Pete Maher talks about his role as Assistant Director of Investments.
Stewardship of the assets that support benefits available through the Board of Pensions requires constant monitoring of U.S. and foreign markets, worldwide political shifts, and the investment managers the Board engages to invest the assets.
Investments are the largest funding source for the Pension Plan, Death and Disability Plan, and Assistance Program. This month alone, 21,200 pensioners and survivors received Pension Plan benefits.
As Assistant Director of Investments at the Board of Pensions, Pete Maher is directly responsible for oversight of the U.S. equity managers. He counts three elements as critical in deciding whether to engage a particular investment manager group: philosophy of investing, process, and people.
"People are No. 1," said Pete, whose role requires keen observation skills. "Everyone can see performance numbers. But research has shown, if you're picking investment managers solely on performance, you're setting yourself up for a fall."
How people behave amid uncertainty fascinates Pete. "As market conditions change, we get to see managers in real time. 'What's important to you as certain conditions are changing?'" he said. "There are ever increasing behavioral pitfalls in investment decision making."
Pete's observational skills serve him well at Thomas Jefferson University, in Philadelphia, where he is an instructor in investment management. If he finds that an approach to a lesson isn't working, he recalibrates.
"You have to see that breakthrough. You can feel it," said Pete, who relishes the challenge. "You have to frame ideas and concepts in a way that an undergraduate is going to be able to comprehend. It's communication strategy."
Pete also teaches the ethics course for the CFA Society of Philadelphia, helping financial professionals prepare for the rigorous, three-level exam that can earn them the chartered financial analyst designation. A charterholder, he has served as Treasurer and President of the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia society of the CFA Institute, which promotes ethics and professionalism in the investment industry.
Pete uses his industry contacts to help support the Philadelphia chapter of the U.S. Dream Academy, for children whose parents are incarcerated. His successes include initiating a relationship with a global investment management group that ultimately took the Philadelphia chapter under its wing. Pete, who has daughters ages 15 and 12, also introduced the organization to the Board, which includes Dream Academy students in its Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day program.
Pete himself was only in high school when he first felt the pull of the investment industry, through a relative in the business. "That's really all I've wanted to do professionally," he said. He earned a bachelor's and a master's in finance from St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia, and worked as a stock broker, an investment manager, and in direct investment research and management before joining the Board 11 years ago.
Financial markets are a "complex adaptive system," Pete said. "No one has a crystal ball. It's the living, breathing decision-making process people go through that I've found fascinating."