Got a yearning to see the world? Then become a diplomat, a sea
captain - or the portfolio manager of an "emerging markets" mutual
Just ask Michael Hoffman, who at age 31 runs the new Robertson
Stephens Emerging Markets Fund from its headquarters in San
Francisco or, more often, from a seat on an airplane bound for
Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe or South America.
That makes him a member of a small but growing breed of
globe-trotting investment specialists. They're products of the
surging popularity of international mutual funds, and they are
quickly dispelling the image of money management as a 9-to-5 desk
"I'd say about a week a month is when I expect to see my
office," Hoffman said on a recent visit to New York.
Many international investment managers spend a lot of time
checking out companies and economic conditions in foreign financial
capitals such as Tokyo, London and Paris.
But an emerging markets specialist like Hoffman usually skips
those staid locations in favor of places like Thailand, Turkey,
Poland and Peru.
On one of several trips to South America in recent months,
Hoffman picked up a parasite that has been "rather difficult to get
rid of," he says.
He also acknowledges that his profession probably is best
suited to a young person without a spouse and children. "I don't
think I would succeed at this point in having a family," he says.
But Hoffman also extols the benefits of such a life, which he
first discovered while at the University of South Carolina getting
a graduate degree in international business, and later as emerging
markets portfolio manager at Cigna International Investment
"Once I got a taste for the international travel, I haven't
looked back," he says.
"You encounter many different cultures, different customs,
different standards. I personally find it all fascinating."
The idea of international investing is simply to expand your
horizons beyond opportunities in the United States, which some view
as a mature economy after several centuries of development.
Emerging markets, which offer some of the wildest and wooliest
places anywhere to put your money, attract investors looking for
the fastest growth rates of all - perhaps double the pace in the
But the risks can run high as well, operating in environments
where the political climate may be unstable, the accounting
standards highly variable, and the formal markets for trading
stocks rudimentary at best. …