These “passionate creatives” often feel “held back” in institutional workplaces and gather “on the edges” where unmet needs intersect with unexploited capabilities. The doyens of funds management in Australia – people such as Robert Maple-Brown and Greg Perry – made their name in the years after compulsory superannuation was introduced and performance figures from dominant providers such as AMP rarely saw the light of day. This is when the industry first became obsessed with performance, Macoun says, and opportunities for entrepreneurial funds managers emerged. Passion drives people “to find the edges in your profession where the new thinking is going on and the new needs are emerging,” the authors write.

The complexity of investment markets and their changing nature are magnetic for passionate investors, and it shapes their work. They become more innovative in their style of investing, and push ideas further. Passion fosters creativity, particularly if workers “have the discipline to master the practices required to drive performance to new levels,” the authors write. They have a hunger to learn and actively seek new challenges, transforming them into opportunities to develop new skills and perspectives. Energised, they are driven to take their game to the next level, marginalising the competition. Their passion for work does not define a course or destination, “but it does provide a compelling direction and a tight focus,” and a powerful motivation to transform challenges into opportunities for advancement.

This is all good, but how does passion manifest? Hours spent at the desk is a crude measure. Enthusiasm is better, Sevior says. “A love for investing. You love the numbers, thinking about the business and where it fits in the industry. Thinking about what makes good management. And the ability to weigh things up.”

Tales of the unexpected

Great investors sweat the minutiae. They know the details – about companies, assets, liquidity – are crucial. But they also step back, look broadly at global markets and the dynamics shaping the investment industry. To draw on the parlance of recent years, they are Black Swan spotters. So as the great deleveraging continues, good investors will be keeping an eye on debt spotfires, but they won’t be preparing for a repeat of the financial crisis. By focusing on past events, Adams at BT’s Advance notes, we’re sure to miss the signs pointing to the next crisis. A good manager won’t try to prevent the last crisis – they will look for and try to capitalise on the next major dislocation.

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