Functions of a portfolio manager

The planning step: The first thing a portfolio manager does is to discuss with the client in order to understand his investment objective, goal and level of risk the customer is willing to take. Thus, after the agreement with the customer the investment objectives and policies are formulated, constraints are determined, capital market expectations are formed, and strategic asset allocations are established and an investment policy statement is created (cfainstitute,2018). An investment policy statement is a formal document between the portfolio manager and the client which clearly sets the investor’s goals, objectives and constraints. It allows the investor to determine the factors that are personally important and should be reflected in the investment plan and without it the success of a financial plan is at risk (Reilly et al. 2002 :53). The failure to follow an investment policy statement is evidence of a breach of fiduciary responsibility.
The execution step: After the planning step comes the construction and implementation of the portfolio. The manager together with the investor determine how to allocate the available funds across their options (bonds, stocks, securities etc). The portfolio selection/ composition should minimise the investor’s risk as well as meeting the investor’s needs according to the policy statement. The next step in the process is to implement this portfolio. What is important to be noted in this step is that high transaction explicit and implicit costs like taxes, fees, commissions, bid-ask spread, opportunity costs, market price impacts, etc. can reduce the performance of the portfolio. Hence, the execution of the portfolio needs to be appropriately timed and well-managed (efinancemanagement).

The feedback step: after the funds are invested according to the plan, the manager monitors, evaluates and update the portfolio compared with the plan. The managers must continually monitor the investor’s needs and the capital market conditions so that they can evaluate the portfolio’s performance and compare the relative results to the expectations and requirements of the policy statement. Any changes, updating and rebalancing suggested by the feedback must be examined carefully to ensure that they represent long-run considerations.

Interview Questions

  1. According to the description of the portfolio manager process, can you define the daily tasks of a portfolio manager? Planning Tasks
    I. Set meeting with the client to discuss his values, beliefs, priorities, objectives (desired investment outcomes) and constraints (client’s specific liquidity needs, time horizon, unique circumstances, any tax issues and legal and regulatory requirements. Understanding how much risk an investor is willing and able to assume, and how much volatility the investor can endure. (skill based)
    II. Formulation of the Investment Policy Statement which includes : brief client description, the duties and investment responsibilities of the parties involved (client, any investment committee, the investment manager, and the bank custodian), the statement of the unique investment goals, objectives and constraints, the schedule for reviewing the investment performance and the IPS , performance measures and benchmarks to be used in performance evaluation, any other considerations to be taken into account in developing the strategic asset allocation, investment strategies and style, guidelines for rebalancing the portfolio based on feedback. (rule based)
    III. Forming of capital market expectations. Forecasting the risk and return of various asset classes over a long term in order to select portfolios that either maximizes the expected return for certain levels of risk or minimize the portfolio risk for certain levels of expected return. (knowledge based)
    IV. Determination of the strategic asset allocation which is achieved by combining the IPS and capital market expectations in order to determine target asset class weights. The portfolio manager selects from various asset classes and investment options and allocates assets in a way that achieves optimum diversification while targeting the expected returns for the client. (knowledge based)
    V. If there are any changes in the circumstances of the investor or the market expectations then portfolio manager needs to change the portfolio strategy and to tactical asset allocation. In case that changes become permanent, the investment policy statement must be updated to reflect these changes and the temporary tactical allocation may become the new strategic portfolio allocation. (knowledge based) execution Tasks
    I. Selection of the specific assets for the portfolio composition based on analysts’ inputs (rule based)
    II. Use of portfolio optimization techniques like portfolio optimization—quantitative tools for combining assets efficiently to achieve a set of return and risk objectives (rule based)
    III. After the decision about which option will be bought or sell, the portfolio manager transmits the order internally to the trading desk (skill based)
    IV. The trader arranges for execution of the order with a broker-dealer (skill based) feedback Tasks
    I. Monitoring the investments to ensure that they are still appropriate for client’s needs. (rule based)
    II. Stay informed of changes in clients’ circumstances (skill based)
    III. Systematically review the risk attributes of assets as well as economic and capital market factors
    IV. Rebalance the portfolio (considering taxes and transaction costs) (skill based)
    V. Measuring the portfolio’s performance relative to the benchmarks and rates of return (rule based)
    VI. Performance attribution to examine those rates of return to determine the factors that explain how the return was achieved and why the portfolio performed as it did
    VII. Performance appraisal evaluation of how well the portfolio manager performed on a risk-adjusted basis relative to a benchmark.
  2. Please classify the above-mentioned tasks into:
    a) skilled based (routine behaviour based on learned skills for which the cognitive commitment is very low and reasoning is unconscious, automatic)
    b) ruled based (The person recognizes the situation and applies the right procedure to perform the task, and then performs a series of actions by the use of procedures, person follows remembered or written rules, cognitive engagement) or
    c) knowledge based (Improvisation in unfamiliar environments, no procedures or rules available for handling situation, react based on the information available and the knowledge gained in completely conscious manner)?
  3. Do you recognise any of these conditions that are applicable in the portfolio management tasks? (Please tick the list of conditions)
  4. Can you describe the most common human errors a portfolio manager is exposed to during the process?
  5. What are, in your opinion, the solutions to minimise human error in portfolio management process?


Skill-based performance

Inattention (omitted checks):
a) Well-practiced activity
b) An intention to depart from custom
c) departure point that is different
d) failure to make attention check
a) an external event
b) rule based intervention and return to skill-based performance

Delay between formulation of intention and execution

a) often-repeated routine tasks
b) unusual or unexpected stimuli
two simultaneously active plans or actions competing for attention

Over attention (mistimed checks):
Absence from the task or interruption leading to an unplanned check of the progress.

Rule-based performance

Misapplication of good rules:

a) A practical general rule proven unexceptionally strong in the past
b) A non-obvious first exception to the rule

a) Signs (input satisfying rule), countersigns (input in conflict with the rule) and/or nonsigns (input don’t relate to existing rule / noise)
b) Complex, dynamic, problem-solving task

Local state indications exceeding cognitive capacity of the individual

A ‘strong’ (successfully applied in many cases in the past) rule partially matching the situation, strong rule is favorite
A higher-level rule partially matching the situation

a) Previous experience of the operator.
b) many elements and features related

Tendency to apply previously successfully applied (‘strong’) rule

Application of bad rules:
a) Many parameters
b) Limited experience
Existence of parameters that are inadequately perceived by human mind
Repetition of exceptions (e.g. due to domain-specific characteristics)

A wrong rule whose vast majority of aspects are coincidently right
a) Many routes to solution
b) Forgiving environment
c) Absence of expert instruction
a) Possible rules with low failure probability but higher effectiveness
b) Experience

Knowledge-based performance

A wrong rule whose vast majority of aspects are coincidently right
a) Many routes to solution
b) Forgiving environment
c) Absence of expert instruction
a) Possible rules with low failure probability but higher effectiveness
b) Experience
a) very elaborate plan
b) plan is a result of effort and has reduced anxiety
c) plan is a team (especially small) product
d) plan has hidden objectives
Many affecting factors
a) existence of potentially covariating factors
b) theories for or against the potential covariation
Existence of simultaneous separate orderings.
a) representativeness heuristic (perceived similarity between cause and effect)
b) availability heuristic (salience)
c) hindsight bias (knowledge of outcome increases likelihood)
d) ‘illusion of control’ (self-power overestimation)
Delayed feedback (even a little)
Stress (mainly for non-delegating)
a) Poor performers
b) Poor self-assessment
c) Desire to escape