John Spagnola made a name for himself as a football player, but he finds his career in finance as enjoyable and challenging as his time on the gridiron.
"I love what I do," Spagnola said Thursday after advising the Northampton County Retirement Board on investing its half-billion dollars in pension funds.
Spagnola played at Bethlehem Catholic High School and Yale University before moving on to 11 years as a tight end in the National Football League, nine of them with the Philadelphia Eagles. He stayed close to the game as an analyst and sideline reporter through 1998, while also working in the financial world.
He has spent more than 30 years in finance, and at age 63, he has no plans to retire soon. He's a managing director with PFM Asset Management in Philadelphia. Spagnola still has family ties to Bethlehem, and he advises the county board on its pension fund every three months.
"I work with great people, they're smart and motivated," Spagnola said of his colleagues at PFM. "Every day is a challenge," as markets are always moving based on world events, domestic politics, Federal Reserve actions and new technology, he said.
New financial instruments also present an interesting challenge he said, citing cryptocurrencies and SPACs, or "special purpose acquisition companies." SPACs do not operate businesses but are vehicles to raise money to buy companies and take them public.
Non-financial considerations such as investing to promote "green" environmental goals add another twist to asset management, he said.
COVID-19 remains a threat to the U.S. economy this year if new strains develop or if not enough people are vaccinated. Spagnola also cited tax policies that might not promote economic growth.
Actions by two of the U.S.'s foreign adversaries, Russian and China, are always a concern, he said, but not predictable. He advised investors "not to lie awake" worrying about things they cannot control.
Spagnola and county officials chatted briefly about the NFL draft, which started Thursday night.
"I was drafted in the ninth round," Spagnola said. "Now, there isn't a ninth round, they only have seven." He was picked by the New England Patriots, spent most of his career with the Eagles before playing a season with the Seattle Seahawks in 1988 and spending a final year with the Green Bay Packers in 1989.