irby: Senior partner, The Capital Group Partners LP, Los Angeles
My first job -- at Willis and Crispi, which was the Scudder, Stevens correspondent on the West Coast -- literally included sweeping the sidewalk on Wilshire Boulevard in front of the building, as well as changing the fluorescent light bulbs on Saturday morning -- undignified for a Harvard MBA, but . . .
(After Scudder acquired the firm) I was a Scudder guy. The research and the model portfolio and all that stuff sort of came from the investment committee in Boston. . . . If you were at all adventurous, anytime you would buy something that wasn't on the list you'd say: "The client made me do it."
. . . One of the skeletons in my closet early on was racing sports cars, which Scudder felt was truly a bad idea, imagewise.
One morning the inevitable happened, and I called in from the California Hospital, which is where I was born, and I had eight broken ribs and a punctured lung.
I said: "Someone will have to take care of my flock for about 30 days till I get back."
So when I got back they said: "You've got to choose between your weekly activities and your weekend activities."
I chose work. But the more I thought about it, the more steamed I got. About six weeks later I walked in and tossed an entry blank to a race in Phoenix on the partner's desk and said: "I'm outta here."
A good friend of mine who I raced with was at Capital Research and Management Co. . . . He said: "Come over here."
By coincidence, it was a time when Capital was thinking of starting an investment counseling subsidiary -- what they did at that point was mutual funds -- and since this was my bag, it was a perfect fit. . . .
I always had this idea that if you were going to be in the investment counseling business it would be an incredible advantage to be a trust company. . . .
So we went to the state superintendent of banks. He was a really good guy and said: "You know, it sounds like an OK idea to me. If you want to do it, do it. . . ."
We became Capital Guardian Trust Co. And then, we completely changed our focus from individuals to institutions. I ascribe that formally to General Mills. I thought for a long time we should have called this the Betty Crocker Trust Co., because they called us and said: "Would you guys be interested in running a pension fund?"
And we said, "Sure."
We flew out to Minneapolis, gave a presentation, and they hired us.
(Next, when California first allowed public pension funds to invest in equities, Harold Ostley, treasurer of Los Angeles County, advertised for RFPs.)
After a couple of months went by, Ostley called me and says, "You know, I've got 10,000 proposals here, and I don't have any from you. Why not?"
And I said, "Because our fee would be absolutely prohibitive, and it would be a waste of time for us even to bid because you guys are going to do the low bidders. . . ."
I ran into him a little while later at a (conference) and he said: "Would you come to my office tomorrow at 10?"
I walk in and . . . the United States flag was red, white and purple. It was really faded out.
He said: "You see that U.S. flag, you know where we got it?"
I said: "Where?"
"Competitive bidding. Get your damned proposal in here."
So we did and got hired by L.A.