What Successful Investment Managers Have in Common

I’ve spent time working on understanding the journey of emerging investment managers. These people start companies that make money by investing capital. I think of them as entrepreneurs who happen to be investors, or “investor entrepreneurs.” I’ve been curious to learn how the most successful emerging managers are wired, so I started studying managers who’ve had outsize success over a decade or more. This means they’ve been able to compound their capital at an annual rate that exceeds benchmarks like the S&P 500. I started with venture capital fund managers but expanded to studying managers in private equity, real estate, hedge funds, value investing, and other areas.

Studying several managers who’ve compounded their capital at above-average rates in various ways has been enlightening. It’s shown me that the ways to have success as an investor vary widely. But I’ve noticed a trait that these successful managers have in common: a burning desire to approach investing in their own unique way as opposed to a way mandated by someone else. They wanted to develop, test, and refine their own investment approach. They saw starting their own firm as the best path. A few worked for other people, but that was never the goal—it was a stepping-stone. The goal was always to invest using a unique insight and control their own destiny as an investor.