This week, Berkshire Hathaway announced that Todd A. Combs would be joining Berkshire as an investment manager and likely successor to Warren Buffett in the role of chief investment officer. Mr. Combs is an obscure 39-year-old manager of the $400-million Castle Point Capital hedge fund based in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Not much is known about Mr. Combs. As of this writing, the media still hasn’t been able to track down a photo of the new Berkshire investment manager. That’s remarkable in this day and age. We do know that Mr. Combs graduated from Florida State University and Columbia Business School. His employment history includes a stint at Florida’s comptroller, Progressive Insurance, and another as head of financial services stocks for a defunct hedge fund. Mr. Combs is also known as a hard worker who puts in long hours, stays well caffeinated, maintains stacks of financial reports on his desk, and isn’t a fan of office chitchat. His investing style is described as conservative, and he is known to do independent in-depth research and analysis.
Buffett’s decision to hire Mr. Combs is telling. Combs has no known experience at any of the major Wall Street firms. As a result, his investment process has not likely been tainted by the Street’s obsession with quarterly earnings estimates and short-term performance. He is conservative, as is Buffett. Mr. Combs is also low-key like Buffett (or at least like Buffett would prefer to be). And most importantly, Mr. Combs does independent research, and so does Buffett.
The world’s most successful investor just hired a low-key, conservative investment manager who generates his own ideas. This should tell you something about Mr. Buffett’s opinion of Wall Street. Buffet favors independent thought, as should you. If you are still relying on Wall Street to manage your investment portfolio, take Mr. Buffett’s lead and consider a boutique advisor with in-house research capabilities that is located far from the canyons of Wall Street.
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