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Apurva Mehta, 30
Director of Investments, Cook Children's Health Care System
"Investing. I've been doing this my entire life," says Mehta, who jokingly notes that he started investing when he was only 14 years old—managing a hypothetical portfolio of $10,000 in his ninth-grade business class at Montville Township High School in New Jersey. The portfolio consisted of Apple, Microsoft, and Intel. "That's when I knew I wanted to do this for a living," he says.
Today, Mehta's role is to understand everything from asset allocation, manager selection, performance, risk, and liquidity for the $1.1 billion foundation of Cook Children's Health Care System—a pediatric center in Fort Worth, Texas, that operates 60 medical and specialty clinics throughout the state. "At Cook, we've taken a different approach to asset allocation. We're looking at market exposures in three main categories: global equities, global debt, and real assets," he says. "It avoids us filling up buckets driven by compensation schemes, like hedge funds. We're really agnostic to structure and invest in any asset class so long as the exposure fits into the portfolio. We look for flexible, nimble managers. That's how we deploy capital." In other words, Mehta emphasizes that it is more important to focus on the underlying asset instead of the investment vehicle.
In hindsight, Mehta says he should have seriously pursued that ninth grade portfolio—worth about $250,000 today—and stuck with it. "It's still something I have on my Yahoo! Finance account, for fun."
The Polymaths: Some people focus on one specific task. This group focuses on many. They're like that kid you knew in high school who could do calculus in French, or did six Advanced Placement classes. You maybe made fun of them—but you also wanted to be them. Or date them. Don't hate them because they're smart. Hate them because they might take your job one day. Or, if you're smart, you'll learn a thing or two from them. And, if all else fails, just hire them.