We recently sat down with Tapfuma Chibaya, a Portfolio Manager and Thematic Research Analyst at Chevy Chase Trust, to learn more about his background and what he enjoys most about his career.
Give us a brief rundown of a typical day for you at Chevy Chase Trust.
I arrive around 8:30 am, before the markets open at 9:30. This gives me time to go through emails and news, and catch up on anything that may have happened overnight. Since we invest internationally, lots can happen overnight.
After that, the first half of my morning is typically research. Checking any new articles that provide new waves of thought that may affect what we are doing here investment wise. Other than these important aspects of my day, it is hard to define a typical day, because there are often many different projects going on at once.
In summation, what is your responsibility for Chevy Chase Trust?
To put it simply– my job is to come up with good, investable ideas for Chevy Chase Trust, that will ultimately help our clients meet their investment objectives.
I compile materials to build a case for each idea and then try to convince our research team that it is worthwhile. The best way to do this is just keeping an ear to the ground. I pay attention to all of the trends and have to stay ahead of what’s currently happening.
Tell me a little about your background.
I grew up in Zimbabwe, in a very small community. There were no more than 5,000 people. My dad worked in a mining plant, and that plant was essentially the center of all activity in our town. The plant shut down, but I was fortunate enough to have two working parents, and my mom, a teacher, basically became the breadwinner.
I attribute all of my success to my parents. They made sure to send me and my siblings to great schools, even at a sacrifice to themselves. Education was highly valued by my family, and I benefitted as a result. While still in high school I caught a lucky break, and I was given the opportunity to come to America.
Did you go to college here?
I went to college in Middlebury, Vermont through a program sponsored by the American Embassy in Zimbabwe. The program sought out students who showed promise and assisted us in the entire college application process. They even helped us determine the best schools to apply to, based on tuition assistance knowing that was something we would need. Each year roughly 20-30 students go through the program, and I was fortunate enough to be one of them.
What was college like for you?
Middlebury is a small liberal arts college, and I really enjoyed my time there. I majored in economics, but liberal arts was a new concept for me. In Zimbabwe, you specialize as early as high school, so I had already been on the business track for a few years. In the liberal arts setting, I was taking all kinds of classes… different types of history and music, etc. It was such an interesting experience for me, and if I had to do it all over again, I absolutely would.
I was able to pick up some critical thinking skills that many people may underestimate, and I have an understanding of such a wide range of topics now, thanks to my college studies.
Any courses you had to take that you surprised yourself by really liking?
I ended up taking Spanish to nearly the highest level. There aren’t many African countries that speak Spanish!
What was your first job after college?
My first real job after college was as an equity research analyst at Credit Suisse, which I suppose explains why I am sitting in this seat today. It’s where I cut my teeth in the industry.
Coming out of college I did want to be an investment banker. My finance professor was a former investment banker, and it was such a highly sought after career. I was enamored with the idea of it. But, as an international student, there were limitations on my job opportunities. It came down to finding a company where I fit, but who was also willing to sponsor me as an immigrant.
Did you enjoy the research side more than you expected?
I really did! It is so intellectual and I value that a lot. You can take the research wherever you want. Equity market research specifically fascinates me because it’s all public information—everyone has access to it, so it comes down to piecing together all of these individual parts to establish and support your ideas – i.e. the mosaic theory.
After three years at Credit Suisse, I did test the waters as an investment banker but ultimately decided to come back to research. I personally found it a better fit and more intellectually stimulating for myself.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
Reading and learning new things. I try to learn something new every day or to enhance the knowledge that I already have.
What do you enjoy most about working at Chevy Chase Trust?
The people–especially the team I work on. I can see that my ideas are heard and that my work is valued. Chevy Chase Trust is unlike any place I have ever worked before. There’s also so much room for growth here—career-wise and as a person. It’s really a special place.
What is the best lesson you’ve learned over your career?
Do your work 100%, 100% of the time. Whether you have a small assignment that you feel is a waste of your time, or a big project that you feel will get you noticed. Do your work to the best of your abilities always. Don’t worry about who’s noticing, someone is always noticing.
What is your favorite thing to read outside of work?
Give me a John Grisham book, and I will read it front to back in one sitting!
Tell us about how you spend your time outside of work.
I spend a lot of time with my wife, checking out new restaurants or cooking ourselves. I also love to play soccer and am on a team nearby. Recently, I have been spending a lot of time in the gym just to stay healthy and mentally focused!