Vanguard investing passion

My dad sparked my investment passion; Vanguard fueled it

My father was a payroll clerk by trade, but his true passion was investing. When I was growing up in the 1980s, every weeknight at 6 o’clock my dad watched The Nightly Business Report on PBS on our only TV.  Needless to say, this was before the internet and CNBC (I know, I’m dating myself), so it was really the only way you could find out what happened in the markets before you read it in the newspapers the next day.

I vividly recall how my dad used to hoot and holler whenever good news boosted one of the stocks he owned, even though he regularly invested through up and down markets, reinvested the dividends, and held his stocks for decades. His passion sparked my interest in pursuing an investment career, which began at another investment firm performing research and oversight of institutional money managers.  While I was aware of Vanguard and even owned some Vanguard mutual funds, at the time I had the impression that Vanguard was “just” an index shop, and not a “real” investment firm.

Boy, was I wrong.

My introduction to Vanguard

About nine years ago, I began to pursue an opening in Vanguard’s Oversight and Manager Search team.  The more research I did on Vanguard, the more I realized that it was truly a world-class investment firm – active and passive, equity and fixed income. The crew I met with were smart yet humble, and the investment research was insightful and balanced.

I joined Vanguard in 2009 as a Senior Investment Analyst in the Portfolio Review Department, on the team that provides oversight of Vanguard’s investment managers and funds. I was able to learn about a lot of different investment approaches from not only Vanguard internal managers, but from the roughly 30 other world-class investment firms Vanguard partners with like Wellington, PRIMECAP, and Ballie Gifford.

Vanguard investing passion

Senior Investment Analysts 2013

Vanguard around the globe

One day in 2013, I was on my way to the Galley (the on-campus cafeteria) when my department head pulled me into his office and said, “We’re thinking of sending you to Hong Kong.” My reply was, “I was thinking of getting a sandwich.”

Ten months after that conversation, my wife, three kids, and I moved to Hong Kong where I was tasked with building Vanguard’s investment product function for Asia—designing and launching Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and mutual funds, and educating clients about them. It’s where I learned about the ETF ecosystem and retirement systems for Asian countries.

Vanguard investing passion

Asia Product and Investment Team 2017

After three years in Asia, I returned to our headquarters in 2017 to lead Vanguard’s Defined Contribution Advisory Services (DCAS) team. Ever wonder how a company decides which funds to offer its employees in their 401(k) plan? And how they oversee those funds? Well, our team of investment professionals delivers investment perspectives, evaluations, and custom portfolios to help those companies and their consultants do just that.

Vanguard investing passion

DCAS- ugly sweaters and curling!

A common thread

My three roles at Vanguard are very different and none of them are in the Investment Management division, but the one common thread was each requires a strong degree of investment acumen for success. Fortunately, Vanguard provides a ton of resources and support for crew to develop and deepen their investment acumen, from paid support for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) and Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®) programs, free mobile access to the Wall Street Journal and other industry news sources, numerous internal investment training sessions, and more. As long as you bring a “growth mindset” and an intellectual curiosity, there’s no limit to your development.

I’ve seen Vanguard’s investment research, analysis, and portfolio management become more sophisticated and global over the years. But our investment philosophy has remained steadfast since our founding more than 40 years ago: set an investment goal, diversify your portfolio, keep your costs low, and stick to a plan —strikingly similar to my dad’s approach.

-James M.

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