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Morgan Stanley's Carlos Kuri: from a foam factory to finance

Morgan Stanley's Carlos Kuri: from a foam factory to finance

A financial advisor at Morgan Stanley in Houston, Carlos Kuri hasn’t had a typical career in finance. He tells Samantha Muratori about his chemical engineering past and why he actually wanted to be an attorney.

What was your first job?

My first paying job was at a foam factory in El Salvador, where my father was one of the private equity investors. It was without a doubt an ideal job for a chemical engineering freshman.

I thought my odds were good to be named assistant to the production manager. After a formal interview I was offered a position alongside the cleaning crew; it was a humbling experience that I have treasured over the years. A little while later, faced with an exponential surge of new students, the University of El Salvador offered me an instructor position in the Probabilities and Statistics Department, which I happily accepted.

It became the foundation for one of my life-long passions – teaching.

I began investing as a client on behalf of the family in the early nineties. After the dotcom bubble burst, I was offered the opportunity to sit on the opposite side of the desk as a financial advisor. After further and careful consideration, I gladly accepted the challenge. That was in February 2002.

Why did you choose a career in finance?

After graduating with a Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering, I started my career as a Process Engineer. When I realized that calculating entropy changes on a chemical reaction was not my calling, I decided to enroll in night classes on a Masters of Finance program – a different approach to numbers altogether.

If you weren’t working in finance, what would you be doing? Without hesitation, I would have loved to become an attorney. Unfortunately, language limitations as a foreign graduate student in the United States prevented me from pursuing my professional interest.

Coincidentally, my three children are attorneys.

What is your favorite book/movie?

There are so many, but if I had to choose one film, I would say The  Godfather. The Graduate is another favorite of mine. Gabriel García Márquez’s magical realist novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is without a doubt my favorite book. I may add another ‘one hundred’ to my list too: Pablo Neruda’s One Hundred Sonnets of Love.

Which investor has influenced or inspired you throughout your career?

On the west wall of my office you will find a frame with selected quotes from the likes of Benjamin Graham, John Kenneth Galbraith, Peter Lynch and Warren Buffett. Without a doubt, the most influential and inspiring figure for me has been Warren Buffett.

He is not only one of the most successful investors of all time but he is also a prominent philanthropist.

Favorite Warren Buffett quotes:

‘Be fearful when others are greedy. Be greedy when others are fearful.’

‘The stock market is a device to transfer money from the impatient to the patient.’

‘I make no attempt to forecast the market – my efforts are devoted to finding undervalued securities.’

What are you passionate about outside of work?

I enjoy barre classes. It’s a combination of pilates and yoga – a low impact exercise with controlled movements to reduce pressure on the joints and spine while strengthening targeted muscles. I also love walking around the Rice University Campus trail and having an afternoon coffee with friends.

What is your favorite spot in Houston?

Houston has so many wonderful spots. One of my current favorites is the Silos at Sawyer Yards and the Silver and Winter Street Studios. These venues act as the heart of creativity in the city and home to hundreds of local artists. Visiting so many talented individuals and admiring their work is really gratifying.

How did you cope with Hurricane Harvey and its impact on your city?

Fortunately we did fine, although with a degree of anxiety at times. In  contrast, several neighborhoods of the city are still under water with no end in sight.

Without a doubt the recovery process will be long and painful, followed by questions about what actions the City of Houston will undertake to mitigate similar flooding situations in the future.

 

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