As our clients, readers and well-wishers would know, we at Marcellus tend to be prolific in expressing our thoughts in our newsletters and blogs. And the writing is partly to be transparent with our clients who have reposed their faith in us, but also to drive our own clarity of thought and subject ourselves to scrutiny that helps refine our approach to managing money better. Among other investment management firms who write, we admire Nomad Investment Partnership who shared their newsletters to clients earlier this year revealing their wealth of insight and knowledge and in turn enriching all of us.
This is a really long read, perhaps over several weeks as it includes all of Nomad’s letters from 2001 to 2014. But this para from its introduction sets the tone:
“Investing is a wonderful, thoughtful, adventure but it can also be self-centered, a tendency that can be reinforced by the wealth that can follow. We think it is true that, once past X-amount, real meaning comes with reinvesting in society through charitable giving, which can also be a thoughtful, challenging, wonderful adventure, but with the added bonus that it feels like the world working properly. We hope that you can join us.”
Whilst there are lots of nuggets of wisdom throughout the letters, some of our favorites – one on ‘active investing’:
“One common psychological trap that agents may fall into is that clients expect action, or to be more accurate, fund managers expect their clients to expect action! The investor Seth Klarman was once challenged on whether Buffett’s track record was statistically significant as he traded so little? To which Klarman answered that each day Buffett chose not to do anything was a decision, too. It is quite possible that we may not change the companies we have invested very much over the next few years.”
“There are, broadly two ways to behave as an investor. First buy something cheap in anticipation of a price rise, sell at a profit, and repeat. Almost everybody does this to some extent. And for some fund managers it requires, depending on the number of shares in a portfolio and the time they are held, perhaps many hundred decisions a year. Alternatively, the second way to invest is to buy shares in great businesses at a reasonable price and let the business grow. This appears to require just one decision (to buy the shares) but, in reality, it requires daily decisions not to sell the shares as well! Almost no one does this, in part because it requires patience.”
“The decision not to do something is still an active decision; it is just that the accountants don’t capture it. We have broadly, the businesses we want in Nomad and see little advantage to fiddling.”
“The runway ahead for our businesses may be very long indeed. Inaction on our part is counter-cultural and deliberate, and is easier said than done. Really… As Berkshire Hathaway Vice-Chairman, Charlie Munger says, you make your real money sitting on your assets!”
“Our portfolio inaction continues and we are delighted to report that purchase and sale transactions have all but ground to a halt. Our expectation is that this is a considerable source of value add!”
On concentration vs diversification:
“The church of diversification, in whose pews the professional fund management industry sits, proposes many holdings. They do this not because managers have so many insights, but so few! Diversity, in this context, is seen as insurance against any one idea being wrong. Like Darwin, we find ourselves disagreeing with the theocracy. We would propose that if knowledge is a source of value added, and few things can be known for sure, then it logically follows that owning more stocks, does not lower risk but raises it!”
“In our opinion, just a few big things in life are knowable. And it is because just a few things are knowable that Nomad has just a few investments.”
“Sam Walton did not make his money through diversifying his holdings. Nor did Gates, Carnegie, McMurtry, Rockefeller, Slim, Li Ka-shing or Buffett. Great businesses are not built that way. Indeed the portfolios of these men were, more or less, one hundred percent in one company and they did not consider it risky! Suggest that to your average fund manager.”
On why learning is endless in most fields, especially investing:
“We still have much to learn.”
“As a young(ish) man there is something slightly depressing about thinking things through for a while, arriving at a somewhat reasoned conclusion only to find that others have been there before, and years earlier. In some respects we are fifty years behind Buffett, but that’s ok, so long as the average investor is at least fifty-one years behind!”
“Discovery is one of the joys of life, and in our opinion, is one of the real thrills of the investment process; the cumulative learning that leads to what Berkshire Hathaway Vice-Chairman Charlie Munger calls ‘Worldy Wisdom’. Worldly wisdom is a good phrase for the intellectual capital with which investment decisions are made and, at the end of the day, it is the source of any superior investment results we may enjoy.”
If you want to read our other published material, please visit https://marcellus.in/blog/
Note: the above material is neither investment research, nor financial advice. Marcellus does not seek payment for or business from this publication in any shape or form. Marcellus Investment Managers is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India as a provider of Portfolio Management Services. Marcellus Investment Managers is also regulated in the United States as an Investment Advisor.
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