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Holly LaFon
Holly LaFon
Articles (8613)  | Author's Website |

Dave Sather's Investment Lessons From A Bulldog

A shameless plug for my alma mater and how you can profit, by Dave Sather

March 05, 2018 | About:

On paper, it could have been a modern version of David versus Goliath. Texas Lutheran University, a small NCAA Division-3 school from rural Seguin, Texas battling the dominant D-1 schools. These were undergrads tackling some of the smartest MBA students in the country.

That was the backdrop as the TLU students of Bulldog Investment Company presented their research and portfolio management skills recently at the Texas Investment Portfolio Symposium (TIPS) Managers Competition.

Bulldog Investment Company, now in its 10th year, was originally designed to teach students how to read and interpret financial statements. If an individual is skilled at analyzing data, they can determine if a company is strong or weak and more importantly, the reasons why.

This skill is in demand whether working in the For-Profit or Non-Profit sectors, or anything in-between.

Additionally, students must expand this ability by researching investment ideas that conform to Warren Buffett (Trades, Portfolio)’s criteria in his management of Berkshire Hathaway.

To make the learning experience deeper and more tangible, students work in teams. They must research the financials, identify the sustained competitive advantage around a business and then value the business based upon numerous metrics.

These ideas are presented to a professional board of directors on a regular basis.

Winning presentations are funded with real cash. As such it is not a simulation. Furthermore, it is managed exclusively by students. Since inception, the student managed portfolio has produced returns of more than 15% per year.

Three times in the last five years the TLU students have submitted their work to the TIPS competition. Each time they have been a top 5 finalist, previously placing 3rd and 2nd. However, this time the Bulldogs defeated Baylor, Tulane, Texas State and the University of North Texas to take top honors.

To say I am proud of my students is a complete understatement. I’m ecstatic. Not only are these students intelligent, but they work hard and are incredibly humble.

From this on-going experiment, there are several valuable observations to be made about life and investing.

First, do your research. Understand how a business makes money and what its sustained competitive advantage is. Is the competitive moat surrounding the castle getting wider and deeper or is competition tearing down the walls?

If you want to beat the market you really need to concentrate your money in your best ideas. If you do the research, then diversification is highly overrated as it dilutes your best ideas.

Fundamental analysis, and an understanding of business valuation, are crucial. A stock is a business, not just a ticker symbol. Furthermore, a valuation is not a stock price or just a P/E ratio. Successful investors must value a business on a historical basis as well as make logical assessments about the future of any entity.

Volatility is not risk. Risk comes from the permanent impairment of capital. If the stock market falls by 1,000 points it has little bearing upon the number of sodas sold by Pepsi. However, the long-term value of the beverage maker is determined by their cumulative long-term sales and earnings. Greater volatility can actually make a well researched investment more attractive.

A long time-frame and tremendous patience is mandatory. The stock market does very irrational things over completely unanticipated time frames. However, a great business will make money in good markets and bad.

Hard work, persistence and humility are necessary to do appropriate research and make good decisions. Few industries are as competitive or ever-changing as investment management. The pace of evolution in the investment world never stops. The successful investor must never stop learning.

Capitalism, with a fair playing field, is a tremendous opportunity for wealth creation.

Good education is not exclusive to big universities or big cities. The same is true for great investors. Whether Seguin, Texas or Omaha, Nebraska, good investors spend their time quietly thinking, logically and critically. Smart investors spend their time reading and thinking about business models. Understanding this, being off the beaten path is a huge benefit.

Congratulations to Chase Dawkins from Prosper, Audra Bahr from New Braunfels and Austin Speed from Goliad for bringing home top prize. You and your teammates are a testament that smart investing and business acumen are well worth the effort!

About the author:

Holly LaFon
I'm a financial journalist with a master of science in journalism from Medill at Northwestern University.

Visit Holly LaFon's Website


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