Dr. Reilly White
Associate Professor of Finance, UNM Student Run Portfolio Advisor,
Anderson School of Management, University of New Mexico
Q: Tell us a little about yourself?
A: I was born in Chicago in the 1980s, following a brief liaison between an affable college football coach from California (my father) and a brilliant New York-born Bennigan's assistant manager (my mother). I was a nerdy kid who specialized in collecting maps – I amassed about 60 atlases by the time I was twelve – and grew up between windswept Cleveland winters and toasty Las Cruces summers.
After a brief stint at Boston University studying astrophysics, I decided that finance was my true calling and promptly transferred to UMass-Dartmouth (the other Dartmouth) to finish a degree in Finance. I worked as an Analyst for a large Boston-based bank until 2008 – when finance is on fire, you stop, drop, and roll to graduate school. After a visiting position in North Carolina, I got my dream Assistant Professorship at UNM and was just tenured and promoted earlier this year.
Q: What do you love most about your current professional role?
A: Teaching. I've taught over 1,100 students at UNM since 2013 – most of them graduate students. They are brilliant, competent, engaging, and humbling. Watching them succeed is a far greater legacy than any other I could dream of.
Q: How do you define success?
A: Success is the art of becoming slightly better than you were before. It's sort of like updated software – you're the version 2.1 of yourself, a few of the bugs are fixed, and you've still got an impressive calculation ability despite a disappointing user interface.
Q: Who inspires you and why?
A: My five-year old son, James. He lives entirely in the moment, and he reminds you of how absurd life is when you only surround yourself with e-mails and our endless responsibilities. He also has a joyously dark sense of humor. He told me this story about he and his friend Asher on the bus:
James: What if we pretend the bus is on fire?
Asher: (Pretends to scream) "…wait, why are you not screaming?"
James: I'm pretending I'm not on the bus.
I know, I know – read the wrong way, this sounds like Fireside Chats with Young Hannibal Lecter. But James is also the most profoundly sweet, brilliant son I could ever ask for. And, he calculates NPV at a 4th grade level - he's already working on Level I.
Q: What are some things you have learned in your career that has vastly improved your personal and professional life?
A: Sometimes, the only way to great learning – and personal growth – is via our deepest frustrations. The famous Greek tragedian Aeschylus said, "He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, wisdom comes to us."
Q: What's one favorite failure of yours that you believe has set you up for later success?
A: When I was 18, I was kicked out of the house – for a few weeks, I lived in my car (a 1989 Toyota Corolla I bought for $150) and between the houses of two very patient friends. To this day, I have never taken a hot shower for granted. Anyone who has experienced something similar knows life is always precariously balanced between success and failure.
As John Prine famously sang in Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow):
"Hey, it ain't such a long drop, don't stammer don't stutter
From the diamonds in the sidewalk to the dirt in the gutter
And you carry those bruises
To remind you wherever you go."
Q: What is your daily morning routine like?
A: I really wanted to say, "I awake each morning under the shadow of snowy Mt. Kilimanjaro, where, after being awakened by the melodious call of a Violet Turaco (endemic to this region), I spend several hours crafting melon balls into the shape of Carl Icahn."
As a parent of a small child, my morning routine consists of getting him dressed, brushed, and fed, while simultaneously crafting him a lunch – a chimera of bread, meat, and fruit that resembles a rejected Lunchables product line. After dropping him off at the bus, I head to the gym. Despite having roughly twenty empty treadmills, an older gentleman in knee-high socks will inevitably use the treadmill immediately adjacent to mine, where he will ask about the best stocks he should buy. Every day, I tell him to go long on the VIX.
Also, I like to read the Economist and the Financial Times. Not only are British publications more fun to read, but you pick up a lot of useful information on the often-overlooked Haberdashery ETFs.
Q: Do you have a favorite book recommendation?
A: When I was a young analyst, my favorite book was Henderson the Rain King. A friend borrowed it and I think it was eaten by their dog. If you have a 500 hours and a penchant for historical figures, read Diarmaid MacCulloch's Thomas Cromwell. If you have 500 hours and a penchant for economic figures, read Thomas Piketty's Capital.
Q: Other than joining CFA Society NM, what advice would you give recent college graduates who hope to make it in this profession?A: Remember this: take your job seriously, but not yourself seriously. Everything else falls into place.
Also, surround yourself with good mentors. Often, mentors can be too insecure, busy, or short-sighted to offer you opportunities to growth. But when you have a good one, you never forget them.