“She who dares, wins” and other golden career tips – in conversation with Jennifer Lippin Rexinis
By: Lori Landry
Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Institutional Business
Jennifer Lippin Rexinis is Director, Investment Product Specialist in the Global Product Group at MFS Investment Management (MFS). We sat down recently to discuss why fixed income is often misunderstood, the importance of gumption and not apologizing.</
What's the most rewarding part of your job?
Learning and being able to contextualize markets is pretty rewarding because I believe fixed income is far less understood than equities. And I covered equities for over 19 years. Now being in the fixed income side for the last 3 ½ years, the fact is if you can speak in plain English about fixed income to a broad type of audience – whether it's sophisticated, or somewhere in between, it's going to give people a greater contextualized understanding. You can see the difference from the questions and to where you see the money going. Fixed income is something everyone needs. You still see flows going to fixed income, but in this low yield environment, people are trying to go for yield. That means they're changing their risk profile, which requires having a more in-depth discussion and hopefully, a greater feeling of comfort and of being informed, which is a very rewarding thing.
What are the most challenging aspects of the work you're doing now?
Well, the challenging bits are sometimes schedules. It's long days, lots of travel – I probably fly over 100,000 air miles a year – on top of staying in touch with multiple investment teams. We have nine research offices around the world but for fixed income we're in London, Toronto as well as Boston. We have trading offices for fixed income in those three locations, so it is coordination and information gathering and staying in touch with everybody. Communication is part of our DNA but when you're coming into the office around 7 a.m. and leaving around 7 p.m., and flying the next morning across multiple time zones, continuing that communication and staying in touch is quite a challenge.
So I suppose there's no typical day for you.
Not really. I go in with certain expectations. And, sometimes, you have an event or something bizarre happen like Erdogan taking out the Goulaninsts in Turkey…and you realize that: "Gosh, Erdogan, you're becoming exactly what you didn't want to be as a leader…or so you have previously said." And, now, I'm going to have multiple clients asking about our Turkish exposure particularly in our emerging markets debt strategies and other exposures, potentially in different asset classes. My whole day could get derailed solely because I need to respond to client requests. So there's always an expectation of what my day might be like, but you never know.
What advice would you give to a younger version of you starting out?
It's interesting in that I've been a mentor many times. What I've said to them all is figure out what you want to learn, number one, and where you're most passionate within the financial business, second. Because for some folks it's trading, some folks it's researching into decisions related to proxy voting, equity research, fixed income, credit research, etc. What I've said to them is go forth, go after advanced degrees or certifications or licensing, whatever it takes and really dig into it. You have youth on your side. When you know more about what you're doing in the office, what you're learning is much more positive. For mentees, I always encourage them to work on positioning their own personal presentation skills. To be the whole package, you need to be able to present well on a conference call, but you also need to be able to present well in front of an audience, too.
Have there been women your career or outside your career who inspire you? And Why?
I joke in a lot of my sessions that Janet Yellen and I have a lot in common. We were born in Brooklyn and went to Brown University for undergraduate studies. To me, Janet Yellen is a rock star! When was the last time we expected a Fed chairperson to be a chairwoman? It's pretty darn cool to be at that global stage and to have that kind of decision making prowess. In this business, it's very hard in my opinion, to have women idols.
What would you say the best career advice you've ever been given is?
My father told me a long time ago if you find a job you love, it feels a lot less like work. I have a mentor; and, I believe strongly in them. He is a gentleman that I worked with for almost 7 years and he said: Never apologize. Women apologize. Never apologize. You can ask forgiveness after, but go do what you need to do to do your job. Whatever that is. And do not apologize for doing what you need to do, to do your job well. Because that is a personal thing, what I feel is a job well done might be standard deviations away from any other person.
The other thing I adopted is the motto for the United States Navy Seals - it's "the only easy day was yesterday." Which I understand. But my favourite is the British SAS, which is: "He who dares, wins." So I just add an 'S' – "She who dares, wins."
Are there aspects or parts of your role that you think people would find surprising?
How much data, how much reading, how much stuff I process. There's a lot of mosaicking that happens in my world because I do have to translate a lot of information to make it understandable for a particular audience. In a lot of cases people say "Your presentation was great! You make it look so easy." And I'm thinking "wow," considering the amount of work that goes into my messaging to explain what's happening in the markets, the constant change and volatility and inflation pressures. It takes a lot of sifting, and in a lot of cases, defining the most important points and separating them from the noise. There is a lot of data and information you have to pore through religiously. It's an everyday thing.
Do you have tools in place or processes to help you do that?
Some of it is managing the information that comes into the office from economists, and thought leaders in the industry. You limit the excess of information to folks that you feel are quality researchers and information providers. But I also try to read the foreign press – I speak multiple languages – if I can get my hands on it. I also read the Financial Times, which may have a very different opinion than the New York Times than the Wall Street Journal and the Economist (which is also British press backed by the FT). I look at that for pure economics to help underpin and contextualize everything. I think it's important because the general public and the press think very differently about topics.
How do you retain it all?
It's an interesting question because I get that a lot. I have always had a crazy memory. It's a gift. I know some people train their memories and do all these things, but for me it's how I process the information and how I think about the markets. I make the odd association, I throw in movies or something that makes sense, and what I've found is a lot of people can grab on to different aspects of how I can describe certain situations. Like when we talk about the Euro Monetary Union - I'll say, "it's a polygamous marriage with no divorce clause." People get it! You come up with analogies to things that will work and popular culture references.
You have to make it fun because this could be seen as being very boring and tedious. For example, when there is greater volatility, that may mean everything we're talking about today could be nullified before the markets open tomorrow. You could have the U.S. dollar completely crashing, you could have the Yen weaken back out to $1.24 when it had been 84 cents to the U.S. dollar. You could have things reverse because the one thing that is true about the markets is: constant change. I always think of things in terms of a flexible mandate and a flexible environment. I always have to be adjusting. I don't "rock sides." I want to talk about today, what's the view today based upon the latest information. I don't want to give the same presentation in 25 countries if I can avoid it. I want to make sure you have a backdrop of information that you can talk about everything else with better context. That's more relevant.