Robert McHenry ran into trouble this summer raising his lawn to the standards of suburban Hartford, Conn.
As he had been taught by his father, the 40-year-old transplant from London cut the grass of his one-acre plot short in the middle of the summer. The patch turned from green to orange by Labor Day, just in time for a neighborhood block party.
Mr. McHenry, who is being given $500 million to seed a global bond portfolio for Hartford Investment Management Co., was stung by the experience.
"It was the most embarrassing moment of my life," he says with a hint of a chuckle at his dilemma. "People would walk past the house and snigger. Being British, you're supposed to know about grass. I dropped the ball completely."
It was an unexpected problem for Mr. McHenry, a senior vice president at HIMCO. But his chagrin at not being able to keep up with the Joneses is the kind of problem that often nags at professionals who globe trot, often with families in tow. It's the difficulties of dealing with a new culture -- and working away from the home office -- that can sometimes depress and even derail executives handpicked for foreign assignments.
Statistics and anecdotes suggest that money managers who run billions for institutional investors are increasingly searching for -- and relying on -- the Mr. McHenrys of the world. Mergers of money management firms and expansion into new markets have accounted for much of the globe trotting.
The move to hire expatriots or send employees overseas has accelerated steadily over the past five to 10 years, said Frank K. Reilly, a professor of finance and former dean at the University of Notre Dame business school in South Bend, Ind.
Firms increasingly have been looking for young, single people who can make a move easily to another country. In other cases, he said, firms recruit students with language skills and international backgrounds who are natives of Japan, China and Russia.
And many of his students who become money managers or investment bankers expect to move around the world. Prior to the late 1980s, Mr. Reilly said, money managers didn't relocate as often -- or as early in their careers. "And people want to do it early. There's a tremendous recognition of globalization of markets," he said. The mind set of many of his students is, he said, "the sooner I do this, the better it is for me, the sooner people look at (me) as a global player."
While no definitive statistics exist, a head count by the Association for Investment Management and Research, Charlottesville, Va., suggests more investment professionals are coming from outside the United States. In 1993, 68% of the 17,296 enrolled candidates in chartered financial analyst programs were within the United States. This year, the total had risen to 48,363, with the candidates in the United States falling to 53% of the total.
Among financial companies, J.P. Morgan & Co. Inc., for example, has 1,000 expats in 30 countries worldwide, more than twice what it had in 1991. One is Wes Paul, managing director, head of emerging markets, currency and multimarkets, who moved to New York from London at the start of 1997.
A J.P. Morgan staffer showed Mr. Paul's wife how to negotiate the New York City subways and gave her a list of pre-approved plumbers and electricians.
Such difficulties as finding a school can be wearing.
"The low point is two weeks after you arrive," Mr. Paul said. Spouses look at each other and ask, "Why are we doing this?"
A recent survey of human resources executives from 114 Fortune 1,000 companies gives some idea of the anxieties global professionals face. The companies that responded had relocated more than 25,000 expatriates worldwide, according to the survey's author, Prudential Relocation International, Valhalla, N.Y. Finance, investment banking and real estate accounted for about 13% of the total.
About two-thirds of the human resources executives believe management "is not sensitive to expatriate adjustment issues," the survey found. Support programs executives look for include counseling on children's education and international medical and dental plans.
And three-fourths said expatriates' alienation comes from feeling "out of sight, out of mind."
Such feelings can endanger an overseas assignment, said John Brown, a managing director and chief of institutional management at Putnam Investments, Boston. "There's a tremendous amount of autonomy," he said. "You're out there on your own, with no mentor program, and you're very disengaged from the home office."
Mr. Brown worked for State Street Bank Corp.'s banking operations in Canada and Australia for 81/2 years before returning to the U.S. with his wife and five children this year to work for Putnam.
Some people can balance an overseas assignment, he said. They know how to "revel in the autonomy . . . but still toe the party line." But, he added, "People founder because the infrastructure and support structure is gone."
Mr. Brown, as well as J.P. Morgan's Mr. Paul, links the desirability of hiring such professionals to expanding money managers' operations. Putnam is shooting for 25% of its mutual fund and institutional business to come from outside the U.S. by the year 2003, said spokeswoman Nancy Fisher.
But with the slump in global markets, the hiring of globe-trotting money managers has stagnated, some suggest.
Tom Jago, vice president of marketing for Prudential Relocation International, said the rocky markets have forced companies to "step back and take a wait-and-see approach." He believes staff moves in the investment management industry have been affected more than most others, he said, although he doesn't have hard numbers.
When HIMCO plucked Mr. McHenry from a seat at a Swiss bank in London and dragged his wife and two children along with him, it signaled the firm's intention to get into global fixed-income markets.
HIMCO traditionally has managed money for its parent company, Hartford Financial Services Group, and its insurance subsidiaries, Mr. McHenry said. In the past, HIMCO had not actively sought outside clients, he added. Along with Mr. McHenry, an analyst from Atlanta and a trader from Paris, HIMCO hired three salesmen to push the product to outside investors.
Mr. McHenry, meanwhile, has gone to an outside manager for lawn care.
"I've hired someone to change my grass back from orange to green," he said.