Date: May 1st, 2012
Cate: Finance, Risk & Stability

Clarity of thinking and risk: 20 lessons forgotten from 2008 (Seth Klarman)

Seth Klarman manages an estimated $23 billion for his hedge fund Buapost group. He has an excellent sense of risk and an ability to convey his thoughts. Here is an excerpt:

Nowhere does it say that investors should strive to make every last dollar of potential profit; consideration of risk must never take a backseat to return. Conservative positioning entering a crisis is crucial: it enables one to maintain long-term oriented, clear thinking, and to focus on new opportunities while others are distracted or even forced to sell. Portfolio hedges must be in place before a crisis hits. One cannot reliably or affordably increase or replace hedges that are rolling off during a financial crisis.

Risk is not inherent in an investment; it is always relative to the price paid. Uncertainty is not the same as risk. Indeed, when great uncertainty – such as in the fall of 2008 – drives securities prices to especially low levels, they often become less risky investments.

Do not trust financial market risk models. Reality is always too complex to be accurately modeled. Attention to risk must be a 24/7/365 obsession, with people – not computers – assessing and reassessing the risk environment in real time. Despite the predilection of some analysts to model the financial markets using sophisticated mathematics, the markets are governed by behavioral science, not physical science.

Full text with all 20 lessons is available here at the top notch blog, Farnam Street.

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