2016 Forty Under Forty

Back to Forty Under Forty
David SlifkaSenior Portfolio Manager,YMCA
(New York, NY) 37
David Slifka
(Art by Lauren Tamaki)

“Building on his seven years of experience at the Yale endowment, David was critical in hiring the team, improving our systems, reporting to our board, and much more.”

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

Gray hair maybe?

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

Being professionally judgmental. My fiduciary duty is to not give people (managers) the benefit of the doubt, but one needs to be friendly and a good partner at the same time.

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

It’s hard to pick one, but I’d say Howard Marks (Oaktree), or anyone who thinks about investment decision-making.

... and where would that meeting take place?

On a beach.

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

There was one manager who seemed drunk at a meeting, slouching and rambling on.

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

Pretty much everything because the entire industry has about the same limited experience investing in a zero- or negative-rate world. Some of the most successful investors are calling it the most confusing investing environment they’ve experienced. It’s an especially hard time to know whether what’s worked well over the past 30 years will work over the next 30 years.

Name your favorite food and drink.

Sushi, mangosteen, mojito, and coffee.

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

One is a ‘low-beta-plus-private-equity’ portfolio. It’s wild by some standards, but there’s a lot of underlying wisdom. Another would be an entirely indexed one, because it requires a high level of conviction to not play the game everyone else is playing.

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

Everyone says that they’re a long-term investor, but few really are, and even fewer can articulate what concrete steps they take to achieve it.

Donald Trump is ________.

An illustration of how people often interpret confidence as competence.

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

Can I take six? David Swensen (Yale), who trained me as an investor; Mark Baumgartner (Institute for Advanced Study), to illuminate our risks; Vanguard’s Tim Buckley, to encourage indexing; Nassim Taleb (The Black Swan), for perspective on cycles; Jason Zweig (Wall Street Journal), on behavioral finance; and Myra Drucker (GMO) for governance.

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

Our CIO has a great line about having the right level of impatience. I’m learning to find that level more often. In building the team and investment program at the YMCA, we were changing a lot of things. I was certainly impatient in getting from where we had been to where we are today, with a great team and a continually improving portfolio.

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

Focusing more on getting the big picture right—governance, processes, goals, and asset allocation—and less on finding the next manager.