You Need Soul, Not Skin, In The Game - ValueWalk Premium
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You Need Soul, Not Skin, In The Game

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Q3 hedge fund letters, conference, scoops etc

My partner, Mike, and I have been reading Skin in the Game by one of our favorite authors, Nassim Taleb. The point of the book can be summed up in one sentence: You want to associate with people who will share not only upsides with you but also downsides. When someone is getting paid to sell you a product but captures no downside in the transaction (this describes the bulk of Wall Street transactions), that person doesn’t have skin in the game, and his/her advice may or may not be in your best interest.

We have designed our investment management firm, IMA, so that we have skin in the game. Our business grows and shrinks with our clients’ success. But our skin in the game doesn’t stop there. We feel that if a stock is good for our clients it should be good for us (including our significant others and our kids). Thus we and our families are clients of IMA, just like you, and our wealth goes up and down in tandem with yours.

However, in reading Skin in the Game we have discovered that we can intimately relate to the concept Taleb calls “soul in the game.” He calls people like us “artisans.”

Artisans, says Taleb, “do things for existential reasons first and for financial and commercial ones later. Their decision making is never fully financial, but it remains financial.”

Warren Buffett says that he tap-dances to work. He goes to work not because he cannot wait to earn another billion – he is giving the bulk of his money away; he works because he loves investing. We can relate to this sentiment, investing is an incredible intellectual riddle that we have the privilege of attempting to solve every day. It is a never-ending journey of self-improvement. Neither Mike nor I have Buffett’s wealth, nor do we aspire to have it; but we feel exactly the same way about tap-dancing to work (though at times I ride a bike or drive a car to work).

I dated a lot of majors when I was I was getting my undergraduate degree, but when I went on my first date with investing it was love at first sight. At first unintentionally and later intentionally, I sculpted the perfect job.

If I won a $100 million lottery, my daily life wouldn’t change a bit – I’d just have to work harder to make sure my kids didn’t get spoiled. I cannot see myself doing anything else with my life.

Thinking about investing and portfolios doesn’t just start when I come to work and stop when I go home. It always follows me around. It’s a bit unhealthy, and there’s always a tug of war between work life and family, but I still wouldn’t change a thing.

We are not trying to build the largest financial firm; we are trying to build the best one, a firm we’d want to be the clients of (since we already are). We’ll stop growing the firm (accepting new clients) if and when we feel growth is becoming detrimental to this goal and thus to our existing clients.

Read the full article here by Vitaliy Katsenelson, Advisor Perspectives

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