Morningstar CIO’s Advice To Women Considering Investment Careers

CIO Of The Year Advises Curiosity, Humility, Dedication And Reading; Describes Her Approach To Managing A Quarter Trillion In Assets
Marta Norton, Chief Investment Officer for the Americas, Morningstar Wealth
Marta Norton, Chief Investment Officer for the Americas, Morningstar Wealth

As we celebrate Women’s History Month with our third annual installment of Top Women Industry Leaders of 2024 as part of our Pathfinder Awards series, we also connect you with winners with through concurrently published profile features, including Marta Norton, our winner in the category of CIO of the Year.

Norton is Chief Investment Officer for the Americas at Morningstar Wealth, having risen through the ranks at Morningstar since 2005. In her role, she is responsible for $246 billion in assets under management and advisement. She regularly appears on Bloomberg, CNBC and other financial television, as well as writing the monthly “From the Desk of the CIO” commentary to educate and guide investors, providing market perspectives and thought leadership to the investment industry.

We asked about her experience serving as CIO to such a large amount of client assets and advice for a female student or career changer considering investment management as a career.

WSR: You manage almost a quarter trillion dollars in assets. Tell us about your experience shouldering this responsibility as CIO.

Norton: It’s been an exciting journey, and that’s as true today as when I started!

A key focus for me is to nurture the structure and culture that allow for the best insights to surface. I hold a strong belief that the team’s collective expertise leads to better outcomes than forcing my own perspective unilaterally on the group. At Morningstar, the system we’ve put in place is the star of our investment organization, rather than one single person’s best idea.

I’ve also learned how important investment philosophy is – but only if it’s personal and not simply talking points on a slide. With that in mind, over the years I’ve internalized Morningstar’s long-term, fundamental framework to a few key concepts that resonate with me.

First, I acknowledge that the assets we manage belong to individual investors with unique financial goals, so we must adhere to a mandate akin to the Hippocratic Oath: do no harm. This principle guides every decision.

Second, we must distinguish between market noise and the enduring drivers of asset class returns. That doesn’t mean we are uninformed of the news of the day – far from it! – but we can’t give it all equal weight in our decision making.

And lastly, consistency matters. Which means we optimize portfolios for a range of outcomes, rather than marrying ourselves to a single world view.

Structure. Culture. Philosophy. They sound so theoretical, but getting these right makes all the difference for the advisors and clients who entrust their assets to us.

WSR: What advice do you have for a female student or career changer considering investment management as a career?

Norton: Curiosity is likely the strongest prerequisite for a career in investment management. While compounding is most often associated with investing, its utility extends equally well to knowledge acquisition. You must have a desire to learn and, often, relearn.

Curiosity is likely the strongest prerequisite for a career in investment management.

And a funny by-product of curiosity is humility. If you’re naturally curious – gathering more and more facts – it’s common to find your initial assessment of a topic could be wrong. Being cognizant of your own shortcomings is extremely valuable. As Charlie Munger said, “Knowing what you don’t know is more useful than being brilliant.”

Then regardless of industry, finding the dedication to keep at it, day in and day out. This can be so hard. Particularly in the early days of my career, there were plenty of times when I lost my nerve or felt awkward as the only female and the youngest in the room. Drawing on those experiences, I’ll offer the same encouragement I give my kids, “You can quit, but not on a bad day.”

Finally, read! Life isn’t long enough to make all the mistakes you need to make to become wiser. So, take advantage of learning from others. My perennial favorite investment book is “Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. Today, I’m also reading “Number Go Up” by Zeke Faux and “Smartest Guys in the Room” by Bethany McLean. I recently finished “Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver. There’s more to life than financial markets!

Michael Madden, Contributing Editor & Research Analyst at Wealth Solutions Report, can be reached at mmadden@wealthsolutionsreport.com.

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