We were fortunate to spend some extended time traveling in New Zealand during the months of November and December in 2017. During our travels we met many locals including the native Maori people (Polynesian community of New Zealand). One of the common questions we were asked when we met a new person was “What’s your Story?”, instead of ‘where were you born’ or ‘where are you from’ or the dreaded ‘what do you do’ question which really means ‘I want to figure out how much money you make’ or ‘I want to know where you are on the economic totem pole’.
The question ‘What’s your story?’, is an elegant way of getting to know someone by giving them the choice of what they want to share rather than imposing upon them a demand to know what job they do to pay the bills or instantly putting them in a box as a ‘foreigner’ or a ‘stranger’ or an ‘outsider’ by asking ‘Where are you from’.
Where I was born or where I am from is the past. ‘What’s your story’ gives us the choice to speak about who we are and what we care about. Instead of listing our past accomplishments or failures we could choose to talk about where we are going.
In the world of investment management, we sometimes chase returns even though we are warned that ‘past performance is not predictive of future returns’. Chasing returns is the investment version of asking ‘where are you from’. It is good to know but tells us little about where the investment strategy is going. Instead we may want to understand what drives the returns today and what is likely to drive returns in the future.
When selecting investment managers, a team’s culture, drive, ideas and investment process are more important than pedigree or past performance. This is especially true when choosing new or emerging investment managers. It may be better to ask ‘What’s your story’ rather than ‘Where are you from’ so that we can really understand the investment thesis, process and the potential for added value rather than simply looking at past performance.