Kenneth Fisher is the founder, chief executive officer and co-chief investment officer of Fisher Investments, a money management firm primarily serving high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and institutional investors. Fisher is also well-known as a long-time financial columnist for Forbes magazine and an author with several books on investing to his name, including a number of New York Times bestsellers. Fisher is a self-made billionaire and one of the wealthiest people in the United States.
Fisher's Early Life and Education
Fisher was born in 1950 in San Francisco and raised in nearby San Mateo, California. His father, Philip, was an investor and author of books on investing – a career model Fisher would replicate to great success in adulthood.
First, however, Fisher took a short detour, following his passion to Humboldt State University (HSU), where he began a degree program in forestry. While a love for forestry and logging history remained a major thread throughout his life, he eventually graduated from HSU with a degree in economics in 1972.
After graduation, Fisher returned to the San Francisco Bay Area to train as an investor in his father's firm, Fisher & Company. He would go on to work as a mergers and acquisitions (M&As) consultant and a research analyst in portfolio management during the 1970s. During that time, Fisher continued studying investment theory and developing his personal outlook on investing.
Late in the decade, his ongoing theoretical work produced new insights into the value of the price-to-sales (P/S) ratio as a tool for investment analysis and identifying undervalued stocks. P/S would later become widely known and used among investors following the publication of Fisher's book "Super Stocks" in 1984.
A Success Story in Business
In 1979, Fisher established his own investment firm, Fisher Investments, as a sole proprietorship. In the 1980s, as he slowly built a business managing money for institutional investors, Fisher continued to innovate in the area of investment strategy, developing a slate of strategy-based portfolio management products for his growing client base. Foundational products included U.S. Total Return, Global Total Return and Foreign Equity, all strategies still available to investors. In 1993, Fisher Investments exceeded $1 billion in assets under management (AUM) for the first time.
In 1995, Fisher Investments organized into two distinct business units: Fisher Investments Institutional Group and Fisher Investments Private Client Group. The Private Client Group introduced a new portfolio management service for HNWIs. The company's offerings for private clients eventually expanded into annuities and financial planning services. In 2000, Fisher Investments began expanding into foreign markets, including the United Kingdom and Canada. More recently, the company began conducting business in continental Europe, opening a wholly-owned subsidiary to serve that market in 2012.
As of April 2020, Fisher Investments has more than $110 billion in AUM, placing it among the heavyweights in the money management industry. Fisher Investments Private Client Group manages more than $71 billion in assets for over 68,000 clients, many of whom are American.
2019 Sexist Comments Scandal
In October 2019 Mr. Fisher was at an investment conference when he made a sexist joke. Over the next few weeks, large institutional investors pulled nearly $2 billion from his firm. This was the latest in a long line of controversial comments Fisher has made, such as saying Abraham Lincoln was the nation's worst president, and joking about having sex with employees.
Net Worth & Current Influence
According to the 2019 version of the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest American citizens, Ken Fisher had an estimated fortune of $3.9 billion, good for 195th-richest in the country. Fisher remains a central part and primary influence in the business he founded nearly 40 years ago.
Fisher's influence is also felt in the areas of forestry and logging history. In 2006, he provided the funds to create the Kenneth L. Fisher Chair of Redwood Forest Ecology at his alma mater. Fisher is also a recognized expert in 19th-century logging, having personally documented over 35 different abandoned work sites in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Most Influential Quotes
"What is the most common investor mistake? Trading: getting in and getting out at all the wrong times for all the wrong reasons." Fisher argues that taking the long view is important for success in personal investing. Whether buying mutual funds or equities, Fisher believes investors should make investment decisions carefully and then stick with them.
"Buying only what you know can end in disaster." Here Fisher plays contrarian to Peter Lynch's favorite refrain, "Buy what you know." Fisher argues a better strategy is to look beyond your horizons in search of diversification so that you don't get bitten by what you only thought you knew.