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The Meb Faber Show

Ready to grow your wealth through smarter investing decisions? With The Meb Faber Show, bestselling author, entrepreneur, and investment fund manager, Meb Faber, brings you insights on today’s markets and the art of investing. Featuring some of the top investment professionals in the world as his guests, Meb will help you interpret global equity, bond, and commodity markets just like the pros. Whether it’s smart beta, trend following, value investing, or any other timely market topic, each week you’ll hear real market wisdom from the smartest minds in investing today. Better investing starts here. For more information on Meb, please visit MebFaber.com. For more on Cambria Investment Management, visit CambriaInvestments.com. And to learn about Cambria’s suite of ETFs and other investment offerings, please visit CambriaFunds.com.
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Jul 18, 2018

In Episode 113, we welcome entrepreneur and hedge fund expert, Stan Altshuller. Meb starts by asking Stan to give us his backstory, and how he came to co-found Novus Partners.

After Stan gives us his origin story, Meb asks about Stan’s broad approach to the markets. Stan tells us that at Novus, they start with data. This data encompasses everything from public data from regulatory filings, to private data from daily holdings reports. They bring it into an accessible, searchable database. Then engineers and programmers write various algorithms that capture and present the details of that data. This helps identify takeaways such as where the risks might be in a portfolio, and how various portfolios compare to others.

Meb asks about common takeaways from all this analysis. Stan points toward “diworsification.” As the name implies, too many investors have far too many holdings in their portfolio – from a diversification perspective, more than is needed or helpful. Stan tells us that 12 different investments is as beneficial as 100. Another takeaway Stan points toward is “conviction.” Are you truly adding value to your portfolio given your weighting decisions? Meb notes how you have to have greater position concentration to make a real difference in your portfolio. He then asks how Stan measures conviction.  

Stan tells us that conviction can mean different things. For equities, the highest ROI comes from stocks with a 7.5% position or higher. But if your portfolio is highly diversified, you’re unlikely to have a single position of this size. Stan adds that, for an allocator, the threshold is about 5%.

Next, Meb asks about the state of active management. With so many headlines about flows going into passive, what are Stan’s thoughts?

Stan gives us a great synopsis, covering “dispersion” and “correlation.” The presence, or lack thereof, of these market characteristics can have much to do with the success of active managers. Overall, Stan says conditions are now setting up such that we’re seeing alpha being generated in the hedge fund space again. He tells us “I’m bullish on active management, but I think that you need a correction for people to remember why hedge funds exist in the first place.”

Meb asks about Stan’s process – what analytics help identify the good funds, what they look for, the red herrings… Stan says the first thing to do is ask whether the manager is telling you the same thing as what the data is telling you. You’re basically double-checking the manager’s stated skill set. Next, analyze whether the manager is truly going to add value to a portfolio. For instance, if you add another manager, how much diversification benefit will t actually provide? If not much, do you really want to pay their fee? Then you look at whether the manager is still generating alpha. Has there been style drift? Is he/she managing significantly more money now than in past years?

Meb hones in on one part of Stan’s comments – “performance as a metric.” This is a great part of the interview in which Stan really draws out the point that looking at performance alone isn’t necessarily all that helpful. You need to understand how a manager created his alpha. Unless you understand that, you’re a duck in the water. You cannot invest based on performance alone. 

There’s so much more in this great interview: What percentage of managers are really adding value with their short book… Stan’s take on whether hedge fund managers truly deserve their fees… When is it time to give up on a manager if performance has been lagging… A major risk in today’s hedge fund space… And Stan’s most memorable trade…

This one involves Amazon and Google. Listen to Episode 113 for all the details.

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