By Melissa J. Anderson (New York City)
“When I first started, I may have been too competitive,” said Christine Hurtsellers, CIO of Fixed Income and Proprietary Investments for ING Investment Management. She explained, “I had to be the smartest, best, hardest working person… Since then, I’ve learned a lot about working as part of a team. Growing up and evolving is the key to my personal success – as well as great people who’ve helped me out.”
Hurtsellers, a marathon runner and mother of five boys, was one of the individuals charged with turning around ING Investment Management‘s fixed income business 2 years ago. “I’m a pretty driven person,” she said.
Looking forward, she said, “Time flies. In ten years, I see myself continuing to push ahead with many possibilities open to me: running a company as CEO… or stepping back and working in a freelance capacity or on boards… or doing advocacy work for charities.”
“Basically, in charge of the world or giving back to humanity!” she said with a laugh.
Facing Down Challenges in Investment Management
After attending Indiana University, Hurtsellers said, “I started my career in banking – in credit lending. Luckily, I happened into the investment management side of the company.”
A few years later, she said, “I decided to take a risk in my career and move to the East Coast.”
Following an attempt at entrepreneurship, Hurtsellers ended up at Alliance Capital in New York, then working for GSE Freddie Mac and managing $600 billion in assets. “And now I’ve been at ING Investment Management for a six years,” she said. “As of December ’09 I moved from running the US Fixed Income to overseeing our global fixed income boutiques.
Hurtsellers says she’s most proud of her work following the financial crisis. She explained, “I took over as CIO just under 2 years ago – we had a challenged business. Morale was low, and high profile people had left. It felt like a lot of people wondered … ‘could we carry on?’”
She continued, “I was able to pull the team together, and we turned fixed income investment performance around – and now we’re rated in the top quartile of our peer group. Former clients are hiring us again and our assets under management are growing. We have great momentum. It’s incredibly gratifying to pull through a tough spot and see everyone coming together as a team.”
Currently, Hurtsellers says she’s excited to continue, “creating the value proposition for ING, pulling divisions together, pulling the team together, and competing effectively with other asset managers.”
She continued, “Jan Straatman, our global CIO, is a fantastic boss – he has great vision. And he’s working to build an incredibly successful global asset management firm.”
Regarding issues facing the industry, she said, “We’re at a pivotal inflection point for investment management, regarding underinvestment of pension funds, sovereign debt issues, changing client investment behavior.”
“Right now we’re having quite a bit of fun,” she added, with a bit of irony.
On a larger scale, Hurtsellers says she’s carefully examining new financial regulations and policy – as well as possible unintended consequences.
Advice for Women in Investment Management
One of the challenges women face in the investment management industry, Hurtsellers said, was the impact of globalization. She explained, “The Blackberry never goes off – first Europe picks up… then Asia picks up… It’s a 24-hour job with lots of travel – it adds to life strain.”
Hurtsellers explained that she feels we need to change the way we think about the glass ceiling – it’s about culture change as much as it is about individuals getting to the top, she said.
She explained, “We have to think a lot about how to get the right balance to attract women. When you think about women with children and then men with stay-at-home wives… the women often think, ‘how can I compete and stick with this?’.”
“It’s about creating a culture where women don’t feel they have to work 60 hour weeks. To make breakthroughs, we have to value different perspectives, cultures, and talents. We’re still not addressing the sacrifices [many women make].”
Regarding work/life balance, Hurtsellers said, “I think I’m very unique in the industry. I have five boys – and I’ve managed to stay married to the same guy for 20 years. What you have to do is modify your behavior through your life. You need to be cognizant of when to push the gas pedal in your life and when not to. Within that context, it’s not easy, but you can have work/life balance.”
Hurtsellers says one of the ways she manages her work/life commitments is to set boundaries for herself. “I try to get home at a set hour and I promise myself not to touch the Blackberry when the kids are there (unless there’s something like a financial crisis!).”
“We all need great support – whether from parents, relatives, husbands, nannies – people who can provide a sense of continuity for your kids. You can find it,” she continued.
Hurtsellers advises young women entering the industry to “work really hard. Be a sponge, and learn, learn, learn. Get to be a great networker while you can. And get yourself exposure – ask questions of senior people. Get exposure to people who have more experience than you.”
For women who are approaching leadership positions, she said, “Be confident in yourself. Take some risks and don’t feel you need to have all the answers or be a subject matter expert to take on new responsibilities.”
She continued, “Women tend to be more apologetic about making mistakes than men. We need to learn to shrug our shoulders and move on.”
She said, “In terms of work, [my advice is] not to worry so much – create conscious mental boundaries and compartmentalize. For instance, doing yoga and meditation has helped me through some tough times.”
Mentors and Inspiration
Hurtsellers explained that she’s had several mentors over the course of her career. “Rob Kapito, Vice Chair of Blackrock, pushed and encouraged me to move to the East Coast – to take a risk with my career, and that made all the difference.”
“And within ING, Kathy Murphy – now a senior person at Fidelity – is an amazing person. She’s grounded, approachable, and wise. At ING, we have a pretty serious mentoring program for women and minorities,” she explained. Additionally, Hurtsellers serves on the company’s management council of its top 50 women globally.
Personally, she said, “Of course I’m proud of my five boys. And I’m running the New York Marathon in November. Every time I’m out running in the 88 degree heat here in Atlanta, I ask myself ‘why?’.”
She continued, “Triathlons and marathons are great for me. Women are so stretched – but I can’t praise enough how exercise helps me and gives me so much energy. I really recommend trying to find the time.”
Finally, Hursellers said, she serves on the advisory board of a pilot program at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. She said, “It’s a collegiate recovery group that rehabilitates young people. It mirrors Alcoholics Anonymous. The program tries to get kids successfully through college. Getting an education makes all the difference,” she said.
Christine Hurtsellers is a panelist at The Glass Hammer’s upcoming event Women on the Buy-Side – 2011: A Look at the Landscape Ahead. For more information, contact [email protected].