Featured job: Behavioural Consultant with Stamford Associates
I wondered whether an investment consulting firm might be suspicious of ‘psychology-speak’. Nathan Gelber, founder and Chief Investment Officer of Stamford Associates was quick to deny that. ‘Psychologists have worked with us for the last 18 years. This is not a cosmetic move – behavioural assessment is critical to us making better decisions and retaining our market leading position. Human decision-making in uncertain environments should be qualitatively assessed – numbers have only limited information content and hardly any predictive power.’
Stamford are looking for at least one, but maybe two to three psychologists. ‘It’s not just a question of workload but also of location. We search worldwide to find investment talent.’ What sort of background have successful role holders come from? ‘We employed a cognitive psychologist with a clinical bias and no prior investment knowledge; she was followed in the role by an occupational psychologist with an MBA, so we’re somewhat agnostic about their specific background. But there are some important criteria. First the successful candidate will probably have some financial/investment awareness to get up to speed quickly. Second, they must be motivated by working to hard objective targets. Their role impacts results and we’re looking to enhance those even further.’
The psychologist will straddle two teams – manager research and manager monitoring – complementing the financial/investment analysis of those teams with direct behavioural observations gathered at manager meetings.
Nathan explained that ‘the focus of the role is behavioural observation and that must be a demonstrable skill of a successful candidate. They must also be able to communicate their findings from those observations – risk, in particular, is an important issue for us and the psychologist must be able to evaluate different types of risk and advise us accordingly. He or she must be able to stand his or her ground and articulate findings clearly, then succinctly explain what should be done about them. The psychologist plays a critical role in prioritising actions when evaluating managers and monitoring their actions. All of this must be evidence-based – storytelling isn’t what this is all about. We’re also keen to find ways to continue to innovate what we do and to research its effectiveness in the context of our process; however, this can’t become an academic exercise, it must contribute to hard targets.’
Stamford plainly see psychology and its insights as central to its positioning and the quality of their decisions. ‘The superior attributes of individual managers ultimately define the success of investment decisions. This role is critical in ensuring we are able to sustain our successful record.’
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