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Investing and career advice from Dan Fuss, the ‘Buffett of bonds’

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  • Dan Fuss, the vice chairman of Loomis Sayles and longtime portfolio manager of its flagship bond fund, is sometimes called the Warren Buffett of bonds because of his legendary tenure and performance. 
  • Fuss has been in the investment industry for 61 years. 
  • In an exclusive interview with Business Insider, Fuss shared four pieces of advice for people who wish to have impact and longevity in their own careers. 
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Dan Fuss is not hanging up his boots yet, even after 61 years in the investment industry. 

But the length of Fuss’ career is not the only reason why he has become a legendary fixture of the fixed income world.

The Loomis Sayles vice chairman and portfolio manager has made several risky bets that seemed absurd at the time but rewarding in retrospect.

More recently, he funneled money into European banks and other financial companies when the region was boiling over in a debt crisis back in 2011. And back in 2014, he hunted for undervalued energy companies during the oil crash.  

His calculated and sometimes contrarian approach has earned his flagship Loomis Sayles Bond Fund a 7% annual rate of return since its inception in 1996. That’s better than the 5% return delivered by its benchmark, according to Bloomberg data. The fund’s 323% total return since inception has also trounced its benchmark by about 125 percentage points.

Fuss’ chances of such a long career in fund management would be slimmer today if he were just starting out. 

It’s not news to any active portfolio manager that the mutual-fund industry is shrinking. Clients who would otherwise have paid for fund managers’ services are increasingly choosing cheaper and more passive investment options.

Every year since 2016, more mutual funds have shut down than have started up, according to Morningstar data. Net new additions peaked back in 2013.

Against this backdrop, Business Insider asked Fuss his advice for fund managers who are still early in their careers.  We got more than we bargained for: his words of wisdom are applicable to just about anyone — even outside of finance — who desires longevity and impact in their careers.

All the quotes below are attributable to him.

1. “My general advice to my own children, grandchildren, and to one of the great grandchildren so far has been that no matter what you do, show up early, smile, and work hard.”

2. “If you’re coming into the investment business and you’re involved with portfolio management or the research side, don’t just focus on your narrow area even if you’re dealing with a narrow area.

“You’ve got to be aware of the world around you. You might say, ‘no, that’s the job for the economics department or whoever.’ Yes, it is their primary duty. But you’ve got to understand it. You don’t have to be the expert by a longshot. But read the morning paper — what’s happening politically and geopolitically.

“If you’re managing a portfolio, you need a much broader view and the ability to focus. Have a general awareness, and then dig through all the financials. Call on all the companies in the area, find out what’s happening. Know the context it’s happening in.”

3. “Try to lead a balanced life so you can enjoy your grandchildren.

“Limit what you do on the work side, not on the family side. It’s hard to do. That was my father’s advice to me and I think it was good.”

4. “Do not drive your wife bananas. That’s preaching, that’s moralizing — I know that. Grandfathers get to do that. But it’s also true.”

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