Humans are social and generally want to be part of the crowd. Studies of social conformity suggest that the group’s view may shape how we perceive a situation. Those individuals who remain independent show activity in a part of the brain associated with fear. ... We are natural pattern seekers and see them even where none exist. Our brains are keen to make causal inferences, which can lead to faulty conclusions. ... Standard economic theory assumes that one discount rate allows us to translate value in the future to value in the present, and vice versa. Yet humans often use a high discount rate in the short term and a low one in the long term. This may be because different parts of the brain mediate short- and long-term decisions. ... We suffer losses more than we enjoy gains of comparable size. But the magnitude of loss aversion varies across the population and even for each individual based on recent experience. As a result, we sometimes forgo attractive opportunities because the fear of loss looms too large.
What if you had the opportunity to learn how to improve the quality of your forecasts, measured as the distance between forecasts and outcomes, by 60 percent? Interested? ... Phil Tetlock is a professor of psychology and political science at the University of Pennsylvania who has spent decades studying the predictions of experts. Specifically, he enticed 284 experts to make more than 27,000 predictions on political, social, and economic outcomes over a 21-year span ended in 2004. The period included six presidential elections and three wars. These forecasters had crack credentials, including more than a dozen years of relevant work experience and lots of advanced degrees—nearly all had postgraduate training and half had PhDs. ... Overall, Tetlock’s results provide lethal ammunition for those who debunk the value of experts. ... While famous experts had among the worst records of prediction, they demonstrated “skill at telling a compelling story.” To gain fame it helps to tell “tight, simple, clear stories that grab and hold audiences.” These pundits are often wrong but never in doubt. ... foresight is a real and measurable skill. One test of skill is persistence. High persistence means that you do consistently well over time and are not a one-hit wonder. About 70 percent of superforecasters remain in those elite ranks from one year to the next, vastly more than what chance would dictate. ... second is that foresight “is the product of particular ways of thinking, of gathering information, of updating beliefs.” Importantly, the essential ingredients of being a superforecaster can be learned and cultivated. ... Tetlock and his colleagues found four drivers behind the success of the superforecasters:
- Find the right people. You get a 10-15 percent boost from screening forecasters on fluid intelligence and active open-mindedness.
- Manage interaction. You get a 10-20 percent enhancement by allowing the forecasters to work collaboratively in teams or competitively in prediction markets.
- Train effectively. Cognitive debiasing exercises lift results by 10 percent.
- Overweight elite forecasters or extremize estimates. Results improve by 15-30 percent if you give more weight to better forecasters and make forecasts more extreme to compensate for the conservatism of forecasts.
Intelligence quotient (IQ) and rationality quotient (RQ) are distinct. Think of IQ as the horsepower of an engine and RQ as the output. ... We share the results of a classic test of calibration, which is an important facet of rationality. Well calibrated people know what they know and know what they don’t know. ... Consistent with past research, we find that participants overestimate their accuracy as their subjective probability estimates tend to be higher than the actual percent correct. ... Investors and executives can improve their rationality by keeping score, asking about others, using base rates, and updating probabilities. ... A large-scale forecasting project has shown that the best forecasters use inductive and numerical reasoning, have cognitive control and a growth mindset, and are open-minded and effective working as part of a team.
To be an active investor, you must believe in market inefficiency to get opportunities and in market efficiency for those opportunities to turn into profits. ... The Mr. Market metaphor is very powerful because it makes an abstract idea concrete, encouraging an appropriate way to think about markets. ... One way to animate Mr. Market is to consider the wisdom of crowds. What’s key is that crowds are wise under some conditions and mad when any of those conditions are violated. ... Diversity breakdowns, which can happen for sociological as well as technical reasons, lead to extremes. ... Look for cases where uniform belief has led to a mispricing of expectations and hence a way to make money.
Capital allocation is a senior management team’s most fundamental responsibility. The problem is that many CEOs don’t know how to allocate capital effectively. The objective of capital allocation is to build long-term value per share. ... Capital allocation is always important but is especially pertinent today because return on invested capital is high , growth is modest , and corporate balance sheets in the U.S. have substantial cash. ... Internal financing represented almost 90 percent of the source of total capital for U.S. companies from 1980-2013. ... M&A, capital expenditures, and R&D are the largest uses of capital for operations , and companies now spend more on buybacks than dividends. ... This report discusses each use of capital, shows how to analyze that use, reviews the academic findings, and offers a near-term outlook. ... We provide a framework for assessing a company’s capital allocation skills, which includes examining past behaviors, understanding incentives, and considering the five principles of capital allocation.
Five Principles of Capital Allocation:
1. Zero - based capital allocation
2. Fund strategies, not projects
3. No capital rationing
4. Zero tolerance for bad growth
5. Know the value of assets, and be ready to take action to create value
For a fundamental investor, anticipating revisions in expectations is the key to generating attractive returns. Sources of those revisions include fundamental outcomes (typically earnings revisions) and an assessment of how the market will value those fundamentals (multiple expansion or contraction). Investors who are able to forecast earnings in a year’s time that are substantially different than today’s expectations can earn meaningful excess returns. ... Analysts are commonly too optimistic about earnings growth and often miss estimates by a wide margin. This is especially pronounced for companies that have high operating leverage and surprise the market with weak sales. Buy-side analysts are generally more optimistic and less accurate than sell-side analysts. ... Operating leverage measures the change in operating profit as a function of the change in sales. Operating leverage is high when a company realizes a relatively large change in operating profit for every dollar of change in sales. Operating leverage is low when operating profit is mostly unchanged for every dollar of change in sales. Operating profit is earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) and is the same as operating income. ... This report outlines a systematic way to assess earnings revisions with a specific emphasis on operating leverage. The goal is to be able to better anticipate revisions in expectations. The issue of operating leverage does not receive enough attention, in our view, and it can provide insight into excess returns.
I believe my lack of business education was an asset because it encouraged me to ask a lot of questions and to think from first principles. I recall going to an equity research morning call and hearing the utility industry analyst suggest the slow-growing companies under his coverage deserved price-earnings (P/E) multiples in the high teens and the tobacco industry analyst imply that his fast-growing companies should trade at P/E’s in the mid-teens. How does that make sense? I was dropped into a world of rules-of-thumb, old wives’ tales, and intuitions. ... My first breakthrough occurred when a classmate in my training program handed me a copy of Creating Shareholder Value by Alfred Rappaport.3 Reading that book was a professional epiphany. Rappaport made three points that immediately comprised the centerpiece of my thinking. The first is that the ability of accounting numbers to represent economic value is severely limited. Next, he emphasized that competitive strategy analysis and valuation should be joined at the hip. The litmus test of a successful strategy is that it creates value, and you can’t properly value a company without a thoughtful assessment of its competitive position. ... The final point is that stock prices reflect a set of expectations for future financial performance. A company’s stock doesn’t generate excess returns solely by the company creating value. The company’s results have to exceed the expectations embedded in the stock market.
1. Be numerate (and understand accounting).
2. Understand value (the present value of free cash flow).
3. Properly assess strategy (or how a business makes money).
4. Compare effectively (expectations versus fundamentals).
5. Think probabilistically (there are few sure things).
6. Update your views effectively (beliefs are hypotheses to be tested, not treasures to be protected).
7. Beware of behavioral biases (minimizing constraints to good thinking).
8. Know the difference between information and influence.
9. Position sizing (maximizing the payoff from edge).
10. Read (and keep an open mind).
Sustainable value creation has two dimensions: the magnitude of the spread between a company’s return on invested capital and the cost of capital and how long it can maintain a positive spread. Both dimensions are of prime interest to investors and corporate executives. ... Sustainable value creation as the result solely of managerial skill is rare. Competitive forces and endogenous variance drive returns toward the cost of capital. Investors should be careful about how much they pay for future value creation. ... Economic moats are almost never stable. Because of competition, they are getting a little bit wider or narrower every day. This report develops a systematic framework to determine the size of a company’s moat.
Investors are shifting their investment allocations from active to passive management. This trend has accelerated in recent years. The investors who are shifting from active to passive are less informed than those who stay. This is equivalent to the weak players leaving the poker table. Since the winners need losers, this can make the market even more efficient, and hence less attractive, for those who remain. If you can’t identify the patsy, or weak player, it’s probably you. ... Passive management has lower costs than active management and hence delivers higher returns per dollar invested than active management does in the aggregate. However, passive management introduces the possibility of market distortions, including crowding and illiquidity. Exchange-traded funds, in particular, are worth watching closely because of their explosive growth and high trading volume. ... Four drivers have led to the development of the mutual fund industry and, more recently, to the shift toward passive investing. These include regulation, the market environment, technology, and the balance between informed and uninformed investors.