What is your occupation and how did you come to work in this field?
I am a portfolio manager at BlackRock, an asset management firm, where I manage portfolios of residential mortgage backed securities on behalf of clients. In this role, I invest client portfolios in securitized mortgage assets which do not include individual loans or properties. Some of the debt is high quality backed by the government entities with no credit risk and other investments are in distressed securities which incur losses when defaults occur. Because of the quantitative easing and low rate environment over the past three years, the environment for investing in mortgages was favorable. We serve a variety of clients spanning the spectrum from official institutions, sovereign wealth funds, banks, insurance companies, pensions, foundations, and retail accounts.
I was a finance major in college, so I have always been interested in capital markets. Fortunately, I have worked in various departments within BlackRock. I began my career in risk management where I focused on valuation and analysis of large mortgage portfolios. After a few years, I was asked to help with rollout of our mortgage valuation models so the role changed a bit into business development. I enjoyed the work and learned a lot, but realized that I wanted to be an investor. I moved into portfolio management in 2006 and immediately knew that it was the right role for me.
What is the biggest challenge of your work?
The fluid and dynamic nature of capital markets is the biggest challenge that I face as an investor on a continuous basis. Staying attuned to not only the fundamentals which cause markets to move is important, but equally as important is sentiment and the psychology of market participants. To that end, managing and mitigating risks is important to succeeding as an investor over the long run. Models may predict one outcome based upon fundamentals, but actual outcomes are influenced by a number of different inputs. One of my favorite quotes is that “the market can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.”
What is your proudest achievement?
We successfully managed the Maiden Lane portfolios on behalf of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and each vehicle returned excess funds to the Fed (i.e. US taxpayers). These portfolios were the legacy positions of Bear Stearns and AIG Financial Products. Each portfolio contained various distressed assets and complex structured credit instruments. At the height of the crisis, the losses that taxpayers would have incurred on these portfolios would have been large.
What leaders, thinkers or doers do you admire most?
I really admire principled leadership like that of Nelson Mandela or Abraham Lincoln that have vision, foresight and resolve to stand on the right side of issues despite grave consequences.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I see myself in an entrepreneurial venture whether in finance or another field. I really enjoy building new things
What would be your advice to young people who want their careers and lives to have an impact?
Ask questions. Speak your mind. Surround yourself with people that you admire and respect.