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4 Invaluable Investing Insights from Guy Spier

Guy Spier - Vintage Value InvestingValue investor Guy Spier has made a name for himself for a variety of reasons. Born in South Africa, he was educated in Oxford and Harvard to prepare himself for what would become an almost legendary investment career.

Today, Guy Spier lives in Zurich, has become a published author, and invests in a variety of areas through his Aquamarine Fund. But it’s his insights for potential value investors that are particularly valuable. Here are 4 of Guy Spier’s most significant quotes, relating to all areas of his job, life, and passion.

1. “There are always going to be pockets where people are just fearful and don’t want to tread. If you’re willing to tread there, then you’ll do fine.”

This quote is part of a larger interview in which Guy Spier dives deeply into his personal passion for chess, and how that passion relates to his investment patterns. In chess, as in investing, most players are driven by data-based analytical moments. But while a basic analytical mindset is undoubtedly important, human patterns matter just as much.

In the interview, Spier dives into Warren Buffett’s investment strategy as the perfect example. Bucking a larger, fear-based pattern, Buffett invested in Goldman Sachs at the height of the financial crisis of 2008. When the bank recovered, the investment paid off.

2. “In general, my experience has been that the best managers and capital allocators do one thing at a time, rather than multiple things.”

Who would you hire to be your investment manager? In a recent blog post on the topic, Guy Spier attempts to answer that exact question. In doing so, Spier essentially turns the popular mantra of not putting all of your eggs into one basket on its head.

Multitasking is as popular in investing as it is elsewhere in life. But, as Guy Spier outlines, it’s not always the right thing to do. If focusing on multiple areas causes you to lose focus in your core responsibilities and competencies, it could become detrimental. Singular focus, on the other hand, tends to be more likely to succeed. See: Warren Buffett’s “Not To Do” List

3. “We think we control our environment, but in fact, it’s our environment that controls us. We can’t change the world. The only thing we can change is ourselves, by trying to get a better understanding of our own messed-up wiring.”

An admittedly fatalistic quote is at the same time invaluable investing advice. Guy Spier is not afraid to focus on his shortcomings, and instead uses them as motivation to improve his investing style and options. Self-improvement may seem esoteric, but in his example, it’s very much pragmatic as well.

The cold truth is that no investor can control the market. The most successful professionals are guided by market forces, and adjust themselves and their strategies to fit these shifting forces. Be flexible, and you will become a better value investor as a result.

4. “One has to divide Warren Buffett into different periods. There is a continuously evolving style of Warren Buffett.”

Before he became a famous investor, Guy Spier was most famous for paying more than $600,000 just to have lunch with his professional role model: Warren Buffett. That led to some fun articles, but also valuable insights into the legend that Spier looks to model himself after.

The above quote encapsulates his investment style. It is at once analytical, breaking down Warren Buffett’s investment style into separate parts, and mindful of adjustments. In a way, it fits perfectly with the previous quote on adaptability.

Over the past decade, Guy Spier has moved from a relatively anonymous hedge fund manager to a published author and world-famous value investor. His journey from point A to point B has been fascinating to watch, and will only continue to rise in importance. As a result, Guy Spier’s insights on the nature and unique aspects of investments are invaluable for anyone looking to apply the lessons to their own environment.