Monday, January 24, 2011

A Sick Sense of Humor

For more than a decade I have run the investment operations at Pinnacle. As the Chief Investment Officer of the firm I’ve been responsible for, among other things, crafting the firm’s overall investment strategy and process, communicating our process to our clients through written materials, the web site, speaking engagements, publishing books, etc., and integrating active and tactical money management into the culture of our firm along with my partners. But my most rewarding job as CIO is to nurture the professional growth of the investment analysts who work at Pinnacle. Because we are active managers who change the asset allocation of our portfolios as we identify investment opportunities, and because we utilize a qualitative decision making process (along with our quantitative work), our success is to a large degree based on the judgment, experience, and right-brained intuition of the investment analysts on our investment team. Regular readers of this blog know that Rick, Carl, and Sean have been making it difficult for me to make a big mistake in running our portfolios for a very long time.

It would be nice to say that everything is sweetness and light when our team meets to discuss investment issues. As it turns out, our analysts often disagree about the investment decisions before the group. As CIO my role has been to nurture differing opinions, encourage informed dissent, make certain no one’s feelings are being hurt, keep everyone on track, and then (after the smoke has cleared) make good decisions for our clients. The decisions are nuanced and difficult. There is rarely an overwhelming amount of conviction about any one decision before the team. As the team leader and CIO for the past decade I’ve had the final word on all investment decisions and consequently, I’ve had the final responsibility for the decisions we make as a team. Let me tell you, the job is…well…tough.

While I retain all of my other duties as CIO, as of January 1 of this year, Rick Vollaro, in his role as Chief Investment Strategist, has taken over the role of investment team leader. It is now his job to manage the team and I represent, for the first time in many years at Pinnacle, just another opinion to be weighed on our investment team. I am pleased to report that Rick has stepped into the role with ease and the investment team is running as good, or better, than it ever has. I am also pleased (I’m only pleased because I have a sick sense of humor) to report that there have already been several split decisions among the analysts that Rick has had to resolve as we address the challenging market environment we face this year. On a personal level, I get to be more argumentative, less accommodating, less of a manager, and more of a general pain in the neck in dealing with my teammates…and my team leader. Most of all, I no longer have the final call and get to watch Rick step in and do the job that he has trained for over the past ten years. It is truly a pleasure to see him step up and manage the group. Our clients will be well served.