As part of our ongoing Employee Spotlight Series we sat down with recent hire and London based Macro Portfolio Manager, Ashish Goyal.
Q: At what stage in your up bringing did you begin to form an interest in markets?
A: I never knew what the financial markets really were, until I was perhaps 17 years old. As a young kid, like every other Indian child I wanted to be a cricketer. But like most other children in India I knew I had no chance. At that time, I started watching Stefan Edberg play tennis, and we had Leandar Paes and Mahesh Bhupathy who brought tennis to India. But when Andre Agassi came with his bandana, earrings, long hair and underdog attitude, I was sold. I dreamt of playing at Wimbledon someday, but life had other plans. When I was 7, my parents were told I was gradually going to lose my sight due to RP a degenerative eye condition. Of course, it didn’t register to a 7-year-old what that could mean. But by the time I was 10-12 I started missing balls coming across from the bowler or serve from the other side of the court. The gradual loss of sight was not that nascent anymore. With the onset of loss of sight, my dreams were also “Lost”.
Fortunately, I had developed an interest in Physics and was getting good at it, but by the time I was meant to go to college the realization had dawned that in the 90s in India I had no chance or resources of studying Physics, and another door was slammed shut in my face. I was not in a position of strength and so I had to choose a relatively safe and easy option of learning Accounting and Economics. Not being able to rely on sight anymore I had developed my mental skills a lot, whether it was mental math or memory, I perhaps was better than most others my age. While I studied economics I realized macroeconomics was brilliant, and the third time I was lucky, those graphs that I could not see were not that difficult to imagine in my head and there was no getting shut out of this one. I started exploring what career paths I could take from macroeconomics and had no interest in full time academics and was not smart enough to be a researcher, more importantly I loved the practical application of financial markets as I learnt about them. When I look back, I feel I was a little naive, but I guess that naivety worked in my favor.
Q: To someone starting out in this industry, what advice or lessons can you share?
A: The beauty about investing, and I have said this at multiple forums, is that its God, Markets and I, as long as I have the basic necessary resources. It’s one of the most meritorious industries. Like everywhere else, hard work, a thirst for knowledge and creating your own opportunities is important but investing has its own unique points. Humility, multi-dimensional thinking, discipline play a role, and the beauty of investing is that there is no one correct way of investing. The more one learns, and the more one is humble for knowledge, they increase their probability of success.
Q: You’ve had tremendous success in your career as a Portfolio Manager. What motivates you?
A: I want to get things right, and for me it’s like solving a puzzle or a problem. The intellectual challenge for me is the most fun thing about working in such a stressful industry. Life is dynamic, world is dynamic and so are the markets.
Q: What are your impressions of BAM’s culture?
A: I joined BAM in February 2021, and since then I have only gone a total of 1 day to the office. I fall in a more vulnerable group of people so am being extra cautious with COVID. Despite that, it’s been a pleasant surprise for me the culture, it’s actually a cohesive team spirit, with tremendous professional peers and most importantly nice people. The leadership is fantastic, and so are my colleagues whether from the investing side or other functions. I have enjoyed working at BAM.
Q: You were chosen as the 2015 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and the distinction of being the first visually impaired trader in the world. This is amazing. How are you able to navigate markets and maintain success at such a high level?
A: What my disability does is it keeps me very grounded and humble. I remember that one day in May 2016, through the WEF I was in Mansion House and told the then PM, Mr. Cameron, that he would lose the Brexit vote as he was fighting an emotional battle with Statistics, while the next day it took me 35 minutes to locate the dry cleaner near my house that takes me 4 minutes to reach ideally because I was lost and struggling to find my way as I took one wrong turn. This dealing with uncertainty is a daily phenomenon in my life, tremendous ups and very appalling downs, but all I have learned, is to take them all in with a smile and don’t let my successes or failures mess with my head.
I am also a meditator, and in Indian philosophy we are taught from day one that you do the right thing whether at work or in life and don’t worry about the results, as long as you have done the right thing and given it your 100%.
I love to read, and am curious about a lot of things, directly related to markets or not. I also am happy to say I don’t know, something that has helped me a lot.
I am also very disciplined, something I have worked on for many years, whether I am travelling or have had a late night or markets are super stressful, I do not miss my routine. 95% of the days out of the year I wake up between 5 and 6am and spend an hour doing Yoga, meditation, and contemplating. When I lost my sight and had to re-learn how to live life again as a blind person, I told myself this one thing, that I will always try, because if I don’t try, I don’t get, and I am at 0 anyways, I will not be negative, I still believe in the same.
Q: We are fascinated by this considering how tied most traders are to “watching the screen”. How did you train yourself or what skills did you focus on to develop another means for absorbing information to inform your decision making?
A: I never had the fortune of seeing a trading screen in my life. I can only read, analyze, and make investing decisions based on my ability to work with that information. Hence my investing style is a little traditional, very macro directional. I am a decent listener, if I can say that about myself. When I walk out of a meeting, I have retained 90-95% of the information I have heard, that gives me a little edge as I am not distracted visually and can focus on the conversation. As I said earlier, I like learning new things, and am very happy to learn from someone with more or less experience than me, I have no ego, and am happy to say I don’t know or I was wrong.
Technology has also been a great help; I say this a lot of times. If I were born 10 years before I was born, perhaps technology would not have been good enough for me to do what I do. Screen reading software’s are pretty good now, and my listening speed is at least 1.75x to 2x more than the general average.
Q: You’ve found great balance between your work life and your personal life, including a strong passion for the Arts, what impacts do you feel your balance has had on your success AND what advice would you give to others to help them achieve greater balance?
A: Life is too short and there is life outside of your work life. We often regret doing more or less of something, but that regret is often when we look back at our past. I believe that thinking about what’s important for oneself in life is pretty useful to then find a balance and work towards it. Having hobbies, causes, and goals outside work allows oneself to be much more balanced in general.
Q: You’re very passionate about giving back and educating others, can you give us a bit of background of the types of events you’ve participated in and why you find such joy in being a part of these opportunities.
A: I am very aware that when I look back at my life I had no idea at 20 or 25 or 30 or even 35 what my next 5 years would look like, and I clearly had no idea that I would be so blessed to be where I am. In fact, even today when I walk around Hyde Park, sometimes it all feels like a dream, as a broken depressed 20-year-old who thought his life was over, this is all unreal.
I have had help from expected and totally unexpected quarters, and I believe it’s my duty to lend a hand forward. I also truly believe that we are some of the most privileged people in the world, and as Malcolm Gladwell says, life has the “Ovarian Lottery”, we need to do our bit to make this world a level playing field for everyone.
I believe in children’s education, one great leveler, and if you can change one child’s life, it can change the life of their family, friends, town, even a nation. I also work with organizations that work with poverty, disabilities, arts and the environment.
I do a lot of speaking, whether to corporates, nonprofits, or children, and wherever I can contribute in other ways I try as well as bring others in to do the same.
I want to thank BAM for helping Akshay Patra – the Indian charity that provides midday meals to poor children in schools in India, which in turns encourages parents to send them to school.
Q: On a personal note, what are some of your interests outside of work? You’re involved with the London Metro Club, UK blind cricket league, how did you become involved in that & what has been your biggest takeaway?
A: I love the theatre, when I was 23, I took acting classes for 1year, and of course let’s politely say that I was not so good at it. But London is one of the most phenomenal places to be for the stage performances.
I also like sports, as I mentioned earlier, and when I came to London, I realized I could play cricket again as a blind person. I played for 2 years for the Metro cricket club. I was fortunate to play in the finals of the domestic UK tournament at the Edgbaston cricket ground and be a small part of the winning team. The freedom and ability to do what I wanted to do was very refreshing.
As a 7 year old, I learnt how to drive, and by the time I was 9, I drove the length of Mumbai, I mention this here, as luckily I did that then because by the time I was 12 or 13 my eyesight prevented me from driving, and also cause when I was at Wharton, I hosted Dr. Z the CEO of Daemler, in a leadership lecture series and asked him if his company would help me challenge the world record of the fastest blind driver in the world, that didn’t materialize.
I have learnt the Tango in London, I have played the Surdu as a part of the Bateria group on stage and in night clubs in Philadelphia, I have sampled vegetarian cuisines from at least 25 countries… the list is long.
Q: What is a book and/or author that you have personally enjoyed reading and/or find valuable information?
A: I like reading autobiographies, and my all-time favorite is Steve Jobs, the crazy genius of the man was impressive. Apple is the story everyone tells, Pixar is what was even better.
As you can imagine a touch screen phone such as the iPhone was a challenge to the blind community, and when they made a presentation to Mr. Jobs, he made it his mission to make the iPhone one of the most accessible phones in the world, and as a user I can tell you, it’s one possession I value more than anything.
From a trading perspective, Reminiscence of a Stock Operator, is pretty good, my first trading book I ever read.