5 Questions with Sheila Patel, Investment Management Division

21 DEC 2016

Sheila Patel, CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management (GSAM) International, shares what she’s hearing from clients around the globe, gives advice on mobility and why it’s important to follow through on your commitments.

Can you describe what you do as head of GSAM International?
Sheila: I probably spend more than half my time on the road meeting with clients across Europe, Asia and the Middle East to identify investment opportunities. It’s a fun job because on any given day, we’re spending time with clients who are running the biggest sovereign wealth funds, pension funds and central banks. It’s also a great moment for Goldman Sachs and the asset management industry because in volatile and uncertain markets, investors look to us for advice and solutions across a variety of assets. Our ability to actively invest across a broad range of investments is very interesting to them at a time when they have to be flexible across fixed income, equities and alternatives.

In your conversations with clients, what are some of their key concerns?
Sheila: One of the biggest challenges has been the low yield environment, and now the uneven expectations for rising rates. Because many of our institutional clients are required to keep a large portion of investments in fixed income, in a low-yield environment, they’ve had to reevaluate how they use fixed income. Even now as rates begin to rise, a significant amount of global sovereigns have negative yields. We’ve been helping investors, for example, reallocate a portion of their assets to a strategic, go-anywhere fixed income strategy in which portfolio managers look for the best ideas and opportunities. Emerging markets equities and bonds have also offered higher-return opportunities but with more volatility and sensitivity to rising rates in developed markets. This year has been especially volatile for emerging markets because of various referendums, elections and unexpected outcomes.

Given your experiences at the firm, what advice do you have for others on mobility?
Sheila: For me, the experiences of having worked in the US, Asia and Europe and in two different divisions is that you learn more about yourself and the firm, while finding new ways to help your clients. Having worked in the Securities and Investment Management Divisions, I’ve had relationships that span 15 to 20 years with the same client. Working with clients from those different perspectives helps you serve them better. At the same time, it’s also important to help your managers understand what you’re interested in and what you’re able to do. No manager is psychic. Your manager won’t know if it’s a good or bad time to move, and what your work-life balance or family situation is. For all of us, there are circumstances throughout our careers where mobility can be more attractive on a holistic basis. Communicating with your manager at those points in time can help. And if you’re presented with those opportunities, do your research on whether the position is right for you and get back with an answer.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned as a senior leader at the firm?
Sheila: What’s really helped me in my career is to be extremely results oriented. Say what you’re going to do and execute it. Setting goals and making them public is really important because it takes any question of luck or happenstance out of the equation and shows that you’re the master of your own destiny. As you move into leadership roles, it’s important to set stretch goals and set them in a context that helps people understand what you’re trying to achieve. Finding strong mentors is also very important, but mentorship is a two-way street. I’ve had great mentors but I’ve also gained a lot from the people I’ve mentored. It’s great when we mentor each other across the range of diversity. Women benefit by having both male and female role models and mentors because at the end of the day, gender should matter less — not more.

What is one thing about you that people would be surprised to learn?
Sheila: My dog, Bess, appeared on an episode of Apprentice UK as a “taster” for pet food and has walked on the red carpet of the London premiere of the movie Cats & Dogs 2. She’s a Weimaraner and perhaps her biggest career disappointment was getting beaten out by Trudie Styler’s (singer Sting’s wife) Wolfhound dog for a Vogue photo shoot. Sadly, she had to give up her modeling career when I moved to Singapore.