Dec. 4, 2020

114: Changes | Mick Sweeney on Markets, Society, Leadership and Digital

114: Changes | Mick Sweeney on Markets, Society, Leadership and Digital

Mick Sweeney, CEO of PineBridge Investments in Ireland, joins the show to talk about what triggered his early interest in the financial markets, the nascent opportunity to transform the fund management industry in Ireland, the outcome of his long-term commitment to diversity, thoughts on post-pandemic global markets, societal changes driving new leadership styles…and his labour of love as a Leeds United supporter!

This episode of MoneyNeverSleeps is sponsored by PAT Fintech, the training partner that demystifies fintech and digital finance for financial services professionals.


Mick Sweeney is the CEO at PineBridge Investments in Ireland, a private, global asset manager focused on active, high-conviction investing.

A mutual friend introduced Pete Townsend and Mick back in 2018, and they got on famously right away through a shared appreciation for the merits of strategic change, restructuring and execution, and a similar look on life. Since then, they’ve done their best to be helpful to each other, and this episode brings it all together.


On his earliest days in the financial markets in a treasury role: “All markets are interconnected, so if anything happened globally, it impacted the markets domestically.  You had to have a clear insight and a view on where markets were going to be able to play the markets. But it gave me fantastic exposure and a fantastic interest, and no two days were alike. That's where my passion for this business was born.”

On playing the markets in the 1990’s without the internet-powered information flows: “Sometimes it was pure gut instinct, you had to make a judgment call, take the information you had at hand, and then decide whether to deal or not to deal at that particular time.  You got some right, and I got more right than I got wrong, but when you were wrong, you had to be able to bounce back and have the resilience to put it behind you and move on. The next day, you get back into the markets, and trade them again. So, you're either built for that, or you're not, and I found I was fit for it, which was lucky.”

On how keeping your relationships alive in the industry can lead to good things: “It's all about networking, and keeping those networks alive and nurturing them, as you have no idea when an opportunity will just come around the corner.”

On what Ireland has built for fund managers since the 1990’s: “It’s a fantastic framework and a fantastic platform to build from. What I would ask my fellow industry leaders strategically is, how can we build on top of that platform? In other words, what is the opportunity to bring front-end, high-end investment roles to Ireland? Over the next three to five years, we should be looking at how we build defensible niche products, defensible niche funds, that will be insulated from attack from the global players. How do we build those in Ireland?”

On the outcome of a commitment to diversity: “Some of our top-performing portfolio managers, globally, are women. Some of the best traders I’ve worked with over the last 30 years are women.  The results are there - this is uncontestable and decision making is better with diversity.”

On digitalization: “It's only when you look at what the neobanks are doing – Monzo, N26, Revolut, Starling – how they're going about their business, how they're attracting customers, that you can see how digitalization is really changing the fabric and behaviors for financial services and this is going to continue as a more rapid pace, I believe. And our industry is no different.”

On the pandemic-driven societal impacts with a blended workforce and a blended workplace: “From a leadership perspective, people will need to be much more flexible, adaptable, creative, innovative, resilient, empathetic, and genuinely employee-centric. To be employee-centric means engagement, encouragement and trust are huge prerequisites, and I think the era of management by presenteeism is dead.”

On where we go from here: “There’s an old adage, ‘the survivors will be the winners,’ but I think that’s moved on.  Now, it is the early adopters who are going to be the winners.  The people that get this and understand that there is a change in leadership style needed are going to be the winners and will get the gains from the market opportunities, because they will be bringing their teams with them.”


Books mentioned by Mick and Pete in this episode:

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Mick Sweeney

CEO at PineBridge Investments Ireland