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From Moon Pies to Portfolio Management

Mike Diederich, executive vice president, director of portfolio management, shares how childhood ingenuity led to financial career, how his team approaches portfolio management, and key items investors should consider in all economic times.

I can trace my interest in investment management back to my freshman year in high school. Oddly enough, my PE teacher was the one who started me down the path to financial services.

My teacher used to start class by writing an obscure finance term on the whiteboard. The first week was the phrase “odd lots.” He told us if anyone could define and explain “odd lots” they could eat moon pies and watch everyone else run laps, knock out push-ups and sit-ups, and worst of all – climb the rope. I hated rope climbing. This disdain drove me to start reading the Wall Street Journal every morning. I became very successful at answering the morning questions and various other rope climbing avoidance strategies. I learned quite a bit about investing and consumed more than a few moon pies, and along the way, also became excited about a career in finance.

When I studied at Missouri State University, I declared a degree in finance. As I was completing internships, I quickly learned I wanted to work in a position where I could help people with their finances in lieu of selling the product of the day. A few years into my career, I joined the wealth management team at UMB, and I’ve now been here for almost 20 years. I’ve been fortunate to grow in my career and currently lead the portfolio management efforts throughout UMB’s footprint.

Finding Success for Our Clients

Everything we do in the portfolio management team starts with the client and their individual goals. We build personal relationships with our clients so we can understand what they want to accomplish, their risk tolerance, and particular areas, such as ESG investing, they may be interested in. We then tailor our recommendations and allocations accordingly.

At UMB we embrace both active and passive investments to help clients achieve their financial goals. Most of our recommendations are driven by our long-term capital assumptions. We create a baseline scenario around a three- to five-year forecast and then, in most circumstances, make minor tactical adjustments based on current economic conditions. I challenge my teams to focus on all the little details in a client’s financial plan, because that’s where we can find opportunities to make changes and create success for them.

Work the Plan – Don’t Let it Work You

One of our top questions or concerns I hear from clients is what they should do with their finances during a crisis. There is a great deal of historical evidence that illustrates the importance of staying with your investment plan even during uncertain times. The mix of a global pandemic, volatile stock market, uncertain economic conditions and presidential election has some clients wondering if they should stay out of the market until everything calms down. This is a common behavioral trap that hinders the long-term success of many investors. A look back at history confirms that the market has steadily advanced as the world has moved in and out of challenging times.

When we build a plan for our clients, we rely on research to build recommendations that can withstand the twists and turns of the market. It is our job to watch and respond accordingly so our clients can achieve their goals and we take seriously the trust given to us by our clients to be effective stewards of their finances.

The best piece of advice I can give a client is to work the plan created by the financial team. Science tells us that most of us are not particularly skilled at making financial decisions, especially during volatile times. This is when clients should lean on and have confidence in the recommendations from their financial advisor. At UMB, we are always here to answer our clients’ questions and calm their nerves as we ride the wave of the market together.

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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