Berkowitz Still Sees Value in Financials

Bruce Berkowitz, whose Fairholme fund has returned close to 13% per year over the past decade while the S&P 500 has been in the red, says he’s still finding a good deal of value in one of the market’s unloved areas — financial stocks.

“Investors have lost much of their wealth from financial institutions over the past couple of years and are not prepared to risk more,” Berkowitz tells Investment News. “Meanwhile, the Great Recession has forced our surviving institutions to fortify their balance sheets and practices in preparation for continued stress. Thus, they are priced for more stress and prepared for more stress. We try to protect against the downside and let the upside take care of itself. Such is the case with our holdings in large banks and brokers.”

Berkowitz also offered advice for financial advisors, which would seem to apply to individual investors as well. “Invest with managers that have superior long-term track records during tough times and invest most of their money alongside their clients’ money — under the same terms and conditions as their clients,” he says. In addition, they should invest with those who have an “understandable strategy, one that will keep clients sane during the inevitable difficult times”.

Berkowitz says he doesn’t try to predict the future of a particular company or industry, let alone the economy as a whole. He says he instead tries to price securities and their underlying businesses “for difficult times so that we can survive those one-in-100-year catastrophes that appear to happen every decade, and prosper during more-normal times.”

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