Coffee with FFN and Robert Miles

Robert P. Miles is an internationally acclaimed keynote presenter, author and distinguished authority on Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway. Pursued by journalists and media moguls on just about each and every move that Mr. Buffett makes, Robert is a long-term shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway. He also has had the great honor of getting to know Warren Buffett, the man and the remarkable wealth-building strategist. 

FFN: In which year did you start divulging into the world of Warren Buffett and what got you started in the first place?

Robert Miles (RM): I first became interested in investing with Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway [NYSE: BRK/a] [NYSE: BRK/b] at the end of 1995. After reading Roger Lowenstein’s book Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist, I knew that I wanted to invest alongside Warren Buffett. The company announced that it would be offering ‘b’ shares at 1/30th the ‘a’ share. The ‘a’ share was then $30,000 per share and so the ‘b’ share became available for $1,000. Subsequently the ‘b’ shares have been further split now trading at 1/1500 the ‘a’ share. I attended my first annual meeting, the first Saturday in May, in Buffett’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska and have returned every year.

FFN: If you could describe your workings with Warren Buffett in one word, what would it be?

RM: Teacher

FFN: What is your favourite quote from Warren Buffett? 

RM: Be greedy when everyone else is fearful and fearful when everyone is greedy.

FFN: Knowing about management by just reading the annual reports is difficult as most managers will say wonderful things about the company. How then can small retail investors know in-depth about the integrity of the management? Warren Buffett can just call up the management when he wants to invest in a particular company and size them up but retail investors don’t have such a luxury. 

RM: Believe it or not, Warren does not phone management. He does what every retail investor can and should do – he reads the annual report. Warren says you can tell a lot about management by the way they write. Are they taking credit for other people’s work? Is management compensating themselves richly? Is management increasing shareholder wealth or their own personal wealth?  Conversely, is management running the business for the benefit of the shareholders? Are they revealing their mistakes or blaming others?

FFN: You should be a value investor yourself following Warren Buffett’s tenets. What are some of the companies you have invested in and why? 

RM: I have invested in Berkshire Hathaway and recommend your readers consider the same when the stock is being purchased back by Warren Buffett. His goal is to buy back whenever the stock is less than 110% of book value. Current book value is around $100,000 per share, so he is a buyer whenever the ‘a’ shares dip before $110,000.

FFN: You have travelled to Singapore a number of times already. Have any Singapore-listed companies caught your attention? If yes, what are they and why do you like them? 

RM: Yes I have visited Singapore and presented here probably more than any other country outside the USA. I haven’t invested in Singapore because it is outside my circle of competence.

FFN: What psychology do people need to succeed in value investing?

RM: Investors need to be rational. Remember there is a difference between the price of a stock and its value. Only buy when the price is below its value.

FFN: What lessons have you learnt over the years as an investor?

RM: There are many methods towards investment success. My preference is to examine those investors that have far exceeded the overall market and follow their principles.

FFN: What advice would you give for beginners who want to start investing?

RM: Visit www.berkshirehathaway.com and begin reading Warren Buffett’s letters to shareholders. Each one is packed with practical advice from the master.

FFN: What is your ultimate goal in life?

RM: To be happy.

FFN: Give us an “insider look” of a typical day in your life from the moment you wake up to the moment you sleep

RM: No typical day for me. If I am home I read, write and talk on the phone most of the day. For exercise, I go for a daily walk. I also enjoy tennis and the theater.

FFN: If you could summarise your life in one word, what would it be?

RM: Charmed

FFN: A parting shot for the readers…

RM: Become the person you wish to be. Never stop dreaming. The act of creating is the secret to happiness.

Learn more about Robert Miles at http://www.robertpmiles.com. He also conducts a course (http://cba.unomaha.edu/execmgmt/buffettgenius/) on Warren Buffett and takes part in the Value Investor Conference (http://www.valueinvestorconference.com) as well.

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