#17 -The Writer
Vitaliy Katsenelson is an investor, writer and stock-picker. He eschews the usual equity index 60:40 portfolio and uses individual stocks.
Vitaliy Katsenelson is an investor and writer. Born in Russia, he now runs an investment adviser in Denver which specialises in picking individual stocks and eschewing the usual 60:40 portfolio with equities indexed. In this podcast we talk about investing, about his third book and about his life philosophy – Vitaliy has a wisdom beyond his years and his positive attitude can improve anyone’s life.
GETTING INTO INVESTING
Vitaliy grew up in Russia and moved to the US at the age of 18. He was hired by an investment firm for his computer skills and at the same time was taking a finance class. He then had an “aha” moment, when he realised that investing was what he wanted to do. In 1997, he faxed his resume to every investment firm in Denver. One firm needed an analyst but hadn’t yet advertised the job. He started there as an analyst, moved to portfolio manager, then CVIP, and 25 years later, today he is CEO and owner of a $350m AUM firm in Denver.
HOW HE MANAGES MONEY
Similarly to Richard Oldfield, Vitaliy is not a proponent of indexing or using ETFs, but believes in stock-picking. He believes that we could be in for an extended period of sideways markets in which investors will have to rely on stock-picking to deliver returns. In the long run the market tracks earnings growth; sometimes valuation will add to returns and sometimes, when coming from a period of high valuations, it will detract from returns. Today we are coming from a period of high returns.
In any investment firm, having the right clients is the key to success. Vitaliy’s clients find him. He spurns the cocktail circuit and his firm does no cold calling. Rather clients find him, generally through his writings. He thinks his client base has a much lower tendency to FOMO than many others. He likens himself to a pilot flying a plane and he keeps his passengers/clients calm through continuous communication, especially when the going gets turbulent – he wrote to clients weekly during the initial phase of Covid in March, 2020.
Vitaliy believes that scarcity is an essential concept that enables him to lead a more fulfilled life. US society is an aspirational society, it’s about abundance. But where there is abundance, we don’t value things. We all have different wealth, different health but on average a similar amount of time. And he views time as a scarce resource, which makes him value his time with his kids, so that the school run is no longer a chore but a privilege – he will only take his elder daughter to school another 400 times, so he wants to appreciate each time. I thought this was a wonderful demonstration of his mindful approach to life.
This positive attitude of Vitaliy’s is apparent when he talks about learning and uses the example of his chess teacher. His teacher has a rating of 2300 – 2800 is world champion level and 99% of players are under 1700. Huis teacher is no longer progressing and is not enjoying the game as much. Rather than envying his teacher’s rating, Vitaliy celebrates his lack of proficiency as it gives him the opportunity to improve. We can learn a lot from this positive framing and Vitaliy’s attitude to life.
Vitaliy Katsenelson was born in Murmansk, USSR, and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1991. After joining Denver-based value investment firm IMA in 1997, Vitaliy became Chief Investment Officer in 2007, and CEO in 2012. Vitaliy has written two books on investing and is an award-winning writer, for publications including Financial Times, Barron’s, and Institutional Investor. Vitaliy lives in Denver with his wife and three kids, where he loves to read, listen to classical music, play chess, and write about life, investing, and music. Soul in the Game is his third book, and first non-investing book.
We talked about the book Blindness by Portuguese author Jose Saramago as Vitaliy loves classical music so much he cannot imagine losing his hearing and would rather lose his sight. I highly recommend the book, but it’s really scary.
Vitaliy recommended the wonderful book Richer, Wiser, Happier: How the World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life by WiIliam Green – if you haven’t read it, please go out and buy it.
He also recommended The Art of the Good Life: Clear Thinking for Business and a Better Life by Rolf Dobelli, which is a good book, but I think his The Art of Thinking Clearly is even better, especially for investors.
WHERE YOU CAN FIND VITALIY
His site about classical music
Get extra chapters of his new book here
The Intellectual Investor podcast is an audio version of Vitaliy’s writings.
VITALIY’S LATEST BOOK
Soul in the Game is published by Harriman House and until the end of 2022 you can get 30% off using the code BTBS30.
HOW STEVE KNOWS THE GUESTS
Vitaliy reached out to Steve to ask to come on the podcast to promote his book and Steve took a nano second to ask for a date and time, as he has been a long time admirer of Vitaliy’s writing.