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The Foundation

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

Introduction

I am a Christian and what I am hoping to accomplish is twofold: 1) to express how my faith in God is applied to investing and 2) to provide investment tools and transparency through Investor Cornerstone to help anyone interested in investing. This can range from as simple as buying a couple stocks or mutual funds, to understanding asset allocation, to managing a full-fledged portfolio.


When I thought about how to initially illustrate how my faith is intertwined with my investing approach, Ephesians Chapter 5 jumped out as a great example to define the two points above.


Ephesians 5:1-2

"Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."


Ephesians 5:8-13

"For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible - and everything that is illuminated becomes light."


I have included the verses above to provide full context, and highlighted a couple points that directly relate to what drives my connection to investing.


First, as I have written over the years, a majority of my audience has included retail investors, or new investors looking to learn. As such, transparency, or "light" is critical in order to read between the lines, especially as misinformation, inconsistency, accurate information sources, among many other variables, all can become noise confounding optimal investment performance.


The love God spread to all in the world is a direct driver for why I take the time to illustrate and provide the same tools that I have developed over the past decade and benefited from, as I look to help others on their investment journeys.


A Little About Myself

I worked in the investment industry with experience at an investment firm (Primerica, Inc. before the spin-off from Citigroup) for a couple years; got job offers to work as a broker at many other firms, but ended up where I am today. I work for a research-oriented agency with a special niche in the freight industry.


Data and analysis have been well ingrained into my project management responsibilities over the past decade. This has been an excellent fit with my strong interest in deconstructing industries and analyzing companies, something I have done since 2010.


From 2010, I spent two straight years developing strategies to begin building equity-based portfolios. By 2012, I had a good enough approach in place to start my first portfolio, and I have continued to refine the structure and management process over the years.


Additionally, I have extensively published numerous articles covering the freight industry within the Transportation Sector, as well as portfolio management strategies.


As an investor, my performance can be broken down into two stages - 2012 through 2017, and 2018 to current.

  • During the first stage, I averaged an annual return of just over 20%.

  • Since then, performance has declined to 15% per year, resulting mostly from the portfolio's underperformance during 2018.

One of the standards I live by as I publish content, is to afford readers and investors full transparency of my portfolio performance and management strategies and actions. I place a high priority on investing in the strongest growth opportunities, with pristine financial positions.

  • This includes individual companies in multiple sectors, that display combined traits of robust growth, cash flow, an financial strength attributes.

  • Beginning in 2020, it also includes Special Purpose Acquisition Companies, or SPACs.

In order to gauge success, I benchmark against all investment options including the universe of mutual funds, ETFs, ETNs, indices, etc. Putting in the work is only worth it if I can consistently compete and beat comparable investment products.


Asset Allocation

There are variations of asset allocation. Generally, asset allocation can be broken into three main areas including equities, bonds, and real estate. More sophisticated approaches may involve currencies whether foreign exchange, crypto, precious metals, etc.


For me, asset allocation is a straight forward decision. The mantra to diversify across assets tends to be predicated on market volatility and risk. I do own a primary residence with equity above 30% so I have exposure to real estate. But as it pertains to my discretionary investing capital, I allocate 100% into the equity portfolio under management.


The primary reason is that I am an aggressive growth investor, and I believe that investing in equities will afford me the greatest opportunity for long-term returns. Additionally, I am focused on creating legacy wealth versus needing to use the funds for retirement.


To gauge whether my equity-based portfolio will actually outperform all other asset classes, I benchmark against all investment options including mutual funds with equities and bonds or mixed among others, ETFs, ETNs, precious metals, real estate investment trusts or REITs, indices, hedge funds, and pretty much anything that is publicly available.


I may be able to dominate certain investment vehicles on any given year, but what is more important is understanding how I am performing over spans of time.


Portfolio Construction & Development

Developing portfolios has been both challenging and quite enjoyable. I have built portfolios with as many as 75 holdings, to as few as 20 or so. I have rebuilt my entire portfolio two times during the past nine years. This has included liquidating entire positions (December 2017 and 2019), and rebuilding with some of the same holdings, but fine-tuning other holdings as management strategies have been adjusted.


The drastic shifts have been driven by a continued desire to hold the strongest performing companies over time. From earlier days, this has led to a much more stringent focus on aggressive growth opportunities. Through this process, several challenges have emerged.


Challenges

The primary challenge has related to the natural tendency to continue to add companies. I have invested long enough to know that regardless of investment risk for any one company, as long as the company is not bankrupt, there will always be a market and way to make money on it.


My goal as a long-term aggressive growth investor is not simply to make money, but to find the best companies to invest in. On any given year, there are around 9,000 or so individual stock investment choices on multiple exchanges in the U.S. I firmly believe that a much lower number, perhaps less than 10% or so offer the best potential to yield the greatest investment returns over time.


Companies that I feel are more dangerous than many investors would suspect including those paying dividends, and/or those which have strong impacts on the broader economy, such as having a large labor force. Many of these companies have varying degrees of leverage which is used to support the business. But as I am looking for growth, I can find much better alternatives, with substantially less credit risk, which in my book, is the paramount risk these days due to the greater volatility that has occurred during recent economic cycles.


Another challenge I have faced is criticism and scrutiny from other peer investors claiming that I am spreading myself too thin by building a portfolio. Rather, their thoughts are that I should pick the top winners and focus on a smaller group of holdings. This sounds nice in theory, but in my opinion, it is fool's gold with the potential to lead many investors to more losses than gains. There is also a way to capture growth leaders within a portfolio to drive a substantial portion of gains.


The next two challenges relate to industry expertise and management. First, some may not feel comfortable managing a portfolio due to the potential of owning many holdings in various sectors and industries. This is definitely an important thing to consider, but is not a barrier which cannot be overcome. One must have the ability to deconstruct any individual company, as well as the tools to manage expectations.


Management is highly important because without a management strategy, the portfolio runs the risk of growing too much and/or getting out of control. Key management principles involve short-term versus long-term approaches, and most importantly, cash management. I for one, feel that every investor should have a degree of cash coming in every year to invest for long-term success.


Solutions

Based on these challenges, it is important to construct parameters and strategies to address them. The first of which is to determine what one's initial investment capital is, and what the anticipated incoming annual capital amounts will be. For example, if I have $50,000 in initial capital, and I believe that I can max out the Roth IRA limit of $6,000, then I can begin to establish how many holdings I could potentially support based on these constraints.


If I owned 20 holdings, that lead to an amount of $300 per holding annually, with an initial invested position of $2,500 per holding based on the initial $50,000 in capital. Over a 30-year period, this would equate to $11,500 invested per company, and a $230,000 total invested amount.


It is important to always have a cash stream for every year because as we have learned over the past two decades (two recessions, numerous industry-impacted corrections, and COVID), market volatility can increase substantially at any given time. More importantly than timing the market down-cycles though, is consistently investing in companies during each and every opportunity on an annual basis. This speaks to the edge for which active management can play.


Other important parameters include developing a screening process to generate stock leads, prioritizing how holdings are selected for the portfolio, and concurrently, setting a number of holdings that is reasonable for management. For screening, I have developed multiple screening tools for the portfolio, for the universe of stocks in general, and for SPACs. I use many different websites, some free, some subscribed to, and I develop custom-built databases including stock price update tools to organize information.


Prioritizing which companies will ultimately be included within the portfolio can be very subjective. This is why it is also important to use company-specific standards. The first and foremost is financial superiority. My definition of this is zero net debt. This rule is not entirely inflexible, but I am very rarely interested in companies which depend on debt to grow the business, regardless of the interest rate environment.


Aside from credit risk, I focus explicitly on operating and free cash flow, sales growth, gross margin, and enterprise value metrics. I adamantly suggest that investors do not solely abide by GAAP indicators from the income statement, nor focus on publicly touted EBIT/EBITDA, P/E ratios, among others. What every investment in any company boils down to is the company's abilities to grow revenue, and the cash that can be generated from such growth. Keeping it simple is very important, granted that we must also be able to make relationships of costs, expenses, extraordinary items, etc.


The last parameter that I will touch on relates to performance measurement, which I have mentioned multiple times. There are a few ways one can accomplish this depending upon one's level of scrutiny and interest. In the earlier period of my portfolios (2012-2017), I primarily benchmarked against major indices such as The Dow Jones, S&P 500, NASDAQ, and Russell 2000. It was not until 2018 that I began to think about benchmarking in a more detailed fashion.


I now firmly believe that over a long period of time it is more important to benchmark against all assets and strategies, than simply focusing on narrower peer performance. As such, I now focus on thousands of mutual funds, ETFs, ETNs, and indices that can be further broken down into sub-peer categories.


FANGMAT

Recently this year, I have taken a keen interest with my performance against FANGMAT which includes Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Netflix (NFLX), Alphabet (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), Apple (AAPL), and Tesla (TSLA).


There are two important reasons to pay attention to FANGMAT. First, many retail investors have owned these companies throughout the past 10 years, with most still assuming that these companies will continue to lead the Technology Sector. Second and more importantly, institutional investors have achieved strong gains over time from FANGMAT making them dependent on their future performance.


From a portfolio perspective, it is also important to note that despite FANGMAT totaling only seven companies, when taking into account their operating segments, one could easily justify that FANGMAT represents 20-plus companies. This is an important factor to note in that FANGMAT's scale over time has afforded them much success. Anyone claiming a handful of stocks is all that you need is out of line if they use FANGMAT as an example today.


Portfolio Performance

As previously stated, from 2012 through 2017 I averaged an annual return of just over 20%. A lot has happened since then including multiple home transactions, first child, job transitions, etc., and not all of this money has been maintained to date. As such, I am focusing on 2018 as a new baseline. To date in 2020, the portfolio is up 36.5%, looking for consecutive 30%-plus gains after 2018's down year.

The two benchmarks I monitor each day/week include FANGMAT and the NASDAQ. One of the more interesting aspects of FANGMAT is how it has greatly outperformed the markets during recent contraction periods. 2018 has served as my only negative year - it also represented a major transition for the portfolio into more growth oriented holdings, while FANGMAT was up 8%. Since then, I have performed strongly, yet FANGMAT has continued its surge during 2020.


During 2019 I beat out over 96% of the thousands of mutual funds, ETFs, ETNs, and indices I benchmark against. To date in 2020 I am outperforming over 97%. By year-end, I will have a much more advanced tool to illustrate various performance by specific examples such as Fidelity, Vanguard, etc., including top performing products.


Portfolio Holdings

The portfolio has been constructed beginning in January 2020 and currently maintains 54 holdings. Turnover has been higher than normal as can be expected for the volatility driven by COVID and inception earlier in the year. The turnover rate stands at 30%, but next year is expected to drop back to a more normalized 5-7% range.


I will note that not one company within FANGMAT is a holding, nor will any of them become one in the future. This is predominantly due to the fact that I am looking for growth from much smaller Enterprise Value bases. Specifically, I am looking for the next generation of fastest growing companies over the next 30-plus years.


Top 10 Holdings


Top 11 - 30 Holdings


Remaining 31 - 54 Holdings

As I alluded to above, describing FANGMAT's operating segments encompassing greater than 20 companies, I believe that a portfolio can have anywhere from 20-30 companies that can drive the majority of performance.


The current number of holdings at 54, will likely increase back towards 70 or so in the near-term. The top 30 holdings will be key to leading performance over the long-term. As can be seen above, there is not much difference between some of the holdings so over time, companies should be expected to ebb and flow by weighting. All SPAC holdings are held via warrants.


Value I Bring to the Investment Community

I do not work on Wall Street, but I am tenacious when it comes to analyzing investments. I have diligently deconstructed many different industries from a global supply chain perspective to more simplified U.S.-based production and consumption.


The value I bring is the combination of technical analysis and adept decision-making skills to gauge market dynamics, especially during times of volatility and extreme pressure. Attaining annualized returns near 20% over the past decade adds a solid track record of performance.


Individual Company Analysis

I have constructed hundreds of financial models for individual companies over the past decade, focusing on the most important financial metrics, that ironically, do not get much public consideration.


Portfolio-Based AeroVironment Sample

Historical and year-to-date (YTD) Comprehensive Financial Information


Detailed Competitive Peer Valuation Analysis


Historical Valuation Analysis


Short-Term Forecast and Valuation


Screening Tools

In addition to the portfolio tools and models, additional screening tools with coded and automated processes to access Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other data sources are under development. Ultimately, these data will be parsed and integrated into databases for analysis reflecting a universe of over 6,000 companies including the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and NASDAQ. The three screening tools include:

  • Portfolio Screener - currently available.

  • Stock Screener - still under development.

  • SPAC Updates - still under development.

For the Portfolio and Stock Screener tools, there are two primary organizational structures to analyzing companies. First, each company is organized by descriptive attributes, and second, by financial attributes. These include:


Descriptive Attributes

  • Company name,

  • Ticker symbol,

  • Sector,

  • Industry, and

  • Stock price.

Descriptive attributes are meant to provide investors with a stock performance snapshot.

Financial Attributes

  • Enterprise value (EV),

  • Trailing twelve-month (TTM) sales,

  • Recent fiscal year (FY) sales,

  • Two-year sales estimate,

  • Two-year sales estimate percent growth,

  • EV/TTM sales,

  • Shares outstanding,

  • Two-year shares outstanding estimate,

  • TTM operating cash flow (OCF),

  • Two-year OCF estimate,

  • OCF margin,

  • TTM OCF/share,

  • Stock price/OCF per share,

  • Two-year stock price/OCF per share,

  • Net debt, and

  • TTM net debt/OCF.

Financial attributes are geared to keeping investing simple for all investors with the core focus on a company's revenue and cash flow growth potential and performance. The cash flow-based financial attributes above reflect a consistent comparative analysis approach that is not publicly available anywhere. Companies can be ranked by any of the financial metrics, as well as compared across sectors, industries, and key competitors.


For SPAC Updates, attributes include the following:

  • Company name,

  • Prospectus filing date,

  • Unit separation date,

  • Unit price performance,

  • Exercise price,

  • Redemption stipulations,

  • Target industry,

  • Merger announcement,

  • Additional information on target industry, and

  • Book-running firms.

SPACs are more challenging to analyze as investors need to understand multiple items as mentioned in the above attributes, prior to financial analysis. Doing the harder work upfront can yield significant benefits. Once a SPAC has completed its merger and trades with a new ticker symbol as a public company, it will then fall into the Portfolio and Stock Screener tools above.

I am well versed in quickly deconstructing SPAC opportunities, including the earliest stage of S-1 filings, as well as the subsequent SPAC process from identifying a target, to going through a merger, and related impacts to SPAC units, common shares, and warrants.


SPACs have taken the investment world by storm this year; especially as higher profile companies are now considering them, and many Wall Street firms are now serving as book-runners.

SPACs have been highly volatile as well, with extreme highs and lows. I believe that the next two to four years will be critical as investors will have substantially more information on how successful today's SPACs may become. This is imperative before we can solidify SPACs as legitimate long-term investment opportunities.


Conclusion and Opportunity

This foundational overview into my investment and portfolio approach is meant to offer investors insights into what is behind Investor Cornerstone. Not only literally, but based on my efforts over the past decade and based on my faith.


The work put into Investor Cornerstone is extensive and the service will provide free and paid alternatives to suite any investors needs. I encourage those interested to subscribe to the service and/or take a free trial prior to considering becoming a paid member to get access to the Investor Forums and analysis tools.


Free Services


Weekly blog updates will be free and will include:

  • Portfolio management strategies.

  • Individual company updates.

  • SPAC company updates.

  • Quarterly portfolio performance updates.

  • After-the-fact portfolio moves.

  • Among others.

Gold Plan


Gold Plan members will have full access to the Investor Forums and Portfolio Screener, including:

  • Portfolio Moves - providing actionable trade details for every move.

  • Stock Talk - discussing all of the weekly events and factors impacting stock markets, and addressing any investment topics of interest.

  • Weekly updated Portfolio Screener Newsletter.

Platinum Plan


This area is still under development, and in the future, Platinum Plan members will get access to the above forums and Portfolio Screener, as well as the Stock Screener and SPAC Updates tools. As mentioned above, this will include flexibility for an investor area of interest such as healthcare sector, medical device companies (whether a specific company of interest, peer review, etc.). Weekly Newsletters will be published as part of the service, in addition to customized products and services.


Please feel free to:

  • Subscribe and/or become a paid member.

  • Ask questions and help frame how the service can benefit you.

  • Ask for prayer or anything investment related at any time.

I am here to serve God through proclaiming my faith and offering encouragement however I can, while also looking to provide investment services and insights for anyone interested.


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