Day in the life of a RFP writer at an asset management company
Some of our readers have told us that they enjoy reading our series of “A Day in the Life of a …” after we published our first post here.
So here we are with another series of: A day in the life of a RFP writer at an asset management company.
First things first, a request for proposal (RFP) is a business document that provides details about a project, as well as solicits bids from companies who will participate in the project.
Most organizations will go through a RFP tender process and this exists in virtually every sector be it finance, technology, food & beverage, health and beauty, and government organizations just to name a few examples.
Today’s feature will be a RFP writer (Peter, not his real name) at a leading global asset management company.
As a professional RFP writer, you will support the broader sales team in fundraising and creating relevant marketing collateral. However, you will mostly be acting as a “support” personnel as the sales professionals are still the ones facing clients. But don’t discount your role as you will actually play an important part in the success of a sales process. We have seen successful RFP writers transitioning into front office client facing roles as they have demonstrated strong knowledge on the firm level and products level.
Here’s a typical life cycle of a RFP process.
Source: Finance and Toast
Peter has been with the leading global asset management company as a RFP writer for more than a year now, and below is what a typical day for him looks like:
My official working hour starts at 9am but I prefer to get in 30 minutes earlier to beat the rush hour. I grab my morning coffee, say hi to a couple of colleagues sitting around me, and start my day. Today is an important day because the sales team which has been working on a US pension fund on a global equities mandate, finally got shortlisted for the RFP stage. I will have a call with the sales professional to discuss about this mandate at 10am.
I start to read up on the background of the US pension fund, it’s latest activities and relevant news sources on the web so that I can have a better understanding of their investment outlook and strategy. This is a critical component of our work because every client is different and it helps to write a RFP specially tailored for them. I make sure to jot down important notes of the US pension fund from my desktop research.
Source: International Director
At 10am, I hop on a call with the sales professional and also a member from the Risk Management team. The sales professional told us that this RFP is heavy on excel and numbers as the US pension fund would like to find out more about our firm’s track record in managing global equities. This requires a lot of customization of data and accuracy is of utmost importance here.
The sales professional also briefed us on his most recent conversations with the US pension fund and told us that we have 5 days of turnaround time. Pretty short for a proposal with 128 questions!
The call with the sales professional and member of the risk management team ended well with no dramas and we were clear on our roles / responsibilities. I immediately segmented the proposal by parts such as (i) firm, (ii) strategy, (iii) track record, (iv) competitive advantage, (v) environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) and (vi) terms and conditions for our proposal. Note that different clients may issue RFPs with different sections and this list is non-exhaustive.
I start working on the part of our firm as this is the easiest. Typical questions asked include:
- History of firm
- Total number of employees
- Total number of offices worldwide
- Assets under management by categories (eg. equities, fixed income, commodities, fund of funds etc)
My style is to tackle the easiest and most straight forward questions first, gain the momentum, and then move on to the tougher ones.
I go for lunch with a portfolio manager on the global equities team to understand more about his role and at the same time build the rapport with him. Internal relationships for a RFP writer is very important as the more knowledge that people share with you, the better you will be at writing proposals.
This portfolio manager has more than 20 years of experience managing global equities portfolios and he is a veteran!
He shared with me that he had experienced market turmoils during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, which was a very difficult moment in his career. He told me that investing taught him to be humble and never rest on his laurels.
He also gave me advice on how to tackle the difficult investment strategy questions in the RFP and told me to do a good job in getting the US pension fund onboard. This is because with the funds raised from the US pension fund, it will allow his team more dry powder to manage money.
Source: The Balance
I am back from lunch and feeling super motivated. As the deadline is tight, I spend the next two hours churning out parts of the RFP.
I use a software called Qvidian, which stores more than 30,000 Q&A entries of past RFPs and this helps me in my job significantly.
I leverage past answers to similar questions to get a sense of how a particular question was answered. I then tweaked it to the current context of the client.
Writing RFPs for a long time can get mentally draining so I take short rests in between so that I don’t burn out.
Source: Qvidian. What we use on a frequent basis
At 3:30pm, I have my weekly team meeting where each RFP writer shares about the current project that they are working on. This is a good chance for us to catch up and learn more from each other. The team shares about some of the difficulties and challenges faced while working on other proposals and this allows me to learn from their experience.
Our team leader told us that she wants to initiate a new project which is to improve the workflow process of collaborating with various teams. She had put me in-charge of this project which I am excited about!
Although this means more work but I gladly take up the responsibility.
I have one last call for the day – which is a call with our Compliance team as I need their inputs to fill up the RFP for the US pension fund.
I take this chance to ask him more about our firm’s best practices, the licences that we have, and how he stumbled into Compliance as a career.
It was an interesting conversation because I never knew much about what other teams did. I also managed to gather all the necessary inputs that I need to fill in the RFP.
At my company, the top management has been an advocate for work-life balance so people with families start to leave work and spend more time with their families. Some were still frantically finishing up their work so that they can go back.
I wrap up the last few questions I have for the day, and plan the parts I need to work on tomorrow. Today was quite an eventful day for me and I felt satisfied with my progress. I feel confident that I can deliver a good proposal to the sales professional despite the short turnaround time.
As I am a strong advocate of work-life balance as well, I meet a couple of university classmates for dinner and drinks before heading home.
A RFP writer plays an important part in the sales process and a good writer can save the sales professional precious time by reducing the number of edits needed.
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