Jay Kaplan’s Bio from Roycefunds.com
Jay S. Kaplan, CFA, is a Portfolio Manager and Principal for Royce & Associates, LLC, investment adviser to The Royce Funds.
He serves as Portfolio Manager for Royce Capital Fund—Small-Cap Portfolio, co-manages Royce Value Fund with Whitney George, and Royce Dividend Value Fund with Chuck Royce. He also serves as an Assistant Portfolio Manager of Royce Pennsylvania Mutual Fund and Royce Total Return Fund. He has 20 years of investment industry experience.
Prior to joining Royce & Associates in November 2000, Mr. Kaplan spent 12 years with Prudential Financial, most recently as Managing Director and Portfolio Manager of the Prudential Small Company Value Fund.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton and earned a Master of Business Administration degree from New York University.
Value investing is contrary to human nature, how did you get started in value investing? Also on a similar note there are many different schools of value investing, which school would you say you adhere to the most? Who has had the greatest influence on your investment philosophy?
I am not really sure that it’s contrary to human nature. Everyone likes to buy stuff on sale and nobody likes to pay full price. From that perspective, value investing is not contrary to human nature at all. Buying a good asset at a discount is something that everyone can relate to.
I started out as a credit analyst. There are really two ways you can look at credit. You can look at assets or you can look at cash flow and how a company meets its financial obligations. So you’re looking at stress testing and the volatility of cash flows, and how bad things could be before a company can’t pay its bills.
Applying that to stocks, it’s like looking at a margin of safety. It is about how bad things can get before you lose money. My core philosophy is that if I buy stocks where expectations are low to non-existent, and those expectations are met, I probably won’t lose money. And if those expectations are exceeded, there could be a nice upside.
I also adhere to Royce’s core principles, which consist of finding companies with pristine balance sheets, high returns on capital and buying them at attractive prices. However, my core approach comes from my experience as a credit analyst and buying stocks based on cash flows.
I was also a junk bond analyst for a few years, which gave me a good fundamental underpinning for my current value approach. My core focus on credit and cash flows have had the largest impact on me.
What does a typical day look like?
There really is no typical day. There is a typical start of the day, which consists of waking up early and commuting. We check positions and prices and more often than not the news dictates what the rest of the day will be. If the day does not contain much news, we will focus on looking into new holdings. If the day is full of news, then it could be a day of maintenance.
During the course of the day, there are usually meetings with management teams, often several of them. There are client meetings, though we have less here than at other firms. We spend more time managing money.
So the early part of each day is pretty similar, but the second part of the day you never know. That is one thing that makes the job so fascinating. You don’t know what each day will bring.
Several of your funds are run with other portfolio managers; do you all have to reach a unanimous decision before buying or selling a stock?
We don’t always reach unanimous decisions. Some Funds are set up differently. We tend to take larger positions in companies in which there is widespread agreement and smaller positions when there is less of a consensus.
You co-manage several funds with Charles Royce, are you ever able to convince your boss of your convictions when he does not agree with you initially? There are times where he’ll ask me, “Why are you buying or selling XYX Company?” and I will tell him why, and then he will go and make his own decision. In many organizations, the object of the game is to convince someone senior to you to do what you want. That is not how we operate. When Chuck sees something, he will ask about it, not to tell me not to do it, but rather to see if I want to do to it. I will tell him what I think and then he will do what he thinks. Sometimes he agrees, and sometimes he doesn’t agree. Everyone is entitled to his opinion here.
Since all Royce Funds are diversified how are you able to keep track of so many securities?
As a firm, we are very focused on the small-cap market. So we know a lot about lots of small-cap securities. The managers here also tend to be very experienced. We usually don’t hire people right out of college on our investment staff. Most of the people come with significant experience and know a lot of companies. So when you have been doing it long enough, you are able to keep track of a lot of companies.
Most companies’ fundamentals don’t change very much. When companies do change materially, that is what you focus on. It is the 80/20 rule; you spend 80% of your time on 20% of the names because a lot of things do not change much in a short amount of time.
How do you manage risk?
First, let me tell you how we define risk. A lot of people define risk as the amount your portfolio deviates from an index. We do not think of risk in that way. We think about risk as not losing money. We hate losing money.
So we like to think about our performance in terms of risk adjusted terms relative to an index. With that in mind, we run diversified portfolios because there is a lot more risk in small-cap companies. Another core component of our philosophy is that we invest in companies that have very strong balance sheets, which we think provides good protection against the company going to zero.
You know, when you’re a value investor you invariably run into problems, whether it’s an industry problem, a company-specific problem or something else. When we see companies at what we think is a good price, the company usually has problems. So between diversification and buying companies with strong balance sheets, we try to manage risk.
Do you ever meet with management?
All the time. With small companies, we meet with the most senior people and discuss strategy and any issues in the company. We like continuity of message and we want people who do what they said they were going to do. This is very important to us. If they tell us they are going to do xyz, and we meet with them six months later and they have not done xyz, that makes us uncomfortable.
How do you go about finding stocks? Do you look at the 52 week low list?