Hiring Portfolio Managers? Go for the older guys!

Sir John Templeton

Hiring ‘young’ fund managers? First read this quotable rant from a longtime friend of mine and accomplished money manager Rick Konrad:

Unlike beauty queens who peak at 22, money managers become more desirable as they age (provided they can still think).

Investment management is the longest apprenticeship of any professional career. Nobody begins to trust you until they’ve seen you perform for two or three business cycles.

Ordinarily, you don’t get PM responsibilities until you are at least 40. I know some great managers who are in their 80’s and still show up every day.

  • Irving Kahn is 106 and still shows up to work 3 days a week…ten years ago, it was every day plus he took the subway to get to the office.
  • Roy Neuberger was 107 when he died and had remained an active investor showing up at work until he was 99.
  • Templeton remained active until 95.
  • Phil Carret died at 101.
  • Phil Fisher left these earthly bounds at 96.

Makes Buffett look like a kid.

Although his rant is bang on, I’ve witnessed many situations where seasoned investment managers hire on much younger fellows to take over the reigns, even though of all people they should know better. Investment risk is not an absolute concept; it is an evolving one.

As my friend suggests, it takes a few cycles for a money manager to come to appreciate the vast array of perils lurking in financial markets. Probably the most difficult wisdom to learn involves thinking multi-dimensionally. History is riddled with novice generals who didn’t anticipate being outflanked, attacked from front and back, or had no idea what to do when the Mongol horde sent attackers straight down the middle & split their army into two vulnerable mobs of disoriented infantry.

No doubt there are many other reasons put forward in favour of hiring younger people; familiarity with technology, or because they are young they aren’t perceived as a potential threat to authority?

But algorithms impossible to decifer have destroyed a great deal of wealth in recent years haven’t they? And it’s no secret that younger folk have an undeveloped appreciation for risk – just survey the average age of skydivers and bungy jumpers. Younger folk are also more ambitious and often the job their doing is less important to them than the job they want.

At roughly half the age of Roy Neuberger when he died, I suppose my friend was right when at the end of the above diatribe he suggested to me: “Your investment career is just beginning!”

So why isn’t my phone ringing nonstop????? Must be ’cause I’m under 60…..still too young?


About Mal Spooner

Malvin Spooner is a veteran money manager, former CEO of award-winning investment fund management boutique he founded. He authored A Maverick Investor's Guidebook which blends his experience touring across the heartland in the United States with valuable investing tips and stories. He has been quoted and published for many years in business journals, newspapers and has been featured on many television programs over his career. An avid motorcycle enthusiast, and known across Canada as a part-time musician performing rock ‘n’ roll for charity, Mal is known for his candour and non-traditional (‘maverick’) thinking when discussing financial markets. His previous book published by Insomniac Press — Resources Rock: How to Invest in the Next Global Boom in Natural Resources which he authored with Pamela Clark — predicted the resources boom back in early 2004.
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6 Responses to Hiring Portfolio Managers? Go for the older guys!

  1. Rick Konrad says:

    Mal has always demonstrated non-conventional, ahead-of-the-pack thinking. I am honoured to be quoted and appreciate your kind remarks and friendship. Also, apologies to all the 23+ beauty queens.

  2. It’s good to see a reference to Rick Konrad, one of the smartest portfolio managers I know!

  3. Neil Harvey says:

    Rick Konrad has done a great job for me, too. – I am one of his clients.
    Also, let me add a vote of confidence for another outstanding Canadian stock picker and portfolio manager: Peter McMullin.

  4. Josephine Brandine says:

    As a satisfied investor in the Rick Konrad Fan Club, I can say with no bias whatsoever, that he is
    not just a pretty face, but one of the most brilliant portfolio managers around.

  5. Pingback: Hiring…..? Go for the older guys! Part deux. | Maverick Investors Rally Site

  6. dmkdon says:

    I had the opportunity to work with John Templeton when he was in his 80s and I was in my early 40s. — he was sharp as a tack! I’m a successful portfolio manager who is looking for a new asset management team to work with for the first time in 35 years. I am surprised that my accumulated wisdom is not valued. Instead, I surmise that the younger managers are nervous about having somebody with more experience than they, and view it as a threat. That is exactly the opposite of Sir John Templeton who would say “I want to hire people who are wiser than I”

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