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Top 10 Investment Gurus / Finance
Genuine stock market experts are a rare breed, and their investment thinking is never more valuable than when the financial world is in turmoil, as it is today.
So here we have come up with a list of our top ten stock market gurus of all time.
He is generally regarded as one of the most influential thinkers on investment management. His book, the Intelligent Investor, is still selling more than 50 years after he wrote it.
Mr Graham’s basic idea was that you should be looking to buy companies worth ten dollars a share for five dollars a share. The way you determined which companies were selling at way below their book value was to make a detailed study of their balance sheets. He believed in cautious investment following thorough analysis and abhorred ill-informed speculation.
The ‘sage of Omaha’ has put his investment skills to good use and is now the world’s richest man. In the process he has made millionaires out of many of the shareholders in Berkshire Hathaway, his main investment vehicle.
Mr Buffett’s basic idea is that there are a handful of truly outstanding businesses around - and a lot of mediocre ones. The investor’s skill comes in identifying the rare great businesses and then in waiting for the moment when a great business is selling at a really attractive price. He is down to earth - he won’t invest in a business he doesn’t understand - and very patient. He is prepared to wait a long time for the right sort of company to turn up. As he would put it, he is like a baseball player who is ready to stand at the plate for ball after ball until he finds one he can hit into the stands.
Mr Fisher, the father of Ken Fisher, was a renowned growth investor who was a passionate exemplar of the “buy and hold” approach.
His main idea was that the best way to invest is to buy a limited number of outstanding stocks and simply hold them for years and years. If you have chosen the right stocks in the first place - and that’s obviously a big if - then their real quality will shine through over the long term.
He was very definitely not an in and out trader. As he put it: “If the job has been done correctly when a common stock is purchased, the time to sell it is - almost never.”
Mr Price shared the long-term perspective of investors such as Philip Fisher. He, too, believed in the virtues of “buy and hold” and practised them with a vengeance. In 1972, looking back at a portfolio he had started in the 1930s, he found that he had held a number of stocks, such as Merck, the pharmaceutical company, and Black & Decker, the household tool company, for more than 30 years. Over that time they had made him a lot of money.
Sir John, who died earlier this year, was a classic contrarian investor. He embodied the dictum: “Buy when others are frantically selling and sell when others are greedily buying”. While others were looking for gems in a jewel shop, he would be looking for diamonds in a dustbin. He was quite happy to buy what others were throwing away and believed that the stocks offering the best value would be those that other investors had completely neglected.
His most celebrated coup came in 1939, just after war had broken out in Europe. He reasoned, correctly, that although the immediate outlook was bleak, the war would provide a massive boost to US industry. He instructed his broker to buy 100 dollars’ worth of every single Wall Street stock that was priced at a dollar or less. Within four years he had sold his unusual portfolio of stocks for four times its original value.
Dr Mobius is from the Templeton stable of investment managers and has become a specialist in emerging markets. He shares something of Mr Templeton’s contrarian style. As he puts it: “We seek out shares that other investors have rejected. We go where others fear to tread.”
But above all he is a value-based stockpicker. He focuses on putting together a portfolio of good quality stocks, irrespective of which country they are from. One of his great strengths is that he immerses himself in his subject, travelling tens of thousands of miles each year to visit companies and meet their managements. He says: “At Templeton we like to get out from behind our desks. We are also active investors, ready to get alongside management and take a seat on the board.”
Mr Bolton is perhaps the best known UK fund manager of recent years, though he has now stepped back from the hands on running of funds . Like Mark Mobius he is a contrarian investor, as he demonstrated recently by indicating that he was putting some of his own money into bank shares just when everyone else was seeking to make a rapid exit from the sector.
One of his great skills is correctly anticipating market trends. He foresaw the end of the most recent bull run some months before the market peaked in the summer of 2007 and had already battened down the hatches before the market storms set in.
Mr Woodford has taken over Mr Bolton’s mantle of best known UK fund manager and one of his great skills is being able to achieve very good performance with enormous sums of money that would weigh down a lesser investor. His two principal funds contain more than £13 billion of investors’ money.
Mr Woodford, like Mr Bolton, is something of a contrarian investor, and he shows considerable skill in keeping ahead of the investment pack. He had been warning about the excessive levels of debt in the UK and US long before the credit crunch struck and had sold all his bank and property shares before those two sectors collapsed.
He takes a top-down view of the economy and is not afraid to make big sector bets. In the past few years he has invested heavily in tobacco and utilities at a time when they were distinctly unfashionable areas to put your money.
Mr Taube, who died earlier this year, was Britain’s longest-serving fund manager. Like John Templeton he was fond of buying stocks that had been overlooked by other investors. He made a name for himself by keeping a cool head during the stock market slump of 1973-74 and was investing when most other people had despaired of shares ever recovering.
He called the market right again in 1987, when he anticipated the October crash of that year and was selling stocks short in the months running up to the dramatic drop in share prices.
Mr Geffen might be viewed as something of a “new boy” because his company, Neptune Investment Management, was launched only in 2002. But Mr Geffen has nearly 30 years of investment management experience under his belt and it is now showing in the outstanding performance of his Neptune stable of funds.
Mr Geffen takes a thematic approach to investment and, like Mr Woodford, is prepared to take big sector bets. He is not constrained by index weightings and will seek out value wherever he finds it. He is quite prepared to go against the trend where he thinks this makes sense. For example while energy companies make up 60 per cent of the Russian stock market Mr Geffen’s Russian fund has just 22 per cent of its portfolio in energy.