A career in finance was always on the cards for Legg Mason’s Adam Gent, who acknowledges that from an early age he saw himself working in the industry, and in the City in particular.
A degree in business administration from the University of Plymouth set him on the right path.
“My route involved joining a local asset management firm where I was brought up – in Chichester,” he explains.
“I joined a company called Thesis Asset Management, which was headquartered in Chichester. I managed to get a job as a portfolio assistant and I did about five years with Thesis.”
During his time there, Mr Gent worked his way up from portfolio assistant to investment manager and secured his professional qualifications along the way. He also relocated several times, moving to London and then to the Guildford office.
He recalls: “That was a great time and it taught me a huge amount about portfolio management because you are buying direct equities, direct bonds and buying funds. Effectively, you are managing clients’ assets in a discretionary format and that led me to wanting to move into sales.”
Mr Gent suggests that his move into sales was largely driven by the feeling that he could “make a difference” when it came to providing a service to clients, having managed portfolios on their behalf before.
“I think it was a natural process in the sense that I’d had exposure to lots of different sales people from other fund houses,” he notes. “So I’d seen fund management companies and the way they approached promoting strategies to the marketplace.
“I think one of the things that I’d learnt fairly quickly was that just because I’d had experiences of private wealth manager clients, not all clients operate that way, so you can’t approach every client the same way.”
He points out that whether he is dealing with a private bank, a dedicated analyst or a financial adviser, no two clients have the same objectives.
“All clients are looking for something slightly different, and I think you need to be open-minded enough to be aware of that and make sure you’re serving each client in terms of their own needs and what they’re looking for.”
Henderson Global Investors offered Mr Gent his first sales position and he spent two years there before being recommended to Legg Mason, which he joined in 2007. He was made head of UK sales in 2010 and has held the role ever since.
He recalls: “I think what attracted me to my initial role within Legg Mason was the fact I felt to some degree that [the company] had a big brand and it had some very strong capabilities, but I think those capabilities were only in certain areas. So it was an opportunity to develop Legg Mason’s exposure within the UK market.”
He cites fixed income as an example of an asset class that the organisation was not well known for operating in at the time he joined.