Philip A. Fisher

Born: San Francisco, California in 1907; Died 2004
Affiliations:
  • Fisher & Company
Most Famous For: Philip Fisher was one of the most influential investors of all time. His investment philosophies, recorded in his investment classic, "Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits" (1958) are still relevant today and are widely studied and applied by investment professionals. It was the first investment book ever to make the New York Times bestseller list. Fisher\'s son, Kenneth L. Fisher, wrote a eulogy for his father in his regular column in Forbes magazine (March 11, 2004):

"Among the pioneer, formative thinkers in the growth stock school of investing, he may have been the last professional witnessing the 1929 crash to go on to become a big name. His career spanned 74 years, but was more diverse than growth stock picking. He did early venture capital and private equity, advised chief executives, wrote and taught. He had an impact. For decades, big names in investing claimed Dad as a mentor, role model and inspiration."

Personal Profile
Philip Fisher's career began in 1928 when he dropped out of the newly created StanfordBusinessSchool to work as a securities analyst with the Anglo-London Bank in San Francisco. He switched to a stock exchange firm for a short time before starting his own money management business as Fisher & Company in 1931. He managed the company's affairs until his retirement in 1999 at the age of 91, and is reported to have made his clients extraordinary investment gains.

Although he began some fifty years before the name Silicon Valley became known, he specialized in innovative companies driven by research and development. He practiced long-term investing, and strove to buy great companies at reasonable prices. He was a very private person, giving few interviews, and was very selective about the clients he took on. He was not well-known to the public until he published his first book in 1958.


Investment Style
Fisher achieved an excellent record during his 70 plus years of money management by investing in well-managed, high-quality growth companies, which he held for the long term. For example, he bought Motorola stock in 1955 and didn't sell it until his death in 2004.

His famous "fifteen points to look for in a common stock" were divided up between two categories: management's qualities and the characteristics of the business. Important qualities for management included integrity, conservative accounting, accessibility and good long-term outlook, openness to change, excellent financial controls, and good personnel policies.

Important business characteristics would include a growth orientation, high profit margins, high return on capital, a commitment to research and development, superior sales organization, leading industry position and proprietary products or services.

Philip Fisher searched far and wide for information on a company. A seemingly simplistic tool, what he called "scuttlebutt," or the "business grapevine," was his technique of choice.

He devotes a considerable amount of commentary to this topic in "Common Stocks And Uncommon Profits". He was superb at networking and used all the contacts he could muster to gather information and perspective on a company. He considered this method of researching a company to be extremely valuable.

Publications
  • "Common Stocks And Uncommon Profits" by Phillip A. Fisher(1958)
  • "Conservative Investors Sleep Well" by Phillip A. Fisher (1975)
  • "Developing An Investment Philosophy" by Philip A. Fisher (1980)

Quotes

"I don't want a lot of good investments; I want a few outstanding ones."

"I remember my sense of shock some half-dozen years ago when I read a [stock] recommendation to sell shares of a company . . . The recommendation was not based on any long-term fundamentals. Rather, it was that over the next six months the funds could be employed more profitably elsewhere."

"I sought out Phil Fisher after reading his "Common Stocks and Uncommon Profits". When I met him, I was impressed by the man and his ideas. A thorough understanding of a business, by using Phil's techniques … enables one to make intelligent investment commitments." (Warren Buffett)


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