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A Day in the Life of a Portfolio Manager

The financial industry is always changing and is always in need of new professionals. Anyone with a business mind or a degree in finance, business, or economics can find work in banks and other financial institutions, large corporations, startups, and investment firms.

Industry professionals can earn a living in this fast-paced industry as advisors, accountants, bankers, managers, and portfolio managers. To provide a glimpse of what your life might look like if you pursued a career in portfolio management, we interviewed two professionals in the field to see how a typical workday goes.

Key Takeaways

  • Portfolio managers make investments and manage day-to-day trading for their clients and investment firms.
  • These professionals put in long hours during the weekdays and often work weekends when needed.
  • These professionals must have a thorough interest in the markets and economy.
  • Many portfolio managers provide services to clients with different needs and investment goals.
  • Communication, problem-solving, research, and attention to detail are some of the skills portfolio managers require.

Adam Koos

Adam Koos is president, portfolio manager, and senior financial advisor at Libertas Wealth Management Group in Dublin, Ohio. He is a registered investment advisor representative (IAR) and broker who attained the Series 7, 63, 31, 24, and life, health, and long-term care insurance licenses.

Koos 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' Work Schedule

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. He starts looking at the real-time movement of the pre-market at around 8 a.m. to see how the market might come out of the gate.

He heads to the office around 9:00 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," he said. "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, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), bonds, and socially responsible investments (SRIs)—which are allocated based on the needs of 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 as well.

Koos typically doesn't trade at or just after open or at or just before close, but he does monitor the markets for any panic over the "apocalypse du jour." Throughout the day, he monitors Twitter, Bloomberg, CNBC, and MarketWatch 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.

After Hours

He's usually home by 6:00 p.m. three nights a week to help with the family dinner and put the kids to bed. He volunteers one day a week with a business organization, and another night he takes late appointments until 9:00 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." He also spends two to three hours per day on the weekend working.

Beyond Portfolio Management

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 may do some extra 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."

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."

Successful portfolio managers are experienced in financial management and have strong track records.

Tim Mrock

Tim Mrock is the director of operations and chief compliance officer (CCO) at MKD Wealth Coaches in Detroit. Prior to this, he was chief executive officer (CEO) and director of investments at CitrinGroup in Birmingham, Michigan.

He began his career with positions in the banking sector, then as a head trader and director of operations for CitrinGroup. He was director of the firm's Model Portfolio Construction and Implementation process and was a founding member of its Investment Advisory Board. The information below is a sample of his workdays with CitrinGroup.

A Day in Mrock's Worklife

Mrock began his workdays at 8:30 a.m. by prioritizing his tasks for the day. He then spent 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 worked on a long-term project related to the improvement of portfolio construction, implementation, or oversight. He then spent the next hour going over the current day's market activity and portfolio behavior. He also reviewed news stories applicable to the portfolios he managed and to their underlying investment philosophies.

He spent half an hour checking in with his team and discussing economic, market, and portfolio activity around 11:30 a.m., after which he normally took a half-hour break. From 12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., he executed the day's trades, then spent another three hours on a long-term project with a short break halfway through.

The last two hours of the workday were reserved to review the current day's market activity and portfolio behavior. He also checked in with his team and assessing the actual day against his morning projections. He ensured that his notes and follow-ups for the day were complete and prioritized the next day's tasks. Mrock worked eight to 10 hours a day and put in time most weekends, too, but tried to find a balance between professional and personal time.

His most important non-daily activity was 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 tried to do this activity at least monthly. He also took 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 two 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 and still manage to find time for family, friends, and vacations. They have different types of clients and investment objectives but 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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