As an investor, I look for companies with excellent long term economics and capable, honest management that can reinvest earnings at an attractive rate.
My view is that it is best for to find companies that can compound earnings internally at a market beating rate rather than relying purely on the arbitrage profit gained from buying assets at a discount from their intrinsic value. I hold this view for two reasons:
1. The market has become more efficient as more value investors rise having gained exposure to Benjamin Graham's teachings either directly or indirectly though knowledge transmission in the industry. Therefore there are fewer severely mispriced securities.
2. The approach of finding excellent companies allows the investor to park his money within the stock for longer, as the company will increase by value autonomously through the virtue of the company increasing its business value year over year. This prolonged holding period has a multitude of benefits such as: (A) reduced transaction costs as fewer trades are needed for the portfolio, (B) An interest free loan from the government, as capital gains tax will only be paid when the security is sold and gains are realized (For a more detailed discussion see section "Taxes" in http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/letters/1989.html), (C) the ability to follow fewer securities and expend more resources researching and understanding each better, as fewer investment decisions will be needed to be made over any time period. This leads to investing in the investor's best ideas.
As I believe the goal of compounding capital at an attractive rate primarily falls on the management of companies held in the portfolio, my view of my job as an investor is focused on these roles:
I. Identification and Diligence: The first and foremost job of the investor is identifying attractive companies with excellent long term economics and capable management, and then doing the full diligence to understand the economics of the company and address any potential red flags that comes up during the investor's research.
II. Price monitoring: Even a great company is not a good investment at certain prices. Therefore the investor must monitor the price to buy at a fair or preferably a discounted price. Also, if a security begins to have a market value far beyond the business value of the company, the investor should sell his holdings to return capital to reinvest in more reasonably priced excellent companies.
III. Business monitoring: Not only does the market price of the business need to be monitored, so does the business value of the investment. If the economics or situation changes at the company, the investor must know and continuously reevaluate the investment thesis.
IV. Portfolio Diversification: the investor as a capital allocator has the job of eliminating individual industry risk of the portfolio. Each portfolio company's management can focus on providing excess returns within their industry. The investor must also look at it from a higher level and diversify away from industry risks by holding a portfolio of non-correlated securities operating in different segments of the market.
Adam Xiao graduated with a degree in Operations Research and Management Science from UC Berkeley. He currently works as an Equity Research Associate at a major Investment Fund.