Profiles in Success
Back to Profiles in Success landing page
In high school I visited Europe for the first time. It opened up an entirely new world for me.”
Greg Jones was always interested in life outside the United States. When he was in high school, his grandfather, a renowned scholar of early English literature with an extensive network throughout the United Kingdom, took him on a month-long trip to England and Scotland that he never forgot. "It was my first time visiting Europe. It opened up a world I had never been exposed to" he said. After college Greg pursued careers in the Foreign Service, the CIA, and the World Bank. But the fact that he wound up as an investor specializing in international stocks owed more to good luck than good planning. The bank he worked for needed someone to assist in managing a small pool of global money, and he had just arrived with the right background and skills. Greg has spent his career looking for good investments overseas and today he does that as a portfolio manager at Alger. When he isn’t at work you can find him pursuing his other passions: skiing and mountain biking.
Do you have successful businesspeople in your family?
One of my grandfathers was a department store executive in the Midwest. My father went to Harvard Business School and worked in marketing. He was a key executive that helped develop Avon’s business model during its high growth years in the ‘60s and ‘70s. My mother ran her own antiques and gifts business that survived for an extremely long period of time.
Who got you interested in the stock market?
My mother’s father introduced me to stocks when I was very young–maybe 10 or 11–and I started reading the stock pages, which sounds rather nerdy. My grandfather chose the stocks and told me to focus on truly great companies, the leaders.
Is it fair to say you stumbled into your career as an international investor?
Sometimes it is better to be lucky than smart. My arrival at the bank where I began my career coincided with its desire to expand into investing in international equities. Having lived in Austria and Germany during my college years, studied international economics and international political science, and being conversationally competent in French and German, I was asked to join the new effort to help manage about $50 million. The year I started, 1985, was an extraordinarily good year for international securities. I also had some pretty good success in Japan, which was critically important.
What do you like about your job?
Every day is a challenge. There is never a boring day. There is the intellectual challenge of trying to determine what makes a company and an industry tick and trying to see if you can develop a differentiated view. What more can you ask for?
What qualities do you need to be successful as an investor?
You need persistence to gather all the information and determination to check all the boxes. You also need skepticism. Human nature is what it is, which means company management will more often than not be more optimistic about the future than reality suggests. You hear a lot of good marketing pitches. You have to strip away the fluff and look at what the company can truly accomplish. A wise person I worked with once told me often our job is to say “no.”
As a money manager you will be wrong at times. How do you deal with that?
You don’t get emotionally involved with a company or a stock. You have to recognize your mistake, that a company has failed to meet your expectations, and exit as quickly as possible. That can be hard because after a stock has underperformed you freeze and think, “Well it’s going to rebound and things are going to get better.” It’s better to acknowledge the mistake and move on. There are lots of good companies to own.
What do you do outside the office?
Our family is pretty active and we enjoy skiing together. My wife and I once took a two-month trip to Europe and we spent two weeks in Austria skiing. I introduced my children to skiing there. In the U.S., I am a huge fan of Alta in Utah. It’s exhilarating; it’s beautiful and the snow is fantastic. Now, we ski near Lake Tahoe. We also like to go road biking and hiking.
I gather more recently you have become a big fan of mountain biking as well.
I fell in love with mountain biking when I moved to California in 2011. Now, I move back and forth between New York City and San Francisco. When I am in San Francisco, I join a group on Sunday mornings for a three- or four-hour ride. It’s physically challenging. We push ourselves hard but it’s fun.
Is there a social side to it?
Definitely. There is a fantastic dynamic. When you are going uphill on a fire trail, you are traveling at a pretty slow speed. You can have really long and deep conversations and we do. The people I ride with were acquaintances at first but they have become close friends. None of them do what I do. There are a couple of doctors, a real estate investor, a mortgage broker, and a few entrepreneurs. They are from all different walks of life, which makes it both fun and interesting.
You travel a lot for business. Is it different when you travel for fun?
Absolutely. The whole speed and cadence are different. When my wife and I travel, we aren’t looking to stay at a business hotel. Sometimes we will do an Airbnb. I also do some of my best thinking on the airplane during long trips; that’s time when, if well spent, you can sort of think in a 360-degree manner.
If you hadn’t been a money manager, what would you have done?
I think that I would’ve enjoyed working at the State Department, the CIA or the World Bank. I might have pursued a career in education. Teaching and lecturing still interests me. Finally, I’ve always had an interest in politics, but I feel fortunate that I did not choose that as a vocation.
Read More >
Greg's Thought Leadership Content