How to Lead in A Crisis: Q&A with Jeffrey Kleintop

One of Wall Street’s best and brightest, author, financial executive, philanthropist and most importantly UD alumnus, Jeffrey Kleintop is coming back to campus to give a special lecture later this month. Kleintop, currently the chief global investment strategist for Charles Schwab & Co., will visit the University of Delaware on April 27 as the featured speaker for the Chaplin Tyler Lecture Series at UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. Kleintop will speak at 2:30 p.m. The event is free to the public.

Kleintop is a class of 1993 Lerner graduate with a degree in business administration. He went on to earn his MBA from Penn State University, and then later attended the London School of Economics. His career as a financial analyst and expert spans decades, and he previously worked as chief investment strategist at PNC Bank and chief market strategist and executive vice president of LPL Financial. Kleintop is a frequent commentator on financial matters in television and print, and has been recognized by The Wall Street Journal. He wrote the book, Market Evolution: How to Profit in Today’s Changing Financial Markets, which was published in 2006. Kleintop gave a preview of what he will discuss in the lecture, his advice for students pursuing similar careers to his and reflections on his time at UD.

Lerner: First, I wanted to say that we are definitely looking forward to your visit. Can you give us a preview of what you will be discussing?

Kleintop: I think an important topic for me to address is how to lead in a crisis. At some point, we all are likely to find ourselves in a position to provide direction when the way forward is uncertain. In periods of uncertainty, people tend to hesitate or retreat while others seek opportunities but risk misjudging the situation. How we decide to manage uncertainty can have a big impact on our success and satisfaction.

Since it is better to show than to tell, I plan to present my outlook for the markets which offers a practical illustration of how I go about formulating investing advice during a period of turmoil and how I think about managing risk and opportunity when I don’t have all the information I’d like and some of the outcomes are unknowable. While the current period of war, inflation and pandemic seems unprecedented, it’s not the first time we have been through unprecedented developments and it won’t be the last.

Lerner: What advice do you have for students who are pursuing a career path similar to yours?

Kleintop: Being able to communicate your ideas is as important as the ideas themselves. Work on presenting your ideas all the time. Attention spans are short when it comes to facts and figures. I try to tell stories about the markets. Stories are memorable and have a beginning, a middle and a conclusion—they allow for the listener to see the whole picture and how it all fits together.

Also, the markets can be humbling. Even the best of us don’t get it right all the time. You have to be willing to learn and adapt quickly. That doesn’t mean if an idea doesn’t work out quickly you jump to a different conclusion. It means you consider what you may have misjudged and what you might not have known. Don’t be too quick coming to an answer, strive to ask better questions.

Lerner: What was your career goal when you were at Lerner? How is what you do now different from what you thought you would be doing when you were a student at UD?

Kleintop: Yes, I wanted to be one of those experts featured on the financial news channels. I loved my classes at Lerner. I still remember the “aha” moments in class like when I first learned about Fed monetary policy in macroeconomics. Much of what I use every day to understand markets I recall from sitting in a classroom in Purnell or Smith.

Lerner: How does everything going on now with Russia and Ukraine affect your job?

Kleintop: The war is impacting commodity flows and prices: disrupting supply chains for neon used in semiconductor manufacturing, palladium used in auto manufacturing, not to mention energy supplies used by everyone. But there are indirect impacts to consider, as well, such as: How is the war affecting consumer sentiment in real time? Or does curtailing business operations in Russia have a material impact on sales, production or employment? Potential answers to these questions are moving the markets every day.

Lerner: How does the Fed interest rate hike and inflation affect your job?

Kleintop: This is another indirect impact of the pandemic and war with tight supplies pushing up prices. How does the Fed weigh the threat of high inflation against the rising risk of slower economic growth? If the Fed pursues an aggressive path of interest rate increases it may starve the economy of the financial conditions necessary for growth. But if they don’t, might high inflation become embedded and erode purchasing power and the value of investments. Assessing the conditions that prompt the Fed to take one path or the other is critical to determining how to profit or protect from what they may do.

Inflation can turn sharply. It’s possible that just as inflation surprised on the upside over the past 12 months, it’s possible it could surprise on how quickly it recedes in the year ahead. We’ve seen shortages turn into gluts very quickly in the past, even recently as we saw with personal protection equipment, like masks and gloves, and with home exercise equipment. If supply gluts begin to develop over the coming year, we could see prices turn around quickly providing relief to the Fed but causing potential headaches for companies that have benefitted from tight supplies and rising prices.


About The Tyler Lecture

The Chaplin Tyler Executive Leadership Lecture Series in UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics brings leaders from business, nonprofit organizations and the government to campus to share their experiences and insights with students, faculty and the business community in an open exchange of ideas and perspectives.

The series, which is supported by the Chaplin Tyler Endowment Fund, is dedicated to the memory of Chap and Elizabeth Tyler, their commitment to education and their determination to help young people achieve success in the business world.

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