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I enjoy meeting people and hearing what they have to say. It’s a great job.”
Alan Kirby is a client portfolio manager at Alger, but he’s really in the business of people. In pre-pandemic days he would spend the whole week flying from city to city to meet with Alger’s clients. Some people would find that life grueling. Not Alan. He loves to travel—he’s an accomplished pilot himself—and he loves meeting with people and telling the Alger story. “I have a great job,” he says. “It’s energizing.” Alan is an engaging speaker, whether he is talking about his upbringing, his father’s exploits as a decorated World War II veteran or his love affair with flying, including plenty of hours logged in vintage aircraft such as biplanes with open cockpits.
What was your family like growing up?
My parents were children of the Great Depression and we were brought up in a working-class world. My dad fought in World War II. He is a decorated veteran and a Purple Heart recipient. He saw a tremendous amount of combat. He was on the island of Iwo Jima and at 96 he is one of the few people who can still speak about that battle.
Did he talk about his war experience when you were growing up?
It was something he didn’t want to discuss. Things like PTSD were not well understood back then, but one expert suggested we get him a word processor so he could write down what happened to him in the war. My wife, a book editor, took a real interest in his work and said she wanted to compile his writing into a series of short stories. There are now over 20,000 copies of his book, “Stories from The Pacific.” It’s available on Amazon.
I noticed you went to the Massachusetts College of Art. Was that an early interest of yours?
Mass Art was the cheapest state school. The tuition was $798 a year. I paid for it by mowing lawns and doing landscaping. I got my masters in Finance at BU much later—I was about 39 and I was much older than the other people in the class. I wore a suit and tie. When I first walked into class, a young woman said to everyone in the room, “Hey folks, the teacher is here.”
You probably would have been good selling almost anything. What do you like about the investment business?
It is hard to say. Why do you like sorbet instead of chocolate ice cream? I just like it. I have always enjoyed the industry. It is super interesting. There is no place else I’d rather work.
Does your job keep you busy?
The job of a client portfolio manager is one of constant travel, at least in pre-pandemic days. I am usually on the road every single week. Sometimes I am in Europe, but mostly I stay in the 48 states. It is what I have done for the last 15 years of my life. I am pretty used to it. I enjoy meeting people and hearing what they have to say. It’s a great job.
Did growing up in a military family help you get interested in flying?
I had an Uncle Vincent who was a retired Air Force colonel. When I visited him in Vermont, he would throw me in the right seat of a Beech Bonanza. He taught me a lot about flying. I had no idea how lucky I was. We lost him in 1989, but before he died, he made me promise that I would get my pilot’s license. I got it in 1991 and I have been an active pilot ever since.
Flying sounds like a real passion of yours.
It is. There are some people who get into flying because they want to get from point A to point B faster. There are other pilots who do it because they are fascinated by it. They enjoy it as a hobby. That’s me.
What is the appeal of the vintage planes?
At a point you realize that the state of the art in flying today was built on these planes that came before and each one is interesting and colorful in its own way. Getting the opportunity to log time in World War II vintage planes is also a way of connecting with my uncle and experiencing what he went through. I miss him.
For someone used to being on the go constantly, life in the pandemic world must be quite a change.
It is strange. I used to leave Sunday night or early Monday morning and come back home on Friday. That all came to a crashing halt. Now I am at home and work virtually. The transition has gone well thanks to our technology team at Alger. There has also been an unexpected upside: my children—one is a college student, the other graduated and was recently hired in a lab at Dana Farber’s cancer research center—have been at home and I have seen more of them than I have in the last five years. This is probably the last time we will have them here. It has been great to have our kids around.
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