We recently sat down with Ed Dobranetski, a Managing Director at Chevy Chase Trust, to learn more about his background and how he became interested in investment management.
What was your first job out of college?
My career started near the trough of a business cycle, so securing anything to do with financial markets was important to me. I started as a broker, purely in sales, so I could take the Series 7 exam and have something to differentiate myself. I did various other odd jobs that young people do while they seek opportunities. I washed windows at the Watergate once, for example.
How did you become interested in investment management?
Beginning college as a Political Science major, I changed to Business after a friend convinced me to compete in a national investment challenge game for college students. Other students from my school won by a large margin, so I sought them out to learn what they did. Consequently, I learned everything I could about Options trading that summer and earned all my spending money for the rest of my college days from a few hundred dollars. The next semester I took a class in Futures and Commodities Trading, and passed the appropriate registration exam over winter break. The following semester I started a “Hedge Fund” in the dorm. It was a rollercoaster ride, but fun. In the end, we only had enough for a very small cocktail party.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
What I enjoy most is working in the financial markets, and with clients. It is one of the world’s great laboratories for studying strategy. Every day the landscape changes in some way.
What is the most important lesson you learned from a mentor?
I learned to manage with sincerity. Most of our clients are experts in a field other than investment management. In most cases, all of their savings are in our hands, and they trust us with the latitude appropriate for an expert. Trust and loyalty are a two way street; we both have obligations in the relationship.
And also: “If something said in ten words can be said in five; use five words.” I am still working on that one.
What would you do if not this? Otherwise, I probably would have had a military career, who knows? I have never considered anything else.
What is your favorite place to visit/vacation?
Fifteen years ago, I heard one of my favorite economist/strategists speak about investing in China when it was still very, very early in evolving. He said: “you can’t sit here in your fancy country club and buy ETFs – you have to go there.” I have probably been to Asia fifteen times since, and plan to retire there. We would go to Japan every year, but the dynamic stillness is too intense.
What advice would you give to someone considering a path similar to yours?
We are asked that question a lot. Getting paid to pick stocks is a desirable career, but it’s more than that. I am still learning. It has been almost thirty years in the same industry; if I make it to fifty, I may have it figured out. My advice: Empty your cup and find a good teacher to work for; that is the most important thing.