Value Investing – Lei Zhang’s (Hillhouse Capital) Lecture at Columbia Business School

In the high flying world of investing, Lei Zhang maintains a relatively low profile. Yet since being seeded by David Swensen of Yale Endowment with $20 million in 2005, he has achieved a ~40% compounded annual return (28x not adjusting for inflation), making him one of the best performing investment managers. To put it into perspective, Warren Buffett has achieved a compounded annual return of ~22%, albeit for the past 50 years!! Today, Lei Zhang’s Hillhouse Capital, named after a street nearby Yale where Lei received his MBA and master’s in public policy, manages ~$18 billion. Though not exclusively tech focused, Lei is best known for backing several of the most successful Chinese internet entrepreneurs and start-ups (e.g. Tencent, Baidu, and JD.com). On April 29th, Lei paid a visit to the “Temple of Value Investing” Columbia Business School to share his investing and life lessons. Below are my synthesis of his wisdom: Continue reading “Value Investing – Lei Zhang’s (Hillhouse Capital) Lecture at Columbia Business School”

37 Days in Fiji – Some Quick Reflections

Sitting on the plane to Sydney Australia still feeling surreal, I am trying to unwind the past 37 days living and working in the Fiji Islands…time rewinds back to two months ago, I was about to graduate from Columbia Business School’s full-time MBA program:

Friends: “Plans before you start working?”

Me: “Going to Fiji to help start a new micro-finance business.”

Friends: “Wow awesome…where is Fiji?”

Those were the common reactions: Where is Fiji? What are you doing there? How did you land this opportunity? Most people probably only know of Fiji from the bottled water in the cover photo, so here are some quick house-cleaning items. Continue reading “37 Days in Fiji – Some Quick Reflections”

How to be a better “Mind Reader”

A year ago, my former manager (now partner) at Accenture, Bogdan Konsur, gave me this book written by Chicago professor Nicholas Epley. After graduating from CBS, I finally had time to read it and found it very interesting and insightful. The book is based on studies of neuroscience and psychology, and is filled with experiments of how the human mind works and how its inherent limitations could cause misunderstandings of others. Here are my key takeaways:IMG_2135-0

How to be a better “mind reader”? Put less effort on trying to read others’ body language or “putting yourself in their shoes,” this amounts to little more than imagination and guess work, and could exaggerate misunderstandings. Instead, try harder to GET another person’s perspective instead of trying to TAKE it.

Imagining/guessing is easy because it is quick and often works reasonably well based on one’s own mind, stereotypes about others’ mind, and others’ observed actions, but each of these are simplifying heuristics that give imperfect insights. Asking is a slower and harder process therefore a path taken less often, but it is the way you understand people more accurately, and the way you solve their problems more effectively.
Continue reading “How to be a better “Mind Reader””

Berkshire Hathaway 50th Anniversary Shareholder Meeting – Key Quotes and Insights from Warren & Charlie

On May 1st, I flew to Omaha Nebraska with 100 other fellow CBS students to attend the 50th annual shareholder meeting of Berkshire Hathaway, with the hope to meet the school’s most famous alumni Warren Buffet, and his partner Charlie Munger. 

I have been a student of their essays and annual letters and am familiar with their investment and personal philosophies. Nonetheless, only seeing them live did I truly understand how remarkable they are. One is 84-year old and other is 91, yet they still possess the youth, energy, and mental clarity to conduct 6 hours of shareholder Q&A. The dynamic between Warren and Charlie are truly like an old couple, with Warren being the mellow and politically correct grandma, and Charlie the witty but sharp-tonged grandpa. They projected their wisdom, humor, and positive energy to a fully-packed CenturyLink Center. 

Continue reading “Berkshire Hathaway 50th Anniversary Shareholder Meeting – Key Quotes and Insights from Warren & Charlie”

Value Investing – Paul Hilal’s (Pershing Square) Lecture at Columbia Business School

Today (April 14th, 2015) Paul Hilal from Pershing Square came to speak during the “Value Investing with Legends Class.” In his introduction of Paul, Professor Big G (Bruce Greenwald) said this, “The public face of Paul Hilal’s fund is Bill Ackman, the talent to a large extent is standing in front of you.”

Paul certainly lived up to the “generous” introduction. He gave a very meaty lecture, full of insights, important life lessons, juicy and entertaining details of Pershing’s activist campaign against Canadian Pacific Railway in 2012. Paul came across as personable, candid, and grounded. But underneath all these qualities, it was clear that he would not hesitate to turn ruthless (I think all successful business people have this quality more or less) when it comes to sticking to his principles/beliefs and driving value from his investment ideas. Many of the lessons he conveyed are not just about investing, but more importantly about life, about being a principled person, and about life in business. There are lessons to be drawn whether you are an investor, a consultant, a general manager, or a banker. It is learnings like this that makes me feel lucky to be at Columbia Business School. Continue reading “Value Investing – Paul Hilal’s (Pershing Square) Lecture at Columbia Business School”

Value Investing – Mohnish Pabrai’s Lecture at Columbia Business School

Two weeks ago, Mohnish Pabrai came to give a lecture at Columbia Business School’s “Value Investing with Legends” class. His investment philosophy and methodology spoke to me personally so I wanted to share the learning on this blog. Below are some information about him and my key takeaways from the lecture. In addition, I found a taped video of Mohnish’s lecture from a couple of years ago and below is the link. He is quite an entertaining speaker and extremely willing to share his thoughts and ideas with students.

https://cbs360.gsb.columbia.edu:8443/ess/echo/presentation/670921b2-4bad-4843-8dc5-4026360f1369 Continue reading “Value Investing – Mohnish Pabrai’s Lecture at Columbia Business School”

Kenya Chapter 5 – A Legendary Day & The Grand Finale

Thursday was the last full day of our stay in Enoosaen, I decided to take a leisurely morning stroll to explore the surrounding areas. Having seen the sugar factory in the distance for the past few days, I decided to walk toward that direction. If there is one thing that is the most impressive about Enoosaen or Kenya is how warm and welcoming the people are. No matter where I go, almost everyone (from kids to adults) who I waved or said “Jambo” (Hello in Swahili) to would wave back and gave me a big smile. Imagine how people would react if you do this in New York, China, or other countries. Slowly the sun rose above the hill, and I have walked past a small stream where our bathing water came from, said hello to scattering groups of kids going to school, and along a field of plantation to the factory. Occasionally a truck would pass by carrying a full load of sugar canes, stirring up the dusts on the road. It has not rained legitimately in quite several months… Continue reading “Kenya Chapter 5 – A Legendary Day & The Grand Finale”