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The Value Investors: Lessons from the World's Top Fund Managers
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
This book isn't just about value investing. It's about value investing throughout the world, especially in emerging markets where the risks and rewards can be substantial.

Chan's approach to investing is summarized in Chapter 13 "The Making of a Value Investor." I recommend the reader read this last chapter first. This is not to say that the stories about the careers of the twelve featured fund managers are not interesting. In fact I found the mini biographies fascinating and even uplifting. But the real value in this book is in the lessons from each of the investors.

First lesson: Have a "humble" portfolio, that is one that is diversified and consists of stocks chosen through a fundamental analysis of the underlying value of the companies. There are two styles: a diversified portfolio such as most investment professionals recommend and a more daring approach, a "concentrated portfolio" such as kept by Warren Buffet. Of course Buffet with his unparalleled expertise could afford to focus on his best bets. Chan firmly recommends a diversified portfolio.

Second lesson: value analysis itself. Here is where we learn why Chan travelled around the world to interview these very successful fund managers. It turns out that while the fundamentals of value are almost always the same, the way to find them out differs according to the ability and opportunities of the investor. The twelve people Chan interviewed show the reader how they did it. Some investors look more closely at "competitive advantage," some are more interested in understanding the business itself, while others (like Warren Buffet) are expert at evaluating those who manage the company.

Third lesson: read widely and well. Chan believes investment ideas don't just drop out of the air. An understanding of the world beyond the actual markets can be invaluable in making investment decisions.

Fourth lesson: Go beyond the fundamentals. This is especially true when investing in foreign markets. Understanding national politics, the particular cultural history as well as "macro" events can help the investor make good decisions and avoid some very risky situations. (Fund manager Teng Ngiek Lian gives some good advice on this aspect of trading in Asian countries in Chapter 9; see especially pages 141-144).

Fifth lesson: an exit strategy based on "when ...[your investments] have become fully valued, or their business conditions begin to deteriorate." (p. 208)

Sixth lesson: have the right temperament for value investing (!). Yes, it's hard to sit and wait years for the value of the companies you have invested in are finally recognized by the market. But to be successful at value investing you have to be able to ride the ups and downs of the market like a boat firmly tethered to shore. Often you just have to ignore the daily swings in prices and stay firm in your conviction that the value of the stocks you hold is true regardless of what the fickle market may say on any given day.

Value investing--that is, investing guided by fundamental analysis as opposed to technical analysis (which measures trends)--would be the nearly unanimous approach by market professionals except for three annoying problems:

One, for a host of reasons ranging from complexity to outright fraud, you can't always get the real numbers.

Two, the market is not always rational and efficient. (Think bubbles, recessions and depressions, greed and fear.)

Three, (to repeat for emphasis) even though the stocks you buy may clearly be undervalued they may stay that way for a long time, not just for weeks and months but for years, and in some cases perhaps for a decade or more. (I won't quote John Maynard Keynes here, but you know what happens if the long run is long enough!)

It should be noted (as Chan reminds us through a quote from Warren Buffett on page 87) that value analysis cannot be separated from an analysis of growth. Value and growth, Buffet posits "are joined at the hip."

Now for some bons mots from Chan's sparkling text:

"To minimize the chances of encountering...shoddy business dealings..." one of the things that fund manager Thomas Kahn does is to make "sure that executive pay is fair by industry standards and that top managers have a sizable portion of their net worth in the company through direct stock ownership rather than through the issuance of stock options or warrants." (p. 41)

"It is better to buy a good business at a fair price than a fair business at a good price!" --Warren Buffett (p. 56)

"The four most dangerous words in investing are: `This time it's different.'" --Sir John Templeton (p. 89)

"Go for a business that any idiot can run--because sooner or later, any idiot probably is going to run it." --Peter Lynch (p. 90)

"Forecasts may tell you a great deal about the forecaster; they tell you nothing about the future." (p. 93) Warren Buffett again. By the way, the guiding spirit behind the investing philosophy presented in this book comes primarily from original value investor Benjamin Graham and new school value investor Warren Buffett.

"In essence, we look for the next big crash in emerging markets because in value investing, money is made after the crash, not before..." --emerging markets fund manager Mark Mobius (p. 128)

"When it comes to emerging markets, you cannot rely on the numbers because they cannot be entirely trusted. You have to go out there and start kicking tires. Then you have to talk to company management, look into their eyes, and determine whether they are reliable." --Mark Mobius (p. 129)

"A market correction in an emerging economy can easily mean 20 to 30 percent, which is equivalent to a crash in a developed market." --Teng Ngiek Lian (p. 144)

Warren Buffet "improved his strategy by monetizing brand value, which was not a traditional value principle" during the time of Benjamin Graham.--SPARX Group fund manager Shuhei Abe (p. 160)

"In the short run, the market is a voting machine, but in the long run it is a weighing machine." --Benjamin Graham (p. 71 and p. 202)

This is a valuable book for any investor.

--Dennis Littrell, author of "The World Is Not as We Think It Is"
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2012
In 1984, Warren Buffett gave a presentation at Columbia University to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Security Analysis. In The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville, Mr. Buffett made the case that the intellectual foundation provided by Benjamin Graham represents the common thread behind the incredible long term performance of a group of investors who operated in very different ways. The investors varied greatly in terms of the type of investments made, degree of diversification used, and methods of finding ideas but they all shared in common an approach grounded in value investing principles.

Following the moves of famous investors has become a common source of idea generation for today's investors. Although many investors attempt to mechanically "coattail" the moves of various hedge fund managers based on quarterly SEC filings, it is more productive to attempt to identify those investors with strong long term track records and to learn from their investment philosophy.

Ronald W. Chan's latest book, The Value Investors: Lessons from the World's Top Fund Managers, is an excellent compilation of interviews with twelve highly successful value investors from very different backgrounds. Mr. Chan's previous book, Behind the Berkshire Hathaway Curtain demonstrated his mastery of the art of the interview. Each of the chapters in The Value Investors includes a brief section with biographical information regarding the manager along with his long term track record relative to an appropriate benchmark. The managers interviewed are:

Walter Schloss, Walter & Edwin Schloss Associates
Irving Kahn, Kahn Brothers Group
Thomas Kahn, Kahn Brothers Group
William Browne, Tweedy, Browne Company
Jean-Marie Eveillard, First Eagle Funds
Francisco García Paramés, Bestinver Asset Management
Anthony Nutt, Jupiter Asset Management
Mark Mobius, Templeton Emerging Markets Group
Teng Ngiek Lian, Target Asset Management
Shuhei Abe, SPARX Group
V-Nee Yeh, Value Partners Group
Cheah Cheng Hye, Value Partners Group

One of the notable aspects of the list chosen for the book is the fact that these investors not only have varying methods of identifying investment ideas but also come from different cultures and operate in different parts of the world. The important commonality is the fact that each of the investors has adopted Benjamin Graham's principles as the foundation of their investment approach. This does not mean that each of the investors uses the same formulas or approach. They each have adapted the Graham principles and combined them with their own backgrounds, circle of competence, and temperament to come up with an approach that works.

It is also striking how several of the investors have incorporated views of the macroeconomy in their investment thinking while others have not. There are few topics as controversial as whether a value investor should pay attention to macroeconomic factors as part of the investment process. The question is not whether one should buy or sell stocks simply because of fears of recession, inflation, or turmoil in Europe. The issue is more related to whether broad expected trends should play a role in the types of sectors and companies one researches at any given time. Obviously, it is preferable to have macroeconomic tailwinds working in one's favor rather than always battling headwinds. However, it is less clear whether most investors have the ability to accurately identify headwinds and tailwinds in advance. Reading some of the views provided in the book can help to cast light on this topic.

Perhaps the most important interview in the book is presented in the first chapter. Walter Schloss was interviewed for the book a few months before he passed away on February 19, 2012 and the views he provides reflect the wisdom gained over a long and successful life. Mr. Schloss, who had been managing money for decades by 1984, was also one of the investors Warren Buffett discussed in The Superinvestors of Graham-and-Doddsville.

Walter Schloss continued to outperform the market until his retirement in 2002 posting a cumulative return of 16 percent annualized (21 percent before fees) versus an annualized return of 10 percent for the S&P 500 over the course of his career. A $10,000 investment made in 1956 would have compounded to nearly $11 million by 2002.

Mr. Schloss managed to compound money at astonishing rates for decades by studying the Value Line Investment Survey and investing broadly in a portfolio that often included over one hundred stocks. This approach is quite different from the other investors profiled in the book many of whom advocate speaking to management and running more concentrated portfolios.

Intelligent investors should attempt to learn vicariously through the experience of those who have succeeded in the field. We highly recommend Mr. Chan's latest book which makes this process enjoyable and informative.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
In an earlier book, Behind the Berkshire Hathaway Curtain: Lessons from Warren Buffett's Top Business Leaders, Ronald Chan shares what he learned during interviews of nine executives who head companies owned by Berkshire Hathaway: Business Wire, Justin Brands, Buffalo News, Jordan's Furniture, Acme Brick Company, See's Candies, The Pampered Chef, and MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company. He devotes a separate chapter to each of nine executives and focuses on several valuable lessons he learned from them that provide "a sense of what life is, can be, or should be."

Now in his latest book, Chan extends the scope of his focus to 12 value investing legends. He conducted interviews of each of them, during which he learned about their career experiences and, especially, their views on value investing. As Bruce C.N. Grunwald explains in the Foreword, "By combining descriptions of investment approaches with investor background, he illuminates the connection between individual character and effective investment practice. Taken as a whole, the book provides each practical value investor with the necessary material to sift through the historical records to find the style that is most appropriate to them. Ronald Chan's work is an essential starting point for any nascent value investor and an invaluable reference for experienced investors."

I am neither a nascent nor an experienced value investor. As was also true when I began to read Behind the Berkshire Hathaway Curtain as well as The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, Second Edition, edited by Lawrence A. Cunningham, my interest in this book is in the information, insights, and wisdom provided by a dozen of the world's most intelligent, erudite, and successful fund managers. Better yet, Chan has selected a diversified group: five value investors are from North America, four from Asia, and three from Europe. And even better yet, several have extensive multi-cultural experience. "Mark Mobius of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, for example, was born in New York but has lived in Asia for 40 years. Frenchman Jean-Marie Eveillard moved to New York when he was in his late thirties and has lived there ever since. In many ways, the value mindset of these men has been shaped by their cultural experiences."

These are a few of the several dozen passages that caught my eye:

Warren Buffett (chairman and CEO, Berkshire Hathaway): "Success in investing doesn't correlate with I.Q. once you're above the level of 125. Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble when investing." (Page xvi)

Walter J. Schloss (Walter & Edwin Schloss Associates) and Benjamin Graham (Buffett's professor, mentor, and associate) "had very different mindsets. Schloss's priorities were not to lose money and to survive in the market, whereas Graham's were to seek downside protection and to diversify his investment portfolio to minimize individual stock risks. Working for Graham from 1946 to 1955, Schloss's duty was to find stocks that were selling below their working capital - net-nets.'" (Page 8)

Irving Kahn (Kahn Brothers Group) believes that Wall Street has always been a poor judge of value. "First, it never learns from the past, often repeating the same investment mistakes...Second, people on Wall Street often put so much effort into making money that they lead stressful, unhealthy lives. Kahn questions the value of a life with wealth but without health. A centenarian who has now been in the investment business for more than 80 years, Kahn has learned a bit about how to stay both healthy and wealthy...As long as you keep your mind sharp and busy, you will see good things happen!" (30)

William H. Browne (Tweedy, Browne Company): "People often think `value' means that you go into a trash can and find some junk that has value. If you pick it up for free and sell it for a dollar, then you have a value deal! I think this perception is insufficient, if not inaccurate, because if you think about real value, it is about buying a good business [one that is organic, adaptive, and can reinvest its own profit, both its human and physical capital] that does the long-term work for you!" (57)

Jean-Marie Eveillard (First Eagle Funds): "Value is a big tent. You have Graham who does it mathematically, and you have Buffett, who made a substantial adjustment to Graham's teaching by looking not just at the numbers, but also at the long-term prospects and quality of the business. The Graham approach was less time-consuming, and so I could work on the numbers on my own. Toward the end of the 1980s, I began to hire analysts so we could apply the Buffett approach. Having more people allowed us to spend a lot of time trying to find out the major characteristics of businesses and their sustainable competitive advantage - what Buffett calls a `business moat.'" (73)

Francisco García Paramés (Bestinver Asset Management): "Warren Buffett said that `risk comes from not knowing what you're doing!' Reducing risk is not about adding assumptions and complicating your investment model, but about simplifying by investing in what you know best. If you believe that a business is sustainable, then you should think like an entrepreneur and try to calculate how much the business is worth, as if you were taking it over. If it is selling at a discount, then you have found value." (91)

Anthony Nutt (Jupiter Asset Management): "When it comes to value investing, my investment team and I believe that the difficult part lies not in finding out whether a stock is cheap or dear. We can always look at a business objectively and come up with a fair opinion about it. The more difficult part is that we never know if other investors are identifying the very same stock and thinking the same thing as us. In essence, determining how long it takes for an undervalued stock to perform is totally out of our control. Because of that, we never have a time horizon for our investments. We focus purely on valuation instead." (109)

These brief excerpts offer at least some indication of several different "value investing legends" consider when making a decision. Each has a different "style," to be sure, but all of them seem to share common qualities such as patience, self-knowledge, humility, self-discipline, and erudition that includes but is by no means limited to the financial world, in general, and to investments, in particular. Chan notes, "People often ask how successful value investors come up with their investment ideas. The simple answer is that they read a great deal." That also helps to explain why they know a great deal. It should also be noted that all of those whom Ronald Chan interviewed learned much of value from Benjamin Graham and are well aware of his observation: "The investor's chief problem - and even his worst enemy - is likely to be himself."
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2012
I was attracted to Chan's book because of Don Keough's (former President of Coca-Cola) blurb: "Value investing is often misunderstood and misapplied. You will make neither mistake if you read Ronald Chan's book on the subject." To find out why this investment philosophy can be misunderstood and misapplied, Chan interviewed a total of 12 value investors from different continents, finding out what value investing means to each of them. After reading the book, I learned that this subject is indeed quite dynamic, and even sharing the same investment principles/philosophy, each of the individuals featured in the book apply them differently. This book is a good read if you want to understand the mindsets of value investors from around the world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 19, 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Since there are plenty of good reviews of this book, I am going to take this review in a slightly different direction.

The author Ronald Chan exposes the connection between individual character and investment practice by carefully examining the biographic and investment history of these superb investors. As you study this book, the connections between character and investment techniques become clear.

Traits in common among these sterling investors:

Self Disciplined
Thorough investigators
Well Read
Patient

Ok, so they share some character traits and habits which lead to similar practices. Nice to know. These facts are not exactly unknown.

"Once you have ordinary intelligence, what you need is the temperament to control the urges that get other people into trouble in investing.-- Warren Buffett

How does this knowledge help me?

How do I obtain these virtues?

Will reading this book help me develop these virtues? (Short Answer - yes this book will help)

Fortunately, science is starting to uncover interesting insights into these questions. In fact, science is in many cases verifying the cause and effect relations hinted at in this biography of famous value investors.

For more insight into how background and habits can influence the future you may want to read:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification

The Lost Art of Thinking

The Talent Code

Redirect

59 Seconds

The Winner's Brain: 8 Strategies Great Minds Use to Achieve Success

Emotional Intelligence

The How of Happiness

The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 5, 2012
Ronald W. Chan introduces an interesting cast of characters, many of whom may not be familiar to readers. In The Value Investors: Lessons from the World's Top Fund Managers we meet Walter Schloss, Irving Kahn, Thomas Kahn, William Browne, Jean-Marie Eveillard, Francisco García Paramés, Anthony Nutt, Mark Mobius, Teng Ngiek Lian, Shuhei Abe, V-Nee Yeh, and Cheah Cheng Hye.

Irving Kahn, age 106, has the distinction of being the oldest living active investment professional. Both he and Walter Schloss, who died this year at the age of 95, were students and later employees of Benjamin Graham, so they have impressive value investing pedigrees. Their first jobs were with Wall Street firms; eventually they founded their own highly successful businesses.

I mention the job history of these two men because I was struck by how relatively late in life (of course, not by Kahn standards) many of the value fund managers interviewed in this book found their true calling. Mark Mobius, for instance, of the Templeton Emerging Markets Group fame, started his career as a business consultant (to be more precise, a consulting research coordinator) in Tokyo, studying consumer behavior in the region, and later founded his own research-oriented business consulting firm. Cheah Cheng Hye, co-founder of Value Partners, the largest asset management company in Asia, worked in journalism for eighteen years before he entered the financial world as a stock analyst.

Other future value fund managers started off in finance but faced a different kind of hurdle. They were hired by firms who were devoted to growth investing. They felt uncomfortable in their jobs, though not necessarily understanding why. It took them some time to realize that they were, for whatever psychological/intellectual reasons, at heart and in mind value investors.

Value investing is in many ways an intellectual no-brainer. It's smart bargain shopping. You buy a lot of pasta at 50% off because the supermarket messed up its inventory but avoid the strawberries that are on sale because they're half rotten. Simple enough. On the other hand, value investing is extraordinarily difficult emotionally. You buy a stock that you think is undervalued only to see it become even more undervalued (and that's if your analysis is correct). You may buy more if you're self-confident, but you have no external validation. The market is telling you that you got it wrong. And, yes, the market is often right.

The value investors that Chan profiles, all of whom have handily beat their benchmarks, are not a particularly stressed lot. In fact, many of them explain what investing techniques they use (in some cases merely diversification) to be able to sleep soundly at night and avoid stress. I suspect, however, that the real explanation lies not so much in methodology as in personality. It takes a special kind of person to take the inevitable lumps (such as not participating in the dot-com boom) as well as to enjoy the long-term, often slow-grind upside of being a talented value investor.

Chan's book is a good read. Value investors may make some new international friends. Struggling individual investors may find a style that resonates. And frustrated, antsy twenty somethings may come to realize that life doesn't end at thirty.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 7, 2012
I enjoyed reading the book. The author did a good job digging into the essence of value investing and what it means to be a value investor. There are many great quotes I found myself highlighting, and I also agree that there are no magic formulas to make you rich as an investor, but there are certinaly the right temperament and philsophy that allow you to invest prudently.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 29, 2012
The Value Investors brings to the table something new for investing books: the knowledge of how value investing is applied over the world. Previously, almost all of the information out there concentrated on the United States. This book provides a biographical account of value investors, many of whom are low-profile and have never before been featured in print, and who do not hesitate to share their insights. Value investing around the world is a niche but profitable area, even in less developed markets. This is the first book I'm aware of that brings visibility to international value investment.

It covers a dozen investors from all around the world, who have earned superior risk-adjusted returns over many years. Their methods have same core philosophies, but considerable variation in style, since every market has its own unique factors and the same applies for the investors. The author interviews these people and presents them in a format that is a mix of biography and advice, which works well in illuminating how these people arrived at their approaches and what influenced them. Readers will learn a lot about temperament, patience, discipline, and risk, which will be helpful for mental growth and development, not just in the narrow area of investing.

I would recommend this book for people who are interested in value investing or wish to expand their geographical knowledge of markets.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 1, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
In this compilation of interviews with 12 highly successful money managers from around the world (five from the United States, four from Asia, and three from Europe), author Ronald Chan asked the featured investment gurus to discuss a little bit about their backgrounds, what got them started or interested in managing money for others, who and what helped shape their investment philosophies, and what advice or insights they would like to share with readers of this book.

All of the featured money managers are males, but they come from varied economic, educational, and cultural backgrounds. They have all been influenced by Benjamin Graham -- "Father of Value Investing" -- in one way or another, but the indicators and factors they take into consideration when deciding what companies or businesses to invest in, not only differ somewhat from one manager to another, but also from time to time when the need to adapt to changing times and situations necessitates it (for example, stock picking during "boom" vs "bust" economic times). But once they've made a decision that a company is worth investing in because its current undervaluation is temporary, they'll tend to hold on to the company's stock for the long-term (minimum three to five years) through temporary fluctuations in market euphoria or gloom, and sell the stock only when its price has reached or exceeded a target value, or there are new data indicating that they had made a wrong bet and therefore should sell.

Some of the featured managers' personal stories are quite interesting, and their ability to produce good returns for their clients even in challenging times can be inspiring to both novice and experienced investors. The "lessons" shared in this book, however, tend to be discussed at such a high level or in very general terms that they can only point beginning investors to the right direction, so readers looking for deeper discussions may be disappointed.

Some of the managers' concerns about the potential dangers of ETFs and high frequency trading on modern day investing should have been explored further.

Lastly, if you are a novice investor, you should know that even though the money managers featured in this book all have stellar records, they tend to be the exceptions, because most funds managers tend to produce only mediocre returns. There are additional lessons that can be learned from delving into this finding that are not mentioned in this book, but perhaps the 13th and last chapter in the book, which summarizes the salient points made by the managers in one of the previous 12 chapters featuring them, could have included such a discussion for the additional benefit of this book's readers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 8, 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you're not familiar with "value investing" principles, you will learn them in this book. If you are already familiar with value investing, you may not learn as much, but you will still be entertained and informed.

Through careful research and interviews with several heavyweight fund managers, Mr. Chan gives us unusual insight into the men who have used value investing principles and techniques to manage money brilliantly over the last several decades. Each chapter is devoted to a seasoned and successful fund manager, but they read more like biographies/histories, which makes them far more interesting than transcriptions of interviews alone.

In an age when so many people are understandably cynical about those in the financial services industry, this book provides the kind of tested methodologies and personal histories that could inspire one -- if so inclined in terms of how one wants to invest -- to embrace more perspective, humility and discipline in one's investment moves.

The author wanted the book to feature diverse portraits, so he choose successful fund managers from three significant regions in the developed world -- North America, Europe and Asia (although managers of emerging markets funds also mention Latin America and Africa). Despite this, all of the fund managers share the same insights about how value investing has helped them make money or minimize losses for their clientele through many market cycles.

The book does feel repetitious because of this, but the stories behind the men are so fascinating that I read on anyway. And there are some significant differences when one talks about value investing in the West and East, despite increased globalization.

If you like studying the history of markets, this is a great read that features such luminaries as Mark Mobius, Walter Schloss and Shuhei Abe -- and through these individuals stories of Ben Graham (the so-called father of value investing) and Warren Buffett -- then this book is for you. Their stories of going against the grain in good times and bad instead of getting caught up in market fads and media hype is welcome medicine in these economically perilous times.

I was also inspired by how all of these individuals emphasized looking out for their clients' interests first and foremost. We could certainly use more fund managers like these gentlemen.

Highly recommended.
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