Saturday, April 9, 2011

Book review: There's Always Something To Do - The Peter Cundill Investment Approach

Title: There's Always Something To Do - The Peter Cundill Investment Approach
Author: Christopher Risso-Gill
Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press

Peter Cundill established the Cundill Fund in 1974, later renamed the Mackenzie Cundill Value 'A' Fund. Tragically, he died in March 2011, and this book recounts his investment career and philosophy. The author has known Peter for thirty years, and had access to Peter's investment notebooks, snippets of which are reproduced in this book.

Since inception in 1974 to the period ended 30 September 2010, the Cundill Fund returned a 13.5% CAAR, compared with an 11.2% CAAR for the MSCI World Index, adjusted to Canadian dollars. An investment of $10,000 at the inception of the fund would now be worth $927,522, compared with the index of $437,428. It appears that much of the truly superior returns were achieved over the last 10 years.

The book reveals that Peter was a value investor in the Graham tradition, and was particularly fond of "net-nets". His search for them took him all over the globe, an activity that he seemed to enjoy greatly. He formed a personal relationship with legendary investor John Templeton, and was praised by Warren Buffett as the kind of man he would be looking for as his next chief investment officer. He has been described at the "Indiana Jones of Fund Managers".

This book will appeal to investors wanting to learn more about the history of Peter and his fund, as it is not so much of a "how-to" book on investing. He does reveal some of his personal investment philosophy, though, and shares his thoughts about what makes a great money manager. Chief amongst them is "patience, patience, and more patience". He warns that "None of the great investments come easily. There is almost always a major blip for whatever reason and we have learnt to expect it and not to panic".

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