As our business grows, we create new roles that sharpen the focus of the entire team. Eric Pozolo joined us in July. Eric’s experience in information and tax software fit into a newly-created role focusing on Provident’s information-gathering activities and fixed income portfolio management. If you’d like to welcome Eric to the Provident team, please feel welcome to drop him an email at EricP@investprovident.com.
Scott D. Horsburgh, CFA
I am privileged to introduce myself as the newest member of the team here at Provident. Joining the group as a research associate, I’m excited to contribute to excellent results and look forward to meeting many of you as my career develops here.
I began my college education studying accounting at Western Michigan University, you might call it a predictable choice for the son of a CPA. Progressing through coursework, I became particularly interested in taxation and the power of taxes to influence behavior. Given the practical application of an accounting degree to a business career, I continued down the path of debits and credits, but my interest in human behavior and decision-making grew. I wanted to know how the world worked, and to that end I pursued a double major in accounting and economics. Colleagues from each department held their own views on which was literally the dismal science, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Continuing my education at the University of Michigan’s School of Information, I earned a master’s degree specializing in incentive-centered design. This field of study facilitates the observation of systematic and predictable tendencies in response to incentives. I was exposed to a variety of perspectives on information in society while I focused on the economics of information. In addition to improving my data analysis, I refined my capacity to analyze information. I gained experience with the structure of material designed to elicit an action (think “buy me!”), a valuable tool when evaluating investment opportunities.
As I wrapped up my education, I began working for Thomson Reuters in the Tax & Accounting segment, supporting professional income tax software. I spent seven years there advancing through the User Services department in various roles, where my responsibilities included customer service, product support, training and testing. I developed an understanding of the challenges a company faces when serving a diverse customer base. Customer retention and new sales require allocating the appropriate resources to large customers while not alienating sole practitioners. I also came to appreciate the magnitude of undertaking an organizational or cultural shift at a multi-billion-dollar company. One of the fundamental questions Provident looks to answer when evaluating a company is whether or not the company is well-managed. I couldn’t agree more with the importance of this factor in the growth of a company over the long-run.
Seeking an opportunity to create rather than manage software, I moved to the Development department in 2015 as a tax analyst. This was the position I held most recently before joining Provident. As a tax analyst, I produced software used by CPAs in the preparation of individual income tax returns. I specialized in state and local income tax. The development process began with analysis of current federal and state tax law, annual changes, and retroactive legislation. It continued with software design, agency approval, testing, and concluded with maintenance through the tax filing season.
I enjoyed great satisfaction from producing a widely utilized software product. I demanded the usability of my design and accuracy of my calculations to reflect my effort. This is one of the many consistencies I found with the approach to business here at Provident. Provident’s published performance history and a focus on generating returns through sound research and hard work reflects the results-oriented business ideals I aim to embody.
During my time in the tax industry I learned a few lessons that translate to my role as a research associate. One of those is the adage of “garbage in, garbage out.” Traditionally this applies to computer science, instructing that when input consists of bad data, the output produced will be correspondingly poor. This can be more broadly applied to many things in life. Take a set of tax form instructions for example. When a well-prepared and thorough set of instructions is published, the likely outcome is that software developers and tax preparers can easily implement these instructions, filing accurate and timely returns. Publish vague or inconsistent instructions and the time spent by the agency adjusting tax returns and addressing inquiries will outpace the time that could have been spent to produce quality instructions in the first place. It is with this principle in mind that I approach my responsibilities at Provident. I plan to generate the most accurate, timely, and organized information to facilitate well-informed and thoughtful decisions.
One of my interests outside of work is growing vegetables. If you’ll permit me to employ this metaphor—gardening and investing are not so different in respect to the importance of preparation and patience. Thorough research and diligent monitoring can produce bountiful results. Consider a plant encountering adverse conditions in the garden. If the underlying health of the plant is intact, I’ll let the plant live to fight another day, with confidence I planted the best seed in the right light with optimal nutrients. This is not unlike a well-researched and well-managed company weathering a bear market. On the other hand, knowing when to cut your losses is just as important. If disease strikes and the fundamental health of the plant has been compromised, discarding it to salvage the rest of the crop is warranted.
I’m thrilled to begin the next chapter in my career with the great team here at Provident. Excited for the challenge to cultivate the highest quality research for the firm, I look forward to building on the foundation laid 37 years ago by Ralph and Maury.
Eric S. Pozolo