“Stones” Required… To Excel As L/S Equity Portfolio Manager – ValueWalk Premium
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“Stones” Required… To Excel As L/S Equity Portfolio Manager

Headlines:

  1. Pain Ought To Be Expected.
  2. The Outcome = Always Uncertain.
  3. A Metaphor For Life?


Managing Risk Capital = A Chosen…Yet Extremely Stressful Profession.

The Potential Financial Rewards Are Irresistible…

But The Pathway To Achievement Is Typically Tumultuous.


The Primary Tactical Goals Of A L/S Equity Portfolio Manager =

  1. Elevate “High Water Mark” +
  2. Maximize Sharpe Ratio +
  3. Optimizing Capital Allocation/Utilization

Q2 2022 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

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While Recognizing That =

  1. Returns Are Not Time Linear +
  2. Research = Cornerstone Of High Conviction +
  3. Investing/Trading = Art…NOT A Science +
  4. Liquid/Transparent Markets Are Preferred +
  5. Risk May Only Be Precisely Measured In Hindsight

And Appreciating Esoteric Factors =

  1. Humility…As Markets Can Exact Brutal/Sudden Pain +
  2. Psychology’s Significant Impact On Market Pricing +
  3. Experience/Instinct = Monumental Attribute +
  4. Accepting Responsibility For All Decisions +
  5. Financial Media = Backward Looking

Equity Market Cycles Are Akin To Fingerprints…Each One Is Unique…Determined By Dynamic + Unpredictable Inputs…Including An Occasional “Thin Tail” Event On The Bell Curve.

Thus…Managing A Portfolio Of Equities Through Variant Cycles…Requires A Release Of Absolute Beliefs…

Especially The Most Dangerous Belief…

That There Is Some Repeatable Process That Is Universally Market Effective…All The Time…

Because There Isn’t…As The Market Frequently Shifts Its Stylistic Favor.


So…At The Very Least…A L/S Equity Money Manager Must Be Intellectually Agile…

Not Only With Idea Generation…But Also With Capital…

That Is…Sizing Of Positions.

And Managing Capital Is A Crucial Skill-Set…

As Much As Sector/Security Selection.


Because Most Trades…Involve Capital Draw-Down…Especially In A Contrarian/Value Oriented Approach.

So…As A Respected Mentor Of Mine Once Asked Me…

“HOW MUCH PAIN CAN YOU TAKE?”


You See…Just As L/S Money Managers Have A Job To Do
i.e. Maximize Returns + Sharpe Ratio etc…

So Do The Equity Markets Have A Job =

That Is…To Test Your Convictions…

By Imparting Capital Draw-Down Pain On Market Actors…To The Point Of Extreme…

  1.  Fear +
  2. Frustration +
  3. Impulsivity +
  4. Panic…

That Can Yield Emotional + Erratic + Irrational Investment/Trading Decisions.


Thus…How To Counter The Market’s Actions To Debilitate + Weaken You?

First Of All…You Need To Accept + Recognize The Market’s Role…Because It Is Real.

Secondly…You Must Figure A Way To Channel This Capital Draw-Down Pain To Your Advantage.

To Do So…Pain Must Be Bisected + Simply Defined As:

  1. Price Erosion = Capital Draw-Down +
  2. Time Erosion = Duration of Price Erosion

Naturally…Price Erosion Stings…

And Is Intensified By Time…

As Both Separate Elements Compound…With Every Counter-Price Day + Week + Month.

You Feel Increasingly Defeated + Demoralized.

Naturally…You Question Your Hypothesis…Your Investing/Trading Gut…Your Research…Pretty Much Everything…

Because You Are Currently Losing…No Matter If Driven By Beta Or Idiosyncratic Stock/Sector Issues…& It Is All Too Clear.

It Seems Defeat Is Certain…Just A Matter Of When To Capitulate.


But…What If…Somehow…As A Losing Position[s] Capital Depletes…Within A Portfolio of Just 10-12+/- Concentrated + Margin-ed Positions…

You Are…Paradoxically…Even More Optimistic About That/Those Current Losing Position[s]…Than You Were When The Positions Were Initiated?

Is That Even Possible…Or Just Plain Delusional?

Well…It Is Absolutely Possible…

And If You Wish To Excel In This Business…You Better Believe It.

Otherwise…Markets Will “Eat You Up”

As Evidenced By The Average/Modest Life Of A Hedge Fund = 3 Years…Which Is Not Much Of A Career.


More Importantly…Even If You Are The Rare Portfolio Manager Capable Of Being Energized About A Current Losing Position…That Is Not Enough…Not Even Close.

You Must Be Willing To Act + Commit More Capital As The “Draw-Down” Mounts.

And This Might Be The Most Difficult Task Of All.


So…As The Title Of This Post Indicates…Committing More Capital…At These Precarious Price Points…

Requires “STONES.

And BTW…Even If You Have The “STONES” [And Most Certainly Do Not]…

It Is Entirely Possible…You Just Might Be Wrong…Once Again…For A While.

But If You Deeply Understand How To Evaluate A High Quality + Market Leading Company’s Underlying Assets + Liabilities + It’s Capital Structure [Equity + Debt] + Its Ability To Generate Free Cash Flow [Not Zombie Companies]…Or Vice-Versa For Short Positions…

Maybe Even Get Paid A Decent Dividend While You Wait [To Cover Margin Costs]…Evaluate Executive Leadership’s Legitimate Commitment To Shareholders …Or Vice-Versa For Short Positions.

And…If You Started To Accumulate The Position When The Chart Already Looked Dire…And The Valuation Metrics Were Ridiculously Reasonable…Or Vice-Versa For Short Positions…

More Often Than Not…

It’s A Matter Of When You Will Be Proven Correct…Not If You Are Indeed Correct.


So…Though Challenging…You Must Eradicate The Recency Bias Imprinted In Your Brain + Recognize That Past Decisions In This Security….That Thus Far Have Proved Incorrect…Have No Impact On The Success Failure Of The Current Decision.

Because Rare + Great Ideas/Positions [Long or Short] Do Not Become Bad Ideas/Positions Just Because Price Action is Not Immediately Cooperative…

Typically…It Just Means You Are Early…Despite Best Timing Efforts.

And The Benefit To Being Early Is That You Have An Opportunity To Build A Larger Position At More Favorable Prices [Long or Short].


Further As Price Moves “Against”Provided The Hypothesis Remains…Generally…In Tact

This/Those Position[s]…Are Only Becoming Increasingly Asymmetrical…

Which Is The Ultimate Objective…To Initiate At Price Points Where Reward Swamps Perceived Risk.

And Positions Are ALWAYS The MOST Asymmetric At/Near Price Extremes.


So…As You Stare Into That Dark Universe Of Price Uncertainty…

Contemplating  A Positional “Press”

All You Have To Rely On = Your Gut + Your Research And…Most Critically…

The Vision To NOW SEE WHAT OTHERS WILL ONLY EVENTUALLY SEE

It Is Both An Exhilarating + Scary Moment…

Especially So…Because We Are All Taught To Avoid + Shun Uncertainty…

Rather Than Stepping Deeper Into It.


Which Leads To The TS Eliot Quote Presented At The Top Of This Post…

Only Those Who Will Risk Going Too Far Can Possibly Find Out How Far One Can Go.”

So “Pressing” A Position…With Considerable Capital…At This Specific Pain Point…

Is It “Going Too Far”?

Maybe…Maybe Not…As Only Time Will Tell…

But At The Very Least…You Are In The “Too Far” Zip Code.

Still…If You Are A Truly Experienced + Judicious + Skilled L/S Equity Portfolio Manager…

You Actually Become Increasingly Comfortable With The Inherent Discomfort These “Draw-Down” Moments Present…And…

Of Course…You Most Certainly “Press”…Because…The Asymmetry Is Just So Compelling.


Moreover…This Comfortable Discomfort…Is Discomfort Nonetheless…And Must Be Intellectually Silo-ed…

So As Not To Spill-Over + Discomfort-ably Influence Other Positions In The Portfolio…

Which When Aggregated…Consume Much More Capital Than The Pained Position[s].

So You Are Severely Vigilant…

Yet Cognitively Balanced…With Both Capital + Ideas…

Continuously Challenging Both In The Portfolio…While Also Allowing Your Positions To Organically Contend With Inevitable Market Tests.


Now…What About That/Those Pained Position[s]…Do The Idea[s] Work Or Not…And How Long Until The Outcome Is Determined?

Well…As An Optimist…Because You Cannot Operate In This Business From A Weakened Position Of Fear…

The Presumption…ALWAYS…Is That Price Will Reverse Course…And Head In Your Preferred Direction.

And Usually…When That Does Occur…It Happens Very Quickly…

As In Time…The Counter Price Tension Reaches A Crescendo…Sort Of Like A Beach-Ball Pushed Deeper + Deeper Beneath The Water’s Surface.

Then Suddenly…When The Pressure Is Released…That Ball Launches Far Above The Waterline…And Vice-Versa For Shorts.

And Alas…With The Price Change/Reversal…The Perception/Reality Of The Company’s Future Prospects…In All Likelihood…Change Too.


Furthermore…A Peculiar + Tortuous Feature Of This Investing/Trading Scenario Is The Concept Of Time As…

There Is No Reliable Linearity Between The Duration Of Pain + The Duration Of Time To Reclaim/Replace The Pain…With Gain.

For Example…Many Months Of Agonizing Losses Can Be Recaptured In Days/Weeks…If Capital Was Scaled + Wisely Deployed.

Which Assists In Explaining Why The Greatest Pain Points Ought To Be Embraced…

Versus The Most Fearful + Weakest Holders…That…At These Pain Thresholds…

Are Consistently Flushed…To The Eventual Price…Where There Is…Almost…Nobody Left To Liquidate…And Vice-Versa For Shorts.

Thus…Not Much Incremental Capital Is Required To Push The Stock In “Your” Direction…As Price Must Be Adjusted Much Higher To Draw Any Meaningful Sellers…And Vice-Versa For Shorts.


In Some Ways…This Complicated Investing/Trading Plot…

Perhaps…Can Also Serve As A Metaphor For Life’s Pains…

Whether The Pain Is Emotional or Interpersonal or Psychological or Sociological or Spiritual…And Sometimes Even Physical.

For Those Experiencing Pain…Pavlov’s Response Mechanism…

All Too Often…Predictably Registers As…

  1. Bail or
  2. Cleave or
  3. Discard

…At The Very Worst Time…

As Avoiding Any Pain…At Any Cost…Irrespective Of The Collateral Damage…

Is Priority #1…#2…#3.


Thus…A Prime Opportunity To Say “Yes” To The Pain…

And Creatively Discern It + Learn From It + Re-Frame It + Understand It…

Crucially…Concurrent With The Most Acute Pain Experienced…

As The Heightened Pain Enables Extreme Clarity + Focus…

Is Now Lost.


And This Is Not Only A Loss…But Also A Waste…Primarily Because…

Much Of The Tactical Pain…Typically…Has Already Been Endured…

And…Despite Recency Bias…Is Not Indefinite.

Now…This Pain…Is Nothing More Than Soured + “What If” Reflections…

Probably Then Stashed In A Cerebral Dark Box…

To Some Extent…Forever Festering…Like A Wound That Is Never Properly Treated.


So…This Hampster-Wheeled Cycle…Of So Many…

To Bail + Cleave + Discard…

Only To To Start Over…Again + Again…

With The Same Conclusive Pain…

Yields No Legitimate Benefit Other Than A Dubious Skill Of Continually…

Re-Setting The Board”

Commonly Resulting In A Life Of Frustration +  Neutrality…At Best.


A Dramatic Axis Tilt Focused On…

Accepting Chaos + Pain + Volatility…

As Legitimate Moments Of Aspiration + Opportunity…

However Inspired…Is Unlikely And Unwanted…By Most.

Though…It Is Possible…


So For The Few Seeking Entry Into A Riskier Clique…

Be Informed…Of A Few Qualitative Hindrances…To Both Navigate + Negotiate.

You See…Life’s Daring + Risky + Savvy…

That Believe A Quite Painful Dilemma Can Be Successfully Flipped…

May Be Curiously/Mistakenly…Feared + Misunderstood

Which Can Devolve/Tumble Toward…Presumption + Demonization.


Just A Perniciously Nasty + Negative Cycle That Is So Unpleasant To Encounter…Especially For Those That Welcome Pain’s Surprising Upsides.

Therefore…To Withstand…Takes Courage Of Convictions + Principles…aka Emotional “Stones.”

And…To Be Impervious To The Biting + Ignorant Critiques…From Those Forever Gripping Tightly To Certainty + Ultra-Safety.


So If “GOING TOO FAR” Is…

Both Compulsory + Desired…

You Better Have Serious “STONES.

But Then…How Else To Determine…

HOW FAR ONE CAN GO.”


Article by Global Slant

Contact The Author: [email protected]


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