A Day In The Life Of A Portfolio Manager

By Amy Fontinelle AAA

Portfolio managers go by a number of job titles, work for various types of investment companies and manage different asset types. They work under an array of philosophies and employ unique investment strategies. To provide a glimpse of what your life might look like if you pursued a career in portfolio management, we've interviewed three professionals in the field to see how a typical workday goes.

Clayton A. Cohn, Marketaction.com
Securities trader Clayton A. Cohn is chairman, president and CEO of Marketaction.com, a financial services firm and Registered Investment Advisor that provides services ranging from free portfolio guidance and securities analysis to full-service wealth management.

He begins his daily routine at 5 a.m. to prepare for the opening bell at 6:30 a.m. From 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., he monitors the market, searches for opportunities and gauges the market's direction for the day. From 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., he combines work with leisure activities, blogging, writing and non-business responsibilities; he might even squeeze in a light nap.

At 11 a.m. he monitors his positions, and at 11:30 a.m. he prepares for the market's final hour. From 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., he closes positions and researches and implements trades for the following day, but "if I'm not in the mood to trade then I don't, because I'll usually lose money," Cohn says. After the closing bell, he performs net asset value (NAV) calculations and updates his accounts. 1:30 p.m. marks the beginning of a two-hour, company-wide meeting to discuss what's going on in the market, current private investments and endeavors, and possible new opportunities to back, such as start-ups or proprietary inventions.

On the weekends, he takes care of company issues that aren't market-related, such as corporate filings, compliance and client matters. He enjoys a work-hard, play-hard lifestyle and travels a lot for work, including taking his company on a retreat every few months. While his team continues to monitor the markets during these getaways, past trips to Las Vegas and to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Annual Festival have proven to be great bonding opportunities and productive times for discussing new ideas.

"I'm always working. I love what I do. I make money by making people more money, which is a great feeling. I also love the markets," Cohn says. "To me it's like playing a video game, and like any video game, the more you play and the more you practice, the better you get. Except in this case ... the better you get at the game, the more money you make."

Adam Koos, Libertas Wealth Management
Adam Koos is president, portfolio manager and senior financial advisor at Libertas Wealth Management Group, Inc. in Dublin, Ohio. He is a registered investment advisor representative and broker and has attained the Series 7, 63, 31, 24, and life, health and long-term care insurance licenses. He specializes in stock portfolio management, wealth accumulation and protection, retirement and estate planning, and retirement asset management. His firm uses a "defense first" portfolio management strategy to defend clients' portfolios from loss and help them preserve their nest eggs.

Koos usually wakes up at 6:30 a.m. and spends the first hour and a half of his day reviewing research on different asset classes, sectors, individual stocks and ETFs. Around 8 a.m., he starts looking at the real-time movement of the "pre-market" to see how the market might come out of the gate.

He heads to the office around 9 a.m. and often has three to four appointments with clients throughout the day for portfolio reviews and financial planning, which keep him quite busy. He also spends about three hours a day responding to emails.

"Throughout the day, I check real-time movement of our portfolios via the office, or if I'm away from the office for any reason, I'm constantly checking my phone," Koos says. "I've also set up alerts on all the positions I own so that if something happens in any investment in our portfolios, I get a text message and an email so that I can take immediate action." Because he only has four managed portfolios – stocks, ETFs, bonds and socially responsible investments – that are allocated differently for each client, he is able to watch every client's portfolio daily since they own the same investments. These are also the investments that he and his team own.

Koos typically doesn't trade at or just after open or at or just before close, though he does monitor the markets for any panic over the "apocalypse du jour," he says. Throughout the day, he monitors Twitter, Bloomberg.com, CNBC.com and Marketwatch.com for breaking news. At the end of the day, he reviews the firm's portfolios and checks his subscriptions for any news he might have missed during the day.

Three nights a week, he's usually home by 6 p.m. to help with the family dinner and put the kids to bed. One night he volunteers with a business organization, and another night he takes late appointments until 9 p.m. He usually spends another hour in the evening tying up the day's loose ends and doing market research. "I might be looking at relative strength comparisons between asset classes or stocks. I might be looking for trends to emerge up or down in sectors, asset classes or the overall markets," Koos says. He also spends two to three hours per day on the weekend working.

In addition to his daily activities, Koos typically spends three to four hours per week writing articles, commentary and communicating with reporters. He only places trades about once a week, which is a simple task since everyone has the same portfolio. If he thinks a stock needs to be sold, he sells it across all his clients' accounts simultaneously.

During major events, Koos might spend extra time on research. "The week before the U.S. Treasury debt was downgraded in August 2011, I spent the entire week and almost every night burning the candle at both ends, adjusting stop prices, considering short and inverse positions and playing out different scenarios," Koos says. Also, when the market pivots, he updates his retirement plan clients regarding what to do in their individual plans based on his models and their risk tolerance.

His family life is a top priority, but work keeps Koos quite busy and limits his social life to Buckeye football season. He finds time for vacations by arriving early or leaving late when he attends an out-of-town business conference; he also makes time for one vacation a year with his immediate family and another with his extended family. "There are usually between 12 and 17 of us renting a big house we can all stay in for a week and do some catching up and bonding," he says.

Tim Mrock, CitrinGroup
Tim Mrock is CEO and director of investments for CitrinGroup in Birmingham, Mich. He worked his way up to his current roles via positions in the banking sector, then as head trader and director of operations for CitrinGroup. He is director of the firm's Model Portfolio Construction and Implementation process and is a founding member of its Investment Advisory Board.

Mrock begins his workdays at 8:30 a.m. by prioritizing his tasks for the day. Then he spends half an hour reviewing the prior day's transactions and activity across all portfolios and determining trading strategies to execute during market hours. From 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., he works on a long-term project related to the improvement of portfolio construction, implementation and/or oversight. He then spends the next hour going over the current day's market activity and portfolio behavior. He also reviews news stories applicable to the portfolios he manages and to their underlying investment philosophies.

Around 11:30 a.m., he spends half an hour checking in with his team and discussing market, economic and portfolio activity, then takes a half hour break. From 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., he executes the day's trades; he then spends another three hours on a long-term project, with a short break halfway through.

He spends the last two hours of the workday reviewing the current day's market activity and portfolio behavior, checking in with his team and assessing the actual day against his morning projections. He ensures that his notes and follow-ups for the day are complete and prioritizes the next day's tasks. Mrock works eight to 10 hours a day and puts in time most weekends, too, but tries to find a balance between professional and personal time.

His most important non-daily activity is discussing the firm's portfolio with both colleagues and firm outsiders to get insights for improvement. "It is an opportunity to challenge assumptions, analyze from different perspectives and mitigate overlooking threats and opportunities," Mrock says. He tries to do this activity at least monthly. He also takes a monthly, in-depth look at portfolio behavior, analyzing actual measures of risk and return and the portfolio's deviation from expectations.

The Bottom Line
These three portfolio managers certainly don't have the worst hours in the financial services industry – they put in long hours during the week and a few hours on weekends, but manage to find time for family, friends and vacations. They have different types of clients and investment objectives, but they share a love of markets and investment analysis. If you possess these passions as well, it's just a matter of finding or creating the right portfolio management firm for your investment philosophy and lifestyle.

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