INVESTMENT MARATHON #7 • July 2022
The building blocks of Aspira Wealth’s long-term investment strategy.
Newsletter by Alex Vozian, CFA, Co-Founder and Associate Portfolio Manager.
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A turtle enjoying the (delayed) summer of 2022 at Beacon Hill Park, Victoria, BC.
- Why tortoises outlive tigers
- Canadian and US market update
- The investment opportunity got better
- Microsoft – a holding we own
- Personal update
Why TORTOISES outlive tigers
While making investment decisions, I always recall my favorite animals - tortoises. They seem to have figured out the best strategy to outlive larger and faster animals.
To remember this strategy, I take frequent lunch breaks to admire relatives of tortoises – yellow-bellied slider turtles from Beacon Hill Park (see image above).
By the way, use this link to book a turtle-watching tour. I will show you top spots to watch turtles, blue herons, and bald eagles at Beacon Hill Park, and we can discuss any investment questions you may have.
Tortoise strategy’s elements that help long-term investors sleep well at night:
- Slow speed: Reminds me about setting reasonable expectations for the investment returns. It is very tempting to look for high risk investment opportunities that have potential to double every year, but often they do just the opposite.
- Shell: Is a heavy structure (rigorous investment process) that takes effort to carry with you, but that helps you protect the capital and ensure repeatable investment success. Disciplined buying and selling, in-depth analysis of corporate culture, competitive advantage, and industry tailwinds are just a few of the elements of our investment research process.
- Hibernation: Reminds me of the importance of being relaxed and patient during tough seasons of the investment cycle.
Speaking about the first element of the tortoise strategy, I just had my first discussion about investor expectations with my youngest daughter:
- Daughter: How fast will you double my money?
- Me: In about 7 years.
- Daughter: Whaaaaaaat? 7 years? I thought it would take less than a year!
- Me: No, it might be about 7 years and you should also expect some negative years along the way.
- Daughter: 7 years wouldn’t work for me… and negative years… I am assuming you will cover my losses for the negative years! Right?
- Me: Wrong!
CANADIAN AND U.S. MARKET UPDATE (2022-07-20)
The Canadian stock market is down 9% and the US market is down 16% from the start of 2022, after witnessing massive gains in 2021.
Key worries driving this decline are similar to our last update:
- High inflation caused by:
- Insufficient supply of goods due to disruptions caused by pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war
- Excess demand for goods due to stimulus pumped into economy after the start of Covid pandemic, coupled with a shift of consumer spending patterns
- Central banks started raising interest rates to contain inflation.
- Fears that higher interest rates might cause a global recession.
This year our in-house investment strategies continue to do better than the overall market. You can see the returns for the first half of the year in Chris’s publication from last week. The returns improved further in July.
While these results are relatively great, we place no weight on short-term results, good or bad, and neither should you. In fact, we occasionally make decisions that negatively impact short-term performance if we think we can improve our long-term returns and/or lower risk level.
the INVESTMENT opportunity GOT better
The investment opportunity got better since my last letter as equity markets went down an average 5%.
While nobody can guarantee where market prices will go during the next 3-6 months, we are optimistic about the medium and long run investment opportunities.
- The market sentiment and consumer sentiment are not far from record low (i.e. extremely fearful) levels – that is often the best time to add money to investment accounts.
- There are more signs that inflation is slowing down – that might cause central banks to increase interest rates by a smaller amount than the market is currently expecting.
- Even if we end up with a recession in North America – the stock market might have already priced that in. Remember that the stock market is a leading indicator, so it usually starts recovering several months/quarters before the official end of the recession.
A HOLDING WE OWN – MICROSOFT (MSFT)
Microsoft is well-known for its core products - operating system Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office suite (including Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), Xbox gaming, while more recently MSFT expanded in server products and cloud services (including Azure).
From all 30 holdings that we had in The Dividend Value Discipline™ on my first day with Chris Raper’s team in July 2013, just Microsoft has passed the test of the time.
As a matter of fact, our clients had Microsoft shares in their accounts even earlier:
- as of March 6th 2013 - when Chris told me that I failed my job interview, and
- as of April 1st 2013 – when Chris once again informed me that I failed another step of the hiring process!
Recall the story of the tortoise and the hare - I am still hereJ.
We exited MSFT on a couple of occasions when things seemed just impossible to get better and every time our assumptions proved wrong and we bought MSFT back.
MSFT was relatively cheap 10 years ago and on top of this MSFT witnessed:
- a major improvement to the corporate culture - lead by the new CEO Satya Nadella who gets the credit for reinventing Microsoft
- acceleration of the tailwinds - businesses around the world migrating their systems from “on-premise” to the “cloud”, and this trend that was further accelerated by Covid pandemic.
MSFT is our highest-rated holding based on quality - below are our core 5 quality factors.
SOLID INDUSTRY TAILWINDS - Accelerating digital transformation as businesses around the world are investing heavily in technology/productivity – including to offset the current labor shortage.
MASSIVE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE - From multiple sources: high switching costs, impressive portfolio of intangible assets, large economies of scale, strong bargaining power, and more.
GREAT MANAGEMENT – Current CEO, Satya Narayana Nadella, gets the credit for reinventing MSFT by shifting the culture towards more empathy, collaboration, and 'growth mindset'. We also admire MSFT’s promotions from within, large insider ownership, and employee satisfaction.
DIVIDEND - Last increase in Microsoft’s dividend was 11% and the current dividend level is double vs 2015 level. Strong cash flow generation and large cash balance might result in acceleration of dividend growth in the near future.
ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL, AND GOVERNANCE (ESG) - Both MSCI and Sustainalytics are rating Microsoft with one of the strongest ESG scores.
The pace of life has slowed in recent couple of months to more normal levels, allowing more time for DIY renovations, backyard activities, restarting fishing season, and even painting (see below).
World’s first fork painted with a spoon and spoon painted with a fork.
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