By Steven Rohrich, CFA, Associate Director, Performance Analytics, Pavilion Advisory Group Inc.
On November 16, a group of students and their professor, along with other business professionals had a chance to learn from Josh Howard, CFA and Scott Opsal, CFA. Over the course of lunch, our speakers shared with us their backgrounds as Directors of Research, daily tasks, and important tips to become investment professionals.
Josh Howard, CFA, Director of Investment Risk and Performance at RBC Global Asset Management, and past President of the CFA Society of MN, taught high school math before breaking into the investment field. Josh was always interested in AP Statistics and began his career as a quantitative analyst building models for risk and returns. Scott Opsal, CFA, Director of Research at The Leuthold Group, LLC, began his career working on the management side of funds typically held in pensions and 401(K)s. He also taught Security Analysis at UW Whitewater. Both are now working closely with quantitative funds. Scott focuses on tactical allocation, and Josh’s concentration is on factor investing and managing risk. Like their roles, the firms they work for are quite different as well. The Leuthold Group, LLC is an RIA with 25 employees, over 1 billion AUM focusing on sell side, and buy side mutual funds and SMAs. RBC GAM, headquartered in Toronto with the operations based in Minneapolis, employs 180+ in the US and has about CAD $370 billion AUM. When asked the question about finding a firm that is a good fit, Scott provided the insight of “find a firm that shares similar values and philosophy you have as it will be the best fit.”
Director of Research Tasks
There are many responsibilities that a Director of Research has, but our speakers were able to provide some of their main tasks and favorite aspects of each day.
- Investment Process
- Including, but not limited to, managing investment tools and resources, generating and screening for new investment ideas, and assisting with portfolio construction and allocation.
- Facilitating information between analysts and Portfolio Managers and running attribution to determine where returns in the portfolio are coming from.
- Team Management
- Managing the relationship between Portfolio Managers and analysts.
- Hiring the people that fit with the team and firms philosophy and training new staff.
- Performing Human Resource functions.
As a Director of Research, there are numerous opportunities to improve processes, develop the next generation of professionals, and have an impact on investment performance and client results. However, this career also has its challenges and pressures for returns, time management, and determining what is a fad and what is a true innovation.
Things to Consider
Our speakers provided some guidance not only on how to become a Director of Research but to start a career in investments. A good candidate will have:
- High ethical standards, intellectual curiosity, expertise in investment process and theory, and strong writing and communication skills.
- Ability to teach oneself to use the tools used in the investment process.
- Desire to read investment books.
- Passion to find a firm that shares their same philosophy.