Friday, 3 April 2015

Book Review: The Education of a Value Investor by Guy Spier

I just finished reading Guy Spier's The Education of a Value Investor. Guy is a well-known value investor who runs the Aquamarine Funds and is based out of Zurich. He has been educated at some of the most renowned educational institutions like Oxford and Harvard Business School. In his book he goes over his career as an investor and money manager and shares his wisdom. 

This is not a how-to book. It has very little in terms of the author's investment process. He does not even talk much about his stock picks and the rationale behind investing in them. As the subtitle in the name of the book suggests, this book truly ties to capture the author's quest for wisdom, enlightenment and through them, wealth. This book is more about getting wiser through self-reflection than about investing.

The book starts with his joining a Wall Street investment banking company D H Blair. His disillusionment with his education starts then. He starts to question the efficacy of an education which cannot help him make the right choices in life. He starts to hate his job and sometime during this period discovers Warren Buffett through a book (Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein). This opens up a new world for him. A world of ethical living and value investing. He then goes ahead and makes dramatic lifestyle changes to "bring in Buffett into his life". 

During this period, he met Mohnish Pabrai, an event which again transformed and changed the course of his life. They developed a deep bond of friendship which amongst other things led them to jointly bid for a charity lunch with Buffett.

The book chronicles multiple things that he did to lead a life that was congruent to his beliefs. He moved away from the competitive madness of New York and settled in Zurich, stopped subscribing to his Bloomberg terminal. He started writing thank you notes to people everyday and other such things.

The book is fascinatingly intimate and authentic. Spier talks about his thought processes, his doubts, his shortcomings very openly. This is what drew me to the book. I could identify myself personally with a lot of it. I had, and continue to have similar questions, doubts and dilemmas, both in my life and in investing.

My biggest takeaway from the book is that it seeded the thought of transforming my life, one step at a time, by making small changes which can compound over a long time, by surrounding myself with the people I like, admire and respect, caring for people and doing small things everyday to help others and most importantly, setting up myself in an ecosystem which suits my inner self and helps me to lead a life congruent to my core beliefs. Just for this, this book is a must read.

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