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Lessons from a 30-Year Career in Finance: An Evening with Ted Truscott

November 14, 2013

Ted TruscottTed Truscott enlightened an FWSF crowd with tales from his 30-year and still flourishing career during November's industry expert event held at the historic U.S. Bank building. Mr. Truscott built his financial career under the tutelage of women managers at Chemical Bank and Scudder, Stevens, and Clark and in 2001, became the head of Columbia Asset Management, Ameriprise's fund division. Drawing on his extensive experience in company analysis, Mr. Truscott shared across a broad range of themes — securities analysis and fundamental research, investment bubbles and long-term investing, world economics with a focus on China, women in finance careers, and the importance of liquidity.

Mr. Truscott's lessons on performing company analysis drew from popular manias such as the Latin American bubble and the internet bubble of the 1990s, as he explained the importance of fundamental evaluation. Showing how he has come full circle over 30 years, he recalled from personal experience the attitude shift from bank holding to investment banking and back to bank holding today. As we learned in the 2008 financial crisis, "Liquidity is like air," he said, though in the 1980s, banks were thought to become an anachronism.

Women played an integral role in Mr. Truscott's career. Heidi Miller, his first boss at Chemical Bank, taught him how to deeply look at companies from an equity and debt perspective. Cornelia Small, the first female partner of Scudder, Stevens, and Clark, recognized his skill and passion for equity analysis and made him Head of Equity Research at the tender age of 35. These mentors helped him hone the skills and acuity he used throughout his successful career and he encouraged more women to take on roles in finance.

He also encouraged the audience to think about their "salad oil story", citing American Express's sale of commercial paper to investors against, unbeknownst to them, rigged inventory of a salad oil company. American Express, upon learning of their debacle, decided to do right by investors and replenish their funds. Turning back to the theme of liquidity, he shared his own "salad oil story" of 2008 – where Ameriprise essentially loaned an interest-free $700 million to clients during the liquidity freeze. These are the legendary moments of a company to establish themselves with the customers.

Mr. Truscott ended the evening with a focus on his special regional expertise of China and proceeded to answer audience questions for the second half of the event, further drawing from the depth and breadth of knowledge from his career.

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