Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Does this make sense?

Why "Being Smart" Is Your
Biggest Handicap in Investing
Some people are born smart.
Some people are born lucky.
Some people are smart enough to be born lucky.
-Ed Seykota

Are you smart? Did you do well in school? Well, I have news for you...

By being "smart," you suffer from a huge handicap in becoming a profitable trader...

If intelligence were the key, every finance student who graduated with a PhD from Stanford or MIT who tried his hand at trading would be filthy rich...

And unless they happen to be savvy poker players with a strong dose of practical, hard-earned street smarts, they probably aren't...

Understanding why this is the case can help you make -- or better yet, help you keep -- your hard-earned investment profits in the market...
You've heard this story before...

Picture this...

You are a financial analyst at a top investment bank...

You recently graduated from Harvard Business School and all your friends and family think you're pretty smart.

After all, you always won all of the spelling bees and math contests that you entered since you were a kid -- and you got great grades in college while most of your peers slacked off...

So you research a red-hot Chinese Internet stock IPO. You speak to the management. You run your complex financial models. You value the company at $14 share.

You write a "BUY" recommendation. This is then distributed to your employer's leading institutional clients, who are responsible for investing tens of billions of dollars in the global financial markets.

After the company is listed, the stock shoots up to $24.00. If anything, your valuation makes you look overly conservative...

Then the stock starts dropping. Within five days, the stock is down to $14, and then falls further to $10.

You run your models. You still come up with the $14 target price.

The stock is now at $8... one third of its peak trading price from just a month ago -- and almost half of your current valuation...

But as an analyst, you "know" the stock is worth $14. You'll do anything to avoid admitting that you're "wrong."

This story has been repeated thousands of times on Wall Street. In fact, this anecdote recounts the recent fate of RenRen (RENN) -- The "Facebook of China."

The stock was a hot IPO a month ago, soaring on its first day of trading. Then it promptly fell off the table.
The "Tiny Flaw" in Smart People

Smart people have a tiny little flaw in them that makes them highly unsuitable to be traders and investors...

Consider the results of an experiment conducted by "Trader Vic" Sperandeo... one of the top traders profiled in the original "Market Wizards" book by Jack Schwager."

Having been entrusted with building a trading operation, "Trader Vic" hired and trained 38 traders.

He assembled a diverse group, as he wanted to find out whether there was any correlation between intelligence and trading success...

The results were revealing...

Five of the 38 traders made more money than the others combined...

One of the five who made it was a high school dropout who, according to Sperandeo, "didn't even know the alphabet."

One who made no money in five years had an IQ of 188 and was a champion on Jeopardy.

Why? The "smart" traders could never bring themselves to admit that they were wrong.

Many Smart People = Big Problems

Get enough "smart" people together in a room and you can bring the global financial system to the brink of collapse...

That's precisely what happened with Long Term Capital Management (LTCM) in 1998.

LTCM was founded by a top Salomon Brothers trader and two Nobel Prize winners, Robert Merton of Harvard, and Myron Scholes of Stanford.

LTCM was the most successful hedge fund of its day, generating consistent 40% annual returns over several years... compared with the long-term track records of Warren Buffett and George Soros of around 30% at the time.

The LTCM geniuses were much smarter than Soros or Buffett... at least for a while...

The flaw was that LTCM was leveraged between 200 and 300 times (up to almost $500 billion dollars) on a capital base of about $2 billion...

...and the fund collapsed overnight after the devaluation of the Russian ruble in 1998.

Wall Street knew that these guys were the smartest guys in the room...

What they didn't know was that "being smart" was precisely their problem...

In reality, LTCM knew less about managing risk than a good poker player, who knows not to ever go "all in" on any single hand that could wipe him out...

But back to the flaw in smart people...

Smart people LOVE information!

They think information -- and ever more complex financial models -- are the key to making correct investment decisions.

And the more information you have, the better decisions you make.

But here's the reality:

There's always more to know...

And the more complex the model, the less "robust" or accurate it is...

The real problem, however, is psychology.

Smart people have a bad case of what trading psychologists call "need-to-understand" bias and "need-to-be-right" bias.

That's why, after making an initial recommendation, they spend most of their energy proving that they were right in the first place...

The Lesson You Should Learn...

So, here is the irony: being a "smart" analyst often makes you the worst trader.

And don't be overly impressed with an analyst's employer or academic credentials.

George Soros failed his Charted Financial Analyst (CFA) exams twice... and gave up...

Warren Buffett was rejected by Harvard Business School...

Meanwhile, an analyst at a top investment bank may -- unlike George Soros -- pass her CFA exams on the first try.
But that has nothing to do with her ability to manage money, especially if she spends all her energy trying to prove that her analysis deserves an "A" -- the same grade she got on her thesis at Princeton.

More importantly, don't be too impressed with your own "analysis" either.

Never bet too big on any single idea, no matter how compelling the story.... and always have your exits in place...

That is, unless, you were -- as Ed Seykota says: "smart enough to be born lucky."



  1. As Edwin/Livermore says before looking outside you need to look inside you. Speculation is hard game because you need to kill thousand of enemies inside you.

  2. rajiv, any vies on kesar terminal and infra. liquid storage and freight station. So warehousing company at ports.

    equity 5 crores
    div yield 3%
    mkt cap : 40 crore
    mkt cap / cash flow : just 4

  3. sameer,
    Kesar Terminals looks excellent to me.One can buy now and at dips as well....

  4. Rajiv,
    whats your view on TCI developer

    Like Kesar Terminal,
    1)it is also in Warehousing
    2)it has also just been demerged
    3)it is also available at small mkt cap of 80 crores
    4)no debt + 200 crores worth land in prime locations in top cities in India which they will develop and use cashflow to build logistic parks
    5)low equity capital of 3.75 crores
    6)Has strong experienced Pedigree TCI

  5. what is your view Jaihind Projects Ltd??
    It is trading at a PE of 3.5, order book worth 500 crores.
    is it a good pick at this level.

    need your frank opinion.
    do you suggest buy at this stage for a investment of 2 to 3 years.

  6. pruthvi,
    Jaihind Projects definately looks good.Small eq, Mcap/Sales ratio favouring.....and down from high of 315 to 200 shaved off.......

  7. Hi Rajeev, Would you advise buying Rathi Steel at CMP?

  8. Sajith,
    Looks like Rathi Steel and Power will take time to show good bottomline....I would like you to have a look at Southern Ispat and Energy Ltd in same sector.....I like that too and is available at same price as Rathi....

  9. hi rajeev
    Southern Ispat and Energy Ltd has very low promoter holding(4% appx).This creates doubt.
    what do you say abt it.

  10. surjeet,
    the reason promo stake is low is because Co converted GDR to shares...and hence promo stake went low...this is what one need to learn.
    Ask question , without selling how promoters stake went low?
    If the eq has risen then it means that either they alloted pref share of QIP or GDR/ADR got converted in shares...etc etc.....Surjeet,put some effort in what you do....and you will definately find the answer....

  11. Thanks Rajeev for replying.

  12. Rajeev,

    How do you find Gayatri Projects, Indraprasth medico. Once I asked you about GDL. If possible please try to track it, as company made GDR issue at Rs.235, right now available at Rs.125, with approximate dividend yield of around 6%. Also I feel logistic sector will perform great after DFRT.

  13. kaushal,
    Gayatri Projetc I already recomended here at Rs 165.I do not track Indraprasth Medi.
    Gayatri went on to touch then 470.It has come down to 200 again and I feel it is a great buy now and on dips.As the RBI rate hike coming market should go down further which will again be a buying oppertunity as IMF has already declared that India will grow at over8%.
    I am seeing the Int outgoing in Gayatri Project has increased and it means they have added the capacity and that is good for Gayatri Project.
    The Int outgo was 18 cr last qr Mar 2010 and this qr it is 31 cr which is up by 70%.
    So at 40 eps for 2011 year it is discounted at 5 p/e and that is an excellent value buy now and at dips.....