2016 Forty Under Forty

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Kathleen JacobsCIO,New York University
(New York, NY) 39
Kathleen Jacobs
(Art by Lauren Tamaki)

“She is an astute investor witha laser-like focus on identifying investment opportunities and building smart portfolios.”

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

Frankly, the ability to Google people, and find out their backstories. I Google every single manager I meet with. That’s second nature for me.

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

The persistent cold calls and emails for strategies that that are completely irrelevant to our institution. I get at least 10 a day. I just don’t answer my phone. In 18 years, maybe one has worked.

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

Benjamin Graham, because his focus on fundamental value investing shaped my personal philosophy.

... and where would that meeting take place?

A quiet conference room free from distractions, so I could get the most out of the meeting.

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

Eleven or twelve years ago, I was in search of under-the-radar managers and came across a small manager with an interesting portfolio. I spoke with the manager over the phone and then flew to San Francisco for an in-person meeting. Luckily, I had a male colleague with me, because when we arrived at the address, we found a 1970s motel on the edge of the Tenderloin district (this was before the days of Google Street View). We climbed the rickety stairs and tentatively knocked on the door to find the disheveled manager in a converted motel room office. Let’s just say we didn’t make the investment.

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

I am thinking a lot about energy. I just have no idea what oil is going to do. I have no idea when it’s a good time to invest, and to catch the falling knife...

Name your favorite food and drink.

Pizza and a sauvignon blanc.

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

One that is highly diversified with significant emerging and frontier-market exposure in lock-up vehicles.

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

Relentless marketers.

Donald Trump is ________.

A reality TV star (and I don’t watch reality TV).

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

My former colleague Jeff Blazek would be the CIO. Three deputies: Adri Chaikin (hedge funds), Kevin Scelfo (private equity), and my current Director of Investments Cynthia Nascimento (equities).

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

Waiting as long as I did to move from the for-profit to the nonprofit investment world.

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

I would like to see people go back to focusing on fundamentals. I tend not to pay that much attention to trends, because I am a fundamental investor. People don’t focus enough on risk premium—what return you should demand from a particular strategy.