10-year

10-Year Anniversary Promotion (20% off)

Join GuruFocus Premium Membership Now for Only $279/Year

Once a decade discount

Save up to $500 on Global Membership.

Don't Miss It !

Free 7-day Trial
All Articles and Columns »

Buffett vs Munger vs Schloss and Thoughts on Portfolio Strategy

September 19, 2013 | About:
I was having a conversation about Charlie Munger's philosophy versus Schloss' philosophy and had a few thoughts (and below I'll compare their performance results against Buffett's).

I often like to look at long-term past performance of investors (10 years or longer) to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of their investment approach. I've often discussed on this site the many value investors out there with average returns.

I used to ask myself, "How can their returns be average when they clearly are smart people who understand business and value investing principles?"

In most cases, I've concluded that their average results are not because they don't understand effective investment principles, but it's because they are not willing to implement an investment policy that goes against the consensus opinion of the majority.

I've mentioned before that one of the things that can benefit an investor who is looking for above-average long-term results is to study a select few investors who have made 20% to 30% annual returns over long periods of time. They will most likely be value investors, and they all mostly share the same principles. But if you really dig into how they managed their portfolios, you'll notice two key differences in most cases:

  1. They were either very diversified but owned a lot of Graham-type stocks at very low prices relative to earnings/assets, or...
  2. They were very concentrated and owned just a few select outstanding businesses.
Usually it's one method or the other, but not both.

  • Lampert made 30% for the better part of two decades but usually had fewer than 10 stocks.
  • Pabrai has averaged 25% for almost 20 years now, but typically owns 10 stocks or less, etc.
On the other hand...

Following either of the two methods is mentally difficult for most people to implement. Following and sticking to Graham stocks is tough. They often are cheap, but they often have mediocre businesses attached to them. They often have problems, and thus the reason they are offered to you cheaply. On the other hand, it's great to own great businesses, but it's mentally difficult to concentrate your portfolio on the best ideas. Far easier to diversify...

Combining Strategies Dilutes Performance

My conclusion after studying countless other investors' portfolio holdings and their results is that most investors (even most value fund managers) will end up combining aspects of No. 1 with aspects of No. 2.

In other words, they end up using diversification (like Graham and Schloss) and combining it with owning great businesses (like Munger and Buffett). This leaves them with too many stocks at mediocre prices. It's just the way the market works.... great businesses rarely go on sale. Occasionally they do, but not often enough to own 30 or 40 of them at once. This type of portfolio management will just will lead to overpaying for good merchandise, and thus lowering your overall portfolio returns.

If you want to diversify, you have to own the cheapest stocks in the market, and those typically aren't easy to own. If you want the best businesses, you have to really focus on the best businesses (for an extreme example of the latter, check out Allan Mecham's latest 13-F). Both can work, but too many investors end up sacrificing valuation in the name of quality.

So it's important to "Think Differently." Invert, always invert.

Buffett vs Munger vs Schloss Record

I thought it would be fun to display the results of three of the greatest of all time. Munger was a franchise, high-ROC type investor. Schloss was exactly the opposite. He owned cheap stocks. Buffett had elements of both, and it was around this time that he was transitioning from the latter to the former.

Here are the three head to head during the time they were all running outside capital (Buffett's results are his partnership results until 1969, and the book value growth of Berkshire thereafter). This is like Ruth vs Aaron vs Williams.

Buffett-vs-Munger-vs-Schloss.jpg



Note
: These are gross returns before fees.
I wanted to display the effectiveness of the strategy before accounting for various fee structures that the three investors had. But both gross and net returns vastly outperformed the market.

So Buffett won this three way battle from 1962 through 1975. Munger retired his partnership after 1975. And despite Walter Schloss coming in third place during the above period (although still crushing the Dow), it's worth noting that Schloss went on the best streak of his career from 1975 to 1983, averaging in excess of 30% per year during that time period.

Suffice it to say that each investor had his own style, but they had one thing in common: They all did things far differently than the crowd, and thus achieved results that were far different than the crowd.

About the author:

John Huber
I am the Portfolio Manager at Saber Capital Management, LLC. Saber manages an investment partnership as well as separately managed accounts for clients interested in a focused value investing strategy. My investment style has been most influenced by Ben Graham, Walter Schloss, Warren Buffett, and Joel Greenblatt. I am also the author of www.BaseHitInvesting.com, a value investing blog.

Visit John Huber's Website


Rating: 4.4/5 (32 votes)

Voters:

Comments

The Science of Hitting
The Science of Hitting premium member - 1 year ago
Great article and conclusion; thanks for posting!
Cornelius Chan
Cornelius Chan - 1 year ago
Second the above comment.
traderatwork
Traderatwork - 1 year ago
Munger result is amazing that right before the bear market of 73, 74. His return is 1441.39% and 3 years later with 2 consecutive -30+% his total return is still a spectacular 1145.34%. But Buffett take the lead by not losing and Schloss return is just equally impressive.

Every time when I see their result, it's like watching Michael Jordan slam dunk in slow motion.

John Huber
John Huber premium member - 1 year ago
Thanks for the comments... yeah it's fun to review some of the greatest of all time's track records.

One of my favorite investing quotes is from Templeton regarding thinking differently... these guys certainly did that.

Thanks for reading...
SapientInvestor
SapientInvestor - 1 year ago
"Graham made 20% per year from 1936 to 1956 by owning a diversified basket of value stocks"

What happens when you remove GEICO?
John Huber
John Huber premium member - 1 year ago
Good question. The answer is I'm not sure, but GEICO's meteoric rise occurred in large part after Graham liquidated. And even before the effect of GEICO, he still produced those types of returns. I've read through a few of his old shareholder letters from the 40's and you can replicate his results.

Plus, according to Graham himself in The Intelligent Investor, he made 20% annually before he purchased GEICO.

So while I don't know exactly what his returns were, based on his early results prior to GEICO, piecing together info from his letters, and his own estimates of his fund's returns prior to GEICO, I think 20% (before fees) is a fair estimate.

Thanks for the comment.
John Huber
John Huber premium member - 1 year ago
By the way, I've written two posts on GEICO (and Buffett and Graham's involvement) at my site if anyone is interested in a few other thoughts on it. GEICO is a fascinating case study in and of itself. Just search GEICO in the search box on my site.
SapientInvestor
SapientInvestor - 1 year ago
Nice website. I bookmarked it.

Please leave your comment:


Get WordPress Plugins for easy affiliate links on Stock Tickers and Guru Names | Earn affiliate commissions by embedding GuruFocus Charts
GuruFocus Affiliate Program: Earn up to $400 per referral. ( Learn More)
Free 7-day Trial
FEEDBACK