1. Greatest Investors: Introduction
  2. The Greatest Investors: John (Jack) Bogle
  3. The Greatest Investors: Warren Buffett
  4. The Greatest Investors: David Dreman
  5. The Greatest Investors: Philip Fisher
  6. The Greatest Investors: Benjamin Graham
  7. The Greatest Investors: William H. Gross
  8. The Greatest Investors: Carl Icahn
  9. The Greatest Investors: Jesse L. Livermore
  10. The Greatest Investors: Peter Lynch
  11. The Greatest Investors: Bill Miller
  12. The Greatest Investors: John Neff
  13. The Greatest Investors: William J. O'Neil
  14. The Greatest Investors: Julian Robertson
  15. The Greatest Investors: Thomas Rowe Price, Jr.
  16. The Greatest Investors: James D. Slater
  17. The Greatest Investors: George Soros
  18. The Greatest Investors: Michael Steinhardt
  19. The Greatest Investors: John Templeton
  20. The Greatest Investors: Ralph Wanger

Ralph Wanger
Born: Chicago in 1933.
Affiliations:
  • Harris Associates
  • Acorn Fund
  • Wanger Asset Management
Most Famous For: Wanger was widely known for his witty and far ranging quarterly letters to shareholders as lead manager for the Acorn Fund, which, between 1970 and 1988 was one of the top-performing small-cap growth funds in the U.S.

Personal Profile

Wanger received his bachelor's and master's. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, graduating in 1955. He started out in the insurance business and then began his investing career with Harris Associates in Chicago in 1960. He worked as a securities analyst and portfolio manager until the formation of the Acorn Fund in 1977, at which time he became its portfolio manager and president, a position he held until his retirement in 2003. While the S&P 500 Index climbed 12.1% per year during this period, Acorn racked up an annualized 16.3% return.

Investment Style
Wanger's investing style at Acorn was simple: be a long-term holder of smaller companies with financial strength, entrepreneurial managers and understandable businesses that will benefit from a macroeconomic trend. He's quoted as saying, "If you're looking for a home run [Wanger preferred these to singles] – a great investment for five years or ten years or more – then the only way to beat this enormous fog that covers the future is to identify a long-term trend that will give a particular business some sort of edge."

Wanger employed the idea of investing according to "themes." For example, if he had been around during the California gold rush, he would not have been investing in gold claims, but he would have loved the businesses that sold miners their picks and shovels. The mines played out in a matter of months, but gold diggers kept at it for several years.


It is reported that Wanger was a voracious consumer of investment information. In valuing a company to invest in he looked for the following parameters:
  • A growing market for the company's product or service
  • Evidence of a company's dominant market share
  • Outstanding management
  • An understandable business
  • Evidence of a company's marketing skills
  • A high level of customer service
  • Opportunity for a large stake in the company
  • A strong balance sheet
  • The price must be attractive
Lastly, Wanger said he constantly had to remind himself that you can have a good company but a bad stock.

Publications
  • "Zebra In Lion Country" by Ralf Wanger and Everett Mattlin (1999)

Quotes

"An attractive investment area must have favorable characteristics that should last five years or longer."

"Chances are, things have changed enough so that whatever made you a success thirty years ago doesn't work anymore. I think that by concentrating on smaller companies, you improve your chances of catching the next wave."

"If you believe you or anyone else has a system that can predict the future of the stock market, the joke is on you."

"Since the Industrial Revolution began, going downstream – investing in businesses that will benefit from new technology rather than investing in the technology companies themselves – has often been the smarter strategy."

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    Acorns: The Perfect Investing Tool For Millennials

    We look at how the Acorns app works, how it makes money, and why is it innovative.
  2. Investing

    Why Some Investors Have to Pay Taxes on a Loss

    Here's why some investors need to pay capital gains taxes even if they haven't sold any funds or made any portfolio changes—and how to combat it.
  3. Financial Advisor

    Harris Associates: Investment Manager Highlight

    Take a look at the executive management and investment professionals team that leads the private investment firm of Harris Associates.
  4. Investing

    Top 5 All-Time Best Mutual Fund Managers

    The best managers produced long-term, market-beating returns and helped investors build big nest eggs. Find out who made the cut.
  5. Investing

    The Value Investor's Handbook

    Learn the technique that Buffett, Lynch and other pros used to make their fortunes.
  6. Investing

    Choose A Fund With A Winning Manager

    We break down the key components of analyzing a fund manager's performance so you can find a winner.
  7. Personal Finance

    A Day In The Life Of A Portfolio Manager

    Portfolio managers go by a number of job titles, manage different asset types and work under different philosophies. Here are three examples of what they do.
  8. Financial Advisor

    Preparing For A Career As A Portfolio Manager

    Find out what it takes to win a spot in one of the most coveted financial careers.
  9. Investing

    How Mutual Fund Managers Pick Stocks

    Learn about how mutual fund managers choose stocks based on the type of funds they manage and the investment goals of the funds' shareholders.
  10. Insights

    Analyzing Warren Buffett's 2013 Famous Shareholder Letter

    Reading the chairman of Berkshire Hathaway's letters has been one of the best sources of investment education for value investors around the world.
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Depreciation Can Shield Taxes, Bolster Cash Flow

    Depreciation can be used as a tax-deductible expense to reduce tax costs, bolstering cash flow
  2. What schools did Warren Buffett attend on his way to getting his science and economics degrees?

    Learn how Warren Buffett became so successful through his attendance at multiple prestigious schools and his real-world experiences.
  3. How many attempts at each CFA exam is a candidate permitted?

    The CFA Institute allows an individual an unlimited amount of attempts at each examination.Although you can attempt the examination ...
  4. What's the average salary of a market research analyst?

    Learn about average stock market analyst salaries in the U.S. and different factors that affect salaries and overall levels ...
Trading Center