Diversification Or Concentration? Quotes From Some Of The Best Investors

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By Investment Master Class

“There is one other rule you ought to keep in mind and that is to concentrate, and not only in the Zen sense. Sweet are the uses of diversity, but only if you want to end up in the middle of an average”  Adam Smith, the Money Game 1968

“Statistical analysis shows that security-specific risk is adequately diversified after 14 names in different industries, and the incremental benefit of each additional holding is negligible. We own 18-22 companies to allow us to be amply diversified but have the flexibility to overweight a name or own more than one business within an industry.” Mason Hawkins

“Empirical testing has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the “riskiness” of a portfolio of 12-15 diverse companies is little greater than one loaded with a hundred or more” Frank Martin

“If you can identify six wonderful businesses, that is all the diversification you need. And you will make a lot of money. And I can guarantee that going into a seventh one instead of putting more money into your first one is gotta be a terrible mistake. Very few people have gotten rich on their seventh best idea. But a lot of people have gotten rich with their best idea. So I would say for anyone working with normal capital who really knows the businesses they have gone into, six is plenty, and I probably have half of what I like best. I don‘t diversify personally. ” Warren Buffett

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“Two things should be remembered, after purchasing six or eight stocks in different industries, the benefit of adding even more stocks to your portfolio in an effort to decrease risk is small, and overall market risk will not be eliminated merely by adding more stocks to your portfolio” Joel Greenblatt

“The number of securities that should be owned to reduce portfolio risk is not great; as few as ten to fifteen holdings usually suffice.” Seth Klarman

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“The more positions you have, the more average you are” Bruce Berkowitz

"The idea of excessive diversification is madness" Charlie Munger

"You can't make money with a diversified approach" David Tepper

“Don’t buy too many different securities. Better to have only a few investments which can be watched.”  Bernard Baruch

"I think diversification and all that stuff they're teaching at business school today is probably the most misguided concept anywhere" Stanley Druckenmiller

Diversification is always and everywhere a confession of ignorance” Andy Redleaf

Diversification covers up ignorance.” Bill Ackman

Diversification is a protection against ignorance. It makes very little sense for those who know what they’re doing.” Warren Buffett

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"One of the things that is very important to understand is that diversification is only a surrogate, and usually a poor surrogate, for knowledge, control and price consciousness" Marty Whitman

"Once you attain competency, diversification is undesirable" Gerald Loeb

"There's no use diversifying into unknown companies just for the sake of diversity" Peter Lynch

“We strongly believe that the supply of great businesses is severely limited and to engage in broad diversification is dilutive to the implicit purpose of earning above-average longer-term returns” Frank Martin

"Our investment style has been given a name - focus investing, which implies ten holdings, not one hundred or four hundred" Charlie Munger

Diversification is the most destructive, over-rated concept in our business. Look at George Soros, Carl Icahn, Warren Buffett. What do they have in common? they make huge concentrated investments. You need ruthless discipline. If the reason you invested changes get the hell out and move on.” Stanley Druckenmiller

"The academics have done a terrible disservice to intelligent investors by glorifying the idea of diversification.  Because I just think the whole concept is literally almost insane.  It emphasises feeling good about not having your investment results depart very much from average investment results"  Charlie Munger

“The appeal of a concentrated portfolio is that it is the only chance an investor has to beat the averages by a noteworthy margin” Frank Martin

"Conventional fund management holds dogmatic disdain for highly concentrated positions.  Needless to say, we hold a different view" Allan Mecham

"[Our] investment strategy is concentrated by its nature. Generally, at any given time, we have 10-18 core investments and 2-6 farm team investments." Jeffrey Ubben

“The desire to spread stock picking risks over a number of different securities must be balanced against the negative impacts of spreading research resources so thin that an intimate understanding of a company or industry is lost.  In such cases, diversification can become ‘di-worse-ification” Lee Ainslee

“Some people say that concentrating on just a few positions in which you have most confidence and focus is the way to both make money and decrease risk. I agree, but only up to a point. Often a risk manager faces the greatest need to limit position size when the enthusiasm and self-confidence which enable money managers to “pull the trigger” scream to take a larger position” Paul Singer

“A well-diversified portfolio needs just four stocks” Charlie Munger

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"There is a downside to extensive diversification.  As the market goes, so goes your portfolio" Frank Martin

“Charlie Munger considers that a portfolio of four stocks is a well diversified portfolio. He says, you don’t even need a 5th stock. He goes on to say that if you lived in a small town, and if you owned the best apartment building in town, if you owned the highest quality office building in town, if you owned the McDonalds franchise in town, if you owned the Ford dealership. if you owned this collection of assets, even though they're all geographically concentrated, his perspective is that you will do very well. You will not need to do much else beyond that to have an interesting investing career.” Mohnish Pabrai

“There is one thing I can assure you. If good performance of the fund is even a minor objective, any portfolio encompassing one hundred stocks is not being operated logically. The addition of the one hundredth stock simply can’t reduce the potential variance in portfolio performance sufficiently to compensate for the negative effect its inclusion has on overall portfolio expectations”. Warren Buffett, Partnership letter 1965

“Limiting the portfolios to our 20 most qualified investments allows us to know the companies we own and their managements extremely well while providing ample security-specific diversification.” Bruce Berkowitz

“For individuals, any holding of over twenty different stocks is a sign of financial incompetence” Phil Fisher

“Investors have been so oversold on diversification that fear of having too many eggs in one basket has caused them to put far too little into companies they thoroughly know and far too much in others which they know nothing at all. It never seems to occur to them, much less to their advisers, that buying a company without having sufficient knowledge of it may be even more dangerous than having inadequate diversification” Phil Fisher

“For an individual investor you want to own at least 10 and probably 15 and as many as 20 different securities. Many people would consider that to be a relatively highly concentrated portfolio. In our view you want to own the best 10 or 15 businesses you can find, and if you invest in low leverage/high quality companies, that’s a comfortable degree of diversification.” Bill Ackman

“I decided to run a concentrated portfolio. As Joel Greenblatt pointed out, holding eight stocks eliminates 81% of the risk in owning just one stock, and holding 32 stocks eliminates 96% of the risk. This insight struck me as incredibly important. It is hard to find long ideas that are ones or twos or shorts that are nines or tens, so when we find them, we decided that Greenlight would have a concentrated portfolio with up to 20% of capital in a single long idea (it had better be a one!) and generally would have 30-60% of our five largest longs.” David Einhorn

“Let there be no doubt: If you go the route of broad diversification, rest assured that you will never stand out in a crowd” Frank Martin

“The strategy we’ve adopted precludes our following standard diversification dogma. Many pundits would therefore say the strategy must be riskier than that employed by more conventional investors. We disagree. We believe that a policy of portfolio concentration may well decrease risk if it raises, as it should, both the intensity with which an investor thinks about a business and the comfort-level he must feel with its economic characteristics before buying into it.” Warren Buffett

"Diversification is only a free good if one cannot identify mispriced securities. Once the concept of mispricing is introduced, diversifying away from undervalued securities reduces a portfolio’s expected return. Instead of more diversification always being better, diversification becomes a trade-off: it lowers the risk but at the cost of also lowering expected return.  We don’t want to dilute our best ideas any more than is required to be prudent." Bill Nygren

“In the field of common stocks, a little bit of a great many can never be more than a poor substitute for a few of the outstanding” Phil Fisher

Diversification, too aggressively used as a substitute for knowledge, ultimately undermines diversification itself. A poorly understood portfolio may be far less diversified than it appears to be” Andy Redleaf

"Structure a concentrated portfolio, yet a diverse portfolio" Ed Wachenheim

"I seek to construct a portfolio that is both highly concentrated, yet also diverse in terms of industries, types of value, catalysts, and risk" Whitney Tilson

"We also keep reasonable diversity across industries in the portfolio." Jeffrey Ubben

"Owning a diverse portfolio in one market may greatly reduce the risk of being in that market.  If that market runs into a pothole, its components could all breakdown at once.  Of course, diversification is for us only the starting point for risk reduction.  Solid fundamental research, emphasis on catalysts, value discipline, preference for tangible assets, hedge short selling, market put options and other strategies combine to create an overall portfolio safety net for our portfolio that we believe is second to none" Seth Klarman

“Most investors think diversification consists of holding many different things, few understand that diversification is effective only if portfolio holdings can be counted on to respond differently to a given development in the environment” Howard Marks

"A key component of our investment strategy is sufficient but not excessive diversification.  Rather than own a little bit of everything, we have always tended to place our eggs in a few dozen baskets and watch them closely.  These bargain-priced opportunities are selected one at a time, bottom up, which provides a margin of safety in case of error, bad luck or disappointing business results.  However, we are always conscious of whether these different investments involve essentially the same bet.    If each of our holdings turned out to involve similar bets [inflation hedges, interest rate sensitive, single market or asset type etc], we would be exposed to dramatic and sudden reversals in our entire portfolio were investor perceptions of the macro environment to change.  Since we are not able to predict the future, we cannot risk such concentrations"  Seth Klarman

"We don't believe that widespread diversification will yield a good result.  We believe almost all good investments will involve relatively low diversification" Charlie Munger

"You will find our challenge to the popular custom of diversification among asset classes, styles, and stocks of so many varieties that they defy description in an essay of this length.  We have never understood the truism that most first-generation wealth is created on the strength of one idea or company, and then concludes with the dubious assumption that in order to preserve it, it must be spread among a thousand other companies"  Frank Martin

“Phil Fisher believed in concentrating in about 10 good investments and was happy with a limited number. That is very much in our playbook. And he believed in knowing a lot about the things he did invest in. And that’s in our playbook, too. And the reason why it’s in our playbook is that to some extent, we learned it from him.”  Charlie Munger

"We believe that exceptional returns are created by concentrated portfolios, as excellent ideas are few and far between.  The idea that you should own a little bit of everything is a recipe for mediocrity" Christopher Parvese

"A lot of great fortunes in the world have been made by owning a single wonderful business.  If you understand the business, you don't need to own very many of them". Warren Buffett

"So long as you choose to be invested in stocks, there is one risk for which diversification affords no protection.  As you increase diversification, you concurrently and inevitably increase your exposure to market risk - namely, the tendency of your portfolio, like an index fund, to mirror the performance of the market.  If you owned an index fund that mimicked the Nasdaq 500 as it fell from 5050 to just over 1000, you might begin to doubt the concept of security of principal (or the principle of security!) that is presumed to be found in the safety of large numbers" Frank Martin

"What works for us is between 10 and 20 (stocks).  Owning more than 20 stocks, it's too hard to follow the companies very closely, and a big winner won't move the needle enough.  I'm uncomfortable with the risk of owning fewer than 10, because we live in a dynamic world and you do make mistakes.  I don't want to make a mistake in a 15% position" Ed Wachenheim

"The idea that it is hard to find good investments, so concentrate in a few, seems to me to be an obviously good idea.  But ninety-eight percent of the investment world doesn't think this way. It's been good for us - and you - that we've done this" Charlie Munger

"A few things have worked out very well [for me]. And the nice thing about the investment business is that you don't need very many.  You'll see plenty of times when you get chances to do things that just shout at you. And the thing you have to do is, when that happens, you have to take a big swing. That is no time to be reading a book on the theory of diversification....When you find something where you know the business is within your circle of competence, you understand it, the price is right, the people are right--then you take your thumb out of your mouth and you barrel in"  Warren Buffett

"A high level of concentration flies in the face of conventional wisdom which hails the benefits of diversification (typically >50 companies).  I think there is plenty to be said for diversification if you are seeking a market like return.  However, it is the enemy of the stock picker as it is almost impossible to beat the market with a diversified portfolio" Robert Vinali

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