By Kaine Korzekwa
Peter Johnson’s MBA from the University of Wisconsin–Madison was a crucial stepping stone on his way to his dream job in investing at Mairs and Power, Inc. Now a vice president and director at the company, Johnson was at other firms before deciding he needed to continue his education to attain his goals.
“I started in investment management as an equity analyst but quickly knew I needed more of a grasp on the field. At UW–Madison I was really able to learn not just things like financial statement analysis but also form an investment philosophy and strategy.”
At Mairs and Power, Johnson analyzes stocks and the long-term viability of companies in order to decide if he should invest in them. He says that people who are intellectually curious and love history, economics, and math would enjoy investment management.
“I work with a variety of clients, those investing just a few thousand dollars or those coming to me with a few million,” he explains. “Growing this money is most likely what these people are going to retire on or use to donate to charities so I take my job very seriously.”
When analyzing a company, Johnson must look at its competitiveness and long-term viability, as well as ideas one wouldn’t normally think of, such as the quality of its management team.
He says investment is an art form. Contrary to what most people think, he doesn’t sit in his office and develop a long formula about where to invest money. “We try to break companies down into smaller pieces so that we can really understand and try to figure out what’s going to drive this business and make a value judgment about its future,” he says.
While at UW–Madison he found speaker series in the Wisconsin School of Business very beneficial. CEOs and managers would come speak about their investment philosophy and technique and Johnson was able to take bits and pieces and make his own strategy to succeed.
“I think most investors don’t focus enough on a company’s management team and we think that’s just as important as what the company actually does,” he says. “My company believes in investing for the long-term and in primarily companies in the Midwest because we believe they do really well.”