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Investment professionals who teach are not motivated by pay, but they often gain in other ways.


Key Points

  • Teaching alongside your professional career demands special commitment and may require a supportive employer.
  • Some professionals teach to improve financial literacy as well as to help others learn more about investment careers.
  • Formal teaching roles aren’t the only way to get involved in education. Other activities, such as the CFA Institute Research Challenge, give professionals opportunities to share knowledge or serve as mentors.

Introduction

Moving from active investment management to academia is often seen as a pre-retirement or retirement career move, but charterholders who take this step have diverse approaches, timing, and motivations for heading to the classroom.

Some want to give back to the community or society early on in their careers. Others want time and space to pursue their own intellectual interests or build up an independent investment consulting business while being employed in academia. Still others feel inspired by interaction with students.

CFA Institute Magazine spoke with five charterholders in the US, Europe, and Asia, as well as one top business school, about how, why, where, and when to take your career academic.

Most charterholders said full- and part-time academic life is much more demanding than it appears. Frank Manziano, CFA, an instructor in New Jersey, said, “I was working harder my first three or four years in teaching than in finance. I thought I was going to be doing a downshift, but I was rudely awakened right away.”

Several charterholders spoke about beneficial crossover effects from teaching courses part-time while remaining in investment management, including being able to help your firm find talented interns or young hires and impressing clients with an academic title.

But let it be known: Across the board, charterholders said their move to academia certainly wasn’t motivated by the pay. On the contrary, they all had some other reason to teach, such as a desire to share their knowledge or a joy of mentoring.

Here are highlights from each conversation.

"When You Teach, You Learn"

Eric Sim, CFA, grew up in Singapore as the son of a noodle vendor. On weekends and holidays, he had to help at his father’s stand. Now an accomplished investment professional and lecturer at multiple universities in Asia, Sim says he spent many years trying to compensate for what he saw as a lack of knowledge. “I had an inferiority complex,” Sim said.

His tactic was to learn as broadly as possible. During his studies, Sim was enrolled for an engineering degree but also took fine art classes. And then he asked himself, “Why not become a banker?” Along the way somewhere, Sim fell in love with learning itself. “It is so enjoyable and fulfilling. It’s one reason I have a broad career and can talk to a wide variety of people.”

Eventually, Sim discovered his inner teacher: “The joy of learning really kept me going. I thought the best way to share it was to teach. Immediately when I learn something, I try to find somebody to teach it to.”

Following that urge, Sim lined up multiple opportunities to teach. He lectures at Renmin University in Beijing and one of the world’s most prestigious scholarship programs, Schwarzman Scholars, housed in Tsinghua University. Sim is also an adjunct associate professor of finance at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. 

Sim works to expose his students to senior finance professionals and vice versa, when investment professionals are looking for teaching opportunities. For instance, last year, Sim invited a high-level investment manager to speak to his students at his class at National University of Singapore. “I got to know a Singapore-based fund manager who is managing 9 billion US dollars and had an interest in teaching but didn’t know where to start,” Sim said. “For the students, it was a great chance to hear from a chief investment officer, and the CIO got a taste of academic life.”

Teaching alongside your regular work requires a strong commitment, Sim said. He was working at the investment banking division of UBS in Hong Kong while teaching an occasional class in Beijing at Renmin University. Sim would fly to Beijing four Saturdays each year to teach a Sunday course and fly back to Hong Kong the same evening. “I was able to manage my time and commit myself to the teaching, despite running deals, though one boss suggested I was moonlighting,” he said.

Other bosses at other banks were supportive, saying Sim’s positions as a lecturer put the bank in a good light. And when the bank needed interns, Sim became the go-to person, he said.

Sim believes his teaching experience has benefited his banking work, not just the other way around. “I deal with a lot of Chinese clients, and they respect teachers a lot. When they see me, they don’t see me as a banker. They see me as a lecturer, a professor. You win trust and build rapport very quickly,” said Sim. “Sometimes my clients attend my lectures; I ask them to speak to the students from a client perspective about what they look for in an investment banker. I want my students to get the client perspective.”

Sim also teaches career and soft skills to his students at the Institute of Life, a company he founded in 2016. He is concerned about reaching as many people as possible. “Education is supposed to level the playing field, but I see education is becoming a social divide,” he said. That’s one reason Sim is expanding his teaching by lecturing via LinkedIn. “I am putting together a group of senior bankers who want to share and young people who are my LinkedIn followers,” he says. “My dream is to teach 10 million people.”

"Go into This with Open Eyes"

Bill McGinnis, CFA, a career strategist and consultant, as well as a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is skeptical about the realities of full-time academic life, with its budget constraints, teaching appraisals, and organizational politics. He said, “I have seen a number of investment professionals in their 40s and 50s who worked like a dog and then decided they want to do something more tangibly fulfilling. They often have the impression that academia is less rigorous than investing, but I’m not sure that’s necessarily true,” said McGinnis.

McGinnis teaches a course on investment ethics and standards of practice, incorporating stories from his own career as a buy- and sell-side analyst, as well as from his ongoing work as an expert witness. “I want to be sure students understand that ethics and standards of practice are not simple black and white matters. Sometimes students can be quite naive on the topic. I put a lot of thought into how material can best be presented so students will have a tangible grasp of the realities when they go out into the workforce.”

As a career strategist and consultant, McGinnis cautions investment professionals interested in academia to beware of the “grass is always greener” phenomenon and, even if they have a doctorate, consider how difficult it is to get tenure-track positions. This can result in being assigned only a course or two, rather than a full-time load. On the flip side, if investment professionals do get a full-time position, as the new person on board they may be assigned an unusually heavy teaching load, he said.

“It’s important to go into this with open eyes and consider everything, including grading responsibilities, grade inflation, and how much control you will have over how things are done and the curriculum,” McGinnis said.

Despite his cautionary tales, McGinnis said teaching at the college level can be exceptionally rewarding. “It can provide different intellectual challenges than investment management and be an exciting shift to make,” he said. “It can be the perfect fit for the right person; you just need to figure out if you’re that right person.”

To make a smooth transition, McGinnis recommends teaching a class or two a year, beginning at least a couple years before you plan to make the move. Doing so can provide insight into the realities of academic life before actually taking the leap. More importantly, it allows you to develop relationships in the university that can make it easier to get a full-time position when you want it.

First, "Have Your Own Financial Plan in Place"

Matthias Meitner, CFA, a full-time professor at the International School of Management (ISM) in Munich, made a smooth transition from investment management to academia. Before he took to the lectern, he had already earned a PhD in equities valuation and began to teach occasional classes while working at Allianz Global Investors. Now Meitner uses semester breaks to run the independent investment consulting business he built up at the beginning of his professorship. He says he likes bringing in real-world stories to the classroom, and holding the title of professor sometimes helps him set better hourly rates for his consulting. Meitner’s title can also help him win certain projects for valuations. He said, “I’m not a better equities valuations guy because of my professor title. Nothing changed. But it seems to matter to some clients.”

Meitner says professionals interested in teaching should “have your own financial plan in place before quitting your investment job.” He had only been at Allianz for a few years when he began to plot his move to academia and consider how to make it a financially sound one. Meitner had been thinking about how to become more self-determined and independent in his work, and becoming a professor appealed to him.

Earlier, Meitner had consciously gotten off the academic track. In 2005, he had been working at an economic think tank and doing practical projects while writing his thesis. At the time, pursuing a career in academia seemed too risky, given the publishing requirements and a lack of chaired positions at universities.

Looking back, the move came at the right time because Meitner was gainfully employed in academia but also had the time to set up his current investment practice. “Building up a consulting business takes longer than you think,” Meitner said.

ISM occasionally hires practitioners without a doctorate to teach individual courses, but Meitner said that’s rarely the case in Germany. Although there’s a close link between academics and practice, particularly in fields like derivatives, a PhD is usually required, he said.

"Teaching Is Not a Downshift"

Frank Manziano, CFA, left a job in asset management at Hennion & Walsh in New Jersey about five years ago to become an economics, investing, and business administration teacher at a high school. At that time, he was in his mid-40s and getting the sense that investment management was a career for younger professionals. “There were a lot of people behind me who wanted to be portfolio managers. I was earning a decent amount of money, but I kind of felt unfulfilled.”

A friend showed Manziano around a high school, and he decided to make the switch. But soon enough his new reality became clearer. “Teaching is not a downshift,” he says. “I thought I would sort of waltz in there and teach the way I was taught, which was lecture style. Now, education has a lot more going on, such as the mode of instruction,” he said.

Manziano cautions that many people who enter teaching become burned out with the tough schedules and demands of the job, if their motivations are not strong enough or not the right ones. But after an initial investment in learning the ropes, the job does become easier and more enjoyable, he said.

Manziano sees advantages teaching high schoolers compared with university-level students because the jobs are simply easier to come by, teaching degrees are not always necessary, and long American summer breaks typically are not filled with summer semesters. Manziano also enjoys many chances to mentor students and connect with them.

"For the Benefit of Society"

Peter Maher, CFA, an assistant director and research and investment strategist at the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Philadelphia, teaches at the college level and works with children as young as third graders. It’s part of his commitment to sharing knowledge and, as he put it, “the joy of seeing the lightbulbs go on” for his students.

Maher has been involved in the U.S. Dream Academy, a non-profit serving at-risk children, for the past seven years, while also serving as an adjunct professor of finance at Jefferson University. He said, “As CFA Institute members, we’re required to raise our own competence and that of our peers in the industry, for the benefit of society as a whole.”

The U.S. Dream Academy works to help children with an incarcerated parent build skills, character, and dreams, Maher said. Part of the work includes bringing students to the workplace to give them an idea of what a day in the white-collar world looks like. “We want to show the children what’s attainable, since many of them don’t have the chance to see this through their families. The idea of working in an office setting is a truly foreign concept to many of the young people we work with.”

With his university-level students, Maher works to bring the reality of financial markets into the classroom, something he says he missed in his highly technical and theoretical formal education. “The theory is always going to be available. However, I focus the lectures and projects around what students will be facing in the investment world. We want to jump out of the textbook,” he said.

Maher has learned to communicate in a different way through his teaching work, he said. “You can’t just start at the top and ask for opinions. You have to frame the discussion and do so at the students’ level.” This point is an important part of what keeps Maher motivated and involved in teaching, he said. The practice he gets in bridging concepts and bringing them to life for his audience helps him speak to other non-finance people in and outside of the office. “It’s a real communication challenge–like walking a tightrope. Knowing the material and communicating the material effectively are two very different things,” Maher said.

Speaking of challenge, Maher found his current academic position through his involvement with the CFA Institute Research Challenge. Maher volunteered to lead CFA Society Philadelphia’s challenge and came into contact with many local academics. “In building those relationships, I was approached by some institutions about teaching opportunities. I recommend to other charterholders who would like to explore academia to volunteer as a professional mentor for the Research Challenge,” he said. “You will work with students on a research project that will be in line with what you will teach in an investment research or valuation course. It’s a terrific opportunity to give back and to test your intention to enter the classroom.”

"Think about What Motivates You"

Catherine Reynolds, a career consultant at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), recommends investment professionals who want to move into academia build experience prior to leaving their career. Some ways to make contacts within universities include sitting on their advisory boards, speaking on panels, and being willing to mentor current students, all of which will likely be unpaid, said Reynolds. From there, you may be able to throw your hat in the ring for a guest lectureship, which typically involves holding a single lecture.

Reynolds has worked with students pursuing a doctorate later in their careers and sees this as a good way to transition into academia. “People are doing PhDs during all stages of their lives. We have people in their 50s studying at LSE. During a PhD, you’ll also gain some teaching experience and start to have material that can be published in academic journals. These are the two key factors that influence successful applications for academic posts,” she said.

Those in part-time doctoral programs are often able to apply their studies in their work. Reynolds knows of a mid-career woman in investment banking who is doing this with her study of management theory and a man in his mid-40s working toward a PhD in statistics who is using the algorithms he’s studying for his work in wealth management.

Reynolds’ advice to those looking ahead to a career in academia is, “Do what you enjoy. Think about what motivates you and where your strengths are, and then play to those strengths. And consider a role such as a guest lectureship to test out academia before committing to it.”

About the Author

Rhea Wessel

Rhea Wessel is a freelance writer based in Frankfurt.