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Christian is a Partner in the North Bay office.
Prior to joining Cerity Partners, Christian was Chief Investment Officer for Brouwer & Janachowski. He oversaw the company’s Portfolio Management Group, which is responsible for research, strategy, and investment management of all client portfolios. He was also responsible for the specialty law firm client practice group Smart Counsel. Christian was a Principal of the firm, and a member of the senior management team and the company’s Investment Committee. He also published the company’s weekly blog of economic and market insights. Christian currently serves on the Investment Adviser Association’s (IAA) Nominating Committee for a three-year term from 2020-2023.
Prior to joining Brouwer & Janachowski, Christian was President and Chief Executive Officer of Sentinel Investments, which managed more than $28 billion in fixed income and equities for institutional and retail clients. He was the lead portfolio manager for Sentinel’s multi-strategy funds. Christian has worked in the international and U.S. investment management industry for five decades in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, starting his career as an analyst and portfolio manager with Samuel Montagu & Co. in London.
What inspired you to pursue your career in financial management?
I graduated university in 1981. The UK had come off a period of high inflation and high unemployment. The most common career paths back then were working in either the government treasury or the foreign office. A friend of my father said if you want to travel the world and have some fun, try investment banking. He set me on my course.
I started in London at Samuel Montagu & Co. I was mentored by one of the smartest people there. He was brutal but very nice to me at the same time. As an analyst, I’d write up a company report, and he’d say, “I’m not accepting this.” I had to figure out what was wrong with it and try again. It got me on my feet very quickly. I raise a glass to him now and then.
Was there a specific incident in your life that made it clear you were made for this career?
My first failure. I had made a stock recommendation that went wrong. A senior manager stepped me through what I had missed, how to correct it and how to talk candidly to the client. It taught me you can't always be right but you can learn from mistakes. Later in my career, a friend was a Madoff victim. I realized then how devastating bad financial advice can be.
Why is your work important, especially today?
Making sense of the financial world can be difficult. There's a confusing array of jargon, products and firms just trying to separate investors from their money. We can cut through the details and explain how things works and what to expect.
What do clients expect from you most?
Honesty. Take someone who is about to retire. There is a real risk for people who worked for 40 years to come to a dead stop. My job is to guide them to the right decision for what’s next. For example, there are some who say they want travel. That’s great but what about when you’re 75? People’s patience and the ability for travel wanes quickly when they’re older. You must think about how, why, and when you do it.
That’s what they come to expect. One client is 58 and I told him, “Given your lifestyle you can retire anytime you want.” His wife agreed. He said, “I’ll retire at 60.” Sixty came and went. He said, “I’ll retire when I make $20 million.” He hit $20 million. Then he wanted his portfolio to generate $1 million a year. I knew what he was doing. He was setting arbitrary goals, so he didn’t have to make the decision to stop working. I had to have a frank conversation with him about this.
We’re not about telling you what to do, but we’ll figure out what you want to do. With us, you’re getting into realms of discussion that has nothing to do with outperforming the S&P 500.
What do you outside of work that helps you in your job?
Cave diving. It requires concentration, calm and attention to detail. It's adventurous but it's not for the thrill seeker. I strive to bring the same level of effort to clients so they know we've explored all the options and have come to the right decisions for them.
How would you describe your best day doing what you do?
A client meeting in the morning where we review their changes in life and their goals and aspirations. And then we provide ideas and actions to start the journey. But generally, a good day is whenever we help clients to feel assured, confident and happy that we're getting them to their goals. Then I always like to talk with my colleagues. I always learn something from them that hopefully makes me a little better every day.
Economic & Market Update
Insights from Christian Thwaites' investment analysis: A retrospective of the past week and a forecast of the coming days.
Financial markets slipped last week after the Fed indicated not only a “higher for longer” stance but also the increased likelihood of fewer rate cuts in 2024.
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