Chris. Photo from AFR
One of the most important insights I stumbled across .. was simply to try to maximise my human potential by running my own race and not concerning myself with measures of comparative success. I found I progressed much more rapidly if I focussed on my own game, and my personal development, and spent less time worrying about how others were doing.
I walked into a meeting recently with a multi-billion-dollar super fund, and the chief investment officer asked me, "Are you a journalist, renegade or investment manager?"
I guess I am all these things. I started off life an investment banker with Goldman Sachs, then worked for the RBA as an economist, and went on to study at Cambridge University in the UK where I started a quantitative investment and research business. These days I am a Contributing Editor with The Australian Financial Review, a national newspaper, which generously allows me to opine on pretty much any subject I like, ranging from national security, cyber attacks, organised crime, politics and my more usual fare of economics/finance. I am also co-chief investment officer of a funds management business where I am responsible for running a few hundred million dollars.
Through my writing I try and positively contribute to the public debate if I have an edge, or value-added insight, to furnish.
I am also actively involved in a charity for special forces unit that provides educational scholarships for soldiers: we have raised $1.25 million in the last 6 months alone and are currently funding 8 operators who are studying towards an MBA at the University of Western Australia.
Do you remember what you wanted to do with your life when you were a teenager?
Yes, play rugby for Australia; ski at the Winter Olympics; become an economist; and leaving an enduring policy legacy. I don't know why, but from about year 11 onwards I was passionate about economics and finance. That continued on through my tertiary education. I had a terrific time completing an honours degree at Sydney University, which gave me an opportunity to present my research to some of the top minds in the world at Harvard, Yale and New York University.
What was the best advice you can give others?
One of the most important insights I stumbled across through experiential learning was simply to try to maximise my human potential by running my own race and not concerning myself with measures of comparative success. I found I progressed much more rapidly if I focussed on my own game, and my personal development, and spent less time worrying about how others were doing. But maintaining a commitment to excising human biases like relative justice is a constant battle.
Another principle I have learned to appreciate the value of is subordinating ego when solving problems and pursuing truth. While this is hard to do and requires discipline, it is immensely beneficial in helping guide you down the right paths when making decisions.
Which part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?
I love coming up with new ideas and offering novel perspectives on the prevailing problems of the day. Finding the most tractable solutions often requires one to ask the right questions. Posing those questions is frequently the most challenging part of the exercise, and the process of asking them will regularly render immediate answers.
I also enjoy combating financial markets. As an active investment manager, I am basically pitting my mind, and my analytical infrastructure, against the might of markets, which is incredibly hard to fault.
If you have worked with any recent grads. What skills do you believe recent university graduates are lacking (if any) today and what strengths do they bring?
Some of the most important traits I look for are humility, application and commitment, and an appreciation of what levels of intensity and dedication are necessary to make a difference in life. Ironically, if you come from a background of adversity rather than privilege, and you can get yourself to the starting gate without too much encumbering psychological baggage, I think your prospects for professional success are superior to those that have been given an easier ride in their formative years. The problem with this latter cohort is that they will confuse their luck with skill, and inherently underestimate the challenges life will probabilistically present them.
Did you have any jobs as a teenager?
I worked as a landscape gardener and then interned with various financial institutions, including Macquarie Bank
Did you enjoy school?
I loved school, although I did regularly get into a lot of trouble and was notoriously recalcitrant.
I really enjoyed team sports and the camaraderie of going into battle with my mates against a given adversary.
I think I sometimes struggled with lower-quality
teachers who did not understand my complex
personality and the changing neurochemistry
that inevitably afflicts adolescents.
How do you believe schools of universities
might be changed to be more relevant or effective?
I think the key for schools and universities is to
maximise interactions with the outside world to
ensure learning is as relevant and useful to the life we live.