Pathfinder Winner On Affinity Groups And Asset Management Leadership

Fiduciary Trust’s Patel Describes Benefits Of Heritage Affinity Groups, Creating A Diverse And Inclusive Environment, And How To Lead In Asset Management
Viraj B. Patel, Executive Vice President and Head of Asset Allocation, Fiduciary Trust International
Viraj B. Patel, Executive Vice President and Head of Asset Allocation, Fiduciary Trust International

In each installment of the Pathfinder Awards, WSR features the voices of winners to address the industry on matters of diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as other topics. Our goal is to shape the future of wealth management for the better through this platform. In this month’s Pathfinder Awards – Top AAPI Industry Leaders of 2024, in recognition of AAPI Heritage Month, we bring you the views of three outstanding industry veterans, including Viraj B. Patel, who won in the category of Asset Management Executive of the Year.

Patel is Executive Vice President and Head of Asset Allocation at Fiduciary Trust International (FTI). In this role, he leads the firm’s cross asset research and strategy across asset classes and investment segments for high net worth and institutional investors, and serves on various firm committees, including as Co-Chairman of the firm’s Asset Allocation Committee. FTI had over $102 billion in assets under management and administration as of March 31.

Before FTI, Patel was a portfolio strategist at Northern Trust. He is a member of the CFA Institute, the CFA Society New York, Global Association of Risk Professionals (GARP) and Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) Association.

We asked him about the keys to managing a broad array of assets totaling over $100 billion, glass ceilings in the industry and how the industry can advance the AAPI community.

WSR: What are the keys to managing allocations, strategy and research for a broad array of assets totaling over $100 billion?

Patel: Staying on top of financial markets across various asset classes and regions requires unique insights and discipline. Over the short-term, it’s important to stay nimble and try to add value by pivoting towards areas of potential opportunity and away from potential risks. But it’s always important to maintain a focus on the long term and never lose sight of the bigger picture. Above all, it’s important to remain intellectually flexible and open to new ideas, especially when they’re different from your own.

As for keeping pace with industry developments – this has meant devoting more attention to researching new and emergent themes while also broadening the investable opportunity set to include alternative investments. Diversification remains critical, but investors need to rethink their portfolio construction framework given the increasing utility of various classes.

The investable opportunity set has never been bigger.

Viraj B. Patel, Managing Director and Head of Asset Allocation, Fiduciary Trust International

Ultimately, everything centers on delivering better client outcomes. As financial markets continue to evolve, the investable opportunity set has never been bigger. Whether we’re talking about AI­ – via tech infrastructure buildout or broader productivity gains – increasing demand for new energy sources, or breakthroughs in healthcare, we believe the depth and breadth of our investment offering is how we ultimately deliver on these opportunities for clients.

WSR: What kinds of glass ceilings based on AAPI heritage have you or others you know faced in the industry?

Patel: I’ve had the good fortune to work for companies that have been early adopters and embracers of diversity and inclusion. But that doesn’t mean we should assume there are no glass ceilings elsewhere or that heritage groups no longer face any challenges. There’s a lot of work left to do. As a leader, I believe it’s important to lead by example and foster an environment that embraces and champions diversity and inclusion.

WSR: What solutions can we implement as individuals and as an industry to advance the AAPI community?

Patel: Embracing diversity and creating company cultures that prioritize DEI give us an opportunity to educate our colleagues about the experiences, challenges, traditions and abilities of heritage and/or affinity groups. From a practical standpoint, creating and supporting affinity groups where individuals with similar heritages and values can share their experiences will serve to strengthen the cultural fabric of an organization. There’s ample evidence that diversity should be a priority for organizations, and I believe it’s a strong message that should come from top-down leadership.

Organizations should ensure they’ve created safe spaces for individuals and groups to speak up and express themselves.

Viraj B. Patel, Managing Director and Head of Asset Allocation, Fiduciary Trust International

Organizations should also ensure they’ve created safe spaces for individuals and groups to speak up and express themselves. This can serve to provide a forum where individuals can share their views and experiences. Affinity groups should also feel encouraged by their organization to open their doors, so to speak, if they feel so inclined. Inviting non-members to share experiences­ – whether that’s to honor a group member, celebrate a holiday or for another reason – can help cement the group’s place within its organization, provide an opportunity to educate and promote a strong connection between individuals on the inside and outside.

Michael Madden, Contributing Editor and Research Analyst at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at mmadden@wealthsolutionsreport.com.

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