Going Beyond the Numbers: Investors Meeting Executives - Ep. 01

In this very first episode of Meeting Strategist, I talk with Joost de Graaf, a senior portfolio manager at Kempen Capital Management. Based in Amsterdam, Joost helps manage more than 3 billion euros at Kempen’s Global and European High Dividend funds, which in 2012 were the first funds in Europe’s Benelux region to receive a prestigious Gold rating from investment researcher Morningstar.

It’s no coincidence that I invited Joost to be the first guest on this show. I’ve known Joost since my years as a financial journalist at Bloomberg when I regularly called him to comment on news stories. Years later, he asked his HR department to develop a course to help portfolio managers improve their questioning, listening and meeting skills. HR reached out to me, which is essentially how I got involved in training investors.

"Don't be afraid to say: I don't understand this, can you explain this to me."

In our conversation at Kempen’s headquarters in Amsterdam, Joost reflects on the hundreds of meetings he has had with company executives over the past 20 years. We talk about the human edge in the increasingly data-driven investment world, the predictive power of information gathered from meetings, the importance of what’s not being said and tips to build a relationship with powerful – and sometimes difficult - people.

Joost de Graaf (left) and me after recording our conversation at the headquarters of Kempen in Amsterdam.

Joost de Graaf (left) and me after recording our conversation at the headquarters of Kempen in Amsterdam.


Show Notes:

1:10 - Why a good view helps

2:30 - How Joost, a trained engineer, ended up in investing

5:10 - The essence of his job

6:28 - The human capabilities you need to beat the market

8:27 - The human edge in collecting and judging intangible information, as more money is managed by algorithms

10:19 - How meetings fit in

12:21 - Why he’s meeting more than 20 years ago

14:16 - Why business model disruption and the financial crisis have made it more important for investors to meet with management

16:36 - Using meetings to spot red flags

18:43 - Introducing the concept of negative screening

21:03 - Why you should keep an open mind in group meetings

23:50 - The importance of intangible information in seizing up a management team

25:00 - Dissecting experience

26:56 - The essence of preparation: knowing what you want to know

30:20 - The killer question that helps executives think and has proven to work over and over again

34:13 - The winning mindset in meetings

35:06 - How to cultivate curiosity

37:13 - How Joost improved his meeting skills over time (disclaimer: this part includes a shameless promo for a training I developed)

40:23 - The mind reader: know your strengths and weaknesses and compose your meeting team accordingly

43:57 - Why it’s crucial to put yourself in your conversational partner’s shoes

47:38 - How to build a relationship with powerful - and sometimes difficult - personalities like Elon Musk

52:35 - Being on the other side of the table when meeting clients

56:29 - Joost’s book tip (see link below) and how meetings helped Marathon Asset Management identify problems at Anglo Irish Bank

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Links to people, books and resources mentioned in this episode:

  • Joost's profile on LinkedIn

  • More information about Kempen’s High Dividend strategy and team; scroll down to find a link to the Dividend Letter I referred to

  • Joost's book tip "Capital Returns" through Amazon

  • Highlights from the conference call with Elon Musk via WSJ.com

And as a bonus, here's an interesting article I read in preparation of the interview:

P.S. Despite my journalism roots, this is actually the first audio production I’ve ever released into the world. As I create more episodes, I hope to become a better host and develop a format for uncovering meeting strategies and habits in a way that’s both useful and entertaining to listeners. If you want to help me improve this show, please send your feedback to marcel@meetingstrategist.org