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Harriet Steel, from Federated Hermes is our Sales Manager of the Month

Harriet Steel, from Federated Hermes is our Sales Manager of the Month

Harriet Steel is our Sales Manager of the Month for March.
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2 MAR, 2022

By Constanza Ramos



Harriet is Head of Business Development, a member of the Executive Committee (ExCo) and an Executive Board Director of the international business of Federated Hermes. She joined the firm in 2011 with responsibility for sales, client service, marketing, corporate communications and product strategy. Since then, she has led the substantial growth in assets and played a leading role in the sale of Hermes Investment Management to Federated Investors, Inc in 2018. Linked to that she has been a driving force behind the alignment to the new owner’s overall strategy and the development of  a strong and cohesive culture. 

Harriet has more than 30 years’ experience in finance. In 1990 she joined the global trading team at Bankers Trust, initially trading currency options and subsequently holding senior derivatives sales roles in Paris, London and New York before joining Morgan Stanley’s fixed income group in 1996. In 2003, Harriet established Portico Advisors, an asset raising and marketing advisory firm for alternative investment managers, including hedge funds, private equity and real estate strategies, which she ran until joining the international business of Federated Hermes.  Harriet holds a BA in Architecture from Princeton University.

When and how did you start your career in the financial industry? Did you have any other vocation?

I initially followed a different career path and graduated with a degree in Architecture from Princeton. However, I found myself gravitating to more commercial aspects and headed out of my depth in a new direction into finance. 

I began by joining the Global Trading Team at Bankers Trust, then held senior sales roles in Paris, London and New York and was ultimately responsible for running a currency and interest rate derivatives sales team. In 1996, I was recruited by Morgan Stanley to build a client franchise, similar to that at Bankers Trust. 

From 2003, whilst raising a family, I established Portico Advisors; an asset raising and marketing advisory firm, where I raised assets for a range of alternative strategies.

My career at the international business of Federated Hermes began in 2011, to spearhead the cultural and commercial transformation of the business, culminating in our sale to Federated Investors, Inc in 2018 and subsequent rebrand to Federated Hermes in 2020. We are now a truly global asset manager with $669bn in AUM and a world-leading stewardship resource. 

How does a normal day in your life, as a Global Head of Business Development at the international business of Federated Hermes look like?

Whilst there is no such thing as a typical day, I see my job as being broadly split into three roles. The first encompasses my management accountabilities and oversight of the day-to-day running of the Business Development team and it various functions. My week always begins by meeting my senior leadership team to discuss the most pressing issues, including updates on existing and prospective clients, marketing and communications initiatives and product development. I keep in close contact with team heads throughout the week, keeping abreast of any developments. 

The second is my role as a member of the Executive Committee and Board Director for the international business. Here, my responsibilities include the development of the corporate strategy and delivery of profitability. Following the acquisition of Hermes by Federated Investors in 2018, I have also co-chaired the Global Business Development Steering Committee, the purpose of which is to create greater synergy across the business globally and closer alignment with our Pittsburgh colleagues. As a large global asset manager, we have the benefit of being able to leverage our combined capabilities as we grow our global distribution footprint. For example, in Q3 2021 we were able to launch our Emerging Market Debt Fund, the second US-managed product to be made available to non-US clients since we joined forces in 2018. We also have six UK managed products available in the US and we continue to look for opportunities to expand this range. Growing our platform of products in this way represents a deepened collaboration across the firm as well as further alignment to our clients’ needs.

The final, crucial part of my role is being out on the road in front of clients, gaining a deeper understanding of their evolving needs and requirements. While the pandemic created a swathe of new challenges, it also demonstrated it is possible to perform outstanding work for clients remotely and technological developments have been able to support this. That being said, I am enjoying the renewed freedoms that the vaccine rollout has brought and once again being able to meet with current and prospective clients in person where necessary.

What is the most interesting part of your role? What do you enjoy the most?

While the opportunities for women in this industry have never been better, we remain largely under-represented at the highest echelons, which is why championing gender diversity and equality within our firm remains an important and fulfilling part of my role. During my time at Federated Hermes, I have been able to establish a network for female executives at the firm, serving as a springboard for talented professionals climbing towards Executive Committee level. One of the priorities was to increase the number of senior women within the firm and we are really starting to see the fruits of this work now, with a positive trajectory with regards to the number of women represented in the top pay quartile of the firm. Undoubtedly, there is work still to be done, but I proud to say we are moving in the right direction. 

Developing female role models within our firm is an important part of this process and I have also taken great pride in being a mentor to a female colleague at the firm. Through this, I have seen her rise from Associate Director to a portfolio manager and head of an asset class with a four-member team. 

In order to foster the next generation of talent, it is also imperative that we put time into supporting younger women and girls in the wider community. In recent years I have been able to work with students from Tower Hamlets College, Federated Hermes’ local college, to encourage them to consider a career path in the City. 

What investment sectors or markets do you believe are more interesting for your clients at the moment? And which are the less?

COP 26 in November helped sharpen the focus around a philosophy we, as a firm have, advocated for many years. That responsible investing – where we seek good returns for our clients coupled with good outcomes for society – is the best way to create long-term wealth.

Much of the investor focus on ESG considerations and sustainable outcomes has, to date, been on public equities and credit. This is now clearly extending into private markets. As Institutional investors give their attention to net-zero and impact strategies, with the clear risks presented by the climate crisis in mind, the attraction of Private Markets is clear. Operating in primary markets allows investors to affect change very directly, own sustainable assets, while delivering risk-adjusted financial returns. In particular, we see interest growing in impactful infrastructure strategies and sustainable housing and real assets. 

Within public markets, we will see the number of SFDR labelled Article 9 Funds coming to market continue to increase in 2022. We’ve seen an increased appetite from our wholesale clients, in particular, for what we label as “sustainable” funds – those with clear exclusions and additional environmental objectives. However, we are mindful this remains a growth area relative to Article 8 Funds and, in addition, that ESG-integrated products will continue to be most attractive to our clients. 

We see less interest in traditional fixed income solutions which may suffer with tightening from the FED and other Central Banks, especially with long durations. 

Which assets do you think will perform best during 2022 considering the current volatility in the market?

China was one of the worst performing markets last year; the MSCI China index was down 22% – China’s many recent problems have contributed to the poor performance – rising tensions with the West, a regulatory crackdown on technology stocks, the fallout resulting from property giant China Evergrande’s financial distress, and a zero-covid policy with no clear exit strategy. But as the economy rebounds after Covid-19, and as one of the largest global economies, we expect to see China take more of a spotlight in 2022. We anticipate investors will see the attractiveness of a standalone allocation. The fact that China is underrepresented in global indices and portfolios means adding direct exposure will provide investors with essential diversification and access to alpha potential. 

Within Private markets, direct lending to SMEs with floating rate loans that benefit from rate hikes, impactful infrastructure strategies and sustainable housing and real assets In general, as they perform well in inflationary environments. 

In your opinion, what are the key drivers for successful fund distribution?

We have seen a welcome and marked acceleration towards responsible and sustainable investing in the last year, with clients of all types reassessing their long-term objectives. This in turn has led to an increased demand from clients for values-based solutions, increasing pressure on asset managers to label and communicate strategies with transparency and credibility. This is important for investors as they seek the dual goals of financial returns and better outcomes for society, with an increasingly sophisticated approach to benchmarking performance and allocating capital. This was a key driver behind the reclassification of our own product range in 2021, where we created three distinct and clearly labelled fund categories from which investors can select; Active ESG, Impact and Sustainable.

This reclassification are also part of a wider effort to identify and provide clients with solutions that meet there needs, rather than simply selling products. Best in class client servicing is also key to a successful distribution strategy. Servicing clients in a timely and effective manner is crucial to maintaining relationships and opening doors for future business.

How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

Curious, energetic, ambitious

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