I’m Fahim Imam-Sadaque, and I am a financial services professional. For the past 15 to 20 years, I’ve been focused on working with institutional investors on their fixed income and alternative allocations.
What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?
I was taught that a salesperson’s most important tool is their ears and that one must learn to listen. When you listen, you pick up the clients’ requirements. If you can have an open-ended conversation with the client or prospect, you can map what they require with the solutions you have to offer.
What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.
Before I worked in my first asset management sales role in 2004, I was in a number of perfectly good jobs within financial services. Still, I couldn’t understand—and this is the mistake—why I wasn’t making more progress toward being as successful as I could be. I was lucky enough to meet Alberto Francioni, who taught me that my skill set was to sell technical and complex products to institutional investors; then, everything made sense. I was able to finally use my skillset of understanding the products in a productive way for my own career path.
Prior to that, I never wanted to be a salesperson. Sales was a dirty word as far as I was concerned. And it was only when I met Alberto who taught me that I misunderstood what sales was. Sales is just the process, and it’s about understanding. Especially technical sales, it’s about really getting to understand the person on the other side of the table from you and what their pain points are and how you can solve them.
Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?
Within the field I currently work in, all institutions are impacted heavily by the fact that short-term interest rates globally in developed markets are extremely low. So, they are all stretching for yield and returns. Over the next ten years, as we continue to recover from 2008 and 2020, the various crises we’ve had, one would expect that interest rates should gently rise from here, but not too much. That will impact how the type of institutions I speak with allocate their assets over the next decade.
So, for example, if yields on U.S. Treasuries rise quite dramatically, that will significantly impact how institutional investors position their portfolios. And it might be that the types of illiquid strategies that I currently sell to institutions are less of interest. In a more likely scenario where we only see a gradual increase of interest rates and yields, institutions will still be under huge pressure to generate the income streams they need. I predict that the next ten years with the alternative investment industry will not be much different from the last ten years, but I may be wrong.
What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I would always suggest that the institutions I talk with really consider every aspect of their investments with me or any other organization they deal with because these are multi-million-dollar allocations. They need to stress test these and figure out the scenario in which the strategy will break down. Nothing is perfect; everything will break at some point in the investment world. So, the allocator must understand, and someone in my shoes must be open about when this investment will break down and not achieve what we hope it will achieve because sometimes things go wrong.
I never want to be in a situation where I haven’t had a conversation with my clients about what might go wrong down the line. I never want to sell them something and run away. I want to be there with them for the long term. I always want to make sure that I advise them properly in that sales process. I would tell my contacts on the other side of the table, “Be careful when people come selling you the perfect solution because there is never a perfect solution.”
In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?
Two years ago, before COVID, I never worked at home. I always thought that people who work from home were slackers and lazy. I’m happy to say I was wrong. I’ve found I can be very productive working from home. So, I’ve stopped saying no to working at home. I also enjoy the balance of working some days of the week in the office and some days at home.
What is the one book you recommend most often and why?
My favorite book that I’ve read is London: The Biography by a British author called Peter Ackroyd. My parents were immigrants to the U.K. and moved to London when they were in their 20s and started a young family and finished their education in the U.K. London took them in. My sister and I were born in London. I’ve always felt like a child of London. When I read it, this book resonated with me because it taught me how London has constantly been remade by waves of immigration and by waves of growth and decline. Ever since it was founded, it’s always been on this up and down roller coaster. But the long-term graph is steady and is always upwards in terms of growth and waves of immigration. It’s a fascinating book, and I would recommend that anyone interested in one of the greatest world cities read it.
What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?
Do something you enjoy because there’s nothing worse in life than doing a job you don’t enjoy. Number two is to find guidance from mentors and pick your mentors well.
They should ignore the advice that life is easy. Because even if you’re on the right path, there will be setbacks, and life can be very hard. Work and your personal life can be very hard. And you need to keep going with the support of the people around you, your colleagues, and your loved ones, and you must believe that you will succeed in the end.
What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?
My favorite quote is from my mentor, Alberto Francioni, who taught me how to sell in 2004. I would ask him a question, “I don’t understand this. Why should I do that?” He would say, “Fahim, what would a closer do?” and I would say, “Well, I don’t know.” And he would say, “Well, then you’re not a closer. So go think, and come back to me when you thought about it.”
That’s how I started to develop my ability to think about how to take sales processes through to closing. Not every single one, absolutely not. Most of one’s deals will fall away before they get to close. But someone with a closing mentality, which is what he meant by a closer, will find a way to make a good quality product work for the right client base. That’s my favourite quote. In my work life, I always hear his voice say to me, “What would a closer do, Fahim?”
They can reach out to me on my personal website or LinkedIn profile.