the final months of their degree.

The Academy also engages with students at the University of Johannesburg and runs four short courses that have been endorsed by the University of Cape Town. Berry states that the Academy will seek to extend partnerships to other universities.

The Academy will be also be looking towards online learning and expanding the Academy’s online resources in the future.

Students seeking more information about the ASISA Academy and its programmes should visit the website at

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