2016 Forty Under Forty

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Kevin BongManager, Public Market Investments 
Ontario Public Service Employees Union Pension Trust
(Toronto, Canada) 35
Kevin Bong
(Art by Lauren Tamaki)

“He’s a smart, incisively analytical, and good guy.”

Name the most noticeable generational divide in investment style between sub-40-year-old investors and baby boomers.

It’s quantitative versus qualitative. The decisions that were made before, if they were very good, were explained in a very qualitative way. Now, given the accessibility of computing power, it’s easier to put decisions into formulas.

Your least favorite part of being an asset owner is...?

Being compared to other asset owners—with no basis for the comparison.

The manager you don’t currently work with whose brain you’d most like to pick for an hour is...?

Adam Smith.

... and where would that meeting take place?

I guess it would have to be his grave in the UK. I think maybe Glasgow. [Ed. Note: It’s actually Edinburgh.]

Describe the weirdest interaction you’ve had with an asset manager.

I had an investor relations person in Australia refuse to hand us marketing materials until we explicitly assured him we wouldn’t steal his ideas. Super awkward.

What asset class or investment troubles you most right now—and why?

Inflation. It’s a violent killer of purchasing power, especially for a saver. Yet no one seems too concerned.

Name your favorite food and drink.

Japanese cuisine of any type. And we have a running joke around the office: I like cheap and tasty beer.

What’s the wildest institutional portfolio you’ve seen?

A hypothetical one: a 100% equities portfolio, for an endowment. It’s concentration at a max, and doesn’t take into account any other risk, or reach for the illiquidity premium or leverage. It’s what your average, or below average, retail investor would do—not an institutional investor.

Name a cultural aspect of asset management that gets under your skin.

The (perceived) need to convey conviction through single-mindedness. Marketers tend to exaggerate the upside and focus on all that is good; controllers tend to exaggerate the downside and focus on doomsday scenarios and all that is bad.

Donald Trump is ________.

President? The late night talk shows would write themselves.

Name your four-member investment dream team for your own family office.

I would hire my current boss as the CIO: Dimitri Douaire. Can I trade the three deputies for a chief risk officer (CRO)? If so, it would be my former boss and the current CRO at GIC: Dr. Chia Tai Tee. The two of them go at a portfolio completely differently, so they could duke it out.

What’s the biggest investment or career misstep you’ve made?

Firing a couple of quant funds in 2008. It was a group decision, and I didn’t get to weigh in as much as I would have liked. But subsequently, I’ve re-established relationships with them.

What should be an investment trend, but isn’t (yet)?

It’s a pet peeve: There should be proper risk and return attribution of every decision made instead of investment made. Decisions are typically not well analyzed ex post. People usually just care about the P&L (profit and loss) at the end.