A flippant, fearless, and fundamental countdown of big money investing.

23 21
Art by Edward Kinsella

#22 Power

Underwood as Allocator

Frank Underwood, Kevin Spacey’s character in the Netflix political drama House of Cards, has an unambiguous position on the balance between money and power in career choices. 

“Money is the McMansion in Sarasota that starts falling apart after 10 years,” he monologues early in the series, breaking the fourth wall. “Power is the old stone building that stands for centuries. I cannot respect someone who doesn’t see the difference.” 

But what of asset management’s recruiters, the industry power brokers who must guide CIOs in their career paths—and, at times, through decisions regarding the tradeoff of money, power, opportunity, and stability?

Deb Brown, Russell Reynolds Associates

As someone builds their career, there may be a series of going from one to the other. Plenty of people choose a role that they believe will be influential—one that may not pay very well now—to lay the groundwork for later in their career. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. It can be a risk, but it can also be a reasonable strategy to follow. One side note: It is a total turnoff to ask about money too early in a process.

Michael Castine, Ridgeway Partners

Don’t negotiate against yourself. Either it’s a better platform, or perhaps they’re a little anxious—they’re out of a job maybe—so they say they’d be willing to take less. Don’t do that. You also have to be aware of the market. There was one individual who didn’t do enough homework to find out what the pay scale was, and he ended up asking for more money than the CEO was earning. Without having your homework done, you can step in it.

Jane Marcus, Korn Ferry

All I could think of when you asked the question was how much of a jerk Frank Underwood is—so creepy and complex. So I had this negative view of power; I couldn’t divorce it. Then I thought it through with our team. The outcome: “He’s a horrible person—but he’s right in a way.” Power is more lasting—but the scorecard of our industry is money. Power motive focuses you on how you affect others—for good or for ill. Used to make others stronger and more capable, power motive is the foundation for leadership, which is largely missing in our industry.  

Renee Neri, Heidrick & Struggles

My mind always goes toward control over money. But I’ve been steeped in culture and fit—so whatever you do professionally must align with your values. Some are motivated by gains, others by the ability to have an impact. Whatever route you choose, make sure it’s aligned with core values.

Marylin Prince & Jim Houston, The Prince Houston Group

If you are really thinking about your career, in terms of a Frank Underwood character, perhaps you should work outside of the investment business! Power-versus-money doesn’t necessarily have to be mutually exclusive. You can have a mission and also make a profit. We don’t always assume that when someone moves from the public to private sector, he/she is motivated solely by money.

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