Andy note: BIG thanks to SirTradesaLot for doing a Q&A with me and offering up his advice for the WSO community - "One of my greatest joys is helping young, ambitious people." He has worked in the finance industry for almost 15 years in a variety of roles at globaland asset managers. A few years ago, he left a senior management position in the equities division of a large asset manager to start a hedge fund/ firm with former colleagues.
When I was in college, I had no idea I would end up in the financial field. I grew up in the middle of nowhere and one of my parents was a high school graduate, the other was a high school dropout. To say that I had no idea what finance was about would have been an enormous understatement. Coming out of college, I took a job in finance and was lucky that it was something that I truly enjoyed and I wanted to learn as much as I could about it. To be fair, if I had ended up in another field, maybe I would have enjoyed it just as much anyway. My first post-college job was not in high finance, but nonetheless it piqued my interest in the field.
So, I took my Series 7 and probably couldn't have told you the difference between a stock and a bond at the time. There is good news and bad news for the college kids today. You have significantly better access to information about Wall Street because of resources like WSO and the internet in general. The bad news is that people have higher expectations of you than people who started when I did. The kids today are leaps and bounds more prepared than when I left college in the 1990's.
First of all, let me start by saying that I definitely don't have all the answers and the path I have taken has been pretty unconventional in that it was not linear all the time and was not the well worn path. I never really considered exit opportunities when looking at my next move because I always felt like I could create my own. That being said, here are some of my (random) thoughts for those looking to break in to this business. I'm going to attempt to keep my douche level to a minimum, but there's only so much I can do...I've been in the game since some of you were in diapers.
At one point during my career, I was heavily involved in recruiting for a globalfor the division, which was one of my favorite parts of the job. I wanted to share some of my thoughts for some of you looking to break into the field and for those looking to move up who are relatively new to the field.
Importance of your first job after college:
If you don't find the exact job you are looking for, life can still turn out just fine. Even if you end up with the exact job you desired, it will likely not be what you imagined. No matter which job you end up with, I would try to take on as many side projects as possible to maximize your knowledge base. If you decide you want to specialize, you can always do so later. Usually, you don't have to choose a highly specialized path within your first year or two out of college. My angle was to maintain my generalist status for as long as possible and I think I am still in that position.
Meritocracy is not dead yet:
Wall Street is a more meritocratic place than most. If you are a young person and you have good ideas, people will often listen to them, if you are in the right role. Certain jobs on Wall Street take a more factory like approach to junior roles, of course, and those are the ones that I would avoid like the plague. If it all possible, try to determine if the role you are applying for respects the ideas of junior people or expects them to solely be a cog in the machine. Don't get me wrong, you will have to eat shit sandwiches no matter where you start, but it will taste better if your ideas are respected.
Relatively early in my career, I was working on a side project and uncovered some interesting insights about our portfolios. About the time I was working on this, we got a new head of our group who was very senior and didn't care if you were 25 or 65 as long as you had good ideas and worked hard. I was able to share some of my research with the new boss, which the boss loved. I was able to build a strong rapport with this person and had earned the respect of the boss through creativity and work ethic. Shortly thereafter, people who were significantly more senior than me (at the time) started getting blown out because the new boss did not think highly of them, which allowed me to take on a significantly larger scope of responsibilities.
The point of this rambling story is to let you know that if you have the opportunity to prove yourself, you need to seize the moment, regardless of your age. Also, if you can find a mentor/boss that can move your career forward, you should take advantage of that. I stuck with this boss for a number of years before the boss retired. This person continues to be very helpful in my current business as well. By the way, for those of you getting ready to say that I should change my name to SirKissesAssaLot, I can tell you that a lot of people did kiss this person's ass and this person saw right through it and had no respect for sycophants.
Let's assume you start off with two people who have equal capabilities: person A has an actual interest in the investment business and person B is just collecting a paycheck. When you roll the clock forward 5 years, the differences in their competency level will be enormous because the person with passion will devote a lot of their time to learning and experimenting with new aspects of the markets. The compounding of this effect will overwhelm the fact that each person started with the same capability.
The point is this: if you don't have passion for this business, your peers will blow you away and you will likely be unemployed soon.
Building an investment case:
When you are developing investment strategies or a case for a particular investment, it is important to look for evidence of why it will NOT work. The bias in human nature is to come up with what seems like a good idea and look for evidence to support your thesis. You must try to counteract that tendency. Unfortunately, you can't get investment decisions down to a science and you will be wrong sometimes, but if you don't look for reasons you could be wrong, you will be open to getting blindsided.
You need to be creative if you want to succeed. Analyzing the same criteria as everyone else dooms you to mediocrity, in my opinion. There are just way too many smart people to try to out-analyze them head to head and get significantly better results. You need to see things from different perspectives. I can't tell you how to do this, by definition that would not be creative.
keep an eye out next week where we will post part 2