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Mentor helped set investment career on its path

December 15, 2021

Investing has a strong mentorship aspect. While you can learn a lot getting and MBA or CFA, you really need to learn from others to be a good investor. I was privileged to have a mentor at a former firm who was willing to devote time and patience to nurturing my skills.

Over the years, I gleaned probably the equivalent of two MBAs worth of information from my mentor. More than that, he was a strong ally and advocate.

He welcomed any question at any time and was always open to discussions that would make us both stronger investors. We still debate for hours on end.

Growing through mistakes

An important part of being a successful investor is knowing how to think through your biases. You need to recognize the cognitive and emotional though processes that hamstring decision making and that prevent you from learning from mistakes.

My mentor was willing to spend the time to help me learn from my mistakes and was aggressively open about his own. A lot of leaders don’t want to admit to any errors because they think it hurts their reputation. But I find that they are the best place to improve. My mentor helped me keep impartial records or my work so I could use the data to improve over time.

Honing research skills

Many of the technical skills I’ve honed through my career began with my mentor’s guidance. He helped me understand how to build a portfolio and budget risk, what data to gather to create a forecast, and how to evaluate fund managers.

Many layers of evaluation go into picking funds and ETFs. I learned that it’s not just about performance and risk. You need to look at why funds performed as they did. You need to predict a fund’s performance based on criteria, and then analyze whether it reacted as you expected to that criteria.

He also taught me to understand and evaluate fund managers, not just the funds themselves. Having contextual understanding of their style and personality and peeling back the layers of what they own and why gives a lot of insight.

Without this deeper analysis, investing is a paint by numbers approach — looking at surface metrics like star ratings. Digging deeper like this helps an investor shine, not just keep up with the crowd.

Learning to lead

I have gleaned many leadership skills from my mentor. He believes strongly in the concepts of ownership and accountability. Yet at the same time, he created an open, safe working environment and was sensitive in how he treated people. I try to do the same.

He had a long-range point-of-view and instilled in others that you need to focus on winning the war, not the battle. Analysts and investors are often wired to win the battle. Many of us like the intellectual competition – to see who is the most right. But my mentor taught me the importance of pulling back on that a little bit.

I am grateful to have met a meaningful mentor early in my career. With his guidance, I’ve improved my skills as an investor as well as been able to keep my focus on working as a team to meet long-term goals.

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