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Educational Alpha: A Marathon for Professionalism

April 17, 2024

By William (Bill) J. Kelly, CAIA, CEO of the CAIA Association.

It was Patriots' Day on April 15 in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. My home is in Newton and I live a short walk away from Mile 18 of the annual running of the Boston Marathon. Between zoom calls, interrupted by the thundering fly-over of a pair of F-35 fighter jets, I decided to at least get my own steps in, and walked(!) over to Commonwealth Ave. near the beginning of Heartbreak Hill.

I arrived just in time to see the first male leader pass by and there was no one even close to Sisay Lemma when I snapped his pic (bottom-center above), not knowing that he would be the first runner to break the tape less than an hour later in Copley Square. Shortly following the lone-wolf approach of Lemma, along came the elite women runners in a tight pack, at a very quick pace, and I was able to see them too (top-center); Hellen Obiri would go on to be the repeat winner of the women's division. It was thrilling to watch and while I had gotten my fix of inspiration for the day, I decided to linger a bit more before going home and I am so glad that I did.

As I watched, the average pace slowed, but the commitment never seemed to wane. People of different sizes, shapes, and ages came by... some young, some old, some in wheelchairs, and some even blind. They never set out to win this race, but their purpose was etched upon every face that passed me by. They were there because they made a commitment to themselves, they prepared, and finish or not, they proved that determination is what defines them all.

I came back home that afternoon to do a virtual guest lecture at the Kogod School of Business at American University under the kind invitation of my friend Tim Timura. Little did I know how quickly these two parallel universes would collide in an ever larger sea of determination.

Shot on my Lenovo ThinkPad
Shot on my Lenovo ThinkPad

This juxtaposition at play yesterday drove home the thesis that the hallmark of professionalism is also determination; a determination to not necessarily "win", but to show up, to compete, and to be better every single day. It is not about a single finish line, but all about what is next, and the true professional knows that Next Is (always!) Here.

Tim's students put me through the paces yesterday in the Q&A session, just like our CAIA Association Members, our current class of Candidates, and our global ecosystem with whom I have the pleasure to see, with every tarmac that I touch.

Your Next Is (also) Here and you need to ask yourself "do I care?" — care enough to learn, to democratize education over product, and to always put the client first. Find and take that first step. Registration for our September exam cycle opened coincidently with simple firing of a starter's gun in Hopkinton on April 15, and let's make that the shot for professionalism that was heard around world.

Seek education, diversity of both your portfolio and people, and know your risk tolerance. Investing is for the long term.

About the Author:

Bill Kelly

William (Bill) J. Kelly, is the CEO of the CAIA Association with 30+ years in institutional asset management in successive CFO, COO, and CEO roles. A former CEO of Boston Partners and one of the founding partners of the predecessor firm, Boston Partners Asset Management, he's a global speaker and advocate for shareholder protection. Bill serves as Chairman of Boston Partners Trust Company and is an Advisory Board Member for the Certified Investment Fund Director Institute, which seeks to bring the highest levels of professionalism and governance to independent fund directors around the world. As a member of the board of the CAIA Association, Bill also represents CAIA in similar capacities via their global partnerships with other associations and global regulators.