Saturday, December 08, 2007

Blaine Lourd: The Evolution of An Investor

Here's one truly fantastic reading material for the weekend, The Evolution of an Investor ( The link to this article was posted on The Kirk Report ). Article was written by Michael Lewis who penned Liars Poker.

Here are some snippet of what's
stuff written..

  • "Seven months in at Lehman, I was one of the top rookie producers," Blaine says, "but every stock I bought went down." His ability to be wrong about the direction of an individual stock was uncanny, even to him. At first, he didn’t understand why his customers didn’t fire him, but soon he came to take their inertia for granted. "It was amazing, the gullibility of the investor," he says. "When you got a new customer, all you needed to do was get three trades out of him. Because one of them is going to work. But you have to get the second one done before the first one goes bad."

    It wasn't exactly the career he’d hoped for. Once, he confessed to his boss his misgivings about the performance of his customers' portfolios. His boss told him point-blank, "Blaine, you're confused about your job." A fellow broker added, "Your job is to turn your clients' net worth into your own." Blaine wrote that down in his journal.

Blaine quit his job at Lehmans...

  • He quit Lehman Brothers and took a job at the Los Angeles office of Bear Stearns. But Bear wasn’t any better. He says he was pressured to make transactions rather than give good advice. The stories he told himself to feel better about his career became less and less plausible. The nicest thing he could say about himself was that he hadn’t broken the law. He hadn’t bankrupted anyone or anything like that. But when he stepped back from his job and really looked at it, he realized that a huge amount of his time and energy went into making people feel happy about his advice when they should have been furious. The problem was the constant tension between company and client, caused by the firm’s inability to know what the market or any particular stock was going to do next. “I always thought there was going to be a place where the client wouldn’t be compromised and the broker wouldn’t be compromised,” he says. “But it was the same everywhere. It was all about getting people to transact.” And these weren’t bucket shops; they were Wall Street’s most distinguished firms.

Niagara Falls... loved how it was told.

  • Back in the old days, when investors believed that they were paying for some mysterious wisdom, the buildings housing Wall Street firms were stone on the outside and dark wood on the inside. Now that investors have learned to fear what they can’t see, the firms are in buildings made of as much glass as can be incorporated into a structure without compromising its ability to stand. The day I arrive at D.F.A.'s offices, I find 150 financial advisers in a glass box, waiting to be educated in a seminar that lays out the D.F.A. way. The coffee and pastries are free, the men and women wear suits, and the conference room has the antiseptic feel of any other 21st-century firm. But the atmosphere is entirely different from Wall Street. There’s no chitchat about the market, even though it has been bouncing around wildly. Instead, two speakers discuss how, knowing what we now know, anyone could present himself as a stock-picking guru. "If you put a thousand people in barrels and push them over Niagara Falls," one of them says, "some of them will survive. And if you take those guys and push them over again, some of them will survive. And they’ll write books about how to survive being pushed over Niagara Falls in a barrel."

Waking up to the lie and Winning the Loser's Game

  • Blaine bought the book—it's actually called Winning the Loser's Game —and took it with him to Aspen on his Christmas vacation. There, on the first page, he read "Investment management, as traditionally practiced, is based on a single basic belief: Professional investment managers can beat the market. That premise appears to be false."Ellis, who had spent 30 years advising Wall Street firms, went on with charts, graphs, and more evidence than he needed to convince Blaine of the truth of that statement. The problem wasn't Blaine; the problem wasn't even the firms he worked for. The problem was the entire edifice of modern Wall Street, in which some people—brokers, analysts, mutual fund managers, hedge fund managers—presented themselves as experts and were paid fantastic sums of money for their expertise. But essentially, Ellis argued, there was no such thing as financial expertise. "I read this book," Blaine says, "and I thought, My whole life is a lie, and everyone around me is facilitating this lie."

I guess and I should stop here. Do give the rest of the article a read, The Evolution of an Investor

Cheers and Happy Weekend Shopping!