Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 6th Annual SALT Conference. Thanks to the leadership and vision of Anthony Scaramucci, this event has evolved “from a financial conference to one of the world’s leading thought leadership forums.” There were many phenomenal speakers who presented during the week, but as a trader, I was most interested in David Tepper‘s one-on-one interview with Anthony Scaramucci. It is pretty powerful when someone introduces you by saying “$1 Million invested with David Tepper 20 years ago would now be worth $149 Million net of fees.” Here are my notes:
INTRODUCTION – The interview started with Tepper’s background
1) After receiving his MBA from Carnegie Mellon, he went to work for Republic Steel. After a brief stint with a mutual fund company in Boston, he was then recruited by Goldman Sachs and eventually became lead trader of their junk bond department.
2) Scaramucci described Tepper as having “uncanny instincts about the market.” You could see traces of this early on in his personal trading. After leaving Goldman in late 1992, he traded his own money while creating his current firm Appaloosa Management. He turned $3.5 Million into $7 Million in 6 months before opening Appaloosa. He took that $7 Million along with the $50 Million he raised and started Appaloosa with $57 Million in July 1993. He got off to a tremendous start by producing a +72% return (gross) in his first 6 months. He currently manages $20 Billion and has 33 employees.
3) In his hedge fund career, he has been down over 20% three different times. The first was during the Russian Debt Crisis in 1998. The fact that he has been able to bounce back strongly every time has given his investors great confidence in him.
4) The best advice he’s got in investing was from Bob Rubin who told him “always be as clean as you can be.”
5) When asked about his investment philosophy, he said “I love the game. I don’t do this to raise assets. My philosophy is to make as much money as possible for our clients.” He’s all about strong returns and not about gathering assets. Also, he has given back almost double people’s original investment which takes “a huge burden off your shoulders.”
CURRENT STATE OF THE MARKET
1) He said “it’s a tough market.” There’s a term they use around his office called “coordinated complacency” to describe the central banks. He said “the ECB better ease in June.” He is more worried about deflation than inflation. (Apparently, he didn’t grab an $8 Snickers Bar and a $6 Dasani bottled water from the mini bar). If the ECB eases, the market’s should probably be ok.
2) He went on to say, I think we are ok, but there are times to make money and there are times to preserve money. This is one of those times to be preserving.
3) He is nervous because US growth should be moving faster. He thinks Q1 GDP will be revised up, but even 2% is no good. 3.5% would be better.
4) When Scaramucci asked him “Is there anything glaringly opportunistic? Anything you like?” His answer was a simple, yet emphatic “No!”
5) He repeated the term coordinated complacency and said “I’m not saying to go short, just don’t be too frickin’ long.”
This interview took place during Wednesday evening, May 14th. The stock market dropped -1% on Thursday, May 15th. For the record, I didn’t post these notes on Wednesday evening because I didn’t think he said anything Earth-shattering. The financial media said the market was down on Thursday mainly due to Tepper’s comments. I think that is total BS and just an excuse. Personally, I interpreted his comments as cautious and not overly bearish. If I thought he was really bearish, I would have posted this earlier. For what it’s worth, the few people sitting around me agreed that he wasn’t a screaming bear…just cautious.
1) David Tepper’s philanthropic work should certainly NOT be mentioned last. I simply wanted to present my notes in the chronological order of the interview.
2) He has given a great deal to support higher education, especially to his alma maters (University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University’s Business School).
3) During the financial crisis of 2008, Tepper was down -20%. He saw many people were hurting so he decided to make sure no food banks, shelters, soup kitchens, etc. in New Jersey would go down. Again, he did this when he was down -20%! Personally, I think this speaks volumes about the type of man David Tepper is. He knew things were tough and wanted to make sure to support the people of his home state who were in need. He said “this is a great thing I’m proud of.”
4) Since that point when he decided none of those programs would go down, Tepper had his BEST 5-year run as a hedge fund manager. When Scaramucci asked him if he believed in karma, Tepper said “Are you fucking kidding me?” There was no reading between the lines with that response and the entire room of close to 2,000 people laughed and roared into applause.
5) His views on charity are greatly influenced by his Dad. Tepper comes from a humble background and grew up poor in Pittsburgh. He was a Big Brother when he was younger because his Dad taught him “to give time if you don’t have money.”
Scaramucci’s final question was “Do you have any advice to young kids who are graduating college?” Tepper’s response “Find your passion and DO WHAT YOU LOVE!”
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