Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Building the Right Investment Temperament - Excerpts from Howard Marks - Part 4

Howard Marks has written extensively on risk and its management.
The riskiest things: the most dangerous investment conditions generally stem from psychology that's too positive. For this reason, fundamentals don't have to deteriorate in order for losses to occur; a downgrading of investor opinion will suffice. High prices often collapse of their own weight.

The greatest risk doesn't come from high quality or high volatility. It comes from paying prices that are too high. This isn't a theoretical risk; it's very real.

Most investors think quality, as opposed to price, is the determinant of whether something's risky. But high quality assets can be risky, and low quality assets can be safe.

Risk is inherent in the price you pay for stocks. The higher price you pay, the higher risk there is. Irrespective of the quality of the business.


The possibility of a variety of outcomes means we mustn't think of the future in terms of a single result but rather as a range of possibilities.

No one knows the future, so deterministic projections make little sense. It is better to think in terms of a range of outcomes that covers the most likely future scenarios.


Invariably things can get worse than people expect. Maybe "worst case" means "the worst we've seen in the past". But that doesn't mean things can't be worse in the future.

Careful risk controllers know they don't know the future. They know it can include some negative outcomes, not how bad they might be, or exactly what their probabilities are.

Case in point, 2008, was much worse that what most investors had expected.
 

I'm very happy with the phrase "perversity of risk". When investors feel risk is high, their actions serve to reduce risk. But when investors believe risk is low, they create dangerous conditions. The market is dynamic rather than static, and it behaves in ways that are counter-intuitive.

My core investment assumption is that the market is a complex adaptive system and is auto-correcting in nature. we cannot determine outcomes from a linear thought process.

The road to long-term investment success runs through risk control more than through aggressiveness. Over a full career, most investors' results will be determined more by how many losers they have, and how bad they are, than by the greatness of their winners.

If you minimize your losers, the winners will take of itself!

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