Just like superior blends are beating single malts [my take, single malts are soon out of fashion] a great investment manager is about a blend of character, style and experience. If I could blend my own IM I would choose a diverse background where each experience adds one or several distinctive flavors. If all experience is gained within one castle the IM would not have developed the complexity and breadth needed to be successful on the market because each organisation has strengths as well as weaknesses which inherently will be built into the IM’s style. Getting different points of reference typically accelerate IM maturing.
Back to the blend; I would start by picking an IM having lived with a boot strapped start-up and cheap investors. Understanding from day one that customers pay salaries and coffee machines build a true respect for money and even more importantly for customers. To boost this flavor I would add experience from commodity sales. Figuring out how to differentiate when the product is pretty standard fascinates me and is a true success factor even for companies with a short-term competitive product advantage. Because we all know this advantage will eventually end. In addition hard sales cases proves to what extent the IM has a deal desire and is a closer. Simply put – will the IM shout the loudest when the customer makes his pick at the shelf? To add base flavor I would go for solid analytical and structural qualities. I would make sure they can be applied by the IM in real world structured problem solving by involving a panel of colleagues to get a taste of the IM problem solving qualities.
To stand out in the crowd, the IM needs a distinct style, typically gained over years of maturing for the role. It takes boldness to develop style, to dare to stand out. With that typically comes the boldness to challenge. This is what I’m after. Too many fall for the temptation to accept what others say. We’ve all seen them in the board rooms; the people who nod yes and expect someone else to actually read the material. Or buy a single malt because it’s a trend. That’s not what we look for in an IM. Instead we need an IM who is bold enough to challenge existing truths. Doing this from a fact driven, analytical perspective makes up for a great blend. To successfully blend in, this style must be combined with the creativity to create solutions. No one benefits from an IM who just poses problems. We’re looking for progress, not stand still.
To make it perfect, you need a dash of something else. Something that will surprise you and make the IM stick in your mind and taste. In my liking this is something adding contrast to the base flavors, something that vaccinates from being too perfect. Something that will drive other’s interest in the IM, making them remember and come back, getting a bit addicted. So what might it be? Well, you tell me.