Invesco Canada blog

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Jason Whiting | December 3, 2014

A day in my life at Trimark

As an investment manager, “What do you actually do all day?” is a question I’m often asked. Occasionally, the question comes from people in the industry.

My answer?

Read and think.

Recently, I decided to look at this question more “scientifically” by keeping a journal of my work days for one week. Looking at the resulting chart, below, I realize I need to change my answer. What do I do all day? Read, think and talk.

Here are a few observations that came out of my mini-journaling experiment:

Shop talk

Visitors to the Trimark Investments office usually experience a library atmosphere – that distinctive hush that exists when people are absorbed by their work. However, and this might not come as a surprise to others, it turns out I talk a lot more during the day than I thought. This reflects the joy and clarity I get from talking through ideas.

During the week, I noted discussions and debates with my colleagues Albert, Rob, Virginia, Norm, Jeff, Erin, Ian, Mark and Eric. I am struck by how lucky I am to work with a smart, passionate and diverse group of people. The benefit of this open and collegial environment is immeasurable. We all share the same skeptical mindset and desire to challenge conventional wisdom.

New ideas vs. companies owned

I’ve always said that I split my time 60:40 between new ideas and currently-owned companies. The info I collected shows I spend closer to two-thirds of my day on new ideas. This, I believe, is one of the great advantages of a concentrated portfolio. I am able to spend a lot of time looking at new ideas – even during earnings season.

Focus on the portfolios

My week didn’t include a lot of internal meetings. A lot of informal debate yes, but without getting bogged down in lengthy formal meetings.

I try and minimize any activities not related to the portfolios. Administrative tasks took up less than one per cent of my days. One of the great benefits of working for a large, global company is that we have a strong team that allows me to focus on managing the portfolios, while others take care of the work in their areas of expertise. I am thankful for this situation.

DIY research

Most research I do on companies is my own work. Over time, I’ve found sell-side analysis less and less valuable. This is especially true in the small-cap space. I want to truly understand a business and this requires an enormous amount of information. Developing a unique idea is largely a lone, personal process.

Checking stock quotes

I check stock quotes once a week. If a competing portfolio manager checks stocks for 30 minutes each day – 10 minutes when the market opens, 10 minutes in middle of the day and 10 minutes at market close – that’s 104 hours per year they spend watching blinking lights. I’d rather spend that time researching companies.

Assuming I read an annual report in three hours, I can look at 35 more companies each year simply by not obsessing over stock quotes. That’s no small amount. And I think my estimates of how much time others spend checking stocks is conservative.

A few other observations:

  • If newspapers are dying, I’ll be the lone person at the funeral. I like them and read them frequently. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are by far my favourites
  • I spend time reading non-business material because it helps to expand my circle of competence and potentially provides new investment ideas
  • I only entered two trades during the week, and that’s probably a busy week
  • At just 2%, sports took up a smaller percentage of my time than I would have guessed, and it was during the first week of the NBA season. Let’s go Raptors!

Overall, this was a valuable endeavour. I learned a little about myself, my work habits and what I value about the investment environment here at Invesco.

Have you ever recorded your work day and found valuable insights? Please feel free to comment below.

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4 responses to “A day in my life at Trimark

  1. Very well written. Thank you. My question to you is can you trust the NY Times and WSJ? I am so mistrustful of the US financial system – SubPrime Mortgage fiasco, NYSE Front Running bs!
    I know the actual businesses that you choose to invest in are quite separate from Wall Street but if you ask me the whole thing reeks of greed and manipulation.

    1. Hi Rob,
      I’d generally agree with your broader notion about being mistrustful, but I’d call myself skeptical. Everyone in this world is looking out for their own self-interests, whether it’s Wall-Street, the CEO of a company or a newspaper reporter. My job is much like a judge that hears competing versions of the same event (in my situation, the reasons to own a company) and then weighs all the evidence to determine, as best they can, the truth. Newspapers are definitely a part of that process for me, and I find they tend to have a lot less bias than some other sources of information. For example, look at how little time I spend reading Wall Street/Bay Street-related research. It tends to be incredibly biased, not to mention very misaligned to our time frame and objectives as long-term investors. The New York Times’ extensive reporting recently on sub-prime auto lending in the U.S., an industry I have a good deal of interest in, is a great example. Ultimately, I’m not perfect in weighing all this information, but in a concentrated portfolio it’s a little easier to avoid the situation you describe. Thanks for your comment.
      Jason

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