Greatest Investors: An Overview
Great money managers are like the rock stars of the financial world. The greatest investors have all made a fortune off of their success and, in many cases, have helped millions of others achieve similar returns.
These investors differ widely in the strategies and philosophies that they applied to their trading. Some came up with new and innovative ways to analyze their investments, while others picked securities almost entirely by instinct. Where these investors don’t differ is in their ability to consistently beat the market.
- The world’s greatest investors have been able to consistently beat the market by using a variety of strategies and philosophies.
- Many of the world’s top investors have been successful by following a long-term, disciplined approach to investing.
- Successful investors often focus on companies with strong fundamentals, such as low debt, high profit margins, and ample cash flow.
- Investors who diversify their portfolios and manage risk effectively are more likely to achieve long-term success.
- While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to investing, investors can increase their chances of success by learning from the techniques and strategies of the world’s greatest investors.
Ben Graham excelled as an investment manager and financial educator. He authored, among other works, two investment classics of unparalleled importance. He is also universally recognized as the father of two fundamental investment disciplines: security analysis and value investing.
The essence of Graham’s value investing is that any investment should be worth substantially more than an investor has to pay for it. He believed in fundamental analysis and sought out companies with strong balance sheets, or those with little debt, above-average profit margins, and ample cash flow.
Sir John Templeton
One of the past century’s top contrarians, it is said about Sir John Templeton that he bought low during the Great Depression, sold high during the internet boom, and made more than a few good calls in between. Templeton created some of the world’s largest and most successful international investment funds. He sold his Templeton funds in 1992 to the Franklin Group.
In 1999, Money magazine called Templeton “arguably the greatest global stock picker of the century.” As a naturalized British citizen living in the Bahamas, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his many accomplishments.
Thomas Rowe Price Jr.
Thomas Rowe Price Jr. is considered to be “the father of growth investing.” He spent his formative years struggling with the Great Depression, and the lesson he learned was not to stay out of stocks but to embrace them.
Price viewed financial markets as cyclical. As a crowd opposer, he took to investing in good companies for the long term, which was virtually unheard of at the time. His investment philosophy was that investors had to put more focus on individual stock picking for the long term.
Discipline, process, consistency, and fundamental research became the basis for his successful investing career. Today, the company that bears his namesake, T. Rowe Price, is a globally recognized investments, mutual funds, and brokerage firm.
Neff joined Wellington Management Co. in 1964 and stayed with the company for more than 30 years, managing three of its funds. His preferred investment tactic involved investing in popular industries through indirect paths, and he was considered a value investor as he focused on companies with low price-to-earnings (P/E) ratios and strong dividend yields.
Neff ran the Windsor Fund for 31 years (ending in 1995) and earned a return of 13.7%, vs. 10.6% for the S&P 500 over the same time span. This amounts to a gain of more than 53 times an initial investment made in 1964.
Jesse Livermore had no formal education or stock-trading experience. He was a self-made man who learned from his winners as well as his losers. It was these successes and failures that helped cement trading ideas that can still be found throughout the market today.
Livermore began trading for himself in his early teens, and by the age of 16, he had reportedly produced gains of more than $1,000, which was big money in those days. Over the next several years, he made money betting against the so-called “bucket shops,” which didn’t handle legitimate trades—customers bet against the house on stock price movements.
Peter Lynch managed the Fidelity Magellan Fund from 1977 to 1990, during which the fund’s assets grew from $18 million to $14 billion. More importantly, Lynch reportedly beat the S&P 500 Index benchmark in 11 of those 13 years, achieving an annual average return of 29%.
Often described as a chameleon, Lynch adapted to whatever investment style worked at the time. But when it came to picking specific stocks, he stuck to what he knew and/or could easily understand.
George Soros is the chairman of Soros Fund Management LLC. He was a master at translating broad-brush economic trends into highly leveraged, killer plays in bonds and currencies. As an investor, Soros was a short-term speculator, making huge bets on the directions of financial markets.
In 1973, Soros founded the hedge fund company of Soros Fund Management, which eventually evolved into the well-known and respected Quantum Fund. For almost two decades, he ran this aggressive and successful hedge fund, reportedly racking up returns in excess of 30% per year and, on two occasions, posting annual returns of more than 100%.
Referred to as the “Oracle of Omaha,” Warren Buffett is viewed as one of the most successful investors in history. Following the principles set out by Benjamin Graham, he has amassed a multibillion-dollar fortune mainly through buying stocks and companies through Berkshire Hathaway.
Those who invested $10,000 in Berkshire Hathaway in 1965 are above the $165 million mark today. Buffett’s investing style of discipline, patience, and value has consistently outperformed the market for decades.
John ‘Jack’ Bogle
John “Jack” Bogle founded the Vanguard Group mutual fund company in 1975 and made it into one of the world’s largest and most respected fund sponsors. Bogle pioneered the no-load mutual fund and championed low-cost index investing for millions of investors.
Bogle created and introduced the first index fund, Vanguard 500, in 1976. His index investing philosophy advocated capturing market returns by investing in broad-based index mutual funds that are characterized as no load, low cost, low turnover, and passively managed.
Carl Icahn is a well-known activist investor who uses ownership positions in publicly held companies to force changes to increase the value of his shares. Icahn started his corporate-raiding activities in earnest in the late 1970s and hit the big leagues with his hostile takeover of TWA in 1985.
Icahn is most famous for the “Icahn lift.” This is the Wall Street catchphrase that describes the upward bounce in a company’s stock price that typically happens when Icahn starts buying the stock of a company he believes is poorly managed.
William H. ‘Bill’ Gross
Considered the “king of bonds,” Bill Gross is among the world’s leading bond fund managers. As the founder and managing director of the PIMCO family of bond funds, he and his team amassed more than $1.92 trillion in fixed-income assets under management.
In 1996, Gross was the first portfolio manager inducted into the Fixed Income Analysts Society hall of fame for his contributions to the advancement of bond and portfolio analysis. In 2014, Gross resigned from PIMCO during a period of internal management struggles, but he continued managing large bond portfolios for firms like Janus Henderson, where he remained until 2019.
What makes for a successful investor?
Becoming a successful investor requires a combination of knowledge, discipline, and a long-term perspective. A bit of good luck is also helpful. It’s important to have a clear and objective investment strategy, based on thorough research and analysis. Investors should also be patient and avoid making impulsive decisions based on short-term market movements and emotions like fear and greed. Diversification and risk management are also important considerations when investing.
How did Warren Buffett become so successful?
Warren Buffett is often considered the world’s best investor of modern times. Buffett started investing at a young age, and was influenced by Benjamin Graham’s value investing philosophy. He also focused on investing in high-quality businesses with strong competitive advantages, or “economic moats,” that would protect their profits over time. Buffett is also known for his long-term approach to investing, and his ability to stay patient and disciplined even during times of market volatility.
What are some of the investment strategies used by top investors?
The world’s top investors use many different investing philosophies and strategies, including value investing, growth investing, income investing, and index investing.
Value investing involves finding undervalued companies with strong fundamentals. Growth investing focuses on investing in companies with high growth potential. Income investing involves seeking out investments that generate a steady stream of income, such as dividend-paying stocks or bonds. Index investing involves investing in a diversified portfolio of stocks or bonds that track a market index.
The Bottom Line
As any experienced investor knows, forging your own path and producing long-term, market-beating returns is no easy task. As such, it’s easy to see how the world’s top investors were able to carve a place for themselves in financial history.
We looked at 11 of the greatest investors in history, who have made a fortune off of their success and, in some cases, helped others achieve above-average returns. These investors differ widely in the strategies and philosophies that they applied to their trading, but what they have in common is their ability to consistently beat the market.
Becoming a successful investor is not easy, and of course luck played a role. But by learning from the techniques and strategies of the world’s greatest investors, you might be able to increase your own chances of achieving financial success.