Continue Learning and Keep On Networking [21 Dec 08]

Two months ago, I wrote a piece on “my experience on networking events…” (click here) which received good support from friends on both the sell-side and buy-side. Recently, somebody (who’s not in the finance industry yet) wrote to me that he “takes networking with a lighter heart these days since networks easily fade as time passes. In this age of hire-and-fire and job-hopping, business cards easily become obsolete in a matter of months.”

He has a point there, but we must be mindful not to stretch this argument too far, such that we feel networking is no longer important/useful in this age when people come and go quickly.

I will use learning, networking and asset mgt as examples to illustrate how important it is to maintain and upgrade these efforts on an ongoing basis… and persevere to ride through difficulties along the way.

Learning: I completed the CFA Program last year… but does learning stop here?  Of course NOT! That’s why CFA Institute has this continual education thingy, and we are encouraged to attend luncheon talks organised by CFA Singapore as part of continual education. As the Chinese saying goes “求学如逆水行舟,不进则退” (Learning is like sailing against the current such that one is either moving forward or sliding backward), we will slide backward and lag behind the day we stop learning. Hence, everybody must continue learning.

Networking: For networking, my friend is right in pointing out that business cards easily become obsolete in a matter of months. In fact, it can happen in a matter of 2-3 weeks, with some cards I collected during my Beijing trip in early Nov

This simply means that in order to stay afloat, we need to grow our personal networks more quickly than the natural attrition rate. Contrary to what my friend suggests (i.e. sit back and relax), one needs to be more proactive to ensure personal networks do not fade over time.

Asset Mgt: We know that in the realm of investing, real return = nominal return – expected inflation, hence real return will always be less than nominal return as long as expected inflation is positive. In a hyper-inflationary environment, we find our real return (from our investments) quickly eroded by high inflation, so does that mean fund managers can sit back and relax and invest clients’ money with a lighter heart just because returns would be quickly eroded by inflation anyways??

In fact, they need to work harder to survive… coz fund managers are paid to do their best to maximize clients’ assets per unit risk they take. [Happy to learn from you folks who are most likely more expert than me]

It is obvious that in this period when we encounter difficulties in what we do (whether learning, networking or asset mgt), we need to have perseverance to maximize our chances of success. As we look back at 2008, may we bring forward this spirit of continual learning and ongoing networking to the new year.

Wish you all merry Xmas and happy New Year!

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