This question was raised first by Thomas Barry, CEO & Founder of Zephyr management, in his presentation in our finance and consultation week of the NYC module. And a day later, the same questioned was raised by Steve Ibac who worked for 16 years in Credit Suisse trying to figure out what will be the next rising tide that will change the future of finance?! A question that I never thought about it before throughout my 10 years journey in the financial sector.
Our finance and consultation week started by visiting Zephyr Wealth Management and meeting with its founder both Mr. Thomas Barry & Jim Awad and listening to their success stories in Wall St. for me their presentations were more about the wisdom from their life lessons than their investment strategies in Emerging markets. I was impressed by Mr. Barry’s story and how taking a job in Chile in his second year of school and turned his life upside down. Prior to founding Zephyr, Mr. Barry was President and CEO of Rockefeller & Co., the investment management arm of the Rockefeller family, from 1983 to 1993. Previously, Mr. Barry was employed by T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. from 1969 to 1982. Among other responsibilities, he was President of T. Rowe Price New Horizons Funds, Inc. Mr. Barry received an MBA from Harvard Business School in 1969 and an undergraduate degree from Yale University in 1966 where he majored in Latin American Studies. He is also a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA).
Mr. Barry highlighted the fact that it is important for oneself to follow his/her heart. He quoted Steve jobs saying “follow your heart and do something you are passionate about because it is only later you’ll look back and be able to connect the dots”. This is when it all sounds like a plan afterwards. And I was happy to relate to this advice as it has always been my life motto. He mentioned how working in Brazil and Japan made him interested in multi culture and ethnicity of business which was a reason for him later in life to be interested in exploring and investing in Emerging Markets and design investment products based on it. He also mentioned how he was interested in Dipolmacy and work for the US state department and how his rejection turned to be a tremendous piece of luck in his life. At this moment I recalled this quote saying “Rejection is God’s way for saying wrong direction”.
Mr. Barry also provided us with tips on his investment strategies and his decision making process. When he looks at emerging markets to make his investment decisions, he basically doesn’t look for the best among these markets. However, he searches for the market that can offer the best opportunity relative to the competition and the highest margin.
On the other hand, Jim Awad his cofounder and the Managing director of Zephyr Management stressed on the importance of the hard work and some luck to succeed in life. I see Mr. Awad’s story very inspiring as he grew up in an ethnic Syrian& Lebanese family in Brooklyn with Arabic roots. His father was a self-made businessman who invested his money in stock market and this is how Mr. Awad knew that he wanted to go to the financial markets and be part of it. He started as an intern from high school in research departments and later he worked in Wall Street as securities analyst. However, his heart was telling him to follow his passion and move into the money management part of stock market. And so he got his first job in NY to actually manage portfolios however the market was very bearish at that time. After his boss got fired, he ended up managing the fund instead and with a lot of hard work and fair amount of luck he ended up having the number 3 small-cap fund in the country in 1971 with an article in NYTimes. Later in his life, Mr. Awad decided to take his first entrepreneurial exercise and start a brokerage firm with friends and started a money management division first then a firm as a subsidy of this brokerage firm where he managed to raise $800 million from private investors, pension funds, private equity funds, and again some hard work and a lot of luck. It was a small-cap fund at a time when small-cap were smoky. Finally, Mr. Awad partnered again with his lifetime friend Mr. Barry in his Emerging Market Fund Management firm and started a wealth management platform with $300 million under management.
In 1994, Zephyr management and Tom moved from international markets to emerging markets with its inevitability of the higher economic growth. they explained how business people of blue chips were interested to go to emerging markets and develop products, distribution however investors never thought about this opportunity and that’s where zephyr management decided to go after.
“The rising tides take all the boats” Mr. Barry said. He also stressed on the importance of predicting what is going to be the rising tide of the new generation? He explained that in the 1990s zephyr thought the rising tide was emerging markets and this is how they managed to position themselves as first movers and take advantage of the rapid growing markets. He advised that it is smart to position yourself in a high growth area as this way you position yourself to be lucky.