radical transparency

Writing the Book on Investing

© Can Stock Photo / alexskopje

In the 21st century, it is possible to be more open about every aspect of business than ever before. Digital communications enable us to describe in real time what we are doing, why, how, and for whom with a level of detail that was not possible in the last century.

We have always had a well-defined investment process. We know what we want to own, and why. Since 2015 we have been able to share insights about our views, thinking, philosophies, strategies, and tactics here on the blog at 228Main.com. Those of you who are regular readers have perhaps gained a good sense of what we are about.

It is time to take it to the next level. We are working to comprehensively document our investment management process, from philosophy to research sources to investment selection methods to portfolio structure to tailoring client fit to trading protocols to client and account review process. We will be writing a book.

As great thinker Morgan Housel wrote, “writing crystallizes ideas in ways thinking by itself will never accomplish.” So we expect to come out of this exercise with a tighter, better-defined set of processes and protocols. No guarantees, of course.

This will take time and effort. What are the other advantages in doing it?

• To provide even greater clarity for you.
• To gain a comprehensive business operating manual.
• To help new associates understand what the enterprise is about.

Bottom line, this is a step toward greater sustainability, one of our major objectives for the years ahead. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Make Believe

© Can Stock Photo / nameinfame

It’s good fun to watch small children at play, using their imagination – they might be pirates or princesses, or serving imaginary meals, or having conversations with stuffed animals.

What is not good fun are financial types who pretend that so-called “market-linked” products actually provide exposure to real investment market returns. Often, a formula used to determine returns pays only a fraction of percentage gains, puts a maximum limit on returns, and ignores the effect of dividends. That’s investing only in the same sense that talking to a teddy bear is actual conversation*.

There is another common form of make-believe in the investment world. Some pretend that one might sharply limit the ups-and-downs in an account, yet still reap stock market returns, through some special strategy or tactic. Our view is that this is pandering. Long term investing is about willingness to accept a certain amount of risk in pursuit of getting paid.

Both of these fantasies play on the natural human desire for stability. But lower volatility may come at a cost of lower returns or higher costs. By the time the investor figures out there is either less stability than expected, or lower returns, a lot of freight may have been paid. Skip the make-believe, keep it real.

Clients, not everyone agrees with us – we hold contrarian views. If you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


*The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Laying the Foundation

© Can Stock Photo / ermess

Burt White, one of the great thinkers of our age, presented at the recent LPL Financial annual conference. His observation? “Adaptability is the new superpower. The faster change happens, the quicker our experience expires.”

It is daunting to think about everything changing all the time. But as we pondered Burt White’s thoughts, we realized that while many things do change, some things do not. We see this in our framework of values, principles, strategy, and tactics.

Start with unchanging values, which give rise to the principles by which we live and work. Then you have a strong foundation from which you can adapt strategy and tactics to changing times, new opportunities, and developing threats. The unchanging things provide congruence and stability even (especially!) in the midst of change.

If what we do needs to change, where do we begin? Our principles, rising from our values, guide us at all times, in every condition. Strategy needs to adapt; tactics change even more frequently. But they are shaped and guided by the bedrock on which they are built.

And Burt White might have it: it may be that stable values and principles are more important than ever before. In the 19th century, a saddle-maker or blacksmith might have practiced the same trade the same way for an entire career. If there is no change, the process of adapting is unnecessary.

But if strategy expires more frequently today, then the values and principles that drive strategy are more important. Therefore, authenticity—being genuine regarding those values and principles, as consistently and openly as possible—might also be more important than ever before.

People may need a clear understanding of who we are, what makes us tick, in order to have faith that we will be able to adapt and thrive in a changing world.

Could straightforwardness—“what you see is what you get”—be the most valuable business skill of the 21st century?

We believe life is too short to spend any time trying to kid you. Our energy is finite, and we focus it on striving to be of value to you, not trying to maintain some pretense or other. We aren’t perfect, we make mistakes, we can offer no guarantees. But we are excited about the way the future is unfolding.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

The Three Kinds of Performance

© Can Stock Photo / edharcanstock

In our recent reading, we came across another useful concept from Morgan Housel. He talks about the three kinds of investment performance:

1. Bad.

2. Overall good, but occasionally bad.

3. Always good but fraudulent.
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Many have had experience with the first one. The last one is obviously not a place to be. The key to the second one, according to Housel, is communication. Communication builds the trust required to get through the rough patches and down times.

Every day we are grateful for you, whom we believe to be the best clients in the world. You talk to us, you listen to us, we usually understand each other. We work to communicate in various ways, but it is a two-way street!

You know we won’t get mad if you ask a pointed question—if it is in your head, we want to hear it. You trust us enough to start a dialogue when you think we may not be on the same page. When there is something you think we should know, a development in your life or an investment idea, you tell us.

And we do you the honor of believing you can handle the truth. If we need to acquaint you with some aspect of changing reality as we see it, we do so.

Our mutual trust and straightforward communications seem very valuable. It is indeed the key to living with ups and downs. Our best guess is that things will turn out well, on balance, over the long haul. Of course, we can offer no guarantees.

Clients, if you would like to discuss this or anything else in more detail, please email us, call, or set an appointment.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Flexible Tactics, Timeless Values

© Can Stock Photo / happyalex

In business, the things that change draw a lot of energy. New technology, new ways of doing things, and new ideas grab our attention. The new offers the promise of competitive advantage.

Less attention goes to the things that never change. The timeless things can compound over long periods. Successful enterprises may need to harness both the new and the timeless. At 228 Main, we need both to serve you well.

For example, Amazon is one of the most dynamic companies in the world. The growth and evolution of the company has been astonishing. Yet founder Jeff Bezos focuses most closely on the things that never change.

According to Bezos, his customers want low prices, vast selection, and fast delivery. They wanted those things twenty years ago, and they will want those same things twenty years from now. When you invest in meeting unchanging needs, the returns may roll in for many years.

Writer and thinker Morgan Housel wrote that every sustainable business relies on one or more timeless features. We believe the key features you would like us to deliver include close human interaction, confidence and trust, and transparency. (Transparency in this context means ‘what you see is what you get.’)

We have previously noted that 21st century communications allow us to be radically transparent and to connect more closely. When we improve our processes for research and trading and portfolio analysis, we generate more time to work with you one on one. Our sense is that all these things together may increase your confidence in us.

Amazon continuously improves methods and tactics to deliver on its timeless strategy. We seek to do the same. Clients, if you would like to offer your perspective (or discuss anything else), please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.

Amazon, Leibman Financial Services and LPL Financial are not affiliated.