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Book Review: The Art of Execution

The Art of Execution

Some books are better in concept than they are in execution. Ironically, that is true of “The Art of Execution.”

The core idea of the book is that most great investors get more stocks wrong than they get right, but they make money because they let their winners run, and either cut their losses short or reinvest in their losers at much lower prices than their initial purchase price. From that, the author gets the idea that the buy and sell disciplines of the investors are the main key to their success.

I know this is a book review, and book reviews are not supposed to be about me. I include the next two paragraphs to explain why I think the author is wrong, at least in the eyes of most investment managers that I know.

From my practical experience as an investment manager, I can tell you that your strategy for buying and selling is a part of the investment process, but it is not the main one. Like the author, I also have hired managers to run a billion-plus dollars of money for a series of multiple manager funds. I did it for the pension division of mutual life insurer that no longer exists back in the 1990s. It was an interesting time in my career, and I never got the opportunity again. In the process, I interviewed a large number of the top long-only money managers in the US. Idea generation was the core concept for almost all of the managers. Many talked about their buy disciplines at length, but not as a concept separate from the hardest part of being a manager — finding the right assets to buy.

Sell disciplines received far less...