5am starts, missing lunch and avoiding Twitter: Here's how a $135 billion money manager spends his day

Business Insider/Will MartinThinking time.

  • JPMorgan Asset Management’s Malcolm Smith shares what an average day looks like as a $US135 billion money manager.
  • Smith starts working between 5am and 6am
  • He steers of clear of social media platforms like Twitter and does his best thinking on planes.

LONDON – Work starts early when you’re in charge of more than $US100 billion of other people’s money.

Malcolm Smith, the head of JPMorgan Asset Management’s $US135 billion international equity group, usually wakes at around 5:00 am, and is working almost straight away, he told Business Insider in an interview in February.

“I’m doing emails, speaking to people from five or six in the morning,” he said.

“The first thing I do when I get up is check markets to see what’s happened overnight, check the news flow that’s incoming from people around the world. Occasionally I’ll end up doing calls at the time of the morning, but will normally be in the office between 7:30 and 8:15.”

Smith’s day then progresses in a manner that would be recognisable for many office workers, with a whole heap of meetings.

“There’s normally a round of morning meetings for different investors, and investor groups.

“Then its straight into the day of CIO reviews, what’s happening in individual portfolios, any new client work we’re doing, and I’ll probably see a couple of clients across the day.”

Smith doesn’t normally have time for lunch, but has frequent dinners with clients.

Staying up to date is crucial in the markets right now, especially given the increasing influence politics and geopolitics on market movements, and the unpredictable nature of the current news cycle.

Just look at Tuesday’s shock news that President Donald Trump had sacked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, an event which caused the dollar to drop almost half a per cent.

To keep on top of things, Smith uses a variety of tools, including the traditional media.

“I tend to look at the standard news sources – Bloomberg, the FT, and [when prompted by a press officer] Business Insider.”

Internal research from fellow JPMAM employees also plays a key role.

“We have a lot of internal research capability, so I consume a huge amount of that. We get a lot from the sell side as well – so overnight trading desks, how the US has finished up, how Asia’s opening and how its trading so far that morning. I get that from both internal sources and external sources.”

“We have a great infrastructure here in doing that. We have people on the ground all over the world, trading guys, people who are looking at live markets and news flows the whole time, and they’re connected into Twitter, social media, live news feeds, the whole nine yards.”

Smith himself, however, is not a fan of Twitter, saying he avoids using the platform for fear of having “too much” information, a problem he believes plagues many in the markets and can disrupt investment decisions.

“The problem with Twitter is that you can’t read everything all the time. You end up with the classic problem of having too much information. That’s a problem for our industry actually,” he said.

“There’s this wonderful drive to learn more and share information, but there’s a limit to how many words you can read in a day. You can’t read every piece of content that’s been produced in that day.”

Information overload is something Smith is keen to avoid, and the enormous amount of time he spends travelling helps him with that.

“One of the places I find the most productive for me is sitting on a plane. I’m sure people think I’m nuts when they sit on the plane next to me, because sometimes I’ll just stare out the window,” he said.

“It’s quite good to be isolated and just to have time to think about things. Time on a plane to look out the window and get lost in your own thoughts is quite an important thing. Some of my best thinking ever has been done there.”

“I have a pen and a notepad sitting there, and I just work through problems I’m dealing with.”

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