The Ben Graham Centre for Value Investing at the Ivey Business School at Western University held a conference on Value Investing on April 8, 2014 at the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto.

Ben Graham Centre for Value Investing

The mission of the conference was to promote the tenets of value investing as pioneered by Benjamin Graham, to expose conference participants to the various value investing methods used by practitioners, and to encourage and support academic research and study in the area of value investing.

The conference provided a forum to explain, discuss and debate the principles, practices and various applications of value investing from a global context. Corporate executives offered an industry perspective of how to look for value creating opportunities and how to create value.

Notes from the The Ben Graham Centre’s 2014 Value Investing Conference

We have covered the 2014 Value Investing Congress held in Las Vegas. We attended the event in Toronto yesterday. Below are some brief notes from the Ben Graham Centre’s 2014 Value Investing Conference

Morning keynote: Amity Shlaes

Amity is a columnist for Forbes, and is the author, most recently, of Coolidge (Harper), a comprehensive and eye-opening biography of America’s thirtieth president. Coolidge debuted at third place on the New York Times bestseller list, was picked as a book of the month by, and received a positive review from the Economist. Amity is the author of three previous books including the New York Times best-seller, The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression (HarperCollins), which was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the best books to read during a financial crisis.

Notes from the Value Investing Conference

Amity Shlaes discussed President Coolidge and how he managed the depression of 1920-21 without a quantitative easing type program. Coolidge allowed market forces to self-correct without government intervention.

Lunch keynote: Wilbur Ross

Wilbur is the CEO of WL Ross & Co. LLC – one of the best known private equity investors in the U.S. Wilbur was Executive Managing Director of Rothschild Inc. for 24 years before acquiring that firm’s private equity partnerships in 2000. His private equity funds bought Bethlehem Steel and several other bankrupt producers and revitalized them into the largest U.S. producer before merging them into Mittal Steel for $4.5 billion. Wilbur remains a Director of what is now ArcelorMittal. He also created and chairs the International Textile Group, the most global American company in that industry and International Auto Components Group.

Notes from the Value Investing Conference

Wilbur Ross presented a case study of the Bank of Ireland (ADR) (NYSE:IRE).  He also noted the importance of having checklists when investing. Checklists were important in the analysis phase, as this was a distressed investment, with complex financial assets that were extremely sensitive to the local Irish economy and the larger world economy. He also stressed the importance of checklists during the operation / implementation phase to ensure that plan is being properly executed.

Value Panel: Mohnish Pabrai

Mohnish Pabrai is the Managing Partner of the Pabrai Investment Funds. Since inception in 1999 with $1 Million in assets under management, the Pabrai Funds have grown to $600 Million in assets under management in 2011. The funds invest in public equities utilizing the Munger/Buffett Focused Value investing approach. A $100,000 investment in Pabrai Funds at inception in 1999 would have been worth $809,800 as of March 31, 2011 – an annualized gain of 19.5% (versus 3.3% for the Dow). Mohnish has been profiled by Forbes and Barron’s and appeared frequently on CNN, PBS, CNBC, Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Radio.

Notes from the Value Investing Conference

Mohnish Pabrai presented himself as a shameless cloner who follows 13Fs and other investors to source ideas. Citing one example, he recently bought an insurance company (cloning Buffett’s actions.)  Mohnish Pabrai believes investment funds should be managed by one individual, as this ensures independence of thought and avoids groupthink.

CEO panel: J. Bruce Flatt

Bruce is the CEO of Brookfield Asset Management Inc., a position in which he was appointed in 2002. Over the last 12 years as a CEO, Bruce has overseen the expansion of the company’s franchise into one of the largest global managers of real assets with over 100 offices in 25 countries and 24,000 employees and has transformed Brookfield into a global asset manager. Prior to that, and having been with Brookfield for over 20 years, Bruce was instrumental in rebuilding its property businesses in the early 1990s, the expansion of its renewable power businesses in the late 1990s, the launch of its infrastructure business in the mid-2000s, and the globalization of its operations over the past 20 years.

Notes from the Value Investing Conference

Bruce Flatt of Brookfield Asset Management Inc. (NYSE:BAM) discussed Brookfield’s business model: the company favors opportunistic, unconstrained capital that can move across asset classes and geographies to find best values. Flatt believes this model is better than sector or geographic specific funds, because these constrained funds may be forced to deploy capital in certain assets that may not be best use of capital.  He also discussed 6 case studies describing their opportunistic, flexible mandate and how they were able to move money around the globe to invest in more attractive investments.