A flippant, fearless, and fundamental countdown of big money investing.

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Art by Michael Cho

#48 Youth

The 24-Year-Old Asset Owner

What does youth bring to an endowment’s investment team? Ask 24-year-old Grady Buchanan, investment analyst and newest member of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s (WARF) seven-person staff, and you get a self-deprecating answer: “Aside from a much smaller investment IQ… a general understanding of how an iPhone 6 works?”

While CIO can attest to the technology gap—just try asking Editor-in-Chief Kip McDaniel how the iCloud works—the (admittedly biased) 23-year-old writing this likes to believe young people bring a bit more to the table than our knowledge of everything Apple.

CIO: What attracted you to this industry?

Grady Buchanan: My first economics class in high school gave me a very basic understanding of financial markets and the crash of 2008—which also happened during school—opened my eyes to what exactly was going on in the global economy and in the US. That’s part of what drew me in. After that I read a lot of books—David Einhorn’s Fooling Some of the People All of the Time really sparked my interest—and I majored in economics [at University of Wisconsin-Madison].

CIO: And now you’re at WARF—a $2.7 billion endowment. Has it met your expectations?

Buchanan: I thought I’d just be crunching numbers, so I was surprised how quickly I was thrown in. My first day, our CIO [Carrie Thome] gave me our investment policy statement, along with our asset allocation plan, and told me to read them.

After that I was more or less on my own. My first week I had five manager meetings—meetings I had previously very little experience with. At the end of the week the team took me out for lunch and asked me how things were going. I told them, ‘They’re going.’

“If you’re not thinking proactively and actively discussing new ideas or strategies—at any age—something’s probably wrong.”CIO: Speaking as someone who is also less than a year into a new job, the learning curve can be steep. How has it been for you?

Buchanan: The learning curve was as expected—but still very steep. WARF was one of my clients at my previous job at Northern Trust, and having done performance analysis for the fund I understood the portfolio strategy and what the team was trying to accomplish. That was my only real advantage—but there’s so much more that goes into manager due diligence on one side of the portfolio, coupled with so much more that goes into the beta side.

It’s really been meeting after meeting with the team: We have an open door policy so I can ask them any questions and they can ask me any questions. But the learning curve was very steep and it still is. The number one lesson has been how to use the downtime I have to its fullest potential.

CIO: As WARF’s newest and youngest staffer, what do you bring to the table?

Buchanan: New ideas—though I’m sure everyone likes to say they have different ideas. I do have a network of people within the industry that I’ve met who are also young like me, so we’re able to collectively put together our ideas and see if they’re different from those of our upper management.

But I don’t really see a huge generation gap with investments. My team has some heavy hitters and, as they’d tell you too, if you’re not thinking proactively and actively discussing new ideas or strategies—at any age—something’s probably wrong.

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