Value Investing And Indexing

Value Investing And Indexing

In general, most value investors like indexing.  Warren Buffett and many others agree on this.  But why?

1) Most value investors that I have known want ordinary people to have an option of doing pretty well, without investing with them, because the minimums are too high — investing in index funds fits that.  Further, Vanguard, who acts in the interest of their investors is an excellent institution.  If I could have a fund there and be paid 10-20 basis points, I would do it in a heartbeat.

2) The second reason is less noble.  We like less competition.  Index money is thought-free money with respect to company and sector selection.  The more of a company that is held by index investors, the greater the probability that it is mispriced.

Now, that is not necessarily so crass on our part.  Look, good investing for most people is like holding a second job.  Do you really want to devote that much of your life to seeking out bargains?  Not many will want to do that.  (Note: there is a side benefit to doing value investing, no matter what sort of firm you work for.  You learn to think like an intelligent businessman — most employees don’t do that.  The ability to think like a intelligent businessman sets you up for greater responsibility, because you can not only do your task, but you can consider the deeper questions of business, making you a prime candidate for a promotion.)

But… there is another venue for mispriced stocks.  Some large stocks don’t get into the index because they are foreign, or have a large amount of the stock owned by a control group, which makes them less liquid.  The main idea is that stocks that few people think about are less liquid, and more likely to be mispriced, but the question remains: are they mispriced high or low?

That is the question for the value investor, and not for those that buy stocks as commodities, as many index investors do.

By David Merkel, CFA of Aleph Blog



About the Author

David Merkel
David J. Merkel, CFA, FSA — 2010-present, I am working on setting up my own equity asset management shop, tentatively called Aleph Investments. It is possible that I might do a joint venture with someone else if we can do more together than separately. From 2008-2010, I was the Chief Economist and Director of Research of Finacorp Securities. I did a many things for Finacorp, mainly research and analysis on a wide variety of fixed income and equity securities, and trading strategies. Until 2007, I was a senior investment analyst at Hovde Capital, responsible for analysis and valuation of investment opportunities for the FIP funds, particularly of companies in the insurance industry. I also managed the internal profit sharing and charitable endowment monies of the firm. From 2003-2007, I was a leading commentator at the investment website RealMoney.com. Back in 2003, after several years of correspondence, James Cramer invited me to write for the site, and I wrote for RealMoney on equity and bond portfolio management, macroeconomics, derivatives, quantitative strategies, insurance issues, corporate governance, etc. My specialty is looking at the interlinkages in the markets in order to understand individual markets better. I no longer contribute to RealMoney; I scaled it back because my work duties have gotten larger, and I began this blog to develop a distinct voice with a wider distribution. After three-plus year of operation, I believe I have achieved that. Prior to joining Hovde in 2003, I managed corporate bonds for Dwight Asset Management. In 1998, I joined the Mount Washington Investment Group as the Mortgage Bond and Asset Liability manager after working with Provident Mutual, AIG and Pacific Standard Life. My background as a life actuary has given me a different perspective on investing. How do you earn money without taking undue risk? How do you convey ideas about investing while showing a proper level of uncertainty on the likelihood of success? How do the various markets fit together, telling us us a broader story than any single piece? These are the themes that I will deal with in this blog. I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University. In my spare time, I take care of our eight children with my wonderful wife Ruth.