Robert Davis (BA 1971)
I completed my BA in English at McGill in 1971 and then went on to get an MLS, also at McGill, in 1973. I ran a small, specialized library in Montreal before finding a job at the British Library in London. When I realized that I could not make ends meet financially as a librarian in London, I decided to get an MBA. I had always been interested in investing and the stock market, and the MBA gave me the knowledge and skills to make a career change. I returned to McGill and received my MBA in 1980. I was fortunate to find a job immediately upon graduation at the Bell Canada Pension Fund where I eventually managed a large US equity portfolio for many years. One of the reasons that I was initially hired was because my boss-to-be assumed that, with an English degree, I would be able to write clearly in English, a skill that in his experience couldn’t be taken for granted. While it is true that I could not have done my job without the knowledge and understanding of subjects like macroeconomics and accounting that I acquired in the MBA, the basic process of decision-making wasn’t that different from writing a term paper back in the English department: analyzing a problem, identifying and evaluating the factors relevant to the decision, and reaching a conclusion. Also, an investment decision is always to some extent a forecast of the future which is inherently uncertain. I always felt that my background in English had given me a much higher tolerance for ambiguity, which made making decisions under uncertainty easier and contributed to my success as a portfolio manager. Many people over the years have expressed surprise that I could move from a liberal arts background to the investment world, but to me the two worlds are more related than most people think.