General Thoughts

Analyst Ratings and the Institutional Imperative

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Buffett talks a lot about the concept he calls the “institutional imperative”. In his 1989 shareholder letter, when he was describing his mistakes of the first 25 years managing Berkshire, he outlines what he means by this (emphasis mine): “My most surprising discovery: the overwhelming importance in business of an unseen force that we might call “the institutional imperative.” In business school, I was given no hint of the imperative’s existence and I did not intuitively understand it when I […]

Investment Philosophy

Practicing a “Punch Card” Approach to Investing

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John Hempton, who runs a hedge fund and writes the blog called Bronte Capital, wrote a really interesting post over the weekend on investment philosophy. He basically calls out the majority of the professional money management community for cloning Buffett in word, but not in deed. His main point: many Buffett followers talk about the “punch card” approach to investing, but very few people actually implement this approach. Here is Buffett explaining the Punch Card philosophy: “I always tell students […]

Investment Philosophy

Two Key Checklist Items

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I am not a big fan of going through specific “checklist” items one by one when evaluating an investment idea. I know this idea has gained enormous popularity in recent years, partly due to the good book The Checklist Manifesto, and partly popularized in value investing circles by Mohnish Pabrai. I respect Mohnish a lot, and I think his idea of evaluating previous investment mistakes (both his own mistakes and especially the mistakes of other great investors) is an excellent exercise. […]

General Thoughts

Warren Buffett 1998 Talk at University of Florida

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I spent some time traveling in the car last week. Whenever I am driving by myself, I always listen to something—usually related to business or investing. I keep a long list of videos of interviews or talks that I can pick from whenever I am in the car. On this particular short trip, I had got through two different videos. I listened to this talk from 2012 where Jeff Bezos talks about Amazon Web Services—the cloud computing services business that […]

General Thoughts

General Thoughts on Portfolio Management and Diversification

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“Ship your grain across the sea; after many days you may receive a return. Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight; you do not know what disaster may come upon the land.” –Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 Investors have always discussed and debated the merits of diversification—apparently even as far back as the days of King Solomon (although his definition of diversification—7 or 8 “ventures”—might not sit well with modern day portfolio theory and mutual fund managers who often hold 30, 50, or 100 […]

Investment Quotes

Buffett on Taxes (1965 version)

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“One of my friends—a noted West Coast philosopher—maintains that a majority of life’s errors are caused by forgetting what one is really trying to do.” – Warren Buffett, 1965 BPL Partnership Letter I’ve read a few things lately discussing the benefits of designing a “tax-efficient” investment strategy. I’ve said this before, but I think there is a significant misunderstanding on the tax benefits of a low-turnover portfolio, and there is an even larger misunderstanding on the concept of turnover itself. […]

Case Studies

Focus on the Key Variables of an Investment

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Earlier this year I watched Lang Lang play Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor—one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. The concerto is a monster—full of big octaves, virtuosity, excitement and power. It has around 30,000 notes, but the music is tied together with a simple 10 note melody that is repeated throughout the piece. I am currently working on a few different investment ideas that have numerous moving parts, but as I conduct my research, I continue coming back to […]

Case Studies

Michael Burry: Focus on Bargains and not Stock Market Valuations

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Michael Burry’s story is captivating. And in fact so good of a story that excellent financial storytellers like Michael Lewis and Greg Zuckerman turned it into main portions of best-selling books on the financial crisis. The story goes something like this: Burry was just a guy writing a blog (before people knew what a blog was). He was discussing his ideas in early internet chat rooms. He picked stocks. He was a value stock picker at a time when value […]

Case Studies

Importance of ROIC Part 5: A Glance at the Last 42 Years of Wells Fargo

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“Experience, however, indicates that the best business returns are usually achieved by companies that are doing something quite similar today to what they were doing five or ten years ago… a business that constantly encounters major change also encounters many chances for major error. Furthermore, economic terrain that is forever shifting violently is ground on which it is difficult to build a fortress-like business franchise. Such a franchise is usually the key to sustained high returns.”   –Warren Buffett, 1992 Shareholder […]

Charlie Munger

Circle of Competence, Fat Pitches, and How To Become the Best Plumber in Bemidji

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“The way to win is to work, work, work, work and hope to have a few insights.” – Charlie Munger I came across a post on one of my favorite sites (Farnam Street) about Buffett on some fundamental keys to successful investing. I’ve always thought the most important aspect of investing is waiting for the proverbial “fat pitch”. As readers know, I’m a baseball fan (I love the game, and I love the numbers that are part of the fabric […]