Tuesday, September 16, 2014

ValueX Vail - A most excellent adventure

How I felt at times during the conference:
"Dude did he just tell us value guys to buy that expensive subscription based technology stock?
Yeah.  It kinda made sense."
This last June I had the pleasure of reconnecting with a most excellent group of people at the ValueX  Vail  conference hosted by Vitaliy Katsenelson

The conference does not consist of large rooms with speakers presenting their case to attendees who then shuffle off to another seminar. Instead the members present and later discuss their ideas amongst a much smaller audience and it is this interaction, defense, and intimacy (only 40 people) that initially drew me to attend last June and in 2012.

Presenting and defending your idea to a small crowd provides an opportunity for feedback and insight as to how others view the markets.   While the ideas are always interesting and varied I find it as valuable to try to discern how people think about the markets; short term flippers, deep value buyers, GARP, growth, distressed investors (and more) all have their own perspective and even within a value stock themed conference there are varied techniques and perspectives.

The profession of security analysis and selection can be something of a lonely, boring one. Staring at a computer screen for the majority of the day becomes tiresome -- getting the opportunity to actually chat with others who share the same passion is a rare pleasant opportunity for me.   I made it a point to spend time with newer attendees as well as some returning friends.  Trying to balance the goal of being a social butterfly with a desire to really converse in depth with folks was a challenge.

Skynet is becoming self aware, buy the right stocks!
While not all the presentations were released for public consumption you can find quite a few of them here:
In both instances it was an excellent crowd with everyone having something to offer.  The 2012 conference gave me a new respect for Southerners.  As they are quiet, speak slowly and and with a funny accent (just kidding guys) they tend to be underestimated by us Northerners.   If a Southern investor comes up and says he just wants to leeaarrrn from you, Run, run fast. (thanks Alex Rubalcava

In 2014 I learned what to buy before Skynet becomes self aware and what to buy after China's infrastructure binge goes pop.  2014's session also included a very cordial opposing pair of presentations on why you should be long and short the same stock.   Showing both the bullish and bearish case for the same stock was a nice addition that I hope continues at Vail and is an excellent idea for other conferences.

Get Real

While this post praises the ValueX Vail conference it also is a suggestion to you - find others who share a passion to invest and actually talk, present, kibbitz, challenge each other.  Not everyone can or would want to attend next years' conference (actually, please don't, you may bump me out!)  but if you have an opportunity to join or create a group / conference nearby I would suggest you do so.

While today's technology allows for various methods of communication they don't yet completely replace the advantages of real human interaction. At ValueX Vail I learned just as much during casual conversation as during the organized presentations.   Until Sheldon dramatically improves his Virtual Presence Device, getting together in the same room is a lot more fun and productive.

Fortunately there are some opportunities.

A ValueX in Lennox, MA hosted by Vail attendee Ethan Berg is coming this fall.  More information can be found here:
The window for applications is closing soon so please apply if interested.  Unfortunately my to-do list overextended enough already (it took 2+ months to finally post this entry!) otherwise I'd go.

@AlexRubalcava in Los Angeles hosts a monthly 10K 'book club' where people get together and dig into the financial documents of various companies.  I'm also gently prodding Alex to start up a ValueX LA, so if you are interested in attending one in LA please gently prod him to get that rolling. Thanks.

Finally, I myself am starting up a '10K book club' /  value investing discussion group for the Seattle / Tacoma area. If you are interested please leave a comment below or email me at:

While today's hyper connected world allows us the opportunity to virtually connect in a manner not even conceived of a generation ago, very low tech human conversations should still be a part of your continual discovery of the financial markets. I suggest you give it a try.