Lifetime employment

Written by John Osbon on January 2, 2013

Some people want to work forever. I’m one of them. In investment management, a field where jumping from firm to firm in search of higher compensation is the accepted norm, lifetime employment is the rare exception. With all my job changes behind me, I intend to spend the rest of my career working hard at Osbon Capital. I think that’s a big plus for our clients. Here’s why.

Seize the “C’s”

I’ve noted before how the revolving door at most investment firms conspires against the best interests of clients (see “Your advisor is moving. Should you, too?”). Lifetime employment has the opposite result: strong, honest, lasting relationships; shared values; aligned interests.

Think about the drivers of investment performance: compounding, continuity, consistency. And the qualities of a true trusted advisor: clarity, conviction, and constancy. When your investment advisor is committed to you and your family for the long term, you get all these valuable C’s. 

The 100-year timeframe

My own investment timeframe is very simple:  I am investing the family money for our children’s grandchildren, or for about 100 years. There’s no short-term portfolio tinkering or market timing with that time horizon. Not all of our clients are looking out 100 years, but still, we are all focused on long-term goals, not the next quarterly report.

I believe everyone benefits when an advisor is working toward long-term client goals rather than trying to build his resume for his next job change. Being a top performer at a Wall Street firm generally means being the best salesperson, not the best advisor. When that’s your mindset (and compensation plan), you just can’t give all your attention to clients.

Be like Buffett

I want to be like Warren Buffett. Not because he can buy small countries with petty cash, but because he’s 82 years old and still at it! This yields lots of advantages for his investors:

  • He’s obviously not in it for his own short-term wealth, but to build a company that benefits thousands of investors over many generations.
  • With 60+ years of experience, he’s seen it all. He’s not distracted by day-to-day market peaks and valleys or the latest hot IPO.
  • Through his experience he knows there’s a big difference between “successful” and “perfect,” and only strives to be the former.  This is definitely a lifetime employment viewpoint, one that I strongly share.

Will I someday be 82 and still at it? I hope so. There are many twists and turns along the path of lifetime employment, and many things have to go right.  At the top of the list, of course, is health.  Operating an investment management firm requires daily judgment, discipline and clear thinking, all wonderful consequences of excellent physical and mental health.  And that’s why I love the daily physical life – basketball, yoga, splitting wood, snowboarding, decathlon – anything that keeps the body in tune with the mind.  The activities have changed over the years – no more football – but the benefits have not.

The next generation starts now

It will be some time before the next Osbon generation works full time for Osbon Capital, if they should wish to. Of course, regular readers may have already noted the research contributions of our son, Max.  Max is 24 and has recently left his job at Bloomberg to travel the world for a year on his own dime.  You can read about what he is doing at www.neverinamerica.com. He will continue to do special projects for us even though he is on the other side of the world.

Our 13 year-old seventh grade daughter, Victoria, has her own priorities.  She is lobbying heavily right now to skip eighth grade entirely and proceed directly to Beverly High School next Fall. She knows to make this happen she has to post top performance numbers (grades) and go to summer school as well, so we’ll see.  I like the ambition, which she also displays on the basketball court.  She never met a shot she didn’t like.

Built to last

Regular readers also know that we indexers do not predict.  Instead, we plan carefully. We focus on things we can control. We ignore those we can’t, like future prices or political events.  I won’t predict the future of Osbon Capital, either.  I will say that Osbon Capital is built to last 100 years and will remain a 100 percent family-owned firm unless or until it can’t. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to that lifetime employment to find out what happens next! It’s good for clients and it’s good for us.


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