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HOW I MADE IT: JOHN BOLLINGER

Privy to the secrets of stocks

December 07, 2008|Walter Hamilton | Hamilton is a Times staff writer.

The gig: President of Bollinger Capital Management, a stock research and investment management firm in Manhattan Beach.

Personal: Married with a daughter.

Background: Born in Montpelier, Vt., in 1950 and grew up in New York City. His first passion was lighting and photography. Studied film at New York's School of Visual Arts and intended to become an architectural lighting designer. Worked as a cinematographer in New York before moving to Los Angeles in 1976 for better job opportunities. Chose to live in West Hollywood after determining -- using pins and thread on a map -- that it was at the center of the cluster of Hollywood's major studios and filming locations.

Career change: Bollinger became fascinated by the stock market after his mother asked him to look after her retirement portfolio. With his interest in Hollywood waning, Bollinger began trading out of a Century City brokerage firm to learn about the markets and to have access to an electronic stock-quote machine. Was hired in 1983 to help set up technology for Financial News Network, a business-oriented cable channel based in Los Angeles.

Overcoming fear: Afflicted with stage fright, Bollinger took the FNN job on the condition that he stay behind the camera. But he had to fill in on the air one day in 1984. "I had the cold sweats and the dripping palms and the stutter. I had it all," Bollinger said. But he stuck with it and eventually became the station's chief on-air market analyst.

Career advice: Always keep learning. Despite a steady job at FNN, Bollinger earned a Chartered Financial Analyst designation after a grueling course of study. He also picked the brains of investment professionals who appeared on FNN. "It's very important to continuously expand your knowledge and skills," Bollinger said. "The best way to do that is by contact with skilled people."

Setting up shop: Bollinger was offered a job in New Jersey after FNN was sold to CNBC in 1991. But he wanted to stay in Southern California and launched Bollinger Capital Management that spring. He believes that being his own boss was the best decision he ever made and would recommend it to others. "You can always go back into the workforce if it doesn't work out," he said.

Specialty: Technical analysis, which seeks to identify promising stocks and sectors based on trends in trading data such as price and volume. Created a widely used investment tool known as Bollinger Bands, which compare a stock's volatility and price movements over time.

Outlook: Bollinger is very bullish and believes that the stock market's severe drop over the last year presents a rare chance for long-term investors to buy at attractive prices. "You don't get these opportunities all that often," Bollinger said. "They come separated by decades. And the problem is that investors, when they see these, are reluctant to act because there's so much damage that's been done to the system."

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walter.hamilton@latimes.com

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