Invest Like Charlie Munger Using His Four Filters

17 minutes

charlie munger four filters

“The difference between a good business and a bad business is that good business throw up one easy decision after another. The bad businesses throw up painful decisions time after time.”

Charlie Munger

We all want to know how to improve our investment decision making. How do we develop a better understanding of a company, its future, and present, its products? Over the years I have read all the Letters to Shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway. I have read most of the books and articles on Warren Buffett, and his mentor Benjamin Graham, and his partner Charlie Munger. I have also listened to hours of audio from interviews via Youtube. All in the effort to gain insights into how Warren Buffett developed their “framework” for investment decisions. And how they arrive at a winning investment decision.

During my research, I came across an interview that Charlie Munger gave to the BBC which discusses his thoughts on how a framework for making better decisions when making investment decisions. You can find the video here. The comments that we will be discussing occur at 5:59 of the video.

The framework is called the Four Filters, and it first appeared in the 1977 Letters to Shareholders in this form.

“We select our marketable securities in much the same way we would evaluate a business for acquisition in its entirety. We want the business to be (1) one that we can easily understand, (2) with favorable long-term prospects, (3) operated by honest and competent people, and (4) available at an attractive price.”

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Return on Assets: How to Find Banks that Generate Profits

7 minutes

 

return on assets

How do normal investors like you and I invest in a bank? According to Warren Buffett, the answer is pretty simple. Look to the bank’s return on assets or ROA.

“Well, a bank that earns 1.3% or 1.4% on assets is going to end up selling above tangible book value. If it’s earning 0.6% or 0.5% on the asset, it’s not going to sell. Book value is not key to valuing banks. Earnings are key to valuing banks. Now, it translates to book value to some extent because you’re required to hold a certain amount of tangible equity compared to the assets you have. But you’ve got banks like Wells Fargo and USB that earn very high returns on assets, and they at a good price to tangible book. You’ve got other banks … that are earning lower returns on tangible assets, and they’re going to sell — they’re going to sell [for less].”

Warren Buffett

The attraction of return on assets is its simplicity. It captures so much of the essence of a bank, without getting caught up in the complexity of the big bank accounting mess.

In our continuing series of discovering the formulas and ideas to value a bank or financial institution, we will discuss the return on assets or ROA.

Definition of Return on Assets

So what is a return on assets?

According to Investopedia.

“Return on assets (ROA) is an indicator of how profitable a company is about its total assets. ROA gives an idea as to how efficient management is at using its assets to generate earnings.”

This term is often referred to as return on investments or ROI.

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Efficiency Ratio: Is Your Bank Profitable?

10 minutes

efficiency ratio

Banks are either hated or loved, depending on when you ask customers. If they’ve been approved for that loan or denied a refund of any fee, you will get different answers. As a value investor, banks and financial institutions can be a frustrating experience to try to value. They don’t fall into the same category that other companies do, so therefore they often get ignored. Today we will continue with our series of looking at the different formulas that can help us unravel the mysteries of these institutions. In this post, we will delve into the efficiency ratio and what it means, and how to calculate it.

“In the end, banking is a very good business unless you do dumb things.”

Warren Buffett

The cool thing about learning to value banks is that once you learn how to analyze one, you pretty much can analyze all of them. There are about 500 banks that trade on the major exchanges, so this should give you plenty of options to choose.

Now, don’t get me wrong they can be very complicated with all the financial instruments, heavy regulations, old account rules, macro factors, and the intentionally vague jargon to try to throw you off.

But at their core, all banks are similar in that they borrow money at one interest rate and then hopefully, lend it out at a higher interest rate, pocketing the spread between the two. Which is the main avenue that banks use to make money.

“You don’t make money on tangible common equity. You make money on the funds that people give you and the difference between the cost of those funds and what you lend them out on.”

Warren Buffett

Definition of Efficiency Ratio

The Efficiency Ratio is calculated by dividing the bank’s Noninterest Expenses by their Net Income.Banks strive for lower Efficiency Ratios since a lower Efficiency Ratio indicates that the bank is earning more than it is spending. … A general rule of thumb is that 50 percent is the maximum optimal Efficiency Ratio

Sageworks

Sounds and looks pretty simple, doesn’t it? And as ratios go it is pretty simple and straightforward.

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