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There's Always Something to Do: The Peter Cundill Investment Approach Paperback – 22 Feb 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 237 pages
  • Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press; 1st edition (22 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0773538631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0773538634
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 416,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Having known Peter Cundill for thirty-five years, and participated with him in many investments, There's Always Something to Do tells the tale of one of the great value investors of our time. It includes stories of many small and mid cap situations that the large cap, institutional world wouldn't otherwise know. This is a must read for the value crowd, right up there with Buffett and Klarman. --Michael Price, MFP Investors Inc.

Christopher Risso-Gill s book on Peter Cundill s life and his approach to investments is easy to read and excellent in every way. Christopher captures the essence of Peter s disciplined approach to investment and explains how this remarkable man rose right to the top of the world s value investors. --Jim Slater, author of The Zulu Principle and Investment Made Easy

The book s excellent and Risso-Gill having access to Cundill's personal journal and investing notebooks is an even bigger plus than I'd imagined. The book gives us Cundill's regular diet of reading, and I think you'll find it of interest. Cundill, like every value investor of note, was a voracious reader. Peter Cundill's 7 Indispensable Books for Every Serious Investor is overall, an interesting list. What's more, Risso-Gill's new book on Peter Cundill deserves being ranked as well. --John Bethnel of

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It was both a pleasure and a privilege to read Christopher Risso-Gill’s account of Peter Cundhill’s life, career and value-oriented investment approach. The book is extremely well written and covers a lot of ground despite being relatively concise. There are ample quotations from Cundhill’s diaries, speeches and investment letters. Many of these offer Buffett-like investment gems. Cundhill comes across as an incredibly astute, intellectually rigorous and fundamentally likeable character. This book deserves to be read by anyone interested in active investment management – both amateurs and professionals alike. I have six suggestions for improving a later edition. These are really minor quibbles/suggestions and should not detract from my strongly positive view of this book. Firstly, and this is something the editor/publisher should have done, is that the quotations should have a different font size and/or spacing than the main text. Secondly, when writing a biographical work there needs to be some discussion on source material i.e. diaries and how reliable they are (why was Cundhill writing these diaries after all?). Overall I would say Cundhill comes across as extremely honest and self-critical so it’s not that I don’t think they are reliable just that the issue of reliability should have been addressed (even if briefly). Thirdly, I was not quite sure how much Cundhill’s investment process changed over his career. Certain statements imply he firmly stuck to his ‘Grahamite’ principles but then again as he himself suggested that ‘ you need to be flexible’ because investment is an art not a science. So some examination of whether the key value metrics i.e. P/Bk or P/tangible Bk were loosened over the years.Read more ›
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By constantine on 14 Dec. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Slightly dewy eyed in its appreciation of its subject, it earns its purchase through a trail of well detailed case study investments in the (deep) value discipline. A few more 'failed' investments would be instructive. His track record, whilst impressive, isn't quite amazing enough to deserve such adulation. The philosophy, whilst a good one, isn't quite strong enough for its flaws to be so glossed over.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 12 reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
The Remarkable Story of a Value Investing Legend 24 Mar. 2011
By AdamSmythe - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Peter Cundill, the subject of this book, took control of the All-Canadian Venture Fund in 1975 (which became the Cundill Value Fund), and over the next 33 years he averaged a compound annual rate of return of 15.2%. Put differently, $10,000 invested in Cundill's fund in 1975 grew to over $1 million during that time. The assets under his management in this fund jumped from about $8 million to $20 billion over the same time (obviously, there were inflows to the fund). That's significant, because keeping a very strong track record becomes progressively harder as the amount of money you are managing gets large. Cundill's success over such a long period of time is simply remarkable. Okay, so how did he do it? Please read on.

The title of this book is taken from a quote by value investor, Irving Kahn: "There's always something to do. You just have to look harder, be creative and a little flexible." That's a good description of the work process for any value investor, and it's an especially good description of what Peter Cundill did to earn his success.

Way back in 1968, a book titled "The Money Game" (about the go-go investing years during the 1960s) became a best seller. The book's author followed with another, not-quite-as-popular book, "Super Money." It was "Super Money" that 35-year-old investor Peter Cundill read during a plane trip in 1973. In that book, he read about Benjamin Graham's (and David Dodd's) classic book, "Securities Analysis," and after reading Graham and Dodd's book Cundill seriously took up in-depth value investing. Benjamin Graham had that kind of effect on people. Years earlier, a young Warren Buffett read Graham's "The Intelligent Investor," and remarked that "the scales fell from my eyes." (By the way, just about all of these books are still available, and they may rightfully be described as almost timeless.)

Basically, Cundill came to the realization that a stock isn't necessarily cheap simply because it has a low price-to-earnings ratio, a nice dividend yield or even a high growth rate. All these things may be good, but a stock is cheap when careful analysis of the company's balance sheet reveals that the stock's price is meaningfully lower than its intrinsic value. That's classic Graham-and-Dodd, margin-of-safety value investing, and it is what Cundill excelled at.

Although "There's Always Something to Do" is well-written by author Christopher Risso-Gill, one very interesting aspect of this book is its frequent quotes from Cundill's daily journal compiled over 45 years. Thus, the reader gets to hear directly from Cundill, and his at-the-time comments about buying ABC or selling XYZ stock are not filtered through after-the-fact 'analysis.'

This book covers most of the investment topics you would expect to read about a value investor, including a global search for value (like John Templeton was famous for), and a focus on unglamorous areas of investing (which is where values sometimes hide) like distressed corporate securities and defaulted sovereign debt.

Toward the end of this enjoyable book is a chapter that describes in some detail a number of the qualities that make for a great investor: insatiable curiosity, patience, concentration, attention to detail, independence of thought, humility and skepticism to name some. From personal experience, I would note that they are all easy to say and hard to do.

In short, this book represents an excellent addition to the library of anyone who is serious about value investing. One last thing: In 2006 Peter Cundill was diagnosed with Fragile X, a degenerative neurological disorder, and he passed away very recently (on January 24, 2011), at age 72. He will be missed.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Eureka Moment - Finding The 'Margin of Safety' Approach 8 Mar. 2011
By James East - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Though Peter Cundill did not find the Benjamin Graham value approach until relatively later in his investment career, he found it nevertheless and was quite successful at the process once identified and mastered it quickly. What makes this book a worthy candidate for any investor's bookshelf is that Peter Cundill kept a daily journal for forty-five years which is used extensively in conjunction with the text. If you are mildly acquainted with the deep value 'margin-of-safety' process, this quote from his journal should sound familiar, 'be prepared to put money into anything, anywhere, provided that the downside is measurable and acceptable and the chances of a good profit appear to be better than 50%. I will not take gambles, but it is part of my job description to be ready to take very carefully calculated risks.' That is in essence, protect the downside first and the upside will usually take care of itself.

All in all, Peter's process of 'Buying a Dollar for Forty Cents' is a worthy addition to the investment community and to the margin of safety framework. As the potential reader can not search this book yet, a sample of the first few chapters are as follows: (twenty-two chapters in total)

Forward - By Prem Watsa (Fairfax Financial)
Chapter 1 - The Eureka Moment
Chapter 2 - Getting To First Base
Chapter 3 - Launching A Value Fund on Value Principles
Chapter 4 - Value Investments In Action
Chapter 5 - Going Global
Chapter 6 - Swapping Continents
Chapter 7 - A Decade of Success
Chapter 8 - New Dimensions
Chapter 9 - Investment Stratagems
Chapter 10 - Surviving a Crash
Chapter 11-22, Worthy Reading

Valuable References:
Security Analysis: Sixth Edition, Foreword by Warren Buffett (Security Analysis Prior Editions) by Graham & Dodd
The Aggressive Conservative Investor (Wiley Investment Classics) by Martin J. Whitman and Martin Shubik
Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits and Other Writings by Philip A. Fisher
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Live-life-to-its-fullest-investing 15 Jun. 2013
By investingbythebooks - Published on
Format: Paperback
Peter Cundill - deep value, contrarian fund manager extraordinaire, Canada's fiercest disciple of the Benjamin Graham investment principles and a live-life-to-its-fullest-type human being, do you really know enough about him? If not, you will have the immense pleasure of reading this well-written book as well as supporting the Cundill Foundation and the memory of Peter Cundill who passed away in 2011 after suffering from a rare degenerative neurological condition. Michael Price of Mutual Series fame recently stated: "Whenever somebody asks me about what an investor ought to be all about, I give them this book".

All value investors, no matter how you calculate your intrinsic value - asset based or cash flow based - will find golden nuggets in the book. Cundill's legacy illustrates that value investing is more than a proper use of a calculator - it's how you deal with your internal demons that separates good from great. After racking up 15 straight years of positive returns, the Cundill Value Fund met fierce resistance in the fall of 1989, through a combination of a few languishing stock-picks and a short-position on Japan. The book's vivid first-hand account of the tremendous anguish Cundill feels going through this rough patch makes it clear that the answer to the question when can one relax a bit after a run of good performance, is never. Peter Cundill beat his demons - and a plentitude of doubters - that time by applying well-trusted principles and sticking to his guns. But clarity of mind and common sense is never very clear when you need it the most.

One of many unique aspects of Cundill's life was his copious note-book-taking. These dual investment/life diaries - 200 hand-written journals starting in 1963 - have of course helped the author Christopher Risso-Gill tremendously, mostly by being able to add considerable color by smartly inserting Cundill's own thoughts. Not that Mr. Risso-Gill was any stranger to Cundill's accomplishments; being a long-serving director of the Cundill Value Fund he observed and likely contributed some to the success from a front-row seat. And while his lack of subjectivity shines through in a few places, the book is made better by the author's intimate familiarity with the basic storyline. It is, however, perhaps another aspect of his life that made Peter Cundill most proud - the "Indiana Jones of investment management" epithet. Starting in the late 1960s with a visit to the then exotic Tokyo, he became known as an extensive traveler, regularly clocking up more than 100,000 flying miles annually in his quest for international bargains, once commenting, "if I haven't been on a plane for a week I begin to feel restless". Especially noteworthy was his December-routine of always visiting the worst-performing stock-market that year, often providing him with rare contrarian value-cases. In so doing, the Cundill investment approach can best be described as combining balance sheet based number crunching with the old merchant-banker's penchant for "sniffing the local air". He was also very much a networking-man, the "clou" being the annual Cundill Conference, where he gathered investors, politicians and economists for a two-day event. The highlight according to most was "Pete's Morning" where Cundill set off on a 2-3 hour long presentation on value investing, cases, thoughts on the macro-picture or other pertinent topics (had it been great to participate or what!).

There's Always Something To Do is a practitioner's value investing chronicle of the finest kind. It compares exceedingly well with previous highlights of the genre, such as Anthony Bolton's Investing Against The Tide and Richard Oldfield's Simple But Not Easy. Peter Cundill's outstanding 35-year track record as a mutual fund manager naturally increases the "weight" of the book, but his persona and ability to break new ground also speaks for itself. As he was very anxious to share his investment experiences, thinking it could be useful to others (most great investors have an inclination to "evangelize" in the positive sense of the word), it was to his immense delight when the first copy of the book was pressed into his hands in early 2011. Two days later Peter Cundill passed away. As they say, timing is everything.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
If you're a Cundill fan...great! 17 Feb. 2014
By Jonathan George - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Problem is Ive never heard of Cundill until a few notable investors (Watsa, Michael Price) mentioned this book. Do I care? Not really. What I was hoping to gain was insight into this investor's process, philosophy, typical work day. This book was really about a celebration of his life (an extended obituary). One of those books where you would have to skim through unless you're a die-hard fan. Nothing meaty or groundbreaking for a well-read value investor.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A very good read 24 July 2013
By Buck Hartzell - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This emphasizes the importance of keeping a journal of all your big decisions. It's a fascinating read to experience how Cundill developed as an investor and many lessons he learned are still so relevant today.
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