January 30, 2024

Episode #119: Kenny Blickenstaff – Titan Investment Management

Born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, Kenny completed his undergraduate studies at Purdue University in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Immediately following graduation, he began pursuing his Chartered Financial Analyst designation and employment at Charles Schwab as a broker. He then moved on to become an investment analyst for Purdue Federal Credit Union and completed his CFA designation, passing each level on his first attempt.

After completion of the CFA, he began working for Busey Wealth Management as a Fixed Income analyst and eventually moved on to become a Portfolio Manager and Vice President of Investment Management playing a key role in the management of a $6 Billion multi-family fund. While working for Busey, he also began pursuing his MBA at the University Of Chicago Booth School Of Business on nights and weekends.

This pursuit eventually led him to Chicago where he began employment as a Fixed Income Analyst for Geneva Advisors (now CIBC) and took on an advisory role with all equity products. After graduating from the University of Chicago Booth with his MBA in June 2016, he was promoted to Portfolio Manager, eventually overseeing the security selection of over $1.5 billion in assets.

Ten years of education and experience ultimately led to the inception and creation of Titan Investment Management in 2018 – an amalgamation of investment experience, continual education, and forward-thinking strategies.

Kenny now lives in Zionsville, Indiana with his wife, Jordan, and their three daughters. He enjoys spending time with his family, outdoor sports, reading, and exercise in his spare time.

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Transcript

you’re listening to the self-made is a myth make a difference together show with your host coach Tim campsa where we talk with successful business owners to hear the stories of their Journeys in building their successful businesses and more importantly we recognize the folks who help them Excel because we know that achieving business success is not something we can do on our [Music] own hello everyone this is coach Tim campel and I’m excited to have a fellow business owner from Indiana with us today my guest has competed in over a dozen Adventure races so we’re going to want to learn about that in his downtime he enjoys spending time with his girls and doing yard workor and he’s most proud of his faith in Jesus Christ so awesome Amen to that it’s my pleasure to welcome Kenny to the show today Hello Kenny hey how’s it going Tim I am awesome thanks for asking well hey let’s start with having you introduce yourself tell us a bit of your personal story like where you born and live about your family and hobbies yeah so born and raised in Lafayette Indiana and spent more or less the first 22 years of my life there got my undergrad from Purdue University um and while I was there raised by my mom with my brother had a great childhood went to the local high school played Sports had friends kind of just enjoyed what I would describe as the normal American Life dare I say and now fast forward like you kind of said at the introduction I have family of my own and what we very much enjoy to do is we like to do Adventure races which are like the the tough mutters the Warrior Dash the Spartan runs all those sort of races is kind of what makes up that Adventure Race world so to speak fantastic what’s your favorite um type of Adventure Race I well well so if you were my answers changed you ask me as a a young man like coming out of college which where I was much more competitive about it and even the races themselves have kind of dare I say changed their genre like when tough mutter for example was first coming out it was It was kind of sold as a team team building event but for other individuals you know it’s a race and there there’s the world’s toughest mutter and it can get very competitive so that was in the vein I was in trained for it loved it so I liked it more or less imagine a 12mile run with obstacles and mud between you and the finish line so not quite half a marathon but almost with call it rough terrain fast forward to today though and tough mutters taken a much more I would say team building without the competitive side like where they they’re they’re really not concerned with who wins as much as just helping people through the course because a lot of the obstacles people can’t do without the assistance of another and given that my girls are getting older my oldest is nine she hasn’t done one yet but in the not too distant future I know we’ll do one and obviously my that’ll probably be my favorite one ever and she’s competitive so she’s gonna want to do well but you know it’s obviously I’m gonna be dad and I’m not a racer and that’s I I’ve had friends who have done that and just the idea of having all that mud on me it’s just like yeah no thanks I’ll just be a spectator I was going to say you can see there’s definitely some people who you can kind of meander through the obstacles to minimize that mud but then you know like kind of once you’ve done it quite a few times you almost take pride and how much money get on me between now and the Finish Line Kenny is there a funny story that your family likes to tell about you that you’d be willing to share H you know I I don’t really have I would say a specific story story as much as just my uh General little clicks we all have I know I I have the tendency to when we’re talking about something and I I think I’m right I hate I hate doing this but I’ll say like you’re explaining something to me what whatever the thing may be and I think I know better than you I’ll always start with well actually I guess according to my loved ones I really I very much enunciate the actually so much so that they’ll you know before I can even get into whatever we’re talking about they’re kind of calling me out like you sound like an idiot so that love good humility to have around myself yes I appreciate you sharing so Kenny tell us um how did the business come about and at what point did you have the confidence that you could run your own business yeah so it was always an aspiration of mine um and like I said I got my undergrad from Purdue I graduated in 20 8 not the ideal time to want to join the investment management Universe when you know kind of the the blood bath that was taking shape for a lot of people back then and you know ironically the job I had lined up my offer was actually revoked in April of that year I was graduating so you know we’re roughly 30 days before graduation and I jokingly say I was fired before I was ever hired but fast forward you know the the only only call it investment job I could find was being a broker at Charles Schwab and now I say that with the utmost respect to Schwab perfectly fine company to work for but at the end of the day you know a stock broker at Schwab is somebody working in a call center helping people reset their passwords and that’s just not something I wanted to do uh so I inevitably still wanted to get on that investment management track and so I started studying for my CFA and eventually wound up at Chicago at a firm called Geneva advisers where I very much enjoyed my time there and learned a lot from um my direct boss at the time as well as the people around me and one of the things I took away just kind of watching dare I say the back office of how an invest because I mean like behind the curtain investment stuff the the analytics I got it very comfortable with that but you know there’s more to a business than just the stuff you like to do so to speak and I kind of saw the dare I call it the underbelly of uh What It Takes and while it definitely takes extra effort outside of the stuff you want to do it was stuff I felt was very much in my realm of capabilities of doing specifically when and you know I won’t say this for all Industries but my industry technolog is becoming more and more of the norm and because that’s becoming more and more of the norm a lot of those not fun tasks can be automated and or pushed out to a third party so I kind of of saw all right the things I’m deficient in or I don’t want to do or I think there’s people better than me at I can easily find a third party to do it Andor a software that you know check the box and move on and I can actually focus on what I want in addition that so that kind of laid the groundw work that all right I know I can do the call it inner workings of running this company the other thing that pushed me over the edge is so I was in Chicago I I I don’t remember if I said that at the onset in Chicago at Geneva advisers and very much believe in what we were doing and given I was born and raised in Lafayette I knew what the bulk of people have at their disposal in Central Indiana is not what we were doing it’s the broker model it’s it’s the Ed Jones it’s the Marl Lynch and even outside of Brokers it also tends to be financial planners and I I I I mean I’m I’m respectful but I’m going to say this with the utmost respect at the end of the day we are not a believer in mutual funds if you want to own the bank guard 500 fund have at it you don’t need to hire me to do that so doing all our investing in house I know would make us stand out in addition to like on the financial planning side where that tends to 98% of the equation Tim is do you spend less than you make like shocker right if you want to pay me a few thousand dollars to tell you that I guess I you can but those two very dare I say simplistic uh practices I thought were being overlooked for what could be a greater thing in terms of the appreciation of the underlying client’s account and so that’s what’s been our focus and I mean we can talk about our unique value ads but what we kind of postulate in that area that sets us apart from our competitors specifically in this geographic region because you know I’ll be the first to say it if you live in Chicago or the East Coast or the West Coast you can find people like me who have a similar philosophy I’m not going to sit here and say I’m a unicorn but but call it fortunately unfortunately for Central Indiana we are yeah that’s awesome yeah something you mentioned um a little bito that I really want to you know reinforce and highlight to folks is you talked through the idea that there’s some things that you don’t like doing there’s some things that maybe you’re not the the best at and you’ve figured out hey why don’t I hire someone or Outsource that so I can focus on the stuff where you know I’m going to shine and be able to add the most value so for folks listening that’s key you you do have to think through the stuff that you just shouldn’t have on your plate and find the person that you can give it to so it sounds like that’s enabled you to be able to really hone in on where you can add the most value is that a fair assumption oh I and I would say if you like told me what specific kind of task that would be in my world compliance so you got to do it I’m not obviously you got to do it there is no if hands or butts about it but given that we’re a fiduciary and we have to do what’s best for the in client period that bar is much higher for us so we got to do it I know it’s super important it’s very boring it’s not fun and even more so like the the people that are hiring Titan they’re not hiring us be for us to do our compliance work yeah so yeah that compliance task well you have to do it it’s a necessity you don’t get to just Overlook it finding a automated process Andor a third party to kind of say automate the things you can as well as then send you reminders on the things that are you just got to occasionally do this and it stinks but you got to do it is much more efficient than me trying to be my own compliance officer trying to remember a bunch of stuff that I’ve never done over my entire career yes and the great thing is you said it’s it’s a horrible boring task but there are people that love it so let’s get fa right fair enough fair enough yes tell us about more about the company what’s the name what do you guys do how do you help people yeah so the name of the firm is Titan Investment Management we’re located it um in Indianapolis uh kind of in the name we’re an investment management firm where I would say we’re very different or maybe most people don’t realize this where we’re we’re different is when you ask a given person who says has an IRA or an investment account or a 401k what do you own they don’t have a clue and typically when you look at what they own they own like mutual funds or ETFs and if you’re hiring Titan to go buy you a mutual fund or ETF that you could buy on your own that bear in mind you pay a fee for that mutual fund regardless if you hire Titan or not and pay Titan I would ask I would look at any client or Prospect and say why are you paying us and so we do all that investing in house so to give you an example when I say we own a company like Qualcomm we in fact our clients own the company Qualcomm not a mutual fund that owns Qualcomm so right off the bat we tend to be astronomically cheaper the other thing and this is a fairly simplistic thing but it it matters to a lot of people is we own the exact same thing as our clients so when I say we own qualt I literally mean it I don’t mean that oh Tim we’re going to put you in the growth fund and Kenny we’re going to put you in the value fund and this person we’re going to put you in the dividend fund that doesn’t make any sense um you’re hiring us for our discretion and our expertise if we think whether this Growth Company value company did whatever it is we think is a good idea it’s a good idea for everybody not just him and for the people who would interject and say well you know I want a customize solution because you know I’m I’m north of 80 years old and I just can’t take as much risk as when I was 30 you’re 100% right and it’s you know the math is pretty easy all we do is effectively prate your risk profile based off what you say so to give a quick mathematical example if I say we own 2% Qualcomm and Tim comes in here and says I only want to be about 50% in the market that’s fine in your account it’s 1% 2% times 0.5 and that sort of automation from an execution standpoint not only brings in technology that makes everybody’s life astronomically easier it interjects a level of accountability because when I say either you know it went up or went down there’s one one person to point the finger at it’s not me going ah we’ll get rid of that bad mutual fund and we’ll go buy this one no it’s it’s us it it was our call and too in terms of transparency we all own the same thing right and those while dare I say simplistic things accountability and transparency are two very unique propositions that I don’t know anybody else in this general area that does that the last one and now you know we tend not to talk about this one as much just because of the asymmetry of information just it’d be like a plumber explaining to me about why they construct things the way they do I believe them they sound like they know what they’re talking about but I’m just kind of like some you know some of this just might as well is being Latin so I I’ll be brief with this last one but that’s just our investment process and what I mean by that is when I say we do all our investing in house the great thing is I can say that the bad thing is that there’s over 600,000 public traded options so to sit here and say we analyze every single one you know I’m lying anybody who says that whether it be Vanguard or you know the guy on the corner everybody’s lying if they say they do that what we can do and this is part of what my background’s in is apply econometrics AKA algorithms the idea of taking code and taking a 630,000 observation universe and filtering it down to a much more manageable observation subset that we can then actually analyze and so that is what when people talk about like AI for example right now ai is kind of already existed in terms of text and numbers is a means to filter call it bad data from good data I and not to get off on a tangent AI where it’s going in terms of image and video generation that’s great but that is once again where technology should already be used in an investment management practice to filter that observational Universe of 600,000 down to a subset you can actually analyze and say say splitting a blade of grass like we should Buy Mastercard instead of Visa because of this they’re obviously very similar but what specifically makes them different and what makes one potentially create Alpha where the other cannot and so that process is the other the kind of that third Peg of the stool that sets us apart from our competitors I love it so um let’s shift gears here a little bit Kenny I’d love to hear a story where someone pushed you or inspired you that you could do it even though maybe you didn’t think that you could and the impact that person had on you yeah so I would say that that my biggest cheerleader has been my wife and so when we were when we were in Chicago like it I I had a great job I like I said I I very much enjoyed my boss I I enjoyed the people I worked around I have nothing but good things to say about Geneva and but as I’m like kind of thinking this out what does it take to accomplish XYZ I think I can do this and then you inevitably kind of start asking those people around you kind of beginning with that person that’s closest to you in my case my wife like I brought up some of my dare I say insecurities or uncertainties to it all and she was very quick to just kind of point out where have you ever not done what you said you would do in the past yeah and I’m like well never and she’s like and all those times in the past where you’ve done something you obviously could have failed fallen on your face it not worked out and even on the instances where maybe you dare I say stubbed your toe along the way you put your head down and went why would you think this is anything different yeah and so that was that was a nice blessing to kind of have in my ear so to speak yeah what’s your wife’s name uh Jordan Jordan fantastic yeah what great great support it it makes a huge difference when we’ve got that support at home doesn’t it oh my God yeah no I was going to say and that’s I mean I mean I maybe we’ll talk about this maybe we won’t but like kind of the motivation of why you do this I would also encourage the business owners you need to know what that is and if it’s I want to make a certain amount of money or achieve a certain amount of net worth I mean that’s great I’m not saying that’s a bad thing but once you achieve that goal say 10 years down the road then what you’re just complacent like and I know mine that being my family is something that I would like to think will live well beyond me yeah so I’m sprinting through the finish line and I don’t know where the Finish Line’s at yeah I love it yeah we that’s an exercise we do with our clients every year is to reinv Vision right what do they want out of life that the business then has to pay for yeah yes yep so Kenny what’s your biggest learning as a business owner um finding Personnel so like I said my my experience prior to Titan and this is predominantly what I still do on a day day-to-day basis is the analysis of the Investments which I love to do um but given that’s where all my back my track record is as well as my work history the idea of playing with others so to speak has never been something I’ve had to do because I mean like to to be like to put this into context for a lot of of people when you meet a financial adviser you’re meeting a Salesman that’s what that’s what they are they are a rain maker and that’s we need him I want him I’m not saying I don’t want him but I’m the guy who historically was the person behind the curtain you never met but was making all the decisions in terms of the Investments yeah and so now kind of coming out in front of that curtain not only learning a new sort of approach in the sense of how to discuss this with people but more importantly find people have that intangible ability to be charismatic Charming confident but not arrogant is I’ve learned a lot about it I’ve [Laughter] made I’ve I’ve looked at the like the discs the Myers Briggs all the the things so to speak to kind of help you zero in on is this person a good candidate or not yeah and while those are useful tools that’s all they are it’s a tool and there is still a degree of intangibility that I find incredibly hard to quantify that still trying to figure out how to quantify and you’ll probably tell me I never will um but finding people that kind of meet that profile Titan looking for is unfortunately harder than I would like it to be y fair and and I’ve spoken with a lot of people that have that same Challenge and and the the answer it’s not easy but it’s simple in that it’s the same thing that you just described in terms of your business model right is once you implement a recruiting process and then you right you tweak and adjust and adapt and modify the process and get it better over time right it starts to become a well oiled machine so we can talk offline about that but we use dis as well I think it you know it is a great tool to help understand is somebody hardcoded for sales or are they more hard-coded for crunch numbers right do they like talking to people or do they like you know playing with numbers and and so yeah it can be it can be helpful there the the other thing that’s critically important is that you know that we are finding people that align with our culture and our values and our beliefs because we can teach skills we can’t teach a cultural fit right and we’ve all had we’ve all had the experience where we brought on the wrong person right and it’s like oh no that oops Yeah no I I mean I and this is a spoiler to anybody who were ever talk to me my guys I have as well as the people I’ve interviewed I always ask to kind of I I think this kind of encompasses my culture in kind of a soft way of asking figuring out if you’re a match is I’ll say faith family work rank them like in terms of prep just rank them yeah tell me tell me one two three which ones are which and why and I that gives me a good dare I say scope to kind of look look into Tim in terms of who is Tim really rather than a guy that’s just trying to apply for a job and you know yeah make some money yeah absolutely um and to to let everybody cheat he just said it in the order he wants you to he wants to hear you say it in so just note yourself that if you’re applying for a job you know a lot of people don’t catch on to that Kenny we know that business success doesn’t happen in isolation so tell us about one of your biggest challenges during the years and and maybe a a business owner or a colleague that came alongside you and helped you get through that yeah so I’m gonna Circle back on uh finding personnel and talking to some of kind of the people in my network and them introducing me to head hunters and then naturally those Head Hunters kind of bringing people to the table um one uh one group I would specifically uh kind of like to call out in this regard is is called the the Catalyst program and Catalyst I guess for short um Daniel Hance is the the owner of it what they effectively do is they’re taking what I would like to think are high performing vets and helping them transition to civilian life and as a employer as as well as I would like to thank what other employers are looking for obviously we want people to be smart yeah we want we want good Acumen who doesn’t that’s that’s not really something up for debate but what I’ve noticed from this program as well as the candidates come out of this program a lot of those in kind of the two biggest intangibles if I could if I could measure this somehow the ability the ability of someone to be disciplined and have just mental grit is invaluable because to your point I can’t teach it there’s not a test there’s not a textbook I can give you that’ll just voila all a sudden you got it you you read a certain number of pages but you know those men and women because because of the stuff they’ve fortunately and unfortunately have had to do sure they have a degree of that discipline and grit that I don’t think I I don’t know if you served but you or I could not obtain by you know sitting in an office right right yeah absolutely next question here I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit um pick three people in your business owner Journey that you’re most grateful for them being there for your business’s growth who are those three people and how they help you yeah so this so here you’ll get a kind of my answer to the question I said I ask everybody and I I don’t know if you call the first one a person so to speak but I’ll say it anyways one is God that’s number one two is my wife three is my children and the reason it is in that order is because at the end end of the day and knock on wood Lord willing especially like for call it persons two and three they will all extend beyond me I want to make sure the people that are around me as where as I draw my motivation from are not fixed Earthly Treasures of which maybe I could achieve tomorrow maybe not but if I were to hypothetically achieve them tomorrow that I don’t want to have to think about then what I want to know that no matter how fast or how far I run that technically I never really kind of there is no Finish Line so to speak but the people you know waiting at the finish line for you you’re going to keep running regardless so that’s that’s to me kind of the motivation behind it all yeah I love it that’s awesome as you think about the next three to five years what’s the biggest challenge that you see that you’re going to face in getting your hitting your goals and who are the types of people you’re going to need to solve that uh so once go Personnel finding advisers and and what I mean in that in that advisor I’ll I’ll talk about so there’s two and the first first one is advisor and the main challenge that I’m going to have is that I want advisors but given the geographic area we’re in the bulk of the advisers that are in this area kind of come from that brokerage world and I don’t have a ton of time to unte them all the bad habits they’ve acquired over the past decade so ideally I’ll take say a veteran who has their degree who shown you know discipline but hasn’t done it as well as maybe a younger person who doesn’t have a ton of a work experience because at the end of the day I can always teach the good habits yeah it’s really hard to waste time to unte bad habits and then teach good habits um so finding those candidates um will be a challenge and I know of the uh Head Hunters I’ve worked in the past I nothing great has really ever the the best the best stuff that’s come across my desk are the people that have either a reached out to me directly I didn’t have to reach out to them sure and that that that goes for both like the Catalyst isn’t technically a head hunting it’s a transition program like they reached out to me um and two the candidates that I’ve had success with are the ones that reached directly out to me it wasn’t somebody that had to be prompted by a head hunter to come talk to me so whether that I I I don’t really know what that future looks like but if I could have my way my goal is to hire somebody every six months between every six months at that Cadence for the next five years okay that’s my that’s my goal yeah um the other challenge or thing we’re kind of focused on is obviously we have our unique value propositions but now kind of opening small business owners eyes to the 401K world so 401k K are are a great thing but the majority of Americans either well all yeah the majority of Americans don’t know what their balances don’t know how they’re how much they’re contributing don’t know what they what they own inside this 401k and have not a clue what that balance needs to be when they’re say 65 and they’re ready to exit the workforce yet the majority of Americans have a 401k so that that’s incredibly it’s unfortunately an ibly complacent universe and the majority of firms Who oversee the 401K Universe they make a ton of money so the idea of interjecting dare I say um accountability like Tim you need to do this you need to do that let us do it for you because you’re not you’re already paying us you might as well let us do our thing why would I do that as a business owner when you’re going to pay me as much as you otherwise would and now I just made more work for myself so given given that we’re actually a fiduciary we have to do that we don’t get to just we’ll get to it when we get to it we have to do that and getting into small businesses and kind of getting them to recognize that as well as um this was a law that was passed at the end of 2022 secure 2.0 there are a lot more rules now for a 401k in terms of mandatory enrollment escalation in ter contributions all these things and you the employer you’re liable for making sure that’s all done and the majority of these small business owners you know they’re busy busy running their business like you were talked about at the onset of this conversation like some of the challenges of running a business one of those back office being benefits they’re not you know they’re they’re they’re busy running maybe like a a general contracting they don’t have time right to to look at all this stuff and they Outsource it with the idea that you know these people they’ll tell me when I need to do something but a lot of these people especially in my universe are not fiduciaries they don’t have to tell you Squat and when something inevitably goes wrong you may fire him because you’re upset but the liability still falls on you yeah and a lot of times these penalties are for every day you’re out of compliance it’s $1,000 and wow I would ask any small business employer when was the last time you reviewed your 401k maybe semiannually all right well 180 Grand right I mean that’s that’s best case scenario under that under this kind of what if we’re talking about so opening business owner eyes to 401ks can be a lot more sophisticated a lot more accountable and shed them of that liability that almost all of them are currently exposed to and they just don’t know it kind of getting getting them to open their eyes because it’s a fairly new thing like I said it’s only it’s roughly a year old so a lot of people are still still just kind of you know they’re they’re running a million miles in terms of growing their business not on this thing right yeah for sure so those will be those are kind of our two personnel and business developing that 401k side of things awesome last question Kenny Jim ran awesome business Guru says will be we become the average of the five people that we spend the most time with so as you think about that what advice would you have for business owners who are just assuming that they need to do it on their own and and not you know not ask for help or not build relationships with others um surround yourself with people who typically that receive no compensation from you so you know that the words that they speak to you are honest and ideally if this person also has dare I say a cares for you not only is it truth but it’s truth and love so that that is what I think would help separate any business owner because to sit here and say I’m going to surround myself with maybe other business owners I do business with they got a conflict of interest and I’m not accusing them of being bad guys or gals it’s just all else equal they do and at the end of the day I mean we’re all humans and we respond to incentives both good and bad I would much rather have people around me that those incentives have been diluted next to nothing and well maybe their only incentive is is that as I spend time with them they’re better off because you know they’re they’re going to speak honestly and like the like Titan the thing that makes money they almost look at that as a bad thing because it’s time away from them so it’s it’s a hedge almost yeah in that perspective so those are the kind of people that kind of can Echo that Truth and Love is what I’m looking for love it can sounds like you’ve had some pretty incredible people in your business owner Journey if they were all here on the show today what would you want to say to them oh gosh what would I say to them um thank you first for all the you know all the people who have kind of helped me along my journey and two like I said I’m I know my ends I’m not going to stop I will keep running I will skin my knee but I will get up and I will keep running I love it it it reminds me of uh learning how to ride a bicycle and how how painful that was with my scraped knee and bumped elbow but eventually I figured it out and never looked well it’s like I I look at like the world around me and like I have all girls at home is like I obviously I want them to be independent and I want them to be able to do things on their own but I’ve noticed like because I only I grew up with a brother so you know him falling and skinning his knee was like get up get up your but when a 9-year-old girl falls and she’s mine not nearly as tough as I thought I was that’s awesome Kenny it’s been a pleasure speaking with you today thanks so much for being on the show thank you thanks for listening to the self-made is a myth show with your host coach Tim campaw please help spread this Movement by liking and subscribing to our show and following us on Facebook and Linkedin or wherever you listen to your favorite podcast to join our movement go to bead together.com okay folks that’s a wrap please pay it forward and be sure to tune in next time to the self-made is a myth podcast