#5: The Six Commandments of Value Investing

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Although it has been some time since speaking live with busy colleague Vitaliy Katsenelson CFA, I review his internet material frequently and appreciate this ME-P series contribution. I encourage all ME-P readers to do the same and consider his value investing insights carefully.

By Vitaliy Katsenelson, CFA

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5. Risk is a permanent loss of capital (not volatility)

Conventional wisdom views volatility as risk. Not value investors. We befriend volatility, embrace it, and try to take advantage of it. For someone who has not researched a company, it is not readily apparent whether a decline in shares is temporary or permanent. After all, if you don’t know what the company is worth, the quoted price becomes the quotient of intrinsic value. If you do know what the company is worth, then the change in intrinsic value is all that is going to matter. The price quoted on the exchange will be your friend, allowing you to take advantage of the difference between intrinsic value and quoted stock price. If the quoted stock price is significantly cheaper than your estimated intrinsic value, you buy it (or buy more of it if you already own it). If the opposite is true, you sell it.

What is a company worth?

Determining the intrinsic value requires a combination of art and science, in that order – it is not quoted on the exchanges. We go about this the same way a businessman would figure how much he’d want to pay for a gas station or a McDonald’s franchise. Analysis of each company will be different, but at the core we estimate the cash flows the business will produce for shareholders in the long run (at least ten years) and what the business will be worth then (based on our estimate of its earnings power at the time). The combination of the two provides us an approximation of what the business is worth now. To further embed “the right” type of risk analysis into our investment operating system, we build financial models. Models help us to understand businesses better and provide insights as to which metrics matter and which don’t. They allow us to stress test the business: We don’t just look at the upside but spend a lot of times looking at the downside – we try to “kill” the business. We look at known risks and try to imagine unknown ones; we try to quantify their impact on cash flows. This “killing” helps to us understand how much of a discount (margin of safety) we should demand to what the business is worth. By applying this discount to fair value, we arrive at a buy price. For every stock we buy we probably look at a few dozen (at least).

For instance, if we are looking at a company that is selling products or services to consumers, we’ll be focusing on customer-acquisition costs. We try to drill down to the essential operating metrics of each company. If it’s a convenience store retailer, we’ll look into gallons of gas sold and profit per gallon. If it’s an oil driller, we’ll look at utilization rates, rigs in service, average revenue per rig per day. If it’s a pharmaceuticals company, we’ll have revenue lines for each major drug it sells and model the company for the eventuality that patents will run out. (Revenues usually decline 80-90% when a patent expires).

These models help us to understand the economics of the business. We usually build two type of models. We start with what we call the “tablecloth” model. This is a very detailed, in-depth model that zeros in on different aspects of the business. But the risk we run with a tablecloth model is that we get lost in the trees and forget about the forest.

This brings us to our “napkin” model. It’s a much simpler and smaller model that focuses only on the essentials of the business. It is easier to build the tablecloth model than the “napkin.” If we can build a napkin model, that means we understand the drivers of the business – we understand what matters. Models are important because they help us remain rational. It is only the matter of time before a stock we own will “blow up” (or, in layman’s terms, decline).

In this type of analysis, what happens this month, this quarter, or even this year is only important in the context of the long run – unless the company’s good or bad earnings report in any quarter changes our assumptions on the company’s long-term cash flows. If you methodically focus on what the company is worth and if your Total IQ is maximized, then price fluctuations are just noise. Volatility becomes your friend because you can rationally take advantage of it. It’s an under-appreciated gift from Mr. Market.

Side Note: As an advisor, I feel it is one of my great responsibilities to be an honest and clear communicator. There is an asymmetry of information between us and our clients. We have invested weeks and months of research into the analysis of each stock; therefore, we have a good idea what each company is worth. Our clients have not done this research, and they should not have to – that is what they hired us to do.This is why we pour our heart and soul into our quarterly letters – we want to close this informational gap and so we try as hard as we can to explain what we think the companies in our portfolio are worth. Our letters are often 15-20 pages long. 

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The New “Fiduciary” Rule

 Really? Whose side is your financial advisor on?

 

 

 

 

 

By Rick Kahler CFP®

If it weren’t already hard enough to understand whose side your financial advisor is on, it got more complicated on June 9, 2017. As of that date, all financial advisors who sell products are required to forego any sales agenda and give advice that would benefit their clients or customers (called “fiduciary advice”).

Does this sound too good to be true? It is!

This rule only pertains to rollovers into an IRA from a qualified plan like a 401(k), and only to the investment recommendations for that IRA account.

Any other account is still fair game for stuffing full of high-commission and high-fee products that mainly benefit salespeople and their companies.

Also, in case you think your IRA is now protected from high-cost products, there’s one more catch. Salespeople are not required to look out for your best interests if they explain to you how and why they intend to give advice that instead primarily benefits themselves and their brokerage company.

While this new law will probably confuse consumers more than it helps, it may be a first step toward something larger.

Here is the sad truth

Most Americans believe they already receive objective, fiduciary advice. The overwhelming odds are that they don’t.

You face odds of ten to one that your advisor is a salesperson who is not required to put your financial interests first. Most Americans purchase their investments from the half a million brokers who earn commissions if they can convince you to buy an expensive alternative to the thriftier, better-performing investment options on the market. That’s more than ten times the number of advisors who adhere to a fiduciary standard. Government research estimates that consumers lost $17 billion a year to conflicted advice in the recommendations related to retirement plans made by brokers and sales agents posing as advisors.

The bottom line is that at best, only one out of every ten financial advisors puts your interests first. The actual number of real fiduciary advisors may actually be even lower than this discouraging figure.

A Study

A mystery shopper study in the Boston area found that only 2.4% of the “advisors” it surveyed (most were almost certainly brokers) made what most would consider to be fiduciary recommendations.

On the other side, 85% advocated switching out of a thrifty portfolio with excellent funds into something a bit more self-serving.

The Brokerage industry

The brokerage industry—that is, the larger Wall Street firms, independent broker-dealer organizations and life insurance organizations—repeatedly fought the fiduciary rule in court, arguing, in some cases, that their brokers and insurance agents shouldn’t be held to this standard. The courts refused to block the rule.

It gets worse

Brokers are held to a sales standard, but it’s a very low one that is appropriately known as “compliance.” They are required to “know their customer” and to make investment recommendations that would be “suitable” to someone in that customer’s circumstances.

In addition, a new study found that 8% of all brokers have a record of serious misconduct, and nearly half of those were kept on at their firms even after getting caught.

Assessment

There is one simple way to determine whether you’re working with somebody you can trust. Ask your advisor directly to provide a written and signed one-page statement that he or she will act in your best interests.

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If the broker hems and haws, hold onto your wallet or purse. Chances are any recommendations you receive will cost you money, a cost only disclosed somewhere deep in the fine print of whatever agreement you sign. If the advisor signs the statement, chances are you will receive fiduciary advice. 

Conclusion

Your thoughts and comments on this ME-P are appreciated. Feel free to review our top-left column, and top-right sidebar materials, links, URLs and related websites, too. Then, subscribe to the ME-P. It is fast, free and secure.

Speaker: If you need a moderator or speaker for an upcoming event, Dr. David E. Marcinko; MBA – Publisher-in-Chief of the Medical Executive-Post – is available for seminar or speaking engagements. Contact: MarcinkoAdvisors@msn.com

OUR OTHER PRINT BOOKS AND RELATED INFORMATION SOURCES:

Risk Management, Liability Insurance, and Asset Protection Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™8Comprehensive Financial Planning Strategies for Doctors and Advisors: Best Practices from Leading Consultants and Certified Medical Planners™

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ANNOUNCING: A New Course In Digital Health

The Medical Futurist

By Dr. Bertalan Meskó MD PhD

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I’m so happy and proud that I can finally share with you the biggest project The Medical Futurist has ever worked on: The Digital Health Course.

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In this course I break down everything I’ve learned over the last 15 years about the future of healthcare and digital health, what changes are taking place now and over the next 5+ years, what impact they’ll have on you as a healthcare decision-maker, and exactly what you should be doing today to best position yourself or your company for this inevitable reality.

We designed this course to provide you with a complete overview of digital health, guide you through the technological aspects, and equip you to be able to predict and forecast what’s coming next.

From the basics and its definition, to why it’s a cultural transformation that is happening now, how it is a paradigm shift of care, how you can spot trends in it and forecast the near future.

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As I guide you personally through the course, I have put my heart, brain and soul into the whole curriculum.

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