It’s a while since we last gave any book recommendations, https://www.capitalcitytraining.com/news/my-reading-list/ so here is a new list of some of the interesting books the team’s been reading, they aren’t all textbooks, but all are really interesting reads that have something to teach us about investing and the financial world we are in:
Freezing Order: A True Story of Russian Money Laundering, Murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin’s Wrath by Bill Browder – this is one of those “unputdownable books”. A great story about a bit of a young maverick which starts off as a great ride into the anarchy of Russia post Glasnost, but then turns very dark as the corrupt managers of Hermitage’s investee companies starts to wage a war of dirty tricks to steal assets from Bill’s foreign investors, domestic shareholders and in the end the Russian State. It is breath-taking in its depiction of the operation of the gangsters who permeate all areas of the Russian state and judiciary. We can sometimes think state corruption is traffic police shaking down drivers at the roadside, Freezing order really lays bare the true nature of a Gangster state. Looking back we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised at how poorly the Russian army has performed in Ukraine: all the budget has been stolen.
Red Notice: A True Story of Corruption, Murder and One Man’s Fight for Justice eBook : Browder, Bill: Amazon.co.uk: Books
If Freezing order didn’t finish you off, the adventure continues in Bill’s second book. Bill is by this time public enemy number one of Putin’s regime and after bill and most of his staff have managed to escape Russia, Russia then goes international, trying to get Bill extradited to Russia as he tries to pass the Magnitsky act to sanction Russian politicians and police complicit in the murder in prison of Bill’s Russian lawyer – Sergei Magnitsky. Another white-knuckle ride of a read.
Billion Dollar Whale: the bestselling investigation into the financial fraud of the century eBook : Hope, Bradley: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store
In 2015, rumours began circulating that billions of dollars had been stolen from a Malaysian investment fund. The mastermind of the heist was twenty-seven-year-old Jho Low, a serial fabulist from an upper-middle-class Malaysian family, who had carefully built his reputation as a member of the jet-setting elite by arranging and financing elaborate parties for Wall Street bankers, celebrities, and even royalty. This is a gobsmacking read. The audacity of this fraud, in collusion with Goldman Sachs executives (since indicted), and the former prime-minister Najib Razack (in prison at the time of writing) is an object lesson in the problems with a lot of emerging markets investing. Are there any meaningful controls or a rule of law to give satisfaction/protection to you as an investor. A fantastic read, Jho Low ended up owing a part of Sony, part-bankrolled the production of the Wolf of Wall Street and gave the then prime minister $250m to fund his election campaign.
Nomadland: ACADEMY AWARD WINNER: Best Picture, Best Director & Best Actress eBook : Bruder, Jessica: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store
Maybe not a thriller, but a real insight into the underbelly of American society. I think for Europeans who haven’t spent much time there, it is difficult to understand how different the US is and the impact of the different approach to welfare that exists in the US. It also perhaps gives some insight into how polarised the US has become politically.
If you are new to financial analysis, banking and investing, CCT’s technical manuals are core to our graduate training programmes and provide an excellent overview of these topics to complement our eLearning. They are an EXCELLENT read!
Valuation: Measuring and Managing the Value of Companies, Tim Koller, Marc Goedhart and David Wessels
In my experience too much valuation training focuses on implementing DCF or a different model like a Leveraged buyout model https://www.capitalcitytraining.com/product/lbo-modelling/ rather than focusing on where value comes from. The opening chapters of this book are an essential read for anyone involved in valuation or equity analysis and later on in the book in chapters 8 & 9 on Where does Return on invested Capital come from and growth, there is loads of fundamental research showing sustainability of growth, ROIC by sector and decomposing returns. Just an excellent book.
High Output Management Andrew Grove
Andrew is the former head of Intel and has written a brilliant book about management. He used the simple example of a hotel kitchen and brilliantly elucidates the strategic challenges you face as you try scale up you operation and the compromises you face as you choose different solutions -automation, standardisation and so on. He also goes into a lot of the basics of the systems and processes he used to use to manage Intel. A fascinating read. Absolutely fascinating.
The Signs Were There: The clues for investors that a company is heading for a fall eBook : Steer, Tim: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store
This is a must for credit analysts and also very useful for equity investors interested in looking at single stocks. This is a series of case studies where Tim looks at listed companies that have gotten into trouble in a big way. In very straightforward terms he unpicks the numbers and explains the problems with the accounting methods used, and how the details of the accounts showed the really story about the lack of quality of earnings and profit manipulation. Tim writes this from the point of view of a UK fund manager with over 20 years of experience and it is excellent. I’ve given several copies away as Christmas presents!
The Snowball -Warren Buffet’s biography by Alice Schroeder This is an excellent read. Warren is a fascinating fellow and I loved this for several different reasons. We are at a turning point in economic history – a 30–year trend in falling interest rates and inflation has come to a crashing end. There are lots of professional investors who weren’t even in the market when the global financial crisis hit in 2008. A lot of people really don’t have a compass or experience to draw on to know what to do now. As well as Warren’s personal history we see in detail the philosophies of his family as he grew up who had all been scarred in different ways by the aftermath of the depression. This is a really valuable perspective for us as investors today. We also see Warren navigating the inflation of the 70s.
What is also interesting about this book is how Warren made his early financial success and how different markets were then with dramatic and systematic under-pricing of many assets that allowed Warren, as an activist investor, to unlock value for his investors. I am looking at some UK mid-cap companies today and think that Warren would be very busy funnelling money out of his insurance company “float” to buy great companies at low prices.
Finally Warren’s time rescuing Salomon Brothers and his success in Insurance shows his qualities as a people and business manager.
Investing and behavioural finance
The Inflation Myth and the Wonderful World of Deflation eBook : Mobius, Mark: Amazon.co.uk: Kindle Store
It is always interesting to read books by people with the sort of reputation that Mark Mobius has – one of the defining investors behind the emerging markets theme. That and his international travel and investing experience brings a fascinating and very valuable perspective. Having said this, I think this book is also a lesson in how investment books like this can be timely or in this case not! Since Mark wrote this only a couple of years ago, changing geopolitical tensions and the war in Russia have given the lie to his main thesis namely that China will continue to export deflation around the world because of its cheap labour and the depth and breadth of it’s manufacturing base. Discuss!
How to Lie with Statistics (Penguin Business) Darrell Huff
A statistics classic – not heavily technical, but instead simply an excellent amusing and short read about exactly what it says on the tin: how to lie with statistics.
Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think: Amazon.co.uk: Rosling, Hans, Rosling, Ola, Rosling Rönnlund, Anna: 9781473637498: Books
Hans sadly died recently, but in his day, as well as being able to sword-swallow (yes you read that right) he was also a respected epidemiologist and medic who worked for organisations like the world Bank in Africa in fighting Ebola. The books relevance for us is to behavioural finance. The key thesis is that the more developed the country you are from and the more highly educated you are, the worse your understanding of how the world has changed over the last century. He begins with a quiz, and he has a huge amount of statistics to show that people in develop countries score worse than monkeys in this multiple choice quiz about poverty, education etc.
I don’t want to give too many spoilers. Do the quiz. He then goes on to discuss what is it about our habits of thinking and the way the world is presented to us by the media that makes our world view so wrong? He then has some good ideas about how to think straighter and cut through the noise of the media to get to a real understanding of what’s going on in the world. I have two copies and have given several away. Essential reading – a life-changing book. Don’t just believe me Bill gates thinks so too.
Global assest allocation – Global Asset Allocation: A Survey of the World’s Top Asset Allocation Strategies eBook : Faber, Meb: Amazon.co.uk: Books
I’ve just reread this and it is excellent. It does what it says on the tin. The authors look at the risks and returns of pure play portfolios – stocks, bonds etc and then go though a series of strategies promoted by world leading investment managers like Ray Dalio. It’s an excellent guide to DIY investing and Meb doesn’t pull any punches in emphasising the importance of minimising fees.