Zebras vs institutional portfolio managers

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The following analogy comes from Ralph Wanger, founder of the Acorn Fund (via Bill King):

“Zebras have the same problem as institutional portfolio managers.

“Firstly, both seek profits. For portfolio managers above-average performance; for zebras, fresh grass.

“Secondly, both dislike risk. Portfolio managers can get fired; zebras can get eaten by lions.

“Thirdly, both move in herds. They look alike, think alike and stick close together. If you are a zebra, and live in a herd, the key decision you have to make is where to stand in relation to the rest of the herd. When you think that conditions are safe, the outside of the herd is the best, for there the grass is fresh, while the middle sees only grass that is half-eaten or trampled down. The aggressive zebras, on the outside of the herd, eat much better. On the other hand – or other hoof – there comes a time when lions approach. The outside zebras end up as lion lunch, and the skinny zebras in the middle of the pack may eat less well but they are still alive.”

So much for herd mentality! But that does not necessarily call for going against the stream at all times. Don’t be a contrarian purely for the sake of being different. Do so only once you have done the necessary homework – proper research – to support your investment decisions.

Source: Bill King, The King Report, September 29, 2009.

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