Nicholas Hansen, CFA, CAIA
University of Wisconsin
BS in Computer Science
University of St. Thomas
MBA with a finance emphasis
University of Minnesota
MFM (Masters of Financial Mathematics)
Nick joined DGI in 2006 after completing his MBA at the University of St. Thomas, where he had been mentored by DGI Portfolio Manager Rob Nicoski as a student investment manager in the UST Aristotle Fund.
Previously, he had been employed as a 3D artist and animator at a Minneapolis post-production studio, contributing content to nationally televised commercials for brands such as Target, Toys R Us, Marshall Fields, and others, and giving presentations to students and teachers on 3D graphics.
At DGI, Nick was initially assigned little more than observational duties, absorbing the philosophy and culture of the investment team and firm. His responsibilities expanded to generating original stock ideas, performing "portfolio hygiene"—building and maintaining models, and performing spot research on various companies—and conducting broader research for internal purposes, client presentations, and published written work.
When doing research, Nick likes to use a framework referred to as the DIKW hierarchy (an acronym for Data - Information - Knowledge - Wisdom). "I first try to gather pure facts—individual data—which I then wire together into information. Once I feel I have a reasonably comprehensive, structured understanding of what I do know, don't know, and can't know, I feel I have knowledge of the subject. Lastly, my own experience and the supporting philosophy of DGI ideally give me the wisdom to act correctly upon that knowledge."
Nick takes a very thorough approach to analysis: "When I make a calculation, I try and do it in three different ways, just to perform my own cross-checks."
In a similar vein, he believes that in order to better understand anything, it's important to get outside your comfort zone. "I think you need to have experience outside your everyday. People in this industry have the resources to build their own bubble. They then spend their careers generating and defending opinions; I think it's a danger, getting trapped in the consequences of your own personality."
An avid reader, Nick is respected among his DGI colleagues for his intellect and depth of knowledge. “He’s scary smart,” says DGI Director of Client Relationships Sheri Lietzke. “He’s on a different level intellectually.”
“Nick’s breadth of knowledge is probably unsurpassed by anyone here,” adds DGI CFO Rick Martin. “He’s very well read and very well traveled. He seems to know something about any subject you could ask him about. He’s very brilliant, yet he’s very humble about it. He’s a fabulous team player.”
He is also known for his unflappable personality and attention to detail. “He put together a life map planning out the next quarter century of his life in an Excel spreadsheet,” says DGI Portfolio Manager Rob Nicoski. “I like to call him Spock because he’s about as even-keeled as any individual I’ve ever met.”
“Even on his video games, he has a long-term strategy and an execution plan,” adds DGI Director of Marketing Robert Buss. “Who does that!? The thing about Nick, he is so thick-skinned, nothing ever gets to him. On a trip to meet the biggest investor we had ever presented to, I started to give him some advice on what to do when you get nervous. He said ‘I don’t get performance anxiety.’ And he was right. I never have seen the guy get flustered. “
In a search for new ideas, Nick sometimes forces himself to do things he doesn't like only because he doesn't like them. "It's a clumsy rationale, but I've always hated distance running, so I ran a couple of marathons with a friend who proposed it. I still really hate distance running, but I did learn a little bit more about how to pace myself. It doesn't always work out that well; sometimes the only thing I learn is just that I was right about not liking something."
Well read, well traveled
Nick's family moved to a farm in Wisconsin when he was 10, which, recalls Nick, “felt like the middle of nowhere." With heavy restrictions on television, Nick spent a lot of time reading, a passion he carries with him today. While most of his reading over the past year has been textbooks for the Master of Financial Mathematics degree at the University of Minnesota (est. 2014), he also finds time for other books. He leans towards books which explore ideas and places: travelogues, biographies, historical and science fiction, non-fictional exposition, poetry, and, most of all, philosophy.
With no television hooked up at his home, Nick doesn't follow sports, but enjoys playing a number of them, including soccer, a sport he's been playing since he was in kindergarten, and snowboarding. He also plays an occasional video game, and listens to a ton of music.
His main hobby, though, is probably travel. "I took my first overseas trip with my family right before I left for college, and I was hooked. Since then, I've tried to take a few trips a year, and rarely spend them in one place. I love the sense of movement and flow, and the challenge of being dropped into a place for a day with nothing more than a little money, a change of clothes, and a passport and trying to figure it out." He's been to over forty countries on five continents, and hasn't burnt out on it yet. "There are a lot of different ways to travel, and I feel like I find something new every time. While I enjoy the lazy experientialism of it, I also love just searching for all the unexpected patterns you can find out in the world."