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2020 summer reading ideas from the investment management team

It’s time to get your summer reading program started and UMB’s investment management team has a few suggestions to help.

This year, I have asked a few of our investment professionals to offer one of their favorite investment books that are applicable to a crisis, bear markets, recessions or how we analyze data. Check out some recommended reading in the investment world below.

FOR THE DATA NERD

Recommended by Spencer Berndt, CAIA, Director of Investment Product Research

Factfulness, by Hans Rosling

Book description: Factfulness is a special book, although difficult to describe. We like to believe we have a good sense for the state of the world concerning issues such as poverty, population or health care. Hans Rosling and co-authors quickly disabuse readers of any notion they may have about the accuracy of their worldview. Pulling from decades of experience working across healthcare, economic development and poverty, the team paints a picture of a world that has experienced wildly positive developments over the past 20, 50, 100 years. There are demonstrably more people living better lives now than at any time in history, but it doesn’t always seem that way. This book explores that specific paradox and attempts to answer why it exists. If these crazy times have you feeling a little less positive about the current state of humanity, you need to read this book. It’s armed with reams of data and wonderful visualization tools that explain where we have come from, where we are and where we may go as a global populace. The book is well written and easy to read; very highly recommended.

Spencer’s story: Prior to reading this book, I considered myself aware of the state of global economic development, but after taking the short questionnaire in the first five pages of this book, I realized I had some learning to do. The most powerful takeaways for me were the 10 Factfulness Rules of Thumb which provide an explicit framework for uncovering our own biases and for being better, more thoughtful consumers of data about the world around us. This book is truly eye-opening. Additionally, the team behind the book runs a website called Dollar Street that I can’t recommend more highly. They’ve photographed the same set of 135 items at 264 households across 50 different countries to visually demonstrate how families at different income levels live around the globe. If you have kids, they’ll love this book – it is a powerful educational tool. Even if you don’t read the book, check out Dollar Street‡—you’ll be amazed.

FOR THE EXPLORERS

Recommended by KC Mathews, CFA, Chief Investment Officer

Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer, by Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparel

Book description (Source: Amazon): Sir Ernest Shackleton has been called “the greatest leader that ever came on God’s earth, bar none” for saving the lives of the 27 men stranded with him in the Antarctic for almost two years. Shackleton’s actions have made him a model for great leadership as well as for masterful crisis management. Through anecdotes, the diaries of the men in his crew, and Shackleton’s own writing, this practical guide helps today’s leaders follow Shackleton’s triumphant example.

KC’s story: COVID-19 brought new management and leadership challenges. So did getting trapped in Antarctica for two years experiencing grueling weather conditions and emotional stress. Shackleton led 27 men on this journey and brought them all back alive. His people-centered approach to leadership is applicable to all leaders today. This book tells a true story and is hard to put down once you start reading it. I read the book years ago and every few years pull it off the shelf to read again.

FOR THE HISTORY BUFF

Recommended by Daniel Trgovich, CFA, Senior Equity Analyst

The Panic of 1907: Lessons Learned from the Market’s Perfect Storm, by Robert E. Bruner and Sean D. Carr.

Book description: The economic and market events that unfolded during what is known as “the panic of 1907” eventually resulted in the establishment of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. The U.S. economy was strong in 1906 until an exogenous shock shook the markets, caused the economy to grind to a halt and markets to crash. In 1906, a devastating earthquake struck San Francisco and destroyed 80% of the Bay Area and killed more than 3,000. This led to a sharp contraction in the economy and plunging asset values. As loan collateral was impaired, the public lost confidence in the banking system and began withdrawing their money in what is known as a “run on the bank”. It wasn’t until the end of 1907 that liquidity was restored as J. Pierpont Morgan was able to convince bankers to supply liquidity to markets. From the market peak in 1907 to its low, the Dow Jones fell 45%. Once liquidity and confidence were restored the markets rallied – up 46% in 1908.

Daniel’s story: In many ways, the panic of 1907 reminds me of 2020, with one important difference. In 2020, a strong economy was derailed by an exogenous shock – the coronavirus. The economy experienced a sharp contraction and risk assets collapsed. Similarly, the panic of 1907 was started by an exogenous shock – the 1906 San Francisco earthquake – causing the economy and markets to crash. Following the earthquake, it took more than a year for bankers to supply adequate liquidity to the system and for confidence to be restored. Today, thanks to the panic of 1907, we have the Federal Reserve. In 2020, the Fed supplied an unprecedented amount of liquidity within days of the coronavirus outbreak, which helped stem the declines in risk assets. The panic of 1907 is an important reminder that in times of market crisis, liquidity is king and currently, there is plenty of it.

FOR THE GENERALIST

Recommended by Jennifer Boxberger, Senior Investment Product Analyst

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, by David Epstein

Book description: Many people believe that it requires 10,000 hours of working on any one subject to master that subject, myself included, until I read this book. The author examined the world’s most successful athletes, artists and musicians and found that those focusing on many interests rather than focusing on one interest will transform into a more well-rounded person. People who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences are those that thrive the most in this world.

Jennifer’s story: Reading the book made me reflect on my own journey and how I can work to expand my knowledge in areas other than finance. It made me think about my kids and how I should allow them to be more creative and flexible in their learning, the number of sports they try and to introduce them to topics that may be different than my own interests. At the top of the list, the book made me think about how important it is to have a diverse team in the workplace, with different backgrounds and different experiences, bringing unique ideas to the table.

FOR THE TRUTH SEEKER

Recommended by Mike Diederich, CFP, Director of Portfolio Management

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters, by Thomas M. Nichols

Book description (Source: Amazon): Technology and increasing levels of education have exposed people to more information than ever before. These societal gains, however, have also helped fuel a surge in narcissistic and misguided intellectual egalitarianism that has crippled informed debates on any number of issues. Today, everyone knows everything: with only a quick trip through WebMD or Wikipedia and average citizens believe themselves to be on an equal intellectual footing with doctors and diplomats. All voices, even the most ridiculous, demand to be taken with equal seriousness, and any claim to the contrary is dismissed as undemocratic elitism. Tom Nichols’ The Death of Expertise shows how this rejection of experts has occurred: the openness of the internet, the emergence of a customer service model in higher education, and the transformation of the news industry into a 24-hour entertainment machine, among other reasons.

Mike’s story: Some of our readers may remember the sitcom Cheers that aired during the 1980s. Cliff Clavin was a central character of the series who played a know-it-all postal worker that would do his best to impress others with his “knowledge” of just about everything. Viewers of the show will recall that Cliff rarely had his facts straight and sometimes just made up his own data to help bolster his argument. In The Death of Expertise, Nichols explores the “Cliff Clavin effect” caused by, among other factors, internet search engines and 24-hour news outlets. Many of us have become modern-day versions of Cliff. We are now “experts” on everything from home improvement projects to complex international trade agreements. And most recently, epidemiology. The book has numerous applications, but I think it is a must read for any DIY investor. Are they getting their investment ideas from a Certified Financial Planner® or Chartered Financial Analyst®? Or have they shunned those expert opinions for a factoid they read on the internet or something they overheard “Cliff” talking about after binge watching cable news?

More recommended reading

If you’re interested in even more reading ideas from the investment management, take a look at their 2019 and 2018 recommendations:

Interested in learning more about our Private Wealth Management division? With UMB, you have a guiding partner from financial advising and wealth building strategies, to retirement and legacy preservation plans.


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When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s Web site and go to Web sites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other Web sites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.