Anthony Munchak earned a BS degree and an MS degree in finance from Boston College, in addition to earning an MBA from Bentley College. He entered the financial industry in 1992 as a registered representative at the investment banking firm of Fechtor, Detwiler & Co. in Boston. Anthony held a number of finance roles in a five-year stint at Fidelity Investments, after which he was a portfolio manager at Guaranty Capital Corp. for two years.
Anthony Munchak began working as a Senior Portfolio Manager in 2000 with Invesco Quantitative Strategies. He is a Chartered Financial Analyst® (CFA) charter holder and a member of the Boston Security Analysts Society. Munchak has a high level of experience in portfolio construction, risk management, full replication, and all things Excel.
Anthony is currently enrolled in Boston University’s Financial Planning Certificate Program and anticipates completion in the Spring of 2021.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I’m a Chartered Financial Analyst. It’s like being a CPA in accounting: You can graduate with a degree in accounting but having CPA next to your name is sort of a stamp of approval. It’s a note of excellence, so to speak. That’s what the CFA is in the investment and finance industry.
I learned about the CFA program in grad school. That was maybe about 25 years ago, before it became such a prevalent thing in the industry today. At the time there was some overlap with the graduate finance classes I was taking, so it made sense to me to roll right into that program right after school. It was pretty highly regarded in the industry. It’s a certification, so there are three levels of testing and the difficulty increases with each one. The pass/fail rate is, I believe, in the 50-60 percentile for each level, so not everybody makes it through, and it really helps you become very adept in all areas of investments and finance.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I think my typical day is like many others in the industry. Working from home, I turn on the business channel. Usually there’s some economic news at 8:30 that will affect the markets a little bit. I read the Wall Street Journal. There are so many things that can affect the markets, whether it’s the government making decisions on a macro level or just developments of a vaccine; that it’s important to stay on top of all that information.
We have seen what happened when some of the positive news came out about the vaccine, for instance, and how it affected the market. The rest of the day keep an eye on the stocks within our fund and react accordingly.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Often ideas start out near the water cooler, the copier, wherever it is that coworkers get together to chat and bring up ideas. You know within yourself if something is a good idea, but you’re never sure how others will react. I think to get to bring an idea to fruition, you need buy-in. Even if it’s just one other person, partnering with them helps to make your idea grow, gather momentum, and get additional buy-in. Whether it’s from management or clients that you want to sell the idea to, get them excited about it, set a deadline, and then move toward that goal each day.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Our industry is going through fee compression. That means that the prices we charge for investment advice are coming down because of competition and technology. It is becoming cheaper to do things in the investment arena. It may be controversial for an asset manager or a financial planner like myself to welcome fee compression, to welcome lower prices, and perhaps I don’t want to cheer it on too loudly, but I’m an investor, too, and I like lower fees for myself as a consumer.
If you think about it, throughout your life in athletics or academics, you ask yourself, what does competition promote? It promotes excellence and value. Managers have to continue to deliver value. That takes the form of outperformance. You want to outperform other asset managers in your fund returns. Value is a good product at a good price, and all that is relative since value means different things to different people. You may find value in a high-end Apple Watch, and maybe others find value in a less expensive Fitbit, so I think there’s something out there for everyone. Not every manager comes with a low fee or high fee arrangement anymore and that’s a good thing.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I use a productivity app on my phone that helps me manage all types of lists: To do lists at home, at work, and long-term planning lists, especially for work. There’s definitely something about swiping something off that list. It feels good when you check things off. I recommend to anybody to get one of those things. There are many to choose from.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I don’t have a ton of regrets in retrospect, but I wish I had managed my career better early on in my work life. Even if you love the job you have, you don’t want to be complacent. I’m not saying that means job hopping from one firm to the next, always looking for a higher payout or salary. What I mean is to be more aggressive in learning new skills, networking with the right people that are going places, and taking on high exposure projects. You may really like your job, but you should sort of have in in the back of your head to keep an eye on what else is out there and how you’re going to get there. If you can stay in the same firm and do these things, you’re going to move up, no doubt. What you don’t want to do is just spend your work week waiting for Friday to come so you can go home.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
There are some stocks out there for companies that are going wild, increasing in value, and sometimes it’s just something that I can’t relate to. Maybe it’s just a business that I don’t understand or a technology that I’m not fully familiar with. I think it is human nature to shy away from things that we’re not familiar with. It’s sort of the reason we’re creatures of habit and we always take the same way home. Good investors will avoid companies that they don’t understand even though they may be great companies and investment opportunities.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I say yes to almost every social or work invitation that I get. If a webinar invite comes across my desk, I register for it if I have an opening on my calendar. I rarely say no to these types of things. This goes back to my belief that networking is so incredibly important. Events like these helps you meet new people which can result in some great conversations, new clients, new business, and new friendships. This can lead to new knowledge just from listening to other people tell their stories and share experiences that they’ve had. There’s so much more value to these things than getting those extra minutes of sleep or binge watching on Netflix.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Researching the hell out of the competition. It’s important to know not just what you’re doing, but also what the competition is doing. You can learn what the best practices are and what the best products are, and you can explore and develop those in your own way. We shouldn’t feel bad about replicating or copycatting as long as you’re not infringing on trademarks and patents and those sorts of things. If someone else is doing a great job with their service or product, there’s nothing to say that you can’t do it too. You replicate it and maybe find a way to improve upon it. That’s a strategy we should all pursue.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The best learning experiences come from failure. That’s a well-established piece of wisdom. We all know that. In the past, I made some poor investment choices. With one investment in particular I took on way too much risk and pretty much lost everything.
The problem there was I put everything into one company and one stock. Looking back, that seems silly to me. I would never do that now. I have the benefit of that experience that helped mature me, but at the time it made sense. The stock went up and I was really excited. I thought I’d retire in ten years, but all of a sudden it went down rather quickly.
Diversification is important and I learned that the hard way from a personal failure. The good thing is that my experience came early and I’ve had enough time to recover from that. Learning your lessons early is incredibly important.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Go to Buddy’s Pizza in Detroit and try out their pizza. Then move to Detroit and get a job at Buddy’s for six months. Learn what they’re doing because it’s incredible pizza. Learn the recipe, then move to another part of the country and open up a restaurant with a different name that makes the same pizza that Buddy’s does. It’ll be an absolute money maker. The pizza is incredible. That’s my business idea and a plug for the people at Buddy’s.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I spent a little more than that recently on a Breeo stove, a portable fire pit. They’ve got this ingenious design that makes them practically smokeless. They’ve become pretty popular out here in the suburbs with people having to socialize outdoors more due to COVID. It really keeps the evening going during those cooler summer nights and fall evenings.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
The productivity app I use is called Clear. It doesn’t have a ton of bells and whistles, and there are more sophisticated ones that have come out since then, but I’ve stuck with Clear. It works for me and has made me much more productive.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The book I read most recently is called The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It gets pretty philosophical. The biggest takeaway is maybe a little deep and weird, but the idea is that nothing really exists outside of the now. All the negativity that we may feel is caused by how we perceive time. We carry around guilt, regret, bitterness, and grievances, and they’re all caused by too much thinking about the past. When we think of the future, we feel anxiety, worry, stress and fear. All these negative energies coming from the past and the future and they really only exist in your mind, and what you’re doing is ruining the right now. There is too much past and too much future in our minds, and not enough present. Seize the day and live in the now.
What is your favorite quote?
“I have never understood why it is greed to want to keep the money you’ve earned, but not greed to take someone else’s money.” – Thomas Sowell
Who is really the greedy one here? The person who wants to keep more of their earnings? Or the person who demands higher taxes to give more of your money to someone else?
• Look for education and accreditation opportunities that will help you differentiate yourself in the workplace
• Networking is critical to managing your career.
• Research your competition to know how you can provide better service or products.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.