Eight seniors attend high-powered value investing conference

Columbia University MBA candidates. Investment professionals. Eight Gabelli School of Business seniors.

Our students were in good company at Friday’s 16th annual Value Investing Conference, where people who are carrying forward the strategies of value-investing pioneers Ben Graham and David Dodd come to talk about trends and approaches. They are part of the inaugural class completing the value investing specialization designed by Professor James R. Kelly.

Below, one of them offers his rundown of what the group learned by going.

by John Mantia (GSB ’13)

The day kicked off as Bruce Greenwald, director of Columbia’s Heilbrunn Center for Graham & Dodd Investing — whom we had as a regular guest lecturer in Introduction to Value Investing last year — led a Q-and-A with Seth Klarman, founder and president of the $25-billion Baupost Investment Group.

“Seth Klarman is a guru of value investing,” said Mike Sutton (GSB ’13). “He was really humble, yet incredibly knowledgeable. His emphasis on staying focused and disciplined when allocating capital really resounded with me.”

After Mr. Klarman’s talk came panel discussions led by some of the greatest minds in value investing, including:

  • Jeremy Grantham of Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo
  • Timothy Hartch of Brown Brothers Harriman
  • Thomas Russo of Gardner, Russo & Gardner
  • Jane Siebels of Green Cay Asset Management
  • Christopher Begg of East Coast Asset Management
  • Mark Cooper of PIMCO
  • Jean-Marie Eveillard of First Eagle Investment Management
  • John D. Spears of Tweedy Browne
  • Jennifer Wallace of Summit Street Capital Management
  • Jason Zweig of The Wall Street Journal

These panels yielded nuggets of knowledge that any student of finance or the market would appreciate. For example, presenters discussed how good asset managers carefully choose investing styles depending on a fund’s size: A small hedge fund can move in and out of small/mid-cap opportunities and still offer a healthy return for investors, while large funds would make too big of a dent in these types of markets and instead must move to bigger opportunities, which usually have less undervaluation. Even so, purchasing high-quality companies at fair prices and holding them long-term can still lead to success. Nestlé and Coca Cola in particular were mentioned as companies that earn great returns and can reinvest in their supply chains to maintain and deliver value.

The final speaker of the day was Bruce Berkowitz, founder of Fairholme Capital Management. He noted that it is important for investors to ignore the crowd and consensus wisdom and understand what is actually happening inside a company. That’s advice that can be applied no matter what investment strategy, or even line of business, a person is in.

“I never realized the amazing diversity within the value investing community,” Jordan Lobiak (GSB ’13), said after the conference. “Hundreds of investors apply these principles in so many different ways and enjoy remarkable success. Getting to meet and talk to such influential people was incredible.”

We appreciate the support of Dean Rapaccioli and Professor Kelly in making it possible for us to attend this conference as representatives of Fordham and look forward to participating in other opportunities like this, both as students and as professionals.

 

 

 

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