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There are more "junior varsity" Fed watchers than ever before

The last time the Fed raised interest rates was in 2006. There was no Twitter. There were no iPhones. Rudy Giuliani led the Republican presidential polls.

The world has changed a lot since then, and almost 10 years later, we might see the streak come to an end. Many experts believe the Fed will hike rates on Wednesday. And if not then, we all know it has to come soon — in the next few meetings.

But there are so many financial professionals now who have no experience with this. To be specific, that number is 13.9 percent, according to data from eVestment.


Asset management firms voluntarily provide information on their key professionals to eVestment, allowing their data to include 35,000 active professionals from 4,500 firms who graduated from 900 universities and colleges globally.

"There are more junior varsity Fed watchers commenting on this potential policy change than ever before," Jeremy Hill, managing partner for Old Blackheath Companies, wrote in a recent research note.

"The general lack of experience of many investment professionals also applies to the lack of experiencing a bear market in bonds, and inexperience of a bear market in stocks," said Doug Kass, president of Seabreeze Partners Management. "We have been in a bull market for bonds for over three decades and a bull market in stocks since 2009."

Kass, who graduated from Wharton in 1972, said the "lack of experience will likely be manifested in a lot more volatility across numerous assets classes," including stocks and bonds.

"In areas that will experience a lot of volatility, like the two-year U.S. Treasury note, it will be interesting to see the risk management function of some traders who haven't lived through a series of rate hikes," Hill said in an interview with CNBC. "I find it far-fetched that a 32-year-old is going to be allowed to take a big amount of risk."

'There are always casualties'

Not everybody thinks experience will matter that much.

"If you're older, it would be tempting to think that your experiences will help you as rates rise, but I'm not so sure," said Jason Trennert, managing partner at Strategas Research Partners and author of the book, "My Side of the Street." "No one's ever witnessed a central bank starting a 'normalization' process after quintupling its balance sheet."

"It's not so much the last time since they raised rates. To me the story is how few people are around since the last time we had real inflation," said Stephen Guilfoyle, managing director of the New York Stock Exchange floor operations for Deep Value.

"Unfortunately, it's doubtful that either youth or experience will be much help in the aftermath of unprecedented monetary stimulus," said Trennert, who started in the business in 1990.

"The increased volatility is occurring, of course, in a setting of much lower liquidity, creating the possibility of a toxic cocktail of higher volatility and lesser liquidity," Kass said.

Kass had a dour conclusion: "When volatility is on the ascent, in part because of lack of experience in changing market direction like rising interest rates, there are always casualties."