Differentiating your view on a stock


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Last week, I interviewed Jim Valentine, author of Best Practices for Equity Research Analysts: Essentials for Buy-Side and Sell-Side Analysts. For professional researchers, Jim emphasized the need to have a differentiated view on a stock.

From our chat:

I think another thing that may be getting more into the investment arena, in terms of best practice, is to identify the two to four critical factors that impact every one of your stocks. This kind of goes back into the time management thing. What I find is that there are a lot of really smart analysts who know a lot about other companies, but they don’t have a differentiated view from consensus on any particular issues that are going to drive the stock. Ultimately they become a company analyst, rather than a stock analyst.

So the best practice, in effect, is to do some research, figure out what are those two to four critical factors, and then focus all your time on those for your companies, as opposed to all the other factors out there that are, in effect, noise.

Pro analysts vs. the rest of us

This need to differentiate makes sense for equity analysts: ultimately, the good ones get paid to pick spots when their information and view on an investment diverges from consensus.

But I’m torn if this makes total sense for the rest of us.   How important is it for the majority of investors to do something completely off the beaten path?  We know that stocks with greater investor recognition typically do better than those with less.  Do we really need to stick our investing necks out to try and find the next $GOOG or $AAPL?

In my own investing, I tried for years to come up with original stock picks — either ones that no one was looking at or ones that everyone hated on.  Now, I’ve automated much of my investment process leveraging the Tradestream and spend much of my time finding strategies that take me out of the investment selection process.

Where is the line between being an investing contrarian and not getting swept along with every fast-and-quick investment fad and just doing things according to “the book”?

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