Buffett, born in 1930, started managing funds in 1956 and has produced an annual compound rate of return of 24.7 per cent. The American has had just one "losing" year - 2001 - compared with 13 years of negative returns for the Standard & Poor's 500 index in the period. Soros was born the same year as Buffett, in Budapest, Hungary, and began the Quantum Fund in 1969. Since then, he has enjoyed an average annual rate of return of 28.6 per cent and has had just four losing years against nine for the S&P 500.
While they have both delivered stellar performances, their strategies seem to be polar opposites: Buffett buys bargain-priced stocks and business for cash - and likes to own them "forever"; Soros is renowned for his highly levelled, quick-footed bets in the currency markets.
A master investor:
1 Believes the first priority is preservation of capital.
2 As a result, is risk-averse.
3 Has developed his own investment philosophy, which is an expression of his personality. As a result, no two highly successful investors have the same approach.
4 Has developed his own personal system for selecting, buying and selling investments.
5 Believes diversification is for the birds.
6 Hates to pay taxes, and arranges his affairs to legally minimise his tax bill.
7 Only invests in what he understands.
8 Refuses to make investments that do not meet his criteria. Can effortlessly say 'no'.
9 Is continually searching for new investment opportunities that meet his criteria and actively engages in his own research.
10 Has the patience to wait until he finds the right investment.
11 Acts instantly when he has made a decision.
12 Holds a winning investment until a pre-determined reason to exit arrives.
13 Follows his own system religiously.
14 Is aware of his own fallibility. Corrects mistakes the moment they arise.
15 Always treats mistakes as learning experiences.
16 As his experience increases, so do his returns.
17 Almost never talks to anyone about what he's doing. Not interested in what others think of his investment decisions.
18 Has successfully delegated most, if not all, of his responsibilities to others.
19 Lives far below his means.
20 Does what he does for stimulation and self-fulfilment - not for money.
21 Is emotionally involved with the process of investing; but can walk away from any individual investment.
22 Lives and breathes investing, 24 hours a day.
23 Puts his money where his mouth is. For example, Warren Buffet has 99 per cent of his net worth in shares of Berkshire Hathaway; George Soros, similarly, keeps most of his money in his Quantum Fund. For both, the destiny of their personal wealth is identical to that of the people who have entrusted money to their management.