I am currently on the road in the middle of my StockViews University tour. This week I have visited Columbia, Coe College, Iowa State and Notre Dame. I’ve had a fantastic time so far and I’d like to thank everyone who has come along to attend the lectures as well as the organizers for making it happen
Beyond their obvious smarts, what has really impressed me about these young people is their willingness to adapt to new ways of doing things.
My parents’ generation went into a job and expected to have a job for life. I remember them expressing shock when I moved on after 5 years in my first job at PwC. My own generation certainly didn’t expect a job for life and neither was this something that we wanted, but we expected the industry to remain relatively constant over time. The skills you learnt early on in your career you hoped would remain relevant, allowing you to switch jobs easily and navigate a career path for yourself.
This next generation is now faced by unprecedented pace of change at the industry level. A fresh graduate today will have a tough time predicting the future course of their chosen industry, let alone the course of their own career.
Of course, it’s clear that some industries have shifted faster than others. Print journalism has been decimated by the adoption of new technology, while manufacturing has been changed forever by cheap labor from emerging markets. Finance is one area that has remained relatively constant over the past two decades, but for how long? I’m not sure exactly how the roles of “Fund Manager” or “Sell-Side Analyst” will change in the next 5-10 years, but I think the extent of that change might surprise us all.
The idea of investors consuming stock research through an online platform is certainly not an idea that will be adopted wholesale by the industry tomorrow. This is a point I have repeatedly stressed to my audience this week. But in order to challenge the status quo it is necessary to think big and to adopt radically new (and radically more efficient) ways of doing things. This is why I love the quote below, which comes from Peter Thiel’s new book “Zero to One” (which I highly recommend). Where industry insiders say the idea of StockViews is too radical for the conservative investment industry, Thiel provides the perfect counter point.
“As a good rule of thumb, proprietary technology must be at least 10 times better than its closest substitute in some important dimension to lead to a real monopolistic advantage. Anything less than an order of magnitude better will probably be perceived as a marginal improvement and will be hard to sell, especially in an already crowded market. The clearest way to make a 10x improvement is to invent something completely new. If you build something valuable where there was nothing before, the increase in value is theoretically infinite”
One of the reason I love talking to university students is that they really get the need for change and, in fact, are a driving force for that change. Ten years from now, these young people are going to be the industry. A long-term vision for a change in the investment industry requires a long-term strategy, and what better place to start than with the future of that industry. Next week I will be visiting UC Davis, the University of Colorado and Caltech and I’m looking forward to similarly interesting discussions with a new set of students!
In my next blog, I will be unveiling the details of the StockViews mentorship program, which I have been talking about on the road and which will open for applications to university students shortly.