An interview with David Kaczorowski, MBA, Adjunct Professor of Finance in the Ageno School of Business
Would you please tell us your professional experience and what you teach?
After getting my undergraduate degree in finance at Boston College, I worked in actuarial analysis at Liberty Mutual Insurance. It was a great job, just not for me. So I went back to school for an MBA at Yale University and transitioned into the investments industry. After school, I spent five years in the investment banking industry working as a capital markets equity analyst. Those are the people who publish reports on stocks and rate them buy/sell/hold. After that, I spent two years managing a private portfolio for an individual investor, called a family office. Around that time I started teaching in the Master of Science in Finance at GGU, and now I do it full time. I teach Portfolio Management, Investments, and Derivatives at GGU.
Why do you like teaching?
What I like most about teaching is bringing practicality to the classroom. When I was in school some of the material I learned was very useful, some not so much. Now, after seven years in the industry, I have a decent idea of which concepts are used in investing and which ones rarely leave the textbook. The most satisfying part of teaching for me is to say to a class: “Now listen up, this is how it’s really done.” That’s something I think GGU does better than most. We’re located right next to the financial district and most of our teachers are working professionals. When students come here they expect a close connection to the real world. It’s something I wish I had when I was in school, and I’m really excited to bring it here.
I have a decent idea of which concepts are used in investing and which ones rarely leave the textbook. The most satisfying part of teaching for me is to say to a class: “Now listen up, this is how it’s really done.” That’s something I think GGU does better than most.
What do prospective students most want to know when they are considering a Finance career?
Many of them just want to understand what careers are available. In my field, in particular, students often come to me for help because they’ve done stock picking for a personal account, find it intellectually rewarding, and want to do it as a career. Most don’t really know what careers are out there, how they differ, and how to get them. Personally, I think that’s the whole point of grad school. Students have a few years in the working world and know enough to understand the areas that excite them, and so they go back to school to refine the road map.
What skills are needed for a finance career?
I might not have thought this when I was a student, but the business school core classes go a long way in a financial career. That goes especially for statistics and accounting, both hard-to-learn subjects but very useful in the real world. Just the other night I was having dinner with a friend who works in the financial industry, and we dug into how the interest rate environment will impact the Sharpe ratio of the fund he manages. It was right out of a textbook.
Communication is also extremely important, both in front of a crowd and one-on-one. Investment banks and hedge funds are famous for having a lot of strong personalities. It makes life a whole lot easier if you have the skill to, as they say, “tell someone to go to hell in such a way as to make them think they’ll enjoy the trip.”
We’re located right next to the financial district and most of our teachers are working professionals. When students come here they expect a close connection to the real world. It’s something I wish I had when I was in school, and I’m really excited to bring it here.
What are the upsides and downsides of the career?
As with most careers, the people you work with are a major part of the job. In my time in the business, I’ve known a few truly impressive minds: people I like to call “stock whisperers.” Getting to know them and watching them work has been a great part of the job. Hopefully a little of that skill rubs off. As for the downside, I’ll go back to what I said about strong personalities. Finance can be really fascinating stuff, but some jobs have a whole lot of grunt work, stuff that isn’t why you got into the business. The stereotype about working oppressive hours is true, and it’s no fun.
How should people decide where to apply for jobs in Finance?
I always tell students to keep an open mind about the next step in your career and don’t get too focused on one particular job. Who knows, you might take a detour that you end up liking more. At the moment, wealth management and real estate finance jobs are in demand, and equity analysis is less in favor. That doesn’t mean you should tailor your career to what gets you a job at this exact moment, but we have to skate to the puck. If you find yourself going down the wrong road on a career you don’t love, switch. Don’t waste your time.
What are misconceptions are there about the Finance field?
I personally have some political frustration about how our industry is viewed by the rest of the world. We in finance are too often seen as the evil empire. The fact is, finance and investing serve a vital need in the economy. Also, the reputation for being a cutthroat industry isn’t always accurate either. Out here in the Bay Area, there is a general attitude of cooperation, and that permeates into the industry. The finance industry here has a strong connection to Silicon Valley, and it adopts some of the same habits of collaboration and innovation.
Sadly, the stereotype is true that there are few women in the industry. In the local CFA Society there are 3,500 charter holders and only about a quarter of them are women. I never really knew why that is, but I hope it changes sooner than later. “Doctor Who” is a woman now, so anything is possible.
I always tell students to keep an open mind about the next step in your career, and don’t get too focused on one particular job. Who knows, you might take a detour that you end up liking more.
How do you start networking for a finance career?
Networking is definitely helpful. The industry runs on relationships and having the right ones can make a big difference. Many local professional organizations, like the CFA Society, hold events that are open to the public. I’ve met all sorts of interesting people at those events who become good friends. Another element to launching a career is doing it for yourself. A public speaker I once heard said about being a writer: “If you want to write, then write.” When I started in equity analysis I opened a personal investment account and bought stocks for myself. I kept clear notes and models that supported my positions and stood ready to talk with anyone about them. If you want to do any career you don’t have to wait for the job, you can do it today. If you want to invest, then invest.
What should prospective MBAs consider when selecting a specific graduate program?
This is a tough one. When I chose my program the biggest criterion was the personality of the school. Schools like Harvard and Wharton are great, but they weren’t for me. My class at Yale was full of misfits. There was a merchant marine, a rape counselor, a stealth bomber pilot, lots of really interesting people. I learned more from them over bad Chinese food than I did in the classroom. That’s why the campus visit is crucial. You have to go there and see the place for yourself, talk to the students and professors, and ask yourself whether you feel at home on an emotional level. It can be really hard to determine that, and a person can only visit so many schools, so it takes some luck to find one that really resonates.
About David Kaczorowski, MBA
Dave (David) Kaczorowski has worked in finance for more than 13 years. An experienced investment manager of private and family office portfolios, he has investment expertise in all the five major asset classes and experience in the holistic management of a family office. His most recent position was as the primary investment manager for a highly diversified family office portfolio. Prior to that position, he spent five years in the investment banking industry as an equity research associate, covering technology companies. His resume in the industry includes Signal Hill Capital, Wedbush Securities, and Stifel Financial. He also spent seven years as a financial analyst in the actuarial department of Liberty Mutual Insurance Group. He is a CFA charter holder.