How to become a chief investment officer (With key skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 12 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Securing a role as a chief investment officer (CIO) requires a high level of skills and experience in the finance department. Through the work that they do, a CIO can largely influence the financial success of an organisation. If you're interested in working in this role, it's beneficial to understand the necessary abilities and common duties in the position. In this article, we explore the role of a CIO, show you how to become a chief investment officer, list their common duties and discuss key skills for a successful career in investments.

What is a chief investment officer?

A chief investment officer (CIO) is a senior member of an organisation whose primary duty is to preserve the company's asset portfolios. It's a highly responsible role that involves making advanced financial decisions and leading a team of skilled investment and finance professionals. On a daily basis, a CIO takes care of developing short- and long-term investment strategies and assigning assets. They also work closely with key stakeholders to make insightful suggestions and recommend investments to them. Common duties of CIOs include:

  • setting the investment style for a company's investments

  • contributing to annual, quarterly or monthly meetings with stakeholders

  • maintaining and evaluating investment information

  • working with external portfolio managers to create effective investment strategies

  • updating and presenting financial and investment reports

  • communicating with shareholders

  • maximising a company's investment efforts

Related: What does a corporate investment banker do? (Main duties)

How to become a chief investment officer

Knowing how to become a chief investment officer is critical if you'd like to lead a company's investment efforts. To reach that role, it's necessary to create a comprehensive career plan that helps you make your goal a reality. Here are some key steps to include in your plan:

1. Earn a degree

To work your way up to a CIO position, it's necessary that you build a strong educational background. Obtaining a bachelor's degree in finance, economics, accounting or a related field can help you impress hiring managers and enter the field of investment banking or finance. If you're considering one of the above courses, it's beneficial if you choose A levels in accounting, maths or business. English, economics and law can also help you secure a place at a university of your choice.

Read more: What is a finance degree? (Plus degree types and careers)

2. Complete an internship

If you're dedicated to succeeding in the finance industry, it's often a good idea to complete an internship while you're still at the university. Many corporations, financial institutions and other companies offer students full-time internships that they can complete in the summer months. It's also possible to secure a longer-term part-time internship that requires you to work remotely or from an office a few times per week.

Internships are highly beneficial, as they act as a bridge between what you learn during lectures and what finance professionals do. They also make it easier for you to build your network. This aspect is especially important for aspiring finance professionals, as it's a highly competitive field that requires you to build your personal brand as someone trustworthy who can manage companies' portfolios.

Related: How to write a finance intern cover letter (with example)

3. Earn work experience

CIOs are senior executives, which means it's necessary for them to have relevant work experience when advancing to this role. Employers looking for chief investment officers may expect them to have at least five to eight years of experience as investment or financial analysts. If you're yet to enter the workforce as a full-time employee, you may secure an entry-level position in, for example, corporate finance. Choosing this as your first job can help you acquire the necessary knowledge about an organisation's internal structures and gain hands-on experience managing portfolios.

Related: 14 of the best-paid jobs in finance

4. Consider a postgraduate degree

To improve your qualifications and show employers that you're dedicated to climbing the corporate ladder in finance, it's helpful to complete a relevant postgraduate course. Many CIOs have master's degrees in finance and investment. A postgraduate programme allows you to build expert skills and often teaches you about more in-depth investment concepts, such as empirical methods or investment regulations.

Related: What can you do with an MBA in finance? (With careers)

5. Become a good leader

Chief investment officers are executive leaders who supervise the work of investment and finance professionals. To make sure they can lead a team and provide it with insight and direction, it's essential that they build strong management skills. Typically, becoming a good financial leader comes with time and you're likely to feel comfortable in this role as you gain experience managing the work of others. While doing that, it's critical to concentrate on developing a holistic view of the finance industry, investment types and risk management strategies.

Related: Psychology of leadership: 12 tips for improving as a leader

6. Work with a mentor

Working to become a chief investment officer is a long-term commitment. To increase your chances of success, it's helpful to work with a mentor. Typically, mentors are highly qualified professionals with years of experience in a specific field. When working with them, you can use their suggestions to make better career decisions that help you build a stronger skill set and achieve your goals in less time. Mentors can also help you with building your confidence as a professional and invite you to industry events, which are great for networking.

Related:

  • How to become a finance officer (with duties and skills)

  • Finding a business mentor and making the most of mentorship

What it's like to work as a chief investment officer

Chief investment officers are full-time employees of a company, which means they work around 40 hours per week. Typically, they work regular hours, for example, 9-to-5 workdays Monday through Friday. Daily, CIOs operate from an office and regular work travels can be a part of their routine. When travelling for business, they participate in meetings with trustees, shareholders and third-party investment specialists.

Key skills for investment officers

As you move up the corporate ladder and get closer to a CIO position, it's essential to make sure you have the skills and abilities necessary for the role. Demonstrating the following skills during an interview can help you position yourself as an investment expert and a thoughtful leader:

Financial knowledge

A key skill for chief investment officers and one that you'd develop throughout your entire career is a strong knowledge of financial standards and regulations. As a CIO, you'd use this knowledge to directly influence how an organisation takes care of its profitability and financial status. On a daily basis, you'd be responsible for making executive decisions about investments and spending. Building this ability is often easier through continuously improving your qualifications during on- and off-the-job training.

Related: 10 essential finance manager skills

Decision-making and strategic thinking

When making important investment decisions, CIOs use their ability to think strategically. The investments that they make often influence each other, which is why it's important that CIOs carefully analyse each strategy before implementing it. The ability to evaluate and execute decisions allows them to make important changes effectively and efficiently.

Related: What is strategic vision? (And benefits, importance, skills)

Leading and motivating a team

Chief investment officers are responsible not only for overseeing the work of their team members, but also for motivating them. To do that, it's helpful that they learn about and adopt a specific leadership style that helps them maximise their potential as leaders. It's crucial to determine how they want to recognise successful members of the team or discipline those who've been underperforming. Typically, their leadership style is also likely to reflect the organisation's situation.

Related: 13 leadership styles and their characteristics

Professionalism and excellent communication skills

CIOs are senior executives within an organisation, which requires them to set a good example to others. They can do this by maintaining a high level of professionalism at all times, for instance, by showing respect to their subordinates or key shareholders. To do that effectively, they often develop strong verbal and written communication skills. These skills help them create insightful financial reports, contribute to team meetings and support their team both during performance assessments and on a day-to-day basis.

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