Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Bob Rodriguez - Morningstar Keynote Speech: Reflections and Outrage

This will complete my 39th year in the investment business, 35 of these being as a money manager and analyst, with 25 at FPA. It has been a wonderful experience, though a humbling one at times. I believe I have found success because I have been deeply aware of the need to balance the human emotions of greed and fear. In a word, DISCIPLINE. As a board member on the University of Southern California’s Student Investment Fund program, I tell our students that discipline is a key attribute to becoming a successful investor. I stress that, without a strong set of fundamental rules and a core philosophy, they will be sailing a course through the treacherous investment seas without a compass or a rudder. I also emphasize the importance of integrity and tell them that they can spend a lifetime building their reputation and, if they are not vigilant, they can lose it in a day.

I have always maintained my professional and personal integrity. I have never wavered, despite having paid some very high prices. It seems as though it was a lifetime ago in 1986, when I had few assets under management, and the consultant to my largest account insisted that, if I wanted to continue the relationship, I had to pay to play. I was shocked, dismayed and speechless. Though this would probably have never become public, if I had agreed, how would I have ever lived with myself? By not agreeing, it meant that I would lose nearly 40% of my business. When I was fired shortly thereafter, this termination compromised my efforts in the raising of new money for nearly six years because I could not say why. Despite the pain and humiliation, there was no price high enough for me to compromise my integrity. With the subsequent disclosures of improprieties at this municipal pension plan, the cloud of suspicion over me ultimately lifted. I not only survived, I prospered.

I relay this short story because it conveys some beliefs that will run throughout my speech today entitled, “Reflections and Outrage.” I will make some comments and observations about our industry, the government and then provide a brief financial market forecast. These are my honest opinions for better or worse.