Thursday, March 29, 2007

Rocking Wall Street

Gary Marks is by no means average, let alone another average hedge fund manager। Marks is a successful musician, and you can see the unique approach he has to the investment industry when he shows up to give market commentary to CNBC while wearing a blue bandanna. In fact, from the pictures that i’ve seen, he looks like he’d fit in quite well in Sturgis. He has taken his music background and developed a unique approach to the hedge fund industry since 1999. As incomparable as Marks is to anyone else in the industry, when I was recommended by “the humble analyst” John Mauldin to read “Rocking Wall Street” written by Gary, I had to jump in and immerse myself into the book.

”Rocking Wall Street” is not for the average reader, no investor। It is directed toward the high net worth individual who is not conecrned with fickle everyday purchases. Instead these individuals are looking to generate returns with their capital for retirement and even looking for capital preservation for generations to come.

First, a little bio on Gary Marks। Marks is highly regarded in the investment industry. In 1999, he began a hedge fund of funds firm called Sky Bell Asset Management which he still runs as CEO. Today, he is a multi-manager specialist and has assets under management of over $300 million, a respectable size, but still small compared to some behemoths. He has also excelled in the music industry, most recently releasing his 10th CD, “A Whisper Can Change the World” in February 2007. He has taken his lessons in the music industry and transposed them to the hedge fund industry by creating a unique approach to preserving capital and investing with other managers.

His book is written in an extremely one-on-one manner as he provides insight from his daily routines and interaction with clients। The book is based on four main strategies:

  1. Emotional Controls
  2. Knowing the Difference Between Market Stats and Market Hype
  3. Hedged Portfolio Construction
  4. Planning for the Future and Seeking “The End Game”

Throughout the book, Marks uses his personal experiences with clients and combines a narrative over these conversations. His explanations on each interaction with clients provide a real-life insight into what goes on behind closed doors of a fund of funds manager and how intricate the process can be due to personality differences in client-manager relationships. Marks walks the reader through hedge fund definitions, diversification, and portfolio construction for the high net worth individual (although this can be transferred to the everyday investor if you read between the lines). One of the most effective “scared straight” tactics he uses throughout the book is the debilitating effects of losses vs. gains.

For example, if you return 50% on $100,000 you have $150,000. But if you
lose that same amount (50%), all of a sudden you are left with $75,000 or a 25%
loss even though the percentages never changed. Losses are difficult to
overcome, yet that is the nature of the business.

As marks continues to educate the reader delicately, he leads us to “The End Game”। Essentially, this is when an individual has reached a point in his/her life where they have enough capital to live a very high standard of life. They have enough capital to not take certain risks even though a loss of X amount of capital or a double up of X amount of capital would not change their lifestyle. This individual has reached “The End Game”. At this point, the individual should be looking for capital preservation and to provide for generations to come (if that is the choice the individual makes). It is an interesting point and one that is too often overlooked as we see American’s trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Gary Marks continues to excel wherever he puts his mind to work. Whether it be managing client’s capital creating musical works of art or even writing though-provoking books. He has integrated several skill sets into the financial industry and into a book that is a reasonably easy read for anyone with a financial background. Many people will look at this book as biased toward a select few high net worth individuals in the world; however, while reading this book I found it a great look into the inside track of what has been called the sexiest industry in the financial world. Derailing all traditional rules for success in the financial industry, Marks makes his mark.

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