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Inside Warren Buffett’s Brain

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What springs to mind when you think of legendary investor Warren Buffett?

For some, it’s his humble Omaha origins or his long-lasting obsession with Coca-Cola. For other people, it’s Buffett’s impeccable investing track record and extraordinary wealth that make a lasting impression.

While these are all legitimate connections to make with the Buffett name, perhaps he is most synonymous with the discipline of value investing – the style and mindset Buffett has made famous over the decades.

The Warren Buffett Series

Part 2: Inside Buffett’s Brain

Today’s infographic provides a deep dive into Warren Buffett’s brain, and it explains everything about his investing philosophy, along with the framework he uses to evaluate potential opportunities.

It’s the second part of the Warren Buffett Series, which we’ve done in partnership with finder.com, a personal finance site that helps people make better decisions – whether they want to jump on the cryptocurrency craze or follow Buffett’s more traditional path to financial success.

The Warren Buffet Series: The Early YearsInside Warren Buffett's BrainPart 3Warren Buffett's Biggest Wins and FailsBest Buffett Quotes

Inside Warren Buffett's Brain
Note: Stay tuned for future parts with our free mailing list.

Warren Buffett’s investment philosophy is well-known.

He famously focuses on the intrinsic value of companies, and he buys stocks when they are “on sale”. Buffett’s not afraid to accumulate big positions in companies he likes – and his favorite holding period is “forever”.

While this formula may seem simple on paper, it’s extremely nuanced and complex in practice.

How Does Buffett’s Brain Work?

Warren Buffett has said that he borrows 85% of his investing style from Benjamin Graham, and 15% from Phil Fisher.

Benjamin Graham:
The godfather of value investing gave Buffett a framework for finding undervalued assets and companies.

Phil Fisher:
The famous growth investor showed Buffett the importance of investing with good management teams.

According to writer Robert Hagstrom, Buffett applies these ideas by focusing on four key principles of investing:

1. Analyze a stock as a business
Have the priorities of a business owner and look the company from a long-term perspective.
Is it increasing its intrinsic value? Would you want to own the entire company?

2. Ensure a “margin of safety”
Buffett considers “margin of safety” the three most important words in investing.
In other words, does a company have more intrinsic value than book value?

3. Manage a focused portfolio
Concentrate on a few stocks that will provide above-average returns over time. Buffett suggests investors think of this as owning a “punch card” with just 20 investment choices that can be made over a lifetime.

4. Protect yourself from Mr. Market
Mr. Market can be speculative and emotional, and he should not be relied upon as a predictor of future prices.
Instead, take advantage of Mr. Market periodically, whenever there is a fire sale.

Buffett’s Investment Criteria

Here are 12 key factors Warren Buffett considers when looking at potential opportunities:

1. Simplicity
Is the business easy to understand?

2. Operating History
Has the business been around for a long time, with a consistent operating history?

3. Long-Term Prospects
Is there reason to believe that the business will be able to sustain success in the long-term?

4. Rational Decisions
Is management wise when it comes to reinvesting earnings or returning profits to shareholders as dividends?

5. Candidness
Does the management team admit mistakes? Are they honest with shareholders?

6. Resisting the “Institutional Imperative”
Can the company resist temptations created by institutional dynamics, such as imitating peer companies, or resist changes in direction?

7. Profit Margins
Does the company have high profit margins?

8. Return on Equity
What is the return on equity (ROE) of the business?

9. Owners Earnings
What is the company’s ability to generate cash for shareholders, who are the residual owners? This is technically defined as free cash flow to equity (FCFE).

10. One Dollar Premise
For every dollar retained from net income, does the company create at least one dollar of market value?

11. Intrinsic Value
What is the value of the future owners’ earnings, discounted back to the present?

12. Margin of Safety
What’s the chance you’ll lose money on the stock, in the long run, if you buy it at today’s price?

Or to sum all of these ideas up succinctly, here’s a quote from the man himself.

My strategy is to find a good business – and one that I can understand why it’s good – with a durable, competitive advantage, run by able and honest people, and available at a price that makes sense.

– Warren Buffett

Other Notes

Part 3 of the Warren Buffett Series will be released in late February 2018.

Credits: This infographic would not be possible without the great biographies done by Roger Lowenstein (Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist) and Alice Schroeder (The Snowball), as well as numerous other sources cataloging Buffett’s life online.

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Chart of the Week

Visualizing the Biggest Risks to the Global Economy in 2020

The Global Risk Report 2020 paints an unprecedented risk landscape for 2020—one dominated by climate change and other environmental concerns.

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Top Risks in 2020: Dominated by Environmental Factors

Environmental concerns are a frequent talking point drawn upon by politicians and scientists alike, and for good reason. Irrespective of economic or social status, climate change has the potential to affect us all.

While public urgency surrounding climate action has been growing, it can be difficult to comprehend the potential extent of economic disruption that environmental risks pose.

Front and Center

Today’s chart uses data from the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Risks Report, which surveyed 800 leaders from business, government, and non-profits to showcase the most prominent economic risks the world faces.

According to the data in the report, here are the top five risks to the global economy, in terms of their likelihood and potential impact:

Top Global Risks (by "Likelihood") Top Global Risks (by "Impact")
#1Extreme weather#1Climate action failure
#2Climate action failure#2Weapons of mass destruction
#3Natural disasters#3Biodiversity loss
#4Biodiversity loss#4Extreme weather
#5Humanmade environmental disasters#5Water crises

With more emphasis being placed on environmental risks, how much do we need to worry?

According to the World Economic Forum, more than we can imagine. The report asserts that, among many other things, natural disasters are becoming more intense and more frequent.

While it can be difficult to extrapolate precisely how environmental risks could cascade into trouble for the global economy and financial system, here are some interesting examples of how they are already affecting institutional investors and the insurance industry.

The Stranded Assets Dilemma

If the world is to stick to its 2°C global warming threshold, as outlined in the Paris Agreement, a significant amount of oil, gas, and coal reserves would need to be left untouched. These assets would become “stranded”, forfeiting roughly $1-4 trillion from the world economy.

Growing awareness of this risk has led to a change in sentiment. Many institutional investors have become wary of their portfolio exposures, and in some cases, have begun divesting from the sector entirely.

The financial case for fossil fuel divestment is strong. Fossil fuel companies once led the economy and world stock markets. They now lag.

– Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis

The last couple of years have been a game-changer for the industry’s future prospects. For example, 2018 was a milestone year in fossil fuel divestment:

  • Nearly 1,000 institutional investors representing $6.24 trillion in assets have pledged to divest from fossil fuels, up from just $52 billion four years ago;
  • Ireland became the first country to commit to fossil fuel divestment. At the time of announcement, its sovereign development fund had $10.4 billion in assets;
  • New York City became the largest (but not the first) city to commit to fossil fuel divestment. Its pension funds, totaling $189 billion at the time of announcement, aim to divest over a 5-year period.

A Tough Road Ahead

In a recent survey, actuaries ranked climate change as their top risk for 2019, ahead of damages from cyberattacks, financial instability, and terrorism—drawing strong parallels with the results of this year’s Global Risk Report.

These growing concerns are well-founded. 2017 was the costliest year on record for natural disasters, with $344 billion in global economic losses. This daunting figure translated to a record year for insured losses, totalling $140 billion.

Although insured losses over 2019 have fallen back in line with the average over the past 10 years, Munich RE believes that long-term environmental effects are already being felt:

  • Recent studies have shown that over the long term, the environmental conditions for bushfires in Australia have become more favorable;
  • Despite a decrease in U.S. wildfire losses compared to previous years, there is a rising long-term trend for forest area burned in the U.S.;
  • An increase in hailstorms, as a result of climate change, has been shown to contribute to growing losses across the globe.

The Ball Is In Our Court

It’s clear that the environmental issues we face are beginning to have a larger real impact. Despite growing awareness and preliminary actions such as fossil fuel divestment, the Global Risk Report stresses that there is much more work to be done to mitigate risks.

How companies and governments choose to respond over the next decade will be a focal point of many discussions to come.

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All of the World’s Wealth in One Visualization

There is $360.6 trillion of wealth globally. This graphic shows how it breaks down by country, to show who owns all of the world’s wealth.

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All of the World’s Wealth in One Visualization

The financial concept of wealth is broad, and it can take many forms.

While your wealth is most likely driven by the dollars in your bank account and the value of your stock portfolio and house, wealth also includes a number of smaller things as well, such as the old furniture in your garage or a painting on the wall.

From the macro perspective of a country, wealth is even more all-encompassing — it’s not just about the assets held by private households or businesses, but also those owned by the public. What is the value of a new toll bridge, or an aging nuclear power plant?

Today’s visualization comes to us from HowMuch.net, and it shows all of the world’s wealth in one place, sorted by country.

Total Wealth by Region

In 2019, total world wealth grew by $9.1 trillion to $360.6 trillion, which amounts to a 2.6% increase over the previous year.

Here’s how that divvies up between major global regions:

RegionTotal Wealth ($B, 2019)% Global Share
World$360,603100.0%
North America$114,60731.8%
Europe$90,75225.2%
Asia-Pacific$64,77818.0%
China$63,82717.7%
India$12,6143.5%
Latin America$9,9062.7%
Africa$4,1191.1%

Last year, growth in global wealth exceeded that of the population, incrementally increasing wealth per adult to $70,850, a 1.2% bump and an all-time high.

That said, it’s worth mentioning that Credit Suisse, the authors of the Global Wealth Report 2019 and the source of all this data, notes that the 1.2% increase has not been adjusted for inflation.

Ranking Countries by Total Wealth

Which countries are the richest?

Let’s take a look at the 15 countries that hold the most wealth, according to Credit Suisse:

RankCountryRegionTotal Wealth ($B, 2019)% Global Share
Global Total$360,603100.0%
#1🇺🇸 United StatesNorth America$105,99029.4%
#2🇨🇳 ChinaChina$63,82717.7%
#3🇯🇵 JapanAsia-Pacific$24,9926.9%
#4🇩🇪 GermanyEurope$14,6604.1%
#5🇬🇧 United KingdomEurope$14,3414.0%
#6🇫🇷 FranceEurope$13,7293.8%
#7🇮🇳 IndiaIndia$12,6143.5%
#8🇮🇹 ItalyEurope$11,3583.1%
#9🇨🇦 CanadaNorth America$8,5732.4%
#10🇪🇸 SpainEurope$7,7722.2%
#11🇰🇷 South KoreaAsia-Pacific$7,3022.0%
#12🇦🇺 AustraliaAsia-Pacific$7,2022.0%
#13🇹🇼 TaiwanAsia-Pacific$4,0621.1%
#14🇨🇭 SwitzerlandEurope$3,8771.1%
#15🇳🇱 NetherlandsEurope$3,7191.0%
All Other Countries$56,58515.7%

The 15 wealthiest nations combine for 84.3% of global wealth.

Leading the pack is the United States, which holds $106.0 trillion of the world’s wealth — equal to a 29.4% share of the global total. Interestingly, the United States economy makes up 23.9% of the size of the world economy in comparison.

Behind the U.S. is China, the only other country with a double-digit share of global wealth, equal to 17.7% of wealth or $63.8 trillion. As the country continues to build out its middle class, one estimate sees Chinese private wealth increasing by 119.5% over the next decade.

Impressively, the combined wealth of the U.S. and China is more than the next 13 countries in aggregate — and almost equal to half of the global wealth total.

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