I’m a product of my experiences, and I’ve had the good fortune to learn from some very smart people who provided me with the opportunity to succeed.
Growing up in Nebraska I always read the newspaper articles about the brilliant investor in Omaha who still drove a Ford Taurus. Then one day, I was probably 19 at the time, I picked up a book in my grandma’s basement that my deceased grandfather had read at one time. It was a green and yellow book written by Benjamin Graham titled The Intelligent Investor. Inside the book was a collection of notes that my grandfather took. I proceeded to read the book every chance I could. At the time I was working my way through school as a delivery driver in Omaha. I recall sitting in the parking lot of Mutual Omaha reading about margins of safety and buying stocks as if you were buying the whole company. That was the seed that got me started investing. After reading the book I decided on finance for my major at the University of Nebraska – Omaha. Of all the books on my bookshelf, this copy of The Intelligent Investor is the most sentimental to me because it has shaped my life.
My first finance class was taught by a guy named Dr. Robert Benecke. He was older and a bit gruff, but his advice to “follow the cash” and treat “cash as king” was some of the simplest yet best advice I received. To this day, when I try to solve a fairly complex problem I think about that advice and work backwards from a simple stream of cash flows.
While I was in college I had the good fortune and opportunity to work as an intern in the investment division at The Omaha World-Herald Company, publisher of Nebraska’s largest newspaper. I was exposed to people applying the very things I’ve been reading about. This was my first value investing laboratory where I could apply some of the things I learned in school and in the investing books. After graduating from college I worked full-time in this company and the experience I gained was priceless. In addition to making investments in companies, I also was involved in the annual valuation of the company’s stock since it was employee-owned. I found it fascinating to see how these professionals determined the value of companies. This was really applying the discounted cash flow methodologies I’d read about for years. I remember thinking that it would be so easy to make money if a computer could just run a discounted cash flow on all public companies and buy the most undervalued (this was probably where FetchXL was conceived).
It was around this time that one of my favorite professors from college, Dr. Graham Mitenko, suggested I take a look at the CFA program. After a brief review of the curriculum I enrolled for the Level I CFA exam. The CFA exam is a self-study program that requires a candidate to pass 3 exam levels. There were only a handful of candidates taking the exam in Omaha at the time and I thought there should be a better way to collaborate with other candidates from around the world so I started my first company, AnalystForum, in 1999.
A few years later I started a new job in the development and acquisitions group of MidAmerican Energy, the Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary run by David Sokol at the time, where I really learned Excel. This was probably the toughest job I’ve ever had and it did two important things for me. First, I learned a lot about spreadsheets and building financial models which are the basis for almost every investment I make today. Second, it made everything else I did after that job seem easy. I’ve never met Warren Buffett but the closest I’ve come is while working at MidAmerican Energy and I regret that I did not introduce myself at the time. I was working on a project that required the interest rate as quoted in The Wall Street Journal so I walked up to the lobby to get the Section C. Unfortunately, there was an older gentleman facing the other direction reading the only copy in the lobby so I started walking up the him to see if I could take Section C. About 5 feet away I realized that I was about to take the Section C from Warren Buffett so I turned around and found another copy somewhere else in the office. In hindsight it was the perfect chance to meet a legend and I should have taken advantage of the opportunity to introduce myself.
My next professional role was at a private equity firm called McCarthy Group where I worked on making investments in privately held companies in the $25-100 million range. The focus on buying companies, not shares, was very valuable experience. This approach is the foundation for the public company investing I do. While building financial models at McCarthy Group I started to think more about the need in the market for a cost-effective Excel add-in for retrieving financial data. After 3 enjoyable years at the firm, I decided to launch my second company called FetchXL to capitalize on this opportunity.
Fast forward a couple of years when my phone rang about moving to San Diego to help build a new investment group. My two companies were doing well and were requiring less and less of my time so I moved west, ironically, to help start West Partners. At West Partners I make investments in private companies, real estate and infrastructure for a wonderful family who sold their business in 2006.
That’s a long-winded autobiography but it’s these experiences that have shaped the way I approach investing in public companies.
Mateo Blumer is an investment advisor and portfolio manager specializing in publicly traded and alternative investments. Previously, Mateo was working directly with senior executives at The Economist Group in London as part of their Management Training Program. Mateo graduated from Claremont McKenna College in California with dual bachelor's degrees in Financial Economics and International Relations.
Markos N. Kaminis generated a 23% average annual return on "Strong Buy" stock selections over 5 years and ranked 2nd among a group of 60 analysts in-house as a Senior Equity Analyst over a seven-year period at Standard & Poor's. After proving his value in-house, he was promoted into a special role as an idea generator, supporting the portfolios of institutional clients as well as driving performance within S&P's recommended lists and portfolios. At times, Markos was responsible for up to 10% of the firm's entire "Strong Buy" list and is due a great deal of credit for the group's outstanding performance during his tenure.
Markos followed a group of 30-40 Small and Mid-Cap firms, and was charged with finding new buy and sell candidates across industry sectors. He generated a 23% average annual return over five years on his "Strong Buy" recommendations, and 26% over three years ended 2004. He was ranked 1st of 60 analysts in-house for his "Strong Buy" performance over 4 years (2nd over 5). Markos also authored IPO research and wrote for high-level newsletters, The Outlook, Equity Insights and Emerging Opportunities, as well as for BusinessWeek Online. He represented his firm as an analytical expert commentator for major media, including television, Internet and through quotes and interviews in reputable publications.
Besides predicting the stock market correction of 2015 through a series of prescient reports here in August. (see proof here: http://seekingalpha.com/article/3482226-investor-who-predicted-the-stock-market-correction-offers-an-update ), Markos also advised investors to buy stocks at the bottom of the market in mid-February 2016 and again post-Brexit at the trough, and to buy gold in January 2016 before the commodity started its move higher. While not perfect, over the years, Markos has made countless correct market and security calls for his followers, including forecasting the demise of J.C. Penney on the heralded CEO hire's disruptive plans, the bankruptcies of Washington Mutual and Pilgrim's Pride in the $30 and $20s, respectively, as well as the purchase of Facebook in the mid-$20s when it was considered a pariah post its IPO (today it is a market darling). Markos also warned of the real estate market collapse and the financial crisis in the early days of his blogging.
What I personally want you to know about my plans: After witnessing the worst of Wall Street firsthand and having the ideal vision of my childhood career choice corrupted by reality, I almost switched to full-time charity work at age 40 and still have plans for several non-profit endeavors. The future is somewhat unknown, and I am open to employment offers for portfolio management or other ideas. While continuing to publish regularly, I expect to begin work on several book ideas that I believe are important for business, for our nation and for society.
I may put my stock selection skills, earned through blood, sweat and tears, to better use, and to make my own way. I would like to give investors something rare, a dignified partner who can manage money with integrity and a clear conscience about the degree of due diligence behind investment decisions... someone who cares more about your money than your wife. I hope readers will become followers of my column here & at my blog, so that when our numbers are substantial, we might start an investment fund or two.
Prior to his Wall Street career, Mr. Kaminis spent time in the back-office, as a mutual fund accountant, where he managed for a time the work of two men. Before this, from age 11 to age 25, he worked as a carpenter's apprentice and carpenter with his father, in both commercial and residential projects. Mr. Kaminis has an intimate knowledge of the real estate (undergraduate degree in Real Estate and Finance) and construction market, as well as the restaurant industry.
However, as a generalist stock analyst, he showed the ability to learn any and the most complicated of industries in short time - and he gamed every challenge presented to him. Mr. Kaminis earned his MBA at the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh, and his BA at Temple University in Philadelphia. However, Markos has been studying the stock market since age 13, when he determined his career path.
He made his first investment at age 16, and funded much of his undergraduate education with the proceeds of his investing success. Mr. Kaminis continues to keep busy forecasting the economic path and securities market activity. Markos is considering the eventual start-up a long/short capital appreciation hedge fund. Such a fund would limit risk through beta reduction, using a diversification strategy targeting sector & industry and long & short position inclusion. At the same time, Markos' theoretical fund would seek maximum capital appreciation through the exploitation of Mr. Kaminis' inherent economic & market discernment gift and proven stock selection skills.
Mr. Kaminis also has a team of a select few analysts, technicians, strategists and economists that he has been impressed by over the years, which he expects to tap for the project when the time is right. Mr. Kaminis welcomes your interest in such a potential forward effort, and looks forward to discussing his plans with those appropriate and within legal constraints.
Markos toys with very early stage entrepreneurial efforts in the testing of certain business models, all of which he intends to tie to a planned non-profit project serving the most helpless among us. The tie will be that the businesses will give employment opportunity to individuals who would otherwise have difficulty finding gainful employment. It will house and heal the homeless, ex-convicts, those completing rehabilitation efforts for drug and other addictions, and others in need of help.
Markos is currently Directing the widely syndicated blog he founded, "Wall Street Greek," and is writing for other well-known publications besides advancing several big ideas. Markos' column is syndicated across sites like the Boston Globe, Kiplinger Magazine, UPI and other reputable newspaper and TV websites, as well as private networks, Amazon Kindle, iPhone and more. In the past, he has written for RealMoney.com, Motley Fool and others.
Requests to research specific companies are welcome, as we serve our readers. You may contact us via this blog's contact info. Mr. Kaminis welcomes you to follow him here at Seeking Alpha, where he is proud to be a long-time contributor to this strong team of writers. He considers the Seeking Alpha team and management close friends, and for you, people worth knowing and following. Visit his site: Wall Street Greek (http://www.wallstreetgreek.blogspot.com/)
Yigal Grayeff (Twitter: @yigalgrayeff) is the manger of a music school in Jerusalem called Lenagen Bekef. Between 2011 and 2014, he was a senior news editor at Seeking Alpha, which he joined after working at venture capital firm Gemini Israel Funds for five years. Prior to Gemini, Yigal was a reporter for the Jerusalem Post - covering business and economics and later on crime - and an editor at Dow Jones Newswires in London.
I have been investing in individual stocks and mutual funds since the mid 1980's, with a focus on options (mostly covered calls) since 2009. I also invest in residential rental real estate.
Michal Slawny joined Seeking Alpha in August 2008 as the contributor relations manager where she builds and strengthens relationships with SA's contributors. She also oversees new contributor intake, creates contributor newsletters, and manages SA's author database.
Prior to joining Seeking Alpha, Michal was the media communications assistant for The Israel Project, an organization dedicated to educating the press and the public about Israel by providing journalists, leaders, and opinion-makers accurate information about Israel. Among other things, in this role Michal was involved in the inception and implementation of press events which were covered by major media outlets ranging from NBC News, ABC News, CNN, and Fox News to the Associated Press, Reuters and The Independent (London). She also conducted research, wrote and edited press material, and created and updated Web page content.
In 2005, Michal interned with Manning Selvage & Lee, one of the world's leading public relations firms. She also gained extensive public relations experience at Koteret Public Relations in Tel Aviv, where she was responsible for writing press releases and organizing photo shoots pitched to the Israeli and international press. Slawny graduated cum laude with a B.A. in journalism, focusing on public relations, and a B.A. in Romance Languages from the University of Georgia. While there, Slawny was heavily involved in student activism and reinstated Dawgs for Israel, heading the group for almost three years.
Michal may be reached at mslawny [at] seekingalpha.com.
I am an active individual investor who looks for value opportunities based on both financial conditions as well as quality of management. I hold a mixture of long-term and short-term positions, regularly reviewing both for their continued viability.