Throughout history, humans have sought the mythical city of gold, Eldorado. Explorer, Sir Walter Raleigh essentially spent his life searching for it, but never succeeded. Eldorado represents something much sought after, but something that may not even exist. For centuries, humans have also been searching for a perfect investment vehicle. There is a long history of fads and fashionable new strategies that, at the time, offered a seemingly simple, dependable solution. Often these fads have led to overuse (manias) and then disillusionment.
As a value manager, we know that value picks don’t always perform right away; the best returns tend to be seen over the long term. The contrarian value opportunities are in stocks that are either overlooked, underfollowed or in some kind of trouble.
Buddhists have a term, middle way, which refers to the human tendency to explore extremes (for example, austerity versus indulgence) until centeredness is found by achieving a balance between the two. It suggests the path to wisdom is to aim for the middle way, and it is this path of moderation that leads to insight. It's a caution against indulging extremes. How have we seen this practice apply itself to financial markets?
In any period of change there are winners and losers. Some react with fear and loathing, others with enthusiasm and hope. We have a choice which stance to take. In the investing world, we see that uncertainty can diminish confidence and cause stock prices to weaken, even those of high-quality companies. But it can be during times of uncertainty that rational investors have an opportunity to take advantage of temporary weaknesses. At Sionna, we are mindful of challenges, but focus our energies on the potential opportunities.
While the United States gets ready to vote for their new president next Tuesday, I am reminded of a book I read, “What’s Happened to Politics”, written by Bob Rae. He has had political leadership roles, both provincially and federally in Canada, and along the way has learned many truths about leadership and human motivation and capabilities. I attended a book club gathering, where Bob Rae discussed his book, and I soon realized that some major insights he had learned from a career in politics were equally as applicable to investing.
When evaluating a money manager’s performance, investors often cast their eyes across the time horizons to the longest term number – since inception. A positive relative return can be such a great comfort; a validation of the investor’s original selection and a reflection on the quality of the manager. On the other hand, a negative number, whether in relative or absolute terms, might suggest the opposite: that the original selection process was flawed or that the manager lacks quality or skill. Or does it?