A Day in the Life of a Portfolio Manager

The financial industry is always changing and in need of professionals. Industry professionals can earn a living in this fast-paced industry as advisors, accountants, bankers, managers, and portfolio managers. 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.

We interviewed two professionals in the field to see how a typical workday goes and to provide a glimpse of what your life might look like if you pursued a career in portfolio management.

Key Takeaways

  • Portfolio managers make investments and manage day-to-day trading for their clients and investment firms.
  • These professionals put in long hours on weekdays and often work weekends.
  • Portfolio managers must have a thorough interest in the markets and the economy.
  • Many portfolio managers provide services to clients with different needs and investment goals.

Adam Koos

Adam Koos is president, portfolio manager, and senior financial advisor at Libertas Wealth Management Group in Dublin, Ohio. He's a registered investment advisor representative (IAR) and a broker who has 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' typical 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 asset classes, sectors, individual stocks, and ETFs. He begins 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 at around 9 a.m. and often has three to four appointments with clients throughout the day for portfolio reviews and financial planning. 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."

He has only four managed portfolios: stocks, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), bonds, and socially responsible investments (SRIs). They're allocated based on the needs of each client, so he's able to watch every client's portfolio daily because 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." He monitors Twitter, Bloomberg, CNBC, and MarketWatch for breaking news throughout the day. He reviews the firm's portfolios at the end of the day and checks his subscriptions for any news that he might have missed.

After-hours activity

Koos is usually home by 6 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 he takes late appointments until 9 p.m. on another night. 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 working on weekends.

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 because everyone has the same portfolio. He sells across all his clients' accounts simultaneously if he thinks a stock should be sold.

Koos may do some extra research during major events. "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 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 that 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. He was chief executive officer (CEO) and director of investments at CitrinGroup in Birmingham, Michigan prior to this.

He began his career with positions in the banking sector, then as a head trader and a 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. Here's a sample of his workdays with CitrinGroup.

A day in Mrock's work life

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.

He worked on a long-term project related to the improvement of portfolio construction, implementation, and oversight from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. 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., then he took a half hour break. He executed the day's trades from 12:30 p.m. to 1 p.m., 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 assessed 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 works eight to 10 hours a day and puts in time most weekends, too. But he tries to find a balance between professional and personal time.

Mrock's most important non-daily activity is discussing the firm's portfolio with 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a portfolio manager?

A portfolio manager manages and monitors their clients' portfolios based on the client's goals and risk tolerance. This typically includes selling and buying investments. They act as strategists and advisors.

What skills should I have to become a portfolio manager?

Communication skills, problem-solving abilities, research skills, and attention to detail are some of the qualities that portfolio managers require.

What education is necessary to become a portfolio manager?

Achieving a bachelor's degree in a pertinent field is almost always required, and most firms will look for candidates with master's degrees. Most portfolio managers hold master's degrees so you might find the competition a bit prohibitive if you don't.

The Bottom Line

These two portfolio managers 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 they share a love of markets and investment analysis.

It's just a matter of finding or creating the right portfolio management firm for your investment philosophy and lifestyle if you possess these passions as well.

Article Sources
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  1. CFA Institute. "What Is a Portfolio Manager?"

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