on 14 December 2013
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.
on 11 March 2015
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. After all, it is well known that Buffett himself evolved his approach and found many attractive investment opportunities as a result. Fourthly, it would have been nice to read a bit more about how Cundhill and his colleagues actually approached their adjustments to the balance sheet. How much were they relying on the ‘network’ of brokers that are mentioned? And how much was purely their own work? Fifthly, regarding Cundhill’s network of brokers, one of the consequences of the rise of hedge funds is that many of the best sell-side analysts have been siphoned out of investment banks. A further factor driving this is that ‘cash equities’ is no longer subsidised by the capital market side (due to the need to meet regulatory Chinese Walls). In which case, compensation in cash equities has not kept pace with other financial careers. I am not alone in noticing a significant drop in the quality of research from broking houses so surely this would impact on fund managers who partly rely on a ‘network’ to generate their investment ideas? Lastly, I would like to have seen more attribution/risk analysis of Cundhill’s performance along the lines that Jonathan Davis provided in his ‘Investing with Anthony Bolton’. Even if one is sceptical over such a quantitative approach it normally helps illuminate one or two matters that are otherwise not highlighted. All-in-all this is still a very good book.