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I graduated early because I was curious, excited to see what I could do.”
Edward Minn has an insatiable hunger to learn. That curiosity explains why he graduated from Duke in just two and a half years and why he frequently attends lunch and learns hosted by Boston-based businesses. "I have to eat anyway, so I might as well do it listening to a company talk about their business," he explains. His family shares his passion for learning. He met his wife, originally from Bulgaria, when they were both pursuing their MBA degrees at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Their two daughters now enjoy speaking Bulgarian at home and spending Saturdays taking supplementary math courses. Ed brings that same intellectual hunger to finding promising stocks at Weatherbie Capital, a subsidiary of Alger, where he is a portfolio manager.
I gather you spent quite a bit of your childhood overseas.
I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia. My dad worked for an international construction company. We lived on a compound, which was a neighborhood with expatriate families from all around the world. We came back to California for a while and then on the first day of my high school sophomore year my folks told me we were moving to Jakarta, Indonesia, where I spent the next three years.
Coming back to the United States for college at Duke University must have been quite a change for you.
It was. It was the first time in my life that I actually could choose which classes to take. Instead of taking four classes each semester I took five or six. I graduated early because I was curious, excited to see what I could do.
It sounds like you were equally relentless when you decided to pursue a career in finance.
It’s true. I became a CPA (certified public accountant), a CFA (certified financial analyst) charterholder, a CVA (certified valuation analyst) and a CFE (certified fraud examiner). I kept collecting certificates. There might be one or two others I can’t remember.
Technology is one of the fields you follow at Weatherbie as part of your research responsibilities. What makes that an interesting area for a stockpicker?
Tech is a fantastic sector to cover. The companies are different so you can find unique firms with a competitive edge that enables them to outdo their rivals. You can find businesses with exposure to secular tailwinds like the shift to cloud computing. There is also tremendous innovation going on, which can be game changing.
What’s appealing about the smaller stocks that your team focuses on?
I think there is more opportunity in the smaller cap space because these companies aren’t quite as well followed. You get a bit better access to management. They’re often earlier in their life cycle so sometimes they are simply not yet discovered by the market. So, I think it’s a more ripe area to add value as an active money manager. I’ve seen a lot of amazing entrepreneurial stories.
How do you and your team find investment ideas?
It is a collaborative approach. We usually write up a 20-page report on a company we find compelling and pitch it to the rest of the team. Then we sit around a table and discuss the idea: the pros and cons. People can be skeptical at first. They are not afraid to tear apart the thesis. Usually the analyst pitching the idea has to go back and do more work to answer the questions the team has posed. The criticism isn’t personal. At the end of the day, we enjoy the process and each other’s company.
What makes your job exciting, something you look forward to doing every day?
It goes back to the learning experience, which never ends in this job. I meet a lot of company founders and I love hearing about their journeys, what they are doing, what innovations they are bringing to society.
You seem particularly taken with the stories of the people behind the companies.
I recently read a biography of Jeff Bezos of Amazon. I read another one about startups like Uber and Airbnb and the paths their creators followed. I have heard a lot of amazing entrepreneurial stories from all the companies that come through Boston. It is incredible to me that so many of them have been created since I graduated from business school in 2008. It is not that long ago. Maybe in a different life I would have been an entrepreneur at a startup trying "to put a dent in the universe."
Your wife also works in the investment field, but clearly she got there following a very different path.
That’s right. She was born and raised in Bulgaria and came here on a math scholarship for college. She came to the U.S. with one suitcase and about $3000. She had never been on a plane. I’m really proud of her life’s journey.
And your young daughters have inherited the math gene?
Our Saturdays revolve around math school. Each of the girls attends class for two hours and there is homework on top of that. But they like it. They are happy to learn each week. I’d love for my kids to pursue occupations with a secular tailwind behind them–not jobs that will disappear because a robot can do them.
And your children also speak Bulgarian, correct?
My wife speaks only Bulgarian to the children. They are citizens of both the U.S. and Bulgaria. My in-laws from Bulgaria spend several months with us in the spring and then when school is over, they take both girls back with them for the summer. My father-in-law built a cabin there in the mountains. It is the kind of place where you get your milk from the lady down the street who owns a cow. It is a very different cultural experience.
Do you visit them?
We spend a couple weeks in Bulgaria with my wife’s family each year. We think of Boston as being an historical city, but when we visit castles and monasteries in Bulgaria that date back to the 12th century, the experience is eye-opening. Learning about history provides perspective on the rapid pace of innovation in modern times.
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