Seven Questions for Craig Gentry
Each quarter I will be conducting an interview with a member of the Research and Trading teams to give you a general sense of the background of the professionals we have working on your behalf. The first interview of this series is with Craig Gentry, MBA, Chief Investment Strategist of DWM.
Hi Craig. Tell me what you do at DWM.
I am the firm’s Chief Investment Strategist and I develop investment strategy as we invest client portfolios. I have a team of investment analysts and traders that report directly to me. As a partner and an Executive Vice President of the firm, I am also involved in corporate decisions in the company.
I am responsible for the trading and portfolio management for the firm. This means that the analyst team that is conducting research on stocks, funds, ETF’s, and other securities reports to me. I’m also responsible for driving the investment decisions that happen on a tactical basis within client portfolios. The firm’s trading team also reports directly to me so that both the traders and analysts can work together to seamlessly implement our portfolio strategies across client portfolios.
Michael is very involved in every investment decision that happens in the firm. He and I jointly serve on the Investment Policy Committee which sets the investment direction on an overall basis for the firm.
Sounds like you are busy. Maybe as a beginning, you can tell us about your background.
I have a diverse background with a combination of engineering and financial analysis expertise. I worked at Boeing many years ago as an engineer in the Commercial Aircraft Division and transitioned to the financial services industry after receiving an MBA from Dartmouth College. I served as a senior member at Citigroup assessing performance of independent third-party money managers and made judgments about their investment expertise and skills. I’ve been an analyst for many years and have also served as a portfolio strategist throughout my financial services career.
What would you say is your overall motivation is for being in this business?
Well, I am a classic puzzle solver and so I do enjoy the challenge of figuring out the best strategies to utilize in a difficult and dynamic market environment. Given the number of moving parts within the economy and the investment business, this perspective helps as we try to develop the best portfolio strategies for clients.
Another important motivation for me is that I’m working in an industry where I can directly and positively impact someone’s life. I could work in a more institutional environment that focuses merely on “the numbers” but I greatly enjoy knowing that the work I do really impacts real people. That’s why I came to Destination 11 years ago – I know that the work I do makes a difference in people’s lives.
As an investment strategist, and as someone who has worked with literally hundreds of other investment managers assessing performance, can you tell me a few things that you think successful investment managers have in common?
Absolutely. There are a few critical traits that I believe all money managers should have.
First, every investment manager should have a passion for what they do and not just be working in a business where they are simply punching a clock. This industry requires commitment and dedication and you better love what you’re doing. I sometimes tell people that my career is actually my hobby and I think that’s probably a good place to be.
Next, managers have to be willing to look at others' perspectives. We are paid to make decisions and so we cannot be fuzzy in our decision-making. However, it’s important when making judgments to look at different viewpoints. Integrating other ideas into your own thinking is what helps one arrive at the best possible solution in my view.
Finally, you have to be willing to admit mistakes. No one in the investment business (or in life) is perfect. The sooner you recognize that you have made an incorrect judgment, the sooner you can rectify that mistake and move down the correct path. It takes a dose of humility but I think it’s an important component that all successful managers have as an internal check and balance.
Can you tell me what you have seen in the investment business that is not so positive? In other words, are there certain traits that you don’t think provide any productive benefit?
Two things come to mind.
It’s important that investment professionals recognize that in the end what matters is providing results to clients and not the fees that are generated. Too often I’ve seen managers focus on fees first and results second. I think that’s completely backwards. I believe that if you focus on providing results and a good product to clients, fees take care of themselves.
Second, arrogance is another trait that has no real productive benefit when managing money. Believing in your own viewpoint is important; there’s no doubt about that. But being arrogant about your views closes down input from others and that doesn’t help anyone.
How do you see the overall investing environment today?
It’s complicated. What used to be a process focused mostly on fundamental research now must factor in macro environment variables such as global economics and monetary policy around the world. Additionally, with the increased technology and volatility that we are seeing, risk is an important consideration when assessing potential returns.
I suppose you could say that I am a cautious person as I do believe it’s important to be thoughtful when taking action. I recognize that the cost for being wrong today is greater than it has ever been before. I also believe that there are still opportunities for profit but they must be weighed against risk as well when making investment judgments.
Thanks Craig for your time today. Lastly, when you retire one day 20 years from now, how would you like to be remembered as a Chief Investment Strategist?
I can’t ever see myself retiring! But if I ever do, I would hope people say that I really cared about our clients. I would hope they say that I was thoughtful and informed when making judgments. And I would hope they say that I made a difference in their lives in a positive way. That I think would make for a very successful career.