A Father’s advice to his daughter

From: Arthur Zeikel (Father)

To: Jill Anne Zeikel (Daughter)

Date: Oct. 17, 1994

Re: Managing Your Own Portfolio

Personal portfolio management is not a competitive sport. It is, instead, an important individualized effort to achieve some predetermined financial goal by balancing one’s risk-tolerance level with the desire to enhance capital wealth. Good investment management practices are complex and time consuming, requiring discipline, patience, and consistency of application. Too many investors fail to follow some simple, time-tested tenets that improve the odds of achieving success and, at the same time, reduce the anxiety naturally associated with an uncertain undertaking.

I hope the following advice will help:

A fool and his money are soon parted. Investment capital becomes a perishable commodity if not handled properly. Be serious. Pay attention to your financial affairs. Take an active, intensive interest. If you don’t, why should anyone else?

There is no free lunch. Risk and return are interrelated. Set reasonable objectives using history as a guide. All returns relate to inflation. Better to be safe than sorry. Never up, never in. Most investors underestimate the stress of a high-risk portfolio on the way down.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Diversify. Asset allocation determines the rate of return. Stocks beat bonds over time.

Never overreach for yield. Remember, leverage works both ways. More money has been lost searching for yield than at the point of a gun (Ray DeVoe).

Spend interest, never principal, If at all possible, take out less than comes in. Then a portfolio grows in value and lasts forever. The other way around, it can be diminished quite rapidly.

You cannot eat relative performance. Measure results on a total return, portfolio basis against your own objectives, not someone else’s.

Don’t be afraid to take a loss. Mistakes are part of the game. The cost price of a security is a matter of historical insignificance, of interest only to the IRS. Averaging down, which is different from dollar cost averaging, means the first decision was a mistake. It is a technique used to avoid admitting a mistake or to recover a loss against the odds. When in doubt, get out. The first loss is not only the best but is also usually the smallest.

Watch out for fads. Hula hoops and bowling alleys (among others) didn’t last. There are no permanent shortages (or oversupplies). Every trend creates its own countervailing force. Expect the unexpected.

Act. Make decisions. No amount of information can remove all uncertainty. Have confidence in your moves. Better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.

Take the long view. Don’t panic under short-term transitory developments. Stick to your plan. Prevent emotion from overtaking reason. Market timing generally doesn’t work. Recognize the rhythm of events.

Remember the value of common sense. No system works all of the time. History is a guide, not a template.

This is all you really need to know.



When this article was originally published in 1995, Arthur Zeikel was president of Merrill Lynch Asset Management in New Jersey

How Rahul Gandhi screwed Vedanta and Adani

“During my tenure as Minister, it was the clear and specific policy of the party, to take all steps to protect the environment, and carry forward the legacy of Smt. Indira Gandhi and Shri Rajiv Gandhi, to preserve the environment, and keep a balance between environment and industry. As Chairperson NAC, you have written several letters to me regarding projects in the Environment Ministry, and protection of tribal rights, and I have always kept you briefed that due care was being taken by me to protect the environment. I received specific requests [which used to be directives for us] from Shri Rahul Gandhi and his office forwarding environmental concerns in some important areas and I took care to honour those “requests.” Shri Rahul Gandhi went in person to Niyamgiri Hills in Odisha, and publicly declared to the Dongria Kondh tribals that he would be their “sipahi” and would not allow their interests to suffer at the hands of mining giant Vedanta. His views in the matter were conveyed to me by his office, and I took great care to ensure that the interests of the tribals were protected and rejected environmental clearance to Vendanta despite tremendous pressure from my colleagues in cabinet, and huge criticism from industry for what was described as “stalling” a Rs. 30,000 crore investment from Vedanta.

Fortunately, my decision was upheld by the Supreme Court. The same happened in the case of the Adani projects, where I faced tremendous criticism from within the cabinet and outside, for stalling investment at a time when the country was going through a difficult time in terms of the economy. The complaints of the local fisherfolk and NGOs of environmental violations in the Adani case were forwarded to me by Shri Rahul Gandhi’s office, and I was told to liaise with Shri Dipak Babaria in the matter. Occasionally, I apprised Shri Rahul Gandhi of steps I had taken, and he responded positively. In fact you have yourself conveyed your concern in this regard in letters written to me. In several cases including the stalled GVK power project regarding the Dhari Devi temple in Himachal Pradesh, the Lavasa project in Maharashtra, the Nirma cement plant in Gujarat and in several other cases I was given specific input, to make my decision. Apart from this Shri Pulok Chatterji, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister was in constant touch with me, and officers of the Ministry in guiding the decisions to be taken by the Ministry at that time.

So in my decision making I have factored in the party line despite all criticisms against me and therefore several decisions of mine were expressly overruled by the Prime Minister.” wrote Jayanthi Natarajan,former Environment Minister

Goodbye dear Founders !

Goodbye dear Founders!

Friday was a historic day for Corporate India. For the first time a group of Founders who created India’s most iconic company, ran it for 33 years, which set standards in every field of corporate endeavour, created 37b$ of value over 21 years, stepped down from the Board and put in place a new management team with an independent Board to take the company forward to meet its destiny.

These were no ordinary folks. They were from the educated middle class, without family wealth, without any licence or quota or benefits from the government, with only their intellect and education, with a middle class value system and ethics, who democratised entrepreneurship and became role models for a country of 1.25B people! They assembled a team of 165, 000 people, created an alumni of 200,000 who were best in class  based on merit and transparency, giving the space for all to realise their dreams.

Infosys put enormous resources into training, creating the world’s largest corporate university, giving all a life-long high quality skill making them truly global leaders. Infosys created extraordinary campuses and work places which created awe amongst world class global companies. They also shared the wealth they created with others in the company in an open, transparent collegial environment.

Infosys is the poster child of liberalisation and the answer to the great Indian middle class dream, of a company based on values where their children could build global careers based on the notion that merit shall prevail and of which they could always be proud. Infosys treated investors with respect, acting as their trustees, enhanced disclosure across the board, set standards in reporting, transparency, practices, communication and became the gold standard in investor relations. Being the first was not easy because it meant that you set tough standards and you were held to these standards.

Behind all this stood the philosophy of the founders that they were on a journey to create a great institution for the long haul. They kept their families away from the company, made a distinction between personal needs and corporates resources, paid themselves meagre salaries, and ran the company with great integrity and panache. Infosys was tested many times on its ethical standards; each time, it emerged triumphant.

In developed countries, entrepreneurs found companies, grow their companies, invite investors in, become investor managers and then transition to becoming investors, leaving their companies with professional teams governed by independent boards, thus ensuring that they diversify their wealth and benefit from growth without being limited by their talent.

In India, generally “promoters” raise capital from the public,  keep a controlling interest to pass on to their children and their children, stating that the company though listed belongs to them and is a property to be passed on. A look at the Sensex companies of 1991 and 2014 clearly demonstrates that many of those who do not transition fade into oblivion at great cost to themselves.

To give up something of such great value and walk away is not easy, for the Indian tendency is to put the family above all. We have seen a new standard being set, again in the Infosys tradition of being the leader, the first to set standards. When the history of corporate India, of the last 25 years is written, this saga shall be written in golden letters.

Good luck, NRN, NSR, Kris, NMN, Shibu and Dinesh. You have again made India and all of us proud!

wrote Mohandas Pai