Thursday, February 06, 2014

Traits for being a great investor

Trait 1. The ability to buy stocks while others are panicking and sell stocks while others are euphoric. In 1983 when China wanted to take back Hong Kong, the stock market crashed. Did you dare to buy Hong Kong shares knowing the risk when the communists took over the control Hong Kong? Everyone thinks they can do this, but then when the market crashed on October 19, 1987, almost no one had the stomach to buy. When the year 1999 came around and the market was going up almost every day, you could not bring yourself to sell because if you did, you might fall behind your peers.

Trait 2. A great investor is one who is obsessive about playing the game and wanting to win. These people do not just enjoy investing; they live it. They wake up in the morning and the first thing they think about, while they are still half asleep, is a stock they have been researching, or one of the stocks they are thinking about selling, or what the greatest risk to their portfolio is and how they are going to neutralize that risk.

Trait 3. A good investor is the willingness to learn from past mistakes or to admit that he or she has bought the wrong share. It is so hard for people to recognize their own mistakes and sell the bad share which they bought at a higher price. Most people would much rather just move on and ignore the dumb things they have done in the past. But if you ignore mistakes without fully analyzing them, you will undoubtedly make a similar mistake later in your career. In fact, even if you do analyze them it is not easy to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Trait 4. A fourth trait is an inherent sense of risk based on common sense. You must have the common sense to realize the risk of buying any share which has gone up a lot and when all the analysts are recommending buy. No share can go up indefinitely for whatever reason. Quite often you might be tempted to fall in love with your purchase because it has been going up and up. You are so proud of your pick and refuse to sell it. Remember your ego can skew your judgment.

Trait 5: Great investors have confidence in their own convictions and stick with them, even when facing criticism. Buffett never get into the dot-com mania and he was being criticized publicly for ignoring technology stocks. Eventually he was proven right. Unlike Buffet, we small investors can get in and out quickly and make some profit. Besides confidence, you must have patience to wait to buy when it is has established a base and not buy when it has shot up due to some exciting hot news.

Trait 6. It is the ability to think clearly. There are a lot of people who have genius IQs who cannot think clearly, though they can figure out bond or option pricing in their heads. I have met a lot of smart people in my life time but very few of them can come up with an inventive way of looking at a problem. As you know, there are so many criteria to consider in share selection and invariably all the professionals will consider the current profit is most important. They do not look at the future profit growth prospect of the share. They do not look at the company and the industry like a business man or an entrepreneur. Again I have to use Jaya Tiasa as an example to explain this important point of making super return. You only have to have the elementary knowledge of arithmetic to calculate that JT will almost double its fresh fruits bunches (FFB) production in 3 years. Even if the CPO price remains unchanged, its profit from its oil palm plantation will surely double. Moreover, JT has about 2,500 sq km of forest to supply all the raw material for its plywood and timber business. Surely any one with eyes should be able to see the huge forest ( 50 km X 50 km approximately) which is the competitive advantage it has over all the manufacturers in China, Taiwan, Japan, India and in any other countries. Yet all the professional fund managers cannot see the forest as the competitive advantage JT has over other competitors. As Warren Buffet often say that in the competitive world of doing business, all your competitors are constantly trying to attack you and you must build a moat around you to protect yourself. Unfortunately, in the Malaysian stock market, we do not have stocks like Coco Cola, Gillett Razors or Mac Donald which have the market competitive advantage.

Trait 7. Finally the most important, and rarest, trait of all is the ability to live through volatility without changing your investment thought process. This is almost impossible for most people to do; when the chips are down they have a terrible time not getting themselves to average down or to put any money into stocks at all when the market is going down. People do not like short- term pain even if it would result in better long-term results. Very few investors can handle the volatility required for high portfolio returns. They equate short-term volatility with risk. This is irrational; risk means that if you are wrong about a bet you make, you lose money. A swing up or down over a relatively short time period is not a loss and therefore not risk, unless you are prone to panicking at the bottom and locking in the loss. But most people just cannot see it that way; their brains would not let them. Their panic instinct steps in and shuts down the normal brain function.

By Mr Koon Yew Yin

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