Portfolio Turnover is the Price of Progress

Portfolio Turnover is the Price of Progress

Portfolio Turnover – Investopedia describes portfolio turnover as a measure of how frequently assets within a fund are bought and sold by the managers. Portfolio turnover is calculated by taking either the total amount of new securities purchased or the number of securities sold (whichever is less) over a particular period, divided by the total net asset value (NAV) of the fund. The measurement is usually reported for a 12-month time period.

Ian Cassel writes that he believes there is an over-glorification of buy and hold investing among active managers. With the rise of private equity and venture capital, everyone is trying to invest in public markets with the same permanent capital mantra. The lower the turnover, the more cerebral and thoughtful you appear to be with initial investment decisions. Nothing looks better than being right from the very beginning. More often than not, low turnover is shown as a badge of honour. Many investors feel great pride and joy being a loyal shareholder of a company. It feels good to say you’ve held a company for 5-10-20 years. But in reality, what really matters is performance.

A big part of what made many investors great was spotting when they were wrong quicker. Successful stock picking isn’t just picking winners. It also means picking out the losers in your portfolio. The greatest advantage in public markets is “You can sell”. But you have to know when to sell.

We normally sell a position for three main reasons: Sell when the story changes for the worse; Sell when we find something better; Sell when a company gets very overvalued.

Investors aren’t going to be right all the time. Acknowledging this fact isn’t a justification for not doing upfront due diligence. What we do acknowledge is that we are willing to accept a degree of uncertainty for the sake of speed – getting in early. Often, an opportunity is an opportunity because the conditions aren’t perfect yet. The price of certainty can be expensive as it relates to discovery and valuation. When we find a business that aligns with what we like – speed is more important than certainty.

Our initial due diligence might get us into a position, but it is our maintenance due diligence that will keep us invested and/or save us from big losses. Our future returns are based on our ability to course correct and adapt to new information. We are going to have turnover because turnover is the price of progress.

Sometimes when you sell you have gained and sometimes you have losses. Cassel says he learned a long time ago to not let small losses bother him. A big part of being a successful investor is your ability to admit when you are wrong on a company while not letting it crush your confidence and slow you down.

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