Your voices have been heard! In Part 1 of “Your Turn to Be a Portfolio Manager,” we read about two interview candidates, Peter and Dale, who were vying for the open equity analyst position at our fictitious hedge fund, LBS Capital.
Today we'll crown a victor because, well, there can only be one winner. We’ll save the politically correct “everyone’s a winner, yeah!” mindset for someplace other than Wall Street.
In this post we tackle some very serious issues, including:
- Why LBS readers are so smart,
- Why I’m an idiot and rich man’s problems,
- Why the passion is mightier than the pretty,
- How to demonstrate your passion through your PA, and
- Why you need to make your voice heard once in a while.
These bullets might seem a bit esoteric and unfit for the subject of finding a job on Wall Street, but I promise that these will help your search. Now, without further ado, the winner of the equity analyst position at LBS Capital is …
Peter Wins By a Landslide
Perhaps I was too obvious in my first post, or perhaps I have taught you well. Peter won the Facebook poll by a landslide, and that’s what I expected. Rather than admit I was too easy, let’s go with “You are all geniuses” and call it a day. (A little ass-kissing of loyal blog readers never hurt anyone.)
As the cliché about real estate goes, there are only three things that matter when trying to break into investing:
- Passion for investing.
- Passion for investing.
- Passion for investing.
If you possess all of the above, then you will stand out above the other candidates, ceteris paribus. Of course, the “ceteris paribus” part can be blown to bits with a strike against you, such as a horrific GPA, a lengthy prison rap sheet, or the fact that you wear skinny jeans and are a Twilight fan. But more on that later …
“You’re an Idiot. I Picked Dale and I’m Sticking to It.”
Choosing between two high-quality candidates is what we call a rich man’s problem. Both candidates have excellent credentials and both would be able to serve the equity analyst role in a heartbeat. We aren’t beggars, though, which means we can be choosers.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where it’s Dale and you in the final round of a job search, remember that passion trumps pretty every time. If you believe the forums, then you think the only way to get a job on the buy side is to go to a top tier school and then get some prestigious investment banking experience. All others are doomed.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Pretty helps, but it’s not sufficient to land a job managing money. Take a look at any job ad for buy side analyst positions and almost everyone will list “Passion for investing” as an applicant requirement. This is not there for filler, it’s true.
It’s unclear from the interview or his resume that Dale is passionate about investing. He has all kinds of shine emanating from him, but if he can see himself doing investment banking or private equity instead of public markets investing, then why should we take the chance that two years from now he decides he’s bored with the public markets and wants out?
Dale has the skills. It’s just not clear that he has the passion.
Why Passion Trumps Pretty
Jobs are scarce on the buy side and in equity research. These businesses are not churn-and-burn finance factories like entry-level investment banking programs are. Personnel turnover is bad for business. The institutional and retail investors that give you their money must trust you.
Ask yourself these two questions: Would you trust your money to a shop that has three analysts, each with one year of experience? Or would you trust the shop with three analysts, each with 10 years' experience?
The answer is easy.
If you break into the business, one reason will be because the person hiring you expects you to be in the business for a long time. This is where Peter wins over Dale.
Dale might turn into a fantastic investor one day, but if we hired him we’d always be wondering if he’s tired of investing and is looking for his exit opportunity. With Peter, the odds of him staying and working hard to advance are much, much higher.
Minimum Standard Applicants Only
Peter wins in a landslide because his other attributes classify him as “good enough.” Now, suppose Peter had one of the previously mentioned maladies—perhaps a clinical obsession with Bieber—then even a passion for investing wouldn't bail him out.
If you want to make the big bucks on Wall Street, then you need to prove you belong. If one part of your resume is bad (e.g., your GPA), then you damn well better make up for it somewhere else (e.g., with your internship experience or investing experience/activities).
Don't expect to land a position managing money with a resume full of Fail. If you've failed somewhere, go out and find a way to succeed somewhere else to make up for it.
Passion for investing is the secret ingredient that will win you the job in the final round, but it won’t get you to the final round on its own.
No One Gives a Shit About Your PA ...
Here’s a bit of industry lingo: PA = Personal Account.
Here’s a bit of unfiltered advice: No one gives a flying monkey’s shit about your PA. Day-trading your $2,000 account does not qualify you to manage a $2B fund. And without any analysis to support your trades, the PA just shows you are an adrenalin trading junkie who is no doubt a fan of casinos.
These are not the coveted traits of an aspiring hedge fund manager, despite what the popular press says. If you want to prove your passion for investing, then you are going to need to do more than day-trade your brokerage account.
… Unless You Can Back It Up
Now, the perception surrounding your PA changes the moment you can produce a well-analyzed investment thesis for every trade you’ve made in your PA. This works from multiple avenues:
- It Proves your Passion for Investing – Only a person with a burning passion for something will do hard work for free. If you are willing to do stock analysis in your spare time, it goes a long way toward proving your passion for investing. Look at it from a portfolio manager's perspective: If you aren't willing to do even a cursory analysis of the trades in your PA, why would we hire you to do stock analysis full-time?
- It Showcases Your Analytical Skills – Portfolio managers use the interview process to determine if you can analyze investments and generate alpha. What better way to prove you can than by presenting real analysis with real financial models? Don't worry about whether the trade worked out or whether you arrived at the “right” answer, a good shop will be able to recognize good analysis from bad.
At this point, you should realize that you don't even need a PA to prove your passion. You just need to demonstrate your analysis skills. Participating in stockpicking competitions for school is an excellent way to gain skills and demonstrate your desire.
Because having your stock pitches critiqued is exactly what your job will entail. Think of it as a developmental league for aspiring superstar investors. Expert performance does not happen overnight; you need to practice.
Coffee Is for Closers Only
“Close and it’s yours. If not, you’re going to be shining my shoes.”
When I was in university, I had a job working for the school, soliciting donations from alumni. My job was to cold call alumni and beg for money.
It was rapid-fire rejection, one after another. It was like a Groundhog Day of rejection. But every once in a while, someone I called decided to donate money. That positive result was so rare that I would often fumble with what to do next.
While the job sucked worse than a direct-to-DVD movie, I did learn one valuable lesson: I couldn’t make a sale if I didn’t make a call first. Alumni weren’t sitting at home thinking of ways to get in touch with me to donate money.
There’s a reason the proverb “nothing ventured, nothing gained” has been around in various forms for hundreds of years.
The same is true of finding a job in finance. Portfolio managers don’t sit around their offices dreaming up new ways to hand you a job. If you want a job in investing, you’re going to have to make that call.
There is good news, though. Your average competitor is not going to make that call. Out of the hundreds of people who read the first article in this series, only a handful followed through on my request to leave a comment supporting your chosen candidate.
In retrospect, I should have offered a prize so I could have a story like Brian over at M&I. When he was promoting one of his new products a long time ago, Brian offered a free product to five random people who wrote to him. To make it easy for Brian, he decided not to take five random people … instead he offered free products to the only five people who responded!
The average person is so timid, so afraid to stand out that they sabotage their chances at success. Remember this very important phrase:
Success is not inconspicuous.
Get out there, network like crazy, and be noticed. If you need a little motivation to get off your ass, check out this clip from a movie you might know:
Act as if ...