My family is gearing up for a self-guided whitewater raft trip in a couple weeks down the Deschutes, Warm Springs to Maupin, with three other families. In addition to securing all the necessary material necessities (boat, boat frame & oars, drybox, drybags, coolers, straps, camping supplies, back country stoves, the list goes on) and, of course, food provisions, there is also the small matter of family safety. We will be rafting through two Class III rapids, Whitehorse and Boxcar, with a total of 7 children all 11 years old and under. Seven children and an undisclosed number of increasingly anxious parents.
Now, it should be noted that this is not our first rodeo, as it were. For many years (pre-kids), this same group of people took longer, more technical rafting trips down the Salmon River in Idaho, along with various other excursions on the Grand Ronde, John Day, and Owyhee rivers here in Oregon. So despite the decade-plus hiatus from behind the oars, we should be reasonably confident in what we’re doing. But, of course, the parental protective instinct of the kids kicks in and now Whitehorse and Boxcar rapids are looming before us not so much as fun, future frothy adventures, but cold, and even inimical menaces to our kids’ safety and should be avoided at all costs!
I’ve always said that rafting is a wonderful metaphor for life in general, as well as for many of our occupational activities. It requires preparation, some expenditure and sacrifice, technical skill, some understanding of how the river moves and water behaves, and above all, a good attitude. It is risky, but it’s also rewarding. As much as possible, one has to be able to confidently assess what the hazards are in advance of descending into a rapid, and then manage the inevitable chaos that always happens between the boulders. The rafter has to be able to effectively manage the risks and properly enjoy the rewards, but must make an intelligent decision about the risk/reward tradeoff before committing their boat to a stretch of whitewater.
This is very much like investment management. An honest recognition of how much risk is acceptable in a portfolio, and realistic understandings of reward are both integral to managing assets for clients. This risk/reward profile must be quantified and explained to clients both before the point of account inception and then on an ongoing basis, once funds have been committed. But the investment manager’s job is also about counseling and educating the client as the account moves along, about providing informed perspective; just as the oarsman job on a raft is not solely about operating the boat, but also about providing insight and feedback, perspective, to the passengers. If the manager/oarsman is properly prepared, skilled, and technically proficient, and is truly good at what they’re doing, they will also be letting those people know who have placed their trust in that person that things are going to be okay, and to enjoy the ride.
– Chad Campbell