Monty Cerf on Wealth Management

With over 35 years of investment banking and wealth management experience for major organizations such as JPMorgan, Barclays, and OCJ Capital LLC., Monty Cerf is currently a wealth management advisor. He has served as an adjunct professor for Montclair State University School of Business and sits on that school’s advisory board.

He is also an occasional guest lecturer at the Yale School of Management and sits on the Advisory Board for that school’s Center for International Finance.

Before reading blog posts from Mr. Cerf, readers must understand his background. Monty Cerf received his bachelor’s degree, magna cum laude, from Cornell University in 1979, where he majored in Government. Then, after service in the Peace Corps in Africa, Cerf sought and received a Masters in Science degree from the London School of Economics.  Cerf then attended the Yale University School of Management, where he received his MBA in finance. After graduation, Mr. Cerf worked in Investment Banking for JPMorgan for over seventeen years.

While working at JPMorgan, Cerf gained expert knowledge of the US, European, and Latin American capital markets and developed expertise in fixed income, derivatives, and equity capital markets, both private and public. After leaving JPMorgan, Monty Cerf would go on to work as Senior Managing Director of Investment Banking at Bear Sterns, Inc., and later as Managing Director of Wealth and Investment Management at Barclays.

Currently, Mr. Cerf serves as Managing Director and Portfolio Manager of Montclair Investment Partners at UBS. Throughout his career, Monty Cerf has remained dedicated to helping the financial community and various educational institutions. Today, Mr. Cerf serves on the Board of Advisors for the Yale School of Management’s International Center for Finance, the MSU Business Board of Advisors, and the Cornell Outdoor Education Program Board.

Within finance, wealth and portfolio management is often seen as one of the most rewarding if not challenging positions within the industry and requires candidates to possess knowledge in a wide range of areas. However, Monty Cerf stresses that while a robust financial background is a necessity within portfolio management, specific skillsets can define a portfolio manager’s success.

Analytical Thinking:

Within finance, there is a great deal of uncertainty, volatility, and misguided speculation. In order to accurately predict how a stock or a portfolio will likely behave, portfolio managers must succeed in both qualitative and quantitative analysis. In addition to analyzing stock indexes, different capital markets and their return and their relative correlations to each other, portfolio managers must be able to interpret the impact of immeasurable variables such as the hiring of a new CEO, upcoming campaigns, macro political and economic considerations or and a variety of other information that may have impact on any given stock or capital market.

Strong Communication Skills:

Monty Cerf stresses that confidence and communication are key requirements for a successful portfolio manager. In order to continue to grow the business and earn customers’ trust, portfolio managers must be able to effectively communicate with clients to develop a comprehensive financial plan, convey their strategy, all associated risks and react to future obstacles. A portfolio manager that solely possess a strong financial background will only get so far with limited communication skills. Excellent communication skills are essential to be sure there is no gap between the clients understanding of the risks and returns of an agreed portfolio strategy and the actual risks and returns that can be reasonably expected in various market conditions.  

Passion for Learning:

Within the financial and investment worlds, standards, laws, products, and methodologies are constantly evolving. Portfolio managers must possess a passion for their work and a passion for life long learning about a very wide variety of topics.   The financial world is a mirror on to the world of finance, economics, politics, history and psychology.  Recently, as COVID -19 dominated, being an amateur epidemiologist also helped!   An interest in and ongoing learning in all those fields are extremely important.   Those without this passion are more likely to fall behind and struggle to keep pace with industry developments, market trends and client’s needs.  Portfolio managers turn to a wide variety of learning to deliver top results.

Being Proactive:

While there is no way to know with certainty where the financial market will be in 6 to 12 months, it is the job of a portfolio manager to stay proactive regarding world events and make sound financial assessments for clients. Unexpected economic conditions make investment forecasting challenging, especially for the short term, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. However, successful portfolio managers are able to adapt their financial strategies to thrive in different market conditions and, importantly, not to overreact to uncertainties as they present themselves.  Selling securities at the height of the COVID crisis, we now know, would have been a very bad idea. That’s a perfect example. . Staying proactive means understanding how portfolios fair under different economic strains and developing financial strategies that will continue to succeed in different conditions of both high and low volatility.

While Monty Cerf’s career has allowed him to travel the world many times over, Mr. Cerf has a great love of Montclair, New Jersey, where he and his family have lived for the past 33 years. For much of his time in Montclair, Monty Cerf has worked with the Montclair State University School of Business as an adjunct professor, lecturer, advisory board member, and scholarship donor.  He has also served on several other, not for profit boards.

Cerf’s fondness for education has led him to share his knowledge, which will provide others with the opportunity to learn more about the exciting world of finance.