6 Traits of a Winning Aggressive Investor
“Winning” means different things to different people, including Charlie Sheen. As I have stated in the past, there is a diverse set of strategies to win in the investment business, much like there are numerous paths to enlightenment among the extensive choices of religions. Regardless of the differences, followers of a strategy or religion generally believe their principles will lead them to prosperity (financial and/or spiritual). One specific flavor of investment religion follows a path of aggression, which Douglas Bellemore describes in his book The Strategic Investor, published in 1963.
Modern finance and textbooks teach us the virtues and powers of diversification, but Bellemore has learned from the school of Warren Buffett, who stated, “Put all your eggs in one basket and then watch that basket very carefully.” Buffett also believes, “Diversification is protection against ignorance.” It’s no surprise that Buffett’s partner Charlie Munger also harbors some skepticism on the topic, “Wide diversification, which necessarily includes investment in mediocre businesses, only guarantees ordinary results.”
Bellemore’s Big 6
In his book, Bellemore builds upon this bold, concentrated strategy that he taught at New York University for four decades. He believed there are six basic traits necessary for a successful aggressive investor. Here is a synopsis of the characteristics:
1) Patience: Bellemore explains that success in the investment world does not come overnight, and much of the same thought processes necessary to prosper can be found in the in corporate management world.
“Success depends, in large measure, on the ability to select undervalued situations not presently recognized by the majority of investors and to wait for expected developments to provide capital gains which may only come after several years… Many of the personal qualities for successful business management are the same as those for an aggressive investor.”
2) Courage: When it comes to investments, hiding in a cave will not get you very far. On the topic of courage, Bellemore believed:
“The investor must have solid convictions and the courage and confidence emanating from them –that is, courage, at times, to ignore those who disagree…It is this willingness to differ and accept responsibility that distinguishes the top executive and the top investor.”
3) Intelligence: One need not be a genius to be a successful investor, according to Bellemore, but common sense is much more important:
“Many highly intelligent investors have had poor investment records because they lacked common sense, i.e., the down-to-earth, practical ability to evaluate a situation.”
4) Emotional Stability: Bellemore acknowledges the similarities of this trait to patience but emotional stability encompasses a broader context. Here he describes the necessary trait of emotional stability:
“It is needed to prevent the investor from being engulfed in waves of optimism and pessimism that periodically sweep over Wall Street. Moreover, it is required to separate the facts from the entangled web of human emotions.”
5) Hard Work: Ignorance is not an asset in the investment business, therefore in order to become a successful investor it requires hard work. Bellemore underscores the following:
“[An investor] must be knowledgeable about the company in which he considers making an investment, the industry, the position of the company in the industry, and the place and future of that industry in the economy as a whole.”
6) Willingness to Sacrifice Diversification: By definition, Bellemore asserts outsized gains cannot be achieved with diversification:
“Although wide diversification reduces risks by offsetting mediocre selections with good ones, it also reduces substantially the profit or capital gain potential of a portfolio.”
Bellemore acknowledges aggressive investing is not for everyone, and if the six tenets are not followed, the unqualified investor would be much better off by following a conservative, diversified investment approach. The cost of the conservative path, however, is the potential of winning outsized returns. If winning is a priority for you, and your goal is to achieve outperformance, then you and Charlie Sheen would be in agreement to follow Douglas Bellemore’s six traits of an aggressive investor.
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.
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