As a father of eight-year old twins, Fahim Razzaque, MBA ’08, fully understands the importance of a job that is not only stimulating but affords possibilities for a good work-life balance. Luckily, for the past 14 years, starting right out of business school, he has worked for a firm that stresses the importance of such a balance, and this has allowed him to pursue a successful and fulfilling professional career while being able to spend time with family and coaching his kids’ soccer team.
Fahim currently serves as Managing Director of Research at Fidelity Investments, where he has worked since obtaining his MBA from Cornell University’s SC Johnson School of Business in 2008. In a typical day, he wakes up at 5am to exercise, ahead of morning related family duties and sits down to work from 8:00 a.m. until 6 pm, when it is family time again.
As one of eight global managing directors at Fidelity, Fahim has a two-fold job. On one hand, he manages a team of equity analysts specializing in small cap stocks, and on the other hand, he retains a role in investing, something he has been interested in for a long time.
Entering the industry
Fahim grew up in the 1990s during the tech boom. The world of investing caught his eye, and with intrigue, he read the Wall Street Journal and followed stocks. At the time, however, he didn’t have any money to try investing himself, and the interest remained only on the sidelines as he ultimately pursued engineering in college. His first years in the professional world, he worked as an microchip designer at Hewlett Packard and Qualcomm. Business school eventually called to him to broaden his horizons, and that was when a new opportunity arose.
Realistically, Fahim was hoping that business school would allow him to secure a general management position at a tech company. Ideally, however, he wanted to give investing a chance. It was a pie in the sky path, he knew, but one that was worth pursuing. He chose Cornell’s S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management for its renowned Cayuga Fund program and speaks highly of the experience. According to Fahim, “[Johnson] gave me the best of both worlds.”
Shaping investing skills at Johnson
When Fahim first started at Johnson, his knowledge of the investment field was very limited. Many of his peers already had relevant experience, and he was going to have to compete with them for jobs. However, he was willing to work. And because he was an engineer, there were things he could bring to the table that others did not have. For example, modeling was natural to him as an engineer. He had analytical skills. And also, he looked at stocks differently. Everyone had something different, he learned, and it was important to learn to harness it and lean on that strength.
The specialized training that Fahim received as a portfolio manager in the Cayuga Fund was very helpful in launching him down that new career path. Every week, speakers from the industry came to share insights and experiences, students researched, pitched, and voted on their investment ideas for the fund, and they had to report back on their performance. In the process, Fahim gained lots of valuable experience as an aspiring investment professional.
The professors were great as well. Professor Sanjeev Bhojraj, in particular, had been very tough, Fahim remembers. When students pitched to the class, Professor Bhojraj always asked the hardest questions. Every time Fahim was asked something, he had to go back to the drawing board, and that was an excellent learning process that compelled him to push through his own boundaries and improve. Ultimately, he was able to land that coveted job at Fidelity.
Becoming a professional investor
Fidelity Investments manages over a trillion dollars in active equity assets. Because most of the funds at Fidelity are diversified funds, the company has in place a rotation model to train future diversified portfolio managers. Fahim started out as an international analyst covering the financials sector for two years, then rotated to telecommunications. It was when he was covering telecom that Fahim found a liking for smaller stocks. With smaller companies, fundamental research adds a lot more value because fewer professional investors are looking at the stocks. And so, he moved to Fidelity’s small cap team, where he has remained for ten years. In 2019, he took on his current role as a managing director.
What Fahim likes about being a professional investor is that the job never gets boring, and it rewards intellectual curiosity. Both markets and companies are always changing. In the small cap space in particular, there are always new companies to consider and new lessons to be learned in the process.
The shifts and changes of the investment field
Active investment, having been under pressure for some time now, still has a place in the market, according to Fahim. People always want a chance to do better than the index fund. And if no one’s setting prices, the markets fail to work. The difference is that while 50 years ago, investors only wanted the fund to go up, now, they want to know why. The market is also faster and more efficient than ever, and so, while the skills required of a professional investor have not changed very much over time—you must be smart, hardworking, intellectually curious, and emotionally balanced—the job is harder to do.
Other changes have taken place in the field, including the burgeoning ESG investing space, which some firms have embraced as a necessity in the changing world. Fidelity, for example, has launched an initiative to have fundamental ESG ratings. When looking at a company, portfolio managers must ask questions such as: Is this a company that is operating in a manner that is consistent with environmental concerns and climate change? Is it sustainable? According to Fahim, ESG investing is becoming “more a part of what we do and a fundamental part of the investing process.”
The pandemic, of course, has also affected the daily work and lifestyle of investment professionals, who, like many others, have had to transition to remote and/or hybrid work environments. On one hand, less time commuting has meant more time working and more time to spend with families. On the other hand, there are fewer opportunities to meet people. Fahim feels that there are things to be missed in traveling as well. Previously, he had learned a great deal when visiting a company, speaking with CEOs and seeing the company in person. For this reason, many analysts are looking forward to travel again. Fidelity, like most other companies, is still in the process of figuring out the best route forward. Fahim believes that when travel does resume, it will be done more efficiently.
Setting your heart on the path
At the end of the day, Fahim finds his job to be a fantastic one, where you get to work alongside and meet very smart people. Now, he also gets to coach a lot of young talent. Fahim works right next to great investors like Joel Tillinghast and finds that one can have a whole career at Fidelity, while also having time for other aspects of life such as being a parent.
However, he acknowledges it is a hard industry to get into. To current Johnson students hoping to pursue the path, Fahim advises them to ask themselves first and foremost: How much do you want to do it? “Getting into Fidelity, in particular, is like becoming a ball player for the Boston Red Sox,” he says. You have to be committed, be persistent, and be willing to learn. Fahim, for example, spent most of the month between semesters in business school just working on pitches in preparation for interviews. He practiced with other students and alum, absorbed their questions and inputs, and asked to pitch the same stock with them a second time. He reached out to Johnson alumni and essentially created his own internship at a hedge fund. After all the hard work, he is exactly where he wanted to be.