2016 Forty Under Forty

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Adam KurkiewiczManager, Private Markets,Washington University in St. Louis
(St. Louis, MO) 32
Adam Kurkiewicz
(Art by Lauren Tamaki)

“He is definitely one of the more thoughtful risk manager I’ve met.”

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

While the older generation is possibly more reluctant to change, the younger generation is overly eager to try anything new and shiny. I think there’s a proper balance to strike. It’s important to adapt to a complex, evolving world while also not losing sight of fundamental investing truths.

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


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

Legg Mason’s Robert Hagstrom. His book Latticework: The New Investing was among the first investing books I ever read. It illustrates how having a working understanding of other studies such as physics, psychology, biology, philosophy, and literature can inform and enhance an investing approach. It’s endlessly fascinating.

... and where would that meeting take place?

My office.

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

It’s uncomfortable when managers become visibly frustrated, borderline angry, when they find out we won’t be investing with them. It happens quite frequently.

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

All the major asset classes give me varying degrees of heartburn. Lately, everything seems to be either really expensive or declining precipitously. Thankfully, my job requires adopting a long-term mindset, and guessing near-term market movements is outside my purview.

Name your favorite food and drink.

Eggs with avocado and Sriracha. Black coffee.

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

Portfolios that are devoid of any real philosophical underpinning. There is no single correct way to manage an institutional portfolio, but a strategy must be declared and consistently carried out to have a chance of meeting objectives.

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

The ratio of observed arrogance to earned arrogance is rapidly reaching infinity.

Donald Trump is ________.

A brilliant fictional character for the next season of House of Cards, but would be a horrifying real-life president.

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

I would hire smart people who trust each other, and share the rare ability to take a truly long-term view. I’d pair a few of my smart friends/peers in the business with David Swensen (Yale), who has proven to be an exceptional leader and mentor.

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

Where I am now—a limited partner (LP) at an endowment—makes sense for my personality and principles. But I think I would have benefited from some securities analysis and trading experience early in my career.

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

There seem to be many LPs paying lip service to the notion of simplifying their portfolios and reducing the number of active managers. However, I suspect it’s far less of a trend in practice than it is in conversation.