FPA’s Steven Romick Lists Habits of Successful Investors

Short-term market price movement does not tell us anything about long-term value, according to Steven Romick, managing partner with investment firm FPA. A recent Barron’s article offers an excerpt from a speech by Romick at a value-investor conference in London.

“Stocks go up…Stocks go down…Sectors do well, sectors do poorly. It’s entertainment. Ultimately, I don’t find it very valuable. It’s no more than tabloid reporting.” Romick points out how active management has been criticized due to high fees and lackluster performance and, while he doesn’t refute this notion, he underscores his belief that “passive investment is always going to look great during a long-lasting bull market.” He says the argument against active investing is “fundamentally flawed” because it assumes that only the best performing stocks will drive returns. “The argument doesn’t consider the other side,” says Romick, that “if you avoid the worst-performing stocks, you can still put up good numbers.”

Critics of active management, according to Romick, focus too heavily on performance each year, ignoring market performance over full-market cycles, which he calls, “short-termism.” This, he says, is a “breeding ground for all sorts of cognitive dissonance to which smart people fall prey when trying to adapt and join the crowd.”

Romick says patience and avoiding fads are key components of successful investing, citing Warren Buffett and others as followers of this credo. “Frankly,” says Romick, “in this age of Instagram and Snapchat…when immediate gratification seems to rule our lives, few portfolio managers have the patience to remain disciplined through their inevitable difficult periods, and even fewer clients are willing to stay with their underperforming managers.” But winning over time, he asserts, requires enduring short-term ups and downs.