Burt White is complicated. He is obsessed with meeting people, talking to people, finding out who they really are. But he also swears he’s an introvert.
As chief investment officer for LPL Financial, the largest independent broker-dealer in the country, he has made a career out of getting to know the biggest and best investors in the US on a very personal level. He is a regular commentator on CNBC and he speaks at conferences of more than 7,000 advisors.
It hardly seems like the obvious job for a ‘shy kid from the small town of Radford, Virginia’ who grew up expecting to work on a farm.
But he believes this apparent contradiction is the key to his success.
‘I’m a firm believer that your greatest strengths are your greatest weaknesses,’ he says.
‘Investing is about relationships. It is about people. [My introversion] made me focus on relationships. It made me focus on getting to know people. It has allowed me to have such different relationships and to be able to learn to connect to individuals in a very intimate and real way.’
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These are not empty words. White and his team of 26 investment analysts place huge value on getting to know portfolio managers.
By his own admission their due diligence process is somewhere between ‘a job interview and an FBI profile.’
He aims to lift the mask of portfolio managers to work out whether they should get a slice of the $486 billion under his influence.
‘For us, diligence is a people business,’ he says. ‘You see the world defining managers by their numbers. But for us, managers and their funds are living and breathing organizations. They are emotional organizations. They are real people and because of that you really have to understand them.’
This means all-too human factors will influence investment decisions.
‘If you’ve gotten to know people like Bill Miller [at LMM] or Chuck Royce [of Royce Funds] then you know their favorite sports teams. You know with Richie Freeman at ClearBridge, if the New York Mets lost he is probably going to have a very different day looking at the Bloomberg terminal than if the Mets won.’