12 questions to:
Sylwia Jaśkiewicz, CFA
Sylwia, thank very much for your participation in the 12on12 project!
You are one of few women on the Polish capital market who is the head of equity research department in a brokerage house. You have over two decades of experience in analysing companies and issuing recommendations. Tell us what the Polish capital market looked like before year 2000 and how it has changed to the present day?
At that time, it was not yet known in which direction financial institutions would develop, whether typical investment banks would emerge or whether the universal bank model would prevail. Capital market institutions were emerging. I remember that I used to walk to the KNF (Polish Financial Supervision Authority) on foot for financial statements and reports of companies covered and photocopied them. Now, actually for a year and a half, I have not moved from my desk at home and I have access to everything. On-line meetings are incredibly convenient. In the classic pre-pandemic arrangements, I certainly would not be able to write as many reports as I do now.
One of the elements that, in my opinion, has remained unchanged is the low representation of women. Both you and I are used to being the only woman at company meetings. What do you think is the reason for this? Do you see the progress?
Meetings with one of the industrial companies come to mind in particular, due to high attendance – what happens in that company is often an early indicator for the economy. Maybe out of about 100 persons, only me and a journalist were women, but often I was the only woman. Unfortunately, that has not changed. The job of an equity analyst is extremely time-consuming as well as emotionally and physically demanding. At the same time, it is an individual work. It is very difficult to delegate responsibilities to another person for a certain period of time, which makes it difficult to align with maternity plans, yet it is not impossible. Yet, it needs trust on the side of the employer.
Working on the capital market means having everyday meetings with management boards of public companies, analysing presentations of strategies and quarterly results. What do you think makes a company transparent and its investor relations highly or poorly rated?
In my opinion, this is a consistent presentation of the same set of data, which does not change over a period of time. Trustworthiness of the corporate representatives and access to the company are also important. What matters is a reasonable strategy and its consistent implementation.
Are there industries that are easy to analyze and which are difficult to cover? Do you think the analyst should focus on the industry that he / she is passionate about? Or rather the opposite, lack of personal commitment and own experience is an advantage as it allows you to look more objectively at the sector and companies listed in it?
Oh yes, there is a sizeable difference between industries. Nowadays, I often focus on biotechnology projects. This is a very difficult sector, as financial analysis strictly speaking consumes maybe 5% of the working time. The remaining time has to be spent on learning about the therapeutic area and mechanisms of potential therapy. All this must be embedded in global trends. This on top overlaps with probabilities of success, legal regulations, and many other factors. Undoubtedly, this is the most complicated sector among the ones I have analysed, including the automotive, retail (also ecommerce), wholesale and construction materials industries. I believe that it is impossible to be a good analyst without being passionate about your work and the sector analyzed. Knowledge always helps. I am lucky to have such a job, because I can confidently say that it is my hobby.
The share price of listed companies is influenced by both fundamental and non-fundamental factors. After years of experience, how do you see the role of an equity analyst? Is it looking for companies whose stock price should increase significantly in the next few months due to the so-called undervaluation or rather concentrate on the so-called triggers and sentiment?
I think that all aspects should be taken into account and one should look for undervalued companies with triggers and good sentiment. So what if the analyst is right and the company will profit in the long term if it is possible that its share loses a lot in the meantime (timing matters). This means that the time to buy was not good, because something was missing. Sometimes it seems to me that prices of companies are largely determined by the results of the next quarter. Sometimes I wish it were different.
In the dilemma of whether to bet on a horse or a jockey, Warren Buffet says that when a reputable management meets a business with a bad reputation, it is the reputation of the business that wins. What are your observations on this matter?
I fully agree. The questions is whether a management with a good reputation would engage in a business with a bad reputation at all?
Although we hear more and more about stakeholders on the financial and capital markets, the overriding goal spoken about in Poland is building shareholder value. What is it? What actions of management boards create it and what do they destroy?
Stock price increase, dividend in the long term. For this, you need a stable management board, a well-organized development strategy with set directions, often based on new ideas. A shareholder should feel safe and believe that what the management board does, even if it generates costs in the short term, opens the company to new prospects in the long run. The perfect example is Neuca.
Lack of a long-term vision, chaos in management, including personal, financing of very risky and inconsistent ventures, creative accounting, shifting everything possible off balance sheet or outside of profit and loss account should cause concern.
We have already mentioned that women are a minority on the capital markets. It is the same with the management and supervisory boards of the largest listed companies. At the end of 2020, women constituted only 15.5% of boards of 140 largest companies listed on the WSE. What do you think is the reason and what could change the status quo?
Convincing those who have influence that diversity create value. Supporting women by women, which is often missing. I think men promote each other a lot more. I don’t want to be promoted just because I’m a woman, but I don’t want to be skipped for that reason either. Life surprised me – I was fired from my job after my baby was born. I hope it won’t happen to any woman these days. It is quite a traumatic experience. I was surprised when my next supervisor said „baby? and what’s strange about that? ”. I have not spent even one day on sick leave because of my child.
In addition to working in the equity research department, you are also interested in psychology. When looking at some of the personalities at the top of corporate hierarchies, do you have the impression that they attract so-called narcissists?
This is not even my impression, but scientific research. NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) is said to occur in some 1% of the population, while if we take the whole narcissism spectrum, the number grows to 6% of the population, 8% of men and 5% of women. Narcissism is found several times more often among leaders.
A narcissistic personality is characterized by behaviors dominated by a grandiosity attitude, a need to be admired, a lack of empathy and inability to accept other people’s perspectives. It is easy to imagine that a boss with such a personality will be more aggressive towards employees, which in the short term can increase productivity. However, in the long run, employees, as well as the company, may have a problem. Empire building plans combined with inability to listen to others have lost many companies.
Narcissism in all its kinds, and there are a whole lot of them and they are very different from one another, is a fascinating topic. While everyone can easily recognize a grandiose narcissist, spotting a covert or social one is a great art. A covert narcissist is a quiet, taciturn, calm person secretly using manipulative techniques, incredibly self-centered, ignoring the feelings and needs of others. A social narcissist, on the other hand, looks at himself/herself through the mirror of social admiration for his charity. However, this is not about real help, but about making a „show” around it.
Narcissism has nothing to do with self-esteem, it is just the opposite.
You act also as a mentor. What is mentoring and what can a mentee and a mentor gain from it?
Mentoring for me is a conversation about possibilities, answering questions, being there for a mentee. A mentor usually has more experience, is older, and often has to face a generational change. He/she learns the approach of a younger person, which in many aspect is completely different and enriching for the mentor.
You are also interested in coaching. How is coaching different from mentoring? When to benefit from one and when to use the other?
Yes, I am a certified coach. A coach asks questions but does not advise, prompt or judge. It is assumed that the client knows what is best for him/her and he/she only needs to find a way to do it. A coach usually does not have knowledge specific to a given person, so if such is needed a mentor will be better. However, with all or almost all problems, you can relate to a coach. However, if a lot of negative emotions have been accumulated, then it is better to consult a psychotherapist. Moreover, a coach should know when to offer his/her client a mentor and when he needs psychotherapy.
Is it easier to mentor or coach someone from the same gender or rather the opposite?
In my opinion, it doesn’t matter. If your intentions are good, the effect will appear, maybe not right away, but something will happen.
Sylwia, thank you so much for your time, sharing your thoughts and your support during our 17 years of acquaintance!
Thank you very much.