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A Mississippi Business Journal Q&A

Edwards reflects on term as president of CFA Society

Jackson — For Tony Edwards, certified financial analyst (CFA), senior portfolio manger for BankPlus’ Wealth Management Group and president of the CFA Society of Mississippi, it all started in a high school economics class.

Part of the curriculum was a stock portfolio simulation, and Edwards’ group outperformed all others. “After that victory, I was determined to make investments a part of my future,” Edwards said.

A native of Houston, Texas, Edwards attended Harding University in Searcy, Ark., where he majored in accounting and economics. After college, Edwards and his wife, Linda, moved to Denver and stayed there approximately two years before moving to Jackson nearly 20 years ago.

His first jobs were in the accounting field (Edwards is a certified public accountant), but once a position opened in the money management business, he changed fields.

“I cut my teeth in the investment world by managing a money market mutual fund. That was a very simple but educational start to my money management career,” Edwards said.

In June, Edwards will wrap his one-year term as president of the CFA Society of Mississippi. The MBJ recently asked Edwards to reflect on his term as president, challenges faced by certified financial analysts and the role the Society can play in meeting these issues, among others.

Mississippi Business Journal: Tell us about the CFA Society of Mississippi. How many members does it hold, and what is the Society’s mission?

Tony Edwards: We currently have 52 members, and are one of 132 societies worldwide. The mission of the Society is to foster a community of investment and financial professionals in Mississippi with the highest levels of ethics and competence.

MBJ: Looking back over this past year when you served as president of the Society, what do you list as the highlights?

TE: For the past three years, we have brought to Jackson nationally known economists, equity analysts, bond and fixed income specialists and those that are expert in understanding the economy here in Mississippi for a very relaxed enjoyable evening. This past February we hosted over 380 guests and members to our largest Forecast dinner. This has become a “must attend” for Mississippi business professionals and those interested in the world of investing. We anticipate having to turn folks away this year for we are limited to 400.

This year for the first time we teamed up with Tom Tabereaux and Judy Reagan at Junior Achievement to help seven high school classes learn economics using the Classroom Edition of The Wall Street Journal. Junior Achievement does a fantastic job with its curriculum teaching economics to high school seniors, so we wanted to partner with them in providing something that was not readily available because of cost, The Wall Street Journal. This was a big success story, and next year we hope to add several new schools to the list.

Finally, this was our first year to publish a media guide. Many of our members are experts in various areas of investments. This media guide was designed to help media folks find someone quickly to help with a story or to explain a complex financial transaction.

MBJ: What has been the impact of Hurricane Katrina on CFAs, both their personal loss as well as the challenges of serving clients who in many cases have lost everything?

TE: Because we are a part of a global organization, when Katrina hit we were able to draw on resources from many places. Shortly after the storm I had several e-mails from the Houston Society and Dallas Society offering free office space to any of our members that needed to relocate quickly. Fortunately our Mississippi members didn’t need the space, but several members of the New Orleans Society accepted their help.

Like everyone on the Coast, the challenge we as money mangers faced was dealing with issues and situations that had never occurred before. Should my client withdraw from an IRA to pay bills? Where would an insurance company get liquidity (what should it sell) within its investment portfolio to handle redemptions in a rising equity and interest rate environment?

It is my opinion that with strong leadership we will rebuild a better coastal area. My hat is off to all those men and women still dealing with an unprecedented situation every day.

MBJ: What are some issues facing CFAs today, and what role do you see the Society playing in overcoming these challenges?

TE: I see that one of the big challenges for all money managers is trust. Trust from clients. We live in an economy where personal assets of $1 million are common, but finding someone who you completely trust to handle that money is more difficult. The CFA charter is built around its Code of Ethics and Standards of Professional Conduct. Those that use the designation CFA are very proud of the strict adherence to that code and those standards. I am not saying we don’t sometimes have a bad apple, but for the most part none of our members globally has been in the news surrounded by allegation of unethical or illegal activities. That makes me proud.

Another challenge we all face is education. As our world shrinks and the securities we commonly purchase move further and further from our homes, we must continue to learn about other cultures, economies, accounting standards and currencies.

In December, we had the pleasure of bringing Donald Straszhiem, a leading expert on China and the Chinese economy, to Jackson, and he shared with us some of his research on global competition. Through events like this, we will be able to stay ahead of the curve. Before the average investor in America will invest his assets outside the U.S. or in a new derivative created by Wall Street, he will expect someone to understand, analyze and explain those risks and rewards in a way that makes sense to him. Education of the client will help build that trust I mentioned.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.


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