Graduation Year: 1981
Degree at Duke:
Bachelor of Science
- Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Vinik Asset Management
- Former manager of the world's largest mutual fund, Fidelity Magellan
It wasn't long ago that Jeff Vinik helmed Fidelity Magellan, the high-performing fund that grew to gargantuan proportions and legendary status in the '90s. Today, he's still widely acknowledged in financial circles as a man who moves markets. His brilliant navigation of the turbulent waters of high finance has made investors hundreds of millions of dollars and made him one of the most influential investors ever. "My proudest accomplishment is my consistent performance over the past 12 years," Vinik says. "Through up and down markets, crashes and crises, I've delivered excellent performance, with few down periods and minimal risk to my investors."
Vinik, who gathers data and makes investment decisions on some 25 companies a day, takes a steadfastly non-emotional approach to market analysis. "The stock market is not purely rational, so it's resistant to purely analytical models," he says. "But if you structure your variables properly, you have a high probability of getting a productive answer and making a good decision. Emotions are usually wrong, so I don't try to examine what I'm feeling so much as look at what other people are doing, analyze their actions, and then go in the opposite direction."
Vinik says his renowned ability to make accurate-and lucrative-market calls has been bolstered by the education he received at Duke. "An engineering education seemed like the right foundation for whatever I wanted to do," he says. "I was drawn to the use of mathematical and scientific principles to achieve solutions." Not that all of Vinik's most vivid memories are set in the lab or the classroom. "I took a surveying course in the second half of my freshman year, which happened to be the coldest winter in Durham's history," he recalls. "We were working in slush, snow, and bone-chilling air, and you'd better believe that we learned to survey well and do it quickly."
Vinik also still remembers the semester he spent with a professor and team of fellow students engineering the water runoff in the Duke Gardens. "We broke down the problem, analyzed it piece by piece, and figured out the best approach," he says. "In that regard, it really wasn't that different from what I do now."