There’s Always Something to Do

Christopher Risso-Gill has written a biography of Canadian Peter Cundill, legendary value investor of the Cundill Value Fund. In it, Gill quotes Irving Kahn–another legendary value investor: “There’s always something to do. You just need to look harder, be creative and a little flexible.” The first sentence of that quote has become the title of the biography.

The book starts off brilliantly by describing Cundill’s EUREKA!!! moment. Cundill was in the prime of his career but felt that there was something missing from his approach to investing. He was already 35-years old and had been going down a series of blind alleys. The inability to avoid blind alleys would lead to an entire career of mediocrity and he was at the point when it is often difficult to change direction. Then, a colleague pressed into his hand a book written by George Goodman called Super Money to read on a flight home. 

 ”Within minutes his attention was riveted and he could barely contain his excitement. That night he wrote in his journal:” 

 Goodman devotes chapter 3 to Benjamin Graham and Warren Buffett and “the margin of safety.” It struck me like a thunderbolt–there before me in plain terms was the method, the solid theoretical back-up to selecting investments based on the principle of realizable underlying value. My years of apprenticeship are over: “THIS IS WHAT I WANT TO DO FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE!   

I got chills when I read that last sentence because I had a similar experience late in my career after several years of graduate school, studying for CFA exams, and a sixteen-year career performing credit analysis for capital markets firms. 

Peter’s results were so outstanding that he won the Analyst’s Choice Career Achievement Award in 2001. Take it from someone who had to shake off nearly twenty-five years of “education” and was even farther down the road than Cundill before he had his EUREKA moment: It is better to discover the simple brilliance of value investing late in life than never.

Sadly, Cundill passed away in January of this year. The book has been added to the Vlue Investing Bookstore above.

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