In this special short series we ask experts, colleagues, clients and industry figures to answer a few questions to get an idea of their approach to investing.
What is the most important investment advice you have been given?
Alec: We interviewed Nick Griffin, CIO of Munro Partners, who shared that over the past 90 years just 4% of companies listed on the US stock market have been responsible for all of the returns. It reminded me of the importance of finding those truly fantastic businesses and holding them for the long term.
Bryce: When I first started investing back when I was at school, my Dad told me that investing is a game of patience, and wealth is built over a very long period of time. Of course, I was chasing the ‘get-rich-quick’ strategy. Who has time to wait? However, after losing on a lot of speculative stocks, I realised what Dad was saying was right. Consistently building a portfolio over time, being patient, and sticking to your strategy sounds like the easiest advice, but it’s true.
What was the first investment you made?
Alec: I hope my first investment can serve as a cautionary tale for other investors out there. I did everything wrong and paid the price. I bought Slater and Gordon in 2015, after reading about them in the AFR. I did no other research and didn’t know enough about the company. However, full of confidence, I signed up to a broker, transferred my savings across and put my money into one undiversified investment. Less than a year later, Slater and Gordon’s share price had collapsed, and I lost 99.5% of my money.
Bryce: I was in year 7 and I’d saved $500 for my first investment. At the time, Brickworks Investment Co was about to do an IPO, so I jumped in on that. Back then there was no simple online platform to make the investment – it was through Dad’s broker – a lot of manual work! I still hold most of that stock today (having added to it through my schooling years).
What changes will you be making to your portfolio in 2021?
Alec: No major changes. Instead, I’ll continue averaging into a handful of ETFs and adding to my positions in companies that I love. I’ll also be on the lookout for any more companies to add to my portfolio. Plenty in the financial media are talking about rotating out of growth stocks and into cyclicals, but I think that is just a recipe for increasing my online broker’s commission! Instead, I want to stay focused on investing for the long term and building a core portfolio of ETFs and a satellite portfolio of truly great companies.
Bryce: If the macro-environment continues in the way it is, I will be looking to take on some more leverage. I’ve got a very long-time horizon, and with money so cheap, I want to build my portfolio exposure. I’ll also add to my bitcoin position – I think it’ll be a strong year for bitcoin this year. A lot happening in that space. Otherwise, my strategy won’t change too much. Keep adding to my core portfolio of ETFs, giving me exposure to a range of global stocks, and then build my satellite portfolio of good companies, that are on the edge of disruption, and in industries that are poised for significant growth over the next couple of decades.
How often do you review your entire portfolio?
Alec: I try to do a full review every quarter. Look at every position, review my investing thesis and see how the companies and ETFs are tracking.
Any important lessons learnt in 2020?
Bryce: Markets always bounce back! Who would have thought back in March the markets would be where they are now. In my view, trying to play the game, take short positions and anticipate when the market will turn is a fool’s game. We witnessed the fastest recovery in history, and the market hasn’t stopped. Stick to your strategy and let it all play out. I’ve also learnt that the traditional monetary policy responses of central banks are no longer effective, and we’re now reliant on fiscal stimulus to keep the economy moving. The unprecedented printing of money around the world is changing the investing landscape. What does this mean for currency, for stocks, for property, for crypto? How we think about this and react to it is a lesson I don’t think we’ve learnt yet.
Where do you get your investment information?
Alec: Let me start with what I don’t do – follow the hour-by-hour movement of stock prices. I’m not on my Apple Stocks app tracking my portfolio or my watchlist. I try and tailor my information consumption to suit a long-term investing mindset. I don’t want to get caught up in all the day-to-day movement and noise of the market.
Instead, I try to consume a broad range of information. Podcasts have a wealth of information from a variety of perspectives, countries and investment strategies, so they would have to be #1. I love reading investor letters and books from some of the greatest investing minds in the world. However, most importantly, I try and read more broadly than just finance or investing specific information.
As investors, we are investing in businesses that operate in a wide range of industries and you’ll often be better served understanding those industries and where they’re heading than understanding the appropriate discount rate to use in a discounted cash flow. So I try to consume a broad range of information about businesses, industries, technology and people that interest me.
What’s currently in your investment portfolio?
Alec: Given my age and my tolerance for risk, I’m mainly exposed to equities. This is split across a core portfolio of index-tracking and thematic ETFs and a satellite portfolio of individual stocks and managed funds. The remaining balance is invested in a few alternative assets (including a hybrid note, gold and yes, even some crypto).
Bryce: A core portfolio of equity ETFs with exposure to Australian and global markets (some with leverage); a property securities ETF, a number of global companies leading their field, an unlisted managed fund, gold, bitcoin, and cash.
Alec developed an interest in investing after realising he was spending all that he was earning. Investing became his form of ‘forced saving’. While his first investment was a resounding failure, he learnt a lot from that experience. He hopes to share those lessons amongst others through the podcast and help people realise that if he can make money investing, anyone can.
Bryce has had an interest in the stock market since his parents encouraged him to save 50 cents a fortnight from the age of 5. Once he had saved $500 he bought his first stock, a listed investment company, and since then hasn’t stopped. He hopes that Equity Mates can help make investing understandable and accessible.
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