On Setting Up New Accounts: Buying And Selling


On Setting Up New Accounts by David Merkel, CFA of The Aleph Blog

Another great letter from a reader:

Hi David,

I enjoy your writing. I find myself of a similar mindset. I am an investment advisor running my clients individual accounts in a value fashion. I am currently have my clients invested in about 20 positions. My question is in regards to a new account… I have held off on buying the same positions in that new account unless any of the 20 positions still fall within my estimated “buy” range. Therefore, a new account opened today may sit in cash for some time until new ideas are found, or the 20 positions from the other accounts fall back to a buy range. How do you handle this? Do you use a model portfolio and all accounts consistently look alike?

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Thank you and keep up the good work,

Dear Friend,

My value proposition is that clients get a clone of my accounts.  I am my own biggest client; what I get, they get, less fees.  I set them up to mirror my account within a week of receiving the assets.

The main reason I do it this way is that there is little rhyme and reason to target prices.  I don’t have any target prices.  Rather, I compare stocks against each other using a scoring system quarterly, and I sell companies that are relatively  expensive and buy companies that are relatively cheap.  Read my article Portfolio Rule Eight to understand this better.  I realize few managers manage money this way, but I think it is a way that reflects how the markets really work.  We should not compare individual stocks against cash, but compare stocks against each other.  We should compare the stock market as a whole against cash, to analyze whether it is absolutely rich or cheap.



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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.
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