PODCAST SHOW NOTES - JANE ABITANTA

Episode #010: Coaching Asset Management Teams

Jane

Jane Abitanta, Principal of Perceval Associates, Coach and Advisor to Top Institutional Fund Managers

#010: Coaching Asset Management Teams

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and leading organizational coach Jane Abitanta for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast. Jane Abitanta, Principal of Perceval Associates, occupies a special position in the institutional investment arena that comes from her ability to diagnose the underlying problems that get in the way of money managers, and provide successful solutions that help them attract and retain clients.  Over the past fifteen years, Jane has advised many of the top institutional fund managers, family offices and more than 100 hedge funds, helping them to articulate their particular edge in terms of the real-world needs of their markets.  She has served as a charter faculty member of the Institute for Private Investors, a member of the Investment Committee of Women’s World Banking, and a director of the Association for Investment Management Sales Executives (AIMSE). She is a director of Green Cay Asset Management, a Bahamas-based alternative investment firm and a former director of Shaking the Tree, a not-for-profit organization that uses interactive theater to illustrate family dynamics.  In this episode Jane shares stories of hits and misses coaching asset management teams.  Themes highlighted in the podcast interview include: establishing credibility as a coach, using the self as instrument, balancing the roles of coach and facilitator, supervision and peer coaching support and more.  Some resources Jane recommends are the work on Intentional Change Theory and Learning Agility.  If you are a team coach interested in working with money managers, this is an episode you surely will not want to miss!

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RESOURCES RECOMMENDED ON THE SHOW

1.  Boyatzis, R. (2006). An overview of intentional change from a complexity perspective. Journal of Management, 25(7), 607-623.

2. Learning Agility – Warner Burke, Columbia University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Ti0QIou5XU

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SHOW NOTES

Part 1 – Getting to Know the Team Coach: Jane Abitanta

  • Jane Abitanta, Founder and Principal of Perceval Associates
  • A Consultancy focused on helping asset managers deliver more compelling messages to investors
  • Occupies a special position in the institutional investment arena that comes from her ability to diagnose the underlying problems that get in the way of money managers, and provide successful solutions that help them attract and retain clients.
  • Over the past fifteen years, Jane has advised many of the top institutional fund managers, family offices and more than 100 hedge funds, helping them to articulate their particular edge in terms of the real-world needs of their markets.
  • Jane is a director of 100 Women in Hedge Funds, a global association of over 13,000 women focused on education, professional leverage and philanthropy. She has served as charter faculty of the Institute for Private Investors, a member of the Investment Committee of Women’s World Banking, and director of the Association for Investment Management Sales Executives (AIMSE). She is a former director of Green Cay Asset Management, a Bahamas-based alternative investment firm and of Shaking the Tree, a not-for-profit organization that uses interactive theater to illustrate family wealth dynamics.
  • Prior to the formation of Perceval Associates in 1996, Jane was an investment strategist with Citicorp Investment Management and held executive marketing positions at Bessemer Trust and Swiss Bank Corporation.
  • With an MBA in Finance and Investment Management from Fordham University, and a BA in Economics and Political Science from the University of Delaware, Jane earned an MA in Social-Organizational Psychology and Change from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2008.
  • Has been focused on the money management industry her whole career, Citibank sent her to business school
  • Clients increasingly asked Jane to work with Sales teams and their collaboration with Investment teams.
  • Able to help in the translation between these two parts of the house.
  • Perceval: Arthurian legend – only knight in the round table that could see the holy grail; he could see it because he was good, virtuous and true but also because he could see outside the petty politics of the court.
  • Client base is global including Wall Street, Money Management industry, several trillion dollar industry, enormous pool of capital that needs managing
  • Finds that people in the industry are very smart but have difficulty communicating what they do.
  • Nothing routine or mundane about this industry; very dynamic.  Industry attracts “the best and brightest’ and that keeps it interesting.  Loves the people.
  • Credibility: can save her clients a lot of time because she knows the industry so well
  • A Director of 100 Women in Hedge Funds, involves more than 13,000 women. On the Board.  14 years old.  Founded by a couple of women who wanted to know who were the women involved in hedge funds.  They organized a cocktail party and 100 women showed up.  Women haven’t been so represented in the financial services industry.
  • Gender in Coaching: has been an advantage for Jane; tends to work with a lot of clients who are male; perhaps removes some competition between herself and the men which may help get into a coaching relationship in an easier way.
  • Approach to Coaching:
    • Typically gets the call from Head of Marketing or COO and there are challenges getting message across to investors;
    • begins by listening to understand what the money manager feels the issues are; often finds that they don’t understand fundamentally what they are facing.  This is where “Perceval” comes in.
    • Is labelled as a “coach” to her clients.  Initially resisted being called a “coach.”  Now the reputation of coaching has changed so it is easier to embrace.
    • Challenge is not to jump to conclusions given her experience and to try to identify the underlying problem which is about the relationship between the investment team and the sales team
    • Uses a classic interview discovery process, with larger teams uses a survey process in order to “name” the problem they are facing
    • Holds a feedback session based on the data collected; gap analysis conducted
    • “Stealth coaching” in that it is cloaked within what is going on with the marketing messaging; this surfaces a lot of other hidden dynamics which she highlights and helps the client see the gaps and warts (e.g. conversations we aren’t having, issues we are brushing under the rug, etc…)
    • Sits with the champion of the project to discuss pain points
    • Doesn’t label it “team coaching” with clients but that is what she is doing; the term doesn’t translate so well with clients.
    • Typical processes last 4 to 6 months

Part 2 – Hits and Misses

  • Story #1 – Misses
    • Hasn’t been fired from any projects
    • Gets in trouble when she has preconceived ideas about what the problem is before even meeting with the new client.  Comes from her experience and potential bias from being in the industry for so long.
    • European client: asked a lot of probing questions, the culture didn’t appreciate the “probing questions;” came across as too American; was able to recover and client was able to be transparent about what was going on; eventually forged a great partnership.
    • Lesson around the assumptions we bring to the table as a coach.
    • Other examples where misses tend to happen: Asked to coach a team where the leader is not on board; was told that the leader was on board but really wasn’t and Jane didn’t do enough work getting in alignment with the leader.  Currently in the middle of a case right now where this is happening.  Leader is not increasingly so open to see his/her role in the system and dynamic with the team.  When Jane tries to point this out to the leader, she gets shut down.  Now she is trying to figure out what to do.  Has walked away from projects in the past when this happens.  In this case the leader directly brought Jane in.  The leader feels the problem is the team and not him/herself.
    • Resistance to feedback and lack of willingness to look at it.  Finding it difficult to move forward.
    • Her Master’s Degree in Social-Organizational Psychology has been helpful in understanding and overcoming resistance.
    • “Self as Instrument:” When you as the coach feel like something isn’t quite right, it usually is a sign that something is going on in the system; the coach needs to name it for the group and help them manage it.  A tool that Jane relies on a lot when coaching.
    • Has been invited to join firms to become an internal coach; has resisted because it can be tough to be courageous when the firm’s name is at the bottom of your paycheck.
    • Needs to sit down with the leader privately in person and share what she is seeing and if he/she can’t ripen then she will have to disengage from the intervention.
    • About readiness for change.
    • Contracting: when they are interviewing you for the engagement, you are interviewing them to see if you can help them.
    • Lesson from this case: when she first felt twinge in her gut that something wasn’t right she should have acted faster to inquire into that. She should have used “herself as instrument.”
    • Challenge for her is that given her industry experience, she often may be moving too fast and making judgements and assumptions too quickly.
    • Money can be a barrier to being able to take up your role as a coach: threat of losing an assignment.
    • Peer support and supervision is important to navigate these challenges as a coach.
    • Has experience bringing her cases to peers in order get support in being able to see what she is struggling with.
    • Making it a discipline to get supervision and coaching support.
  • Story #2 – Hits
    • Major Financial Institution: experienced rapid growth; found themselves challenged by being able to tell the story of the organization.  Jane was called in to help with messaging.
    • Did her interview and discovery process which raised a number of thorny issues.
    • Getting everyone in alignment and on the same page around the marketing message.
    • Flow:
      • Initial investment team of 15 and a marketing team of about 15 as well and about 5 other people.
      • Data Gathering Phase: Did interviews and a survey.
      • Helping facilitate a process towards developing a clear marketing message with everyone’s buy-in
      • At the same time coaching the group through organizational issues:  they had disagreements about their decision process; they were still in the forming phase and had different personalities as well as substantive disagreements about technical issues with their investment process.
      • Data Processing Phase: Held a feedback session with the 30+ individuals; gap analysis; thorny issues couldn’t be dealt with in the moment; 2 hour session.
      • Coaching & Facilitation with Leaders: Facilitation of negotiation among some of the leaders on the side to work through the thornier issues.  To the leaders credit, they were able to work through these issues.
    • Lessons Learned:
      • Having subject matter expertise on their business was important; could point out issues that were being pushed under the rug
      • Being trained as a coach really helped when things got heated
      • Clarity on role: toggling between coach and facilitator (when doing the feedback meeting it was more facilitation; when helping the leaders make meaning out of the data and discovering where they needed to go and what solutions to find).  Being aware of what role you are in and being clear on that.

Part 3 Parting Advice/ Resources

  • What has her excited now?
    • Took a course with Richard Boyatzis on Intentional Change Theory.  How people change and sustain change is exciting to her.
    • Peer Coaching: enjoying engaging with a peer coach to challenge her on her cases and engagements.
  • Learning Agility work by Warner Burke at Columbia University is really interesting to Jane.
  • Parting Advice: roles and clarity around one’s role; getting some supervision around actual coaching engagements
  • Best way to reach out to Jane:

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