20 January 2024

In this episode, William Green chats with Laura Geritz, founder of Rondure Global Advisors, which scours the globe in search of high-quality companies trading at attractive prices in places like India, China, Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Turkey, Brazil, & Mexico. Here, Laura makes the case for allocating more money to undervalued stocks outside the US. She also discusses her unusual lifestyle, which is built around relentless travel, voracious reading, & abundant time to think.

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  • How Laura Geritz earned the nickname “Money Bags.”
  • How she broke into the investment industry by living in Japan.
  • How she was shaped by the frugal, unflashy culture of rural Kansas.
  • What she learned from her mentor & partner, Robert Gardiner.
  • Why so many talented women quit the investment business.
  • Why she believes many investors are taking too much risk.
  • Why foreign stocks may be overdue for a powerful rebound.
  • How she weighs the risks & rewards of Chinese stocks.
  • How she screens 70,000 stocks to identify great businesses.
  • What foreign investors don’t understand about Japanese companies.
  • How to become a continuous learning machine.
  • How Laura handles adversity when her investing style is out of favor.
  • Why she maintains a remarkably uncluttered calendar.


Disclaimer: The transcript that follows has been generated using artificial intelligence. We strive to be as accurate as possible, but minor errors and slightly off timestamps may be present due to platform differences.

[00:00:03] William Green: Hi there, our guest today is Laura Geritz, who’s the founder, CEO, and Chief Investment Officer of a firm called Rondure Global Advisors. Laura played a starring role in my book, Richer, Wiser, Happier, where I wrote about her at some length in a chapter on high performance habits.

[00:00:20] William Green: Every time I speak with Laura, I’m reminded of what a fascinating and independent minded investor she is. As you’ll hear in this conversation, she’s constructed an extremely unusual life. Laura grew up in the American Midwest, and her investment firm is based in Salt Lake City, Utah, but she’s become the most international of international investors.

[00:00:43] William Green: She tends to travel for about six to nine months a year, roaming widely in countries like India, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Mexico, and Turkey. In all, she’s traveled to something like 75 countries, returning to many of them again and again in search of great businesses at enticing valuations. Laura also has a home in Japan, and she speaks Japanese.

[00:01:06] William Green: Intimately, she plants herself for weeks on end in a city like Nairobi, or Dubai, or Amsterdam, or Paris, or Bangkok. And then she uses these places as hubs, so she can travel around those regions more efficiently, visiting companies and studying the local culture and economy. Everywhere she travels, she reads multiple books about that place, ranging from classic literature to mystery novels to economic history.

[00:01:34] William Green: One reason why I’m fascinated by Laura is that she’s a wonderful example of what it means to be a continuous learning machine. Over many years, she’s built a formidable competitive advantage through this combination of relentless travel, boots on the ground research, and voracious reading. It helps that she also does an exceptionally rigorous screen twice a year of about 70, 000 stocks, which helps her to identify which markets are undervalued and where she should travel in search of opportunity.

[00:02:07] William Green: All of this deep research has led Laura to believe that now is a particularly interesting time to consider investing more heavily in foreign stocks. As we discuss in this conversation, the best bet since 2010 has been simply to invest blindly in large U.S tech stocks and ignore the rest of the world, especially emerging markets which have performed dismally.

[00:02:30] William Green: But as Howard Marks often points out, investors should never forget that cycles eventually end, and that the pendulum can suddenly swing dramatically in the opposite direction. Of course, the problem is that we never actually know when these cycles will end, so the timing can be really difficult, but I think it’s worth paying attention when a smart season disciplined and value oriented investor like Laura, tells you that she’s seeing a great deal of opportunity in unloved foreign stocks after so many years in which they’ve been desperately out of favor. In any case, I hope you enjoy our conversation. Thanks so much for joining us.

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[00:03:14] Intro: You are listening to the Richer, Wiser, Happier Podcast where your host, William Green, interviews the world’s greatest investors and explores how to win in markets and life.

[00:03:34] William Green: Hi folks. It’s a great pleasure to welcome today’s guest, Laura Geritz. Laura leads an investment firm called Rondure Global Advisors, which invests very heavily in stocks outside the United States, mostly in developing countries like China and India and Mexico and Vietnam, but also in developed countries like Japan, where she has a home.

[00:03:53] William Green: As some of you may remember, Laura was a very important and exceptionally thoughtful character in my book and so I’m always really thrilled to get to talk to you again, Laura. So, thank you for joining us. It’s lovely to see you again.

[00:04:05] Laura Geritz: Thank you for having me and thank you for the conversation.

[00:04:08] William Green: I’m really looking forward to it. You have an extremely unusual background for a fund manager and started out about as far from the world as Wall Street could be. Can you give us a sense of where you came from and how you grew up?

[00:04:23] Laura Geritz: Well, I grew up in Western Kansas town called Hays, Kansas, and, for those of you who read Think in Cold Blood, the beginning of these sort of fields of leads, for those of you who like, prefer movies, think of Dances with Wolves.

[00:04:37] Laura Geritz: I don’t know if you remember the scene at the opening of Dances with Wolves, it’s sort of Fort Hayes is where I grew up, and this is the last sort of bastion of civilization. That’s the back in the time of Westbrook expansion, so I think that sort of perfectly sums up where I grew up on the plains in this flat place, a really beautiful place.

[00:04:58] William Green: And a lot of members of your family had been farmers and factory workers, right? So, it wasn’t like you were destined for a white-collar future on Wall Street.

[00:05:09] Laura Geritz: No, I knew nothing about the investment industry or asset management growing up. my father was a literature professor. My mother was a scientist.

[00:05:18] Laura Geritz: So, I grew up in this sort of interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary household, a world of literature and science and books. And I didn’t discover investment management or asset management until I got a lot older. So, and just My farm, my family farm, or my father’s farm, and we still hold today. My aunt and uncle live on that farm.

[00:05:36] Laura Geritz: It’s called Longview Farm, but we thought about actually, we thought about calling Roger Longview Farm with it, in the world of sort of protecting your name or making sure you don’t have this. Sort of, a name that’s more common. It wasn’t that protected enough, but the patent lawyers kind of disputed the name, so we went with Rondure which has a different sort of meaning, but yeah, my family farm was called Longview Farm and sat on the hills overlooking the Missouri River in Kansas. So really beautiful place.

[00:06:08] William Green: I’ve talked a bit in the past with Tom Russo about the connection between farming and investing and also more recently with Peter Keefe about the amount of time he spends out in nature and how studying predators has been very helpful to him as an investor. Do you think there are things that you’re carrying from your childhood on the farm that have helped you as an investor?

[00:06:29] Laura Geritz: I mean, all of it, the notion of resilience and, win by not losing because, my grandparents, my other grandparents, came from a factory environment and they’re all very conservative people. They lived through World War 2, the depression, and I just grew up with this notion of resilience of being able to survive through anything.

[00:06:50] Laura Geritz: So, and also just this longer-term view and perspective on life. So, yes, I’m a big fan of herself. Actually, I was just reading his last chapter of the sort of the revised Graham and Dodd securities analysis on globetrotting. But yes, I’m a big fan of the notion of planting seeds when you’re investing.

[00:07:09] William Green: And what did your family make of it when you started to go into the investment business? Were they sort of bemused by the fact that you would chase after money? Because my sense was that your family wasn’t particularly interested in money.

[00:07:22] Laura Geritz: Even, my dad has not, has never been interested in more, like they, they live, I mean, they, my grandparents, if you look at my grandparents on my father’s side, they actually had a lot of wealth from farming, but you never saw that in their disposition.

[00:07:37] Laura Geritz: They lived far below their means. They were very frugal. So that sort of. personality or that sort of, I guess you would say philosophy of frugality was prevalent in my family, even though they weren’t fairly affluent for the small town in Western Kansas. So, for sure, I grew up with this mentality or notion of frugality, and I don’t think my mother quite knows what I do today.

[00:08:00] Laura Geritz: So, I’m not one who talks about what I do for a living very often. If people ask me what I do, I usually say I work in finance. So. No, I don’t think that was thought of as a career from mine, from my family.

[00:08:12] William Green: But you were always quite numbers oriented, right? I remember you saying that as a kid, you loved math and you, what did you used to do with your father’s allowance, which the story I remember you, you’re telling on a podcast you and I did together with my former colleague, Gene Chapsky.

[00:08:29] Laura Geritz: You talk about gaming in your, people liking, enjoying games, I grew up playing games. I said, I really benefited, as a child from my parents lack. They’re great at a lot of subjects, science, literature, all sorts of subjects, but math was maybe not their specialty. So, there were times my mom, I remember one time she said, Were you?

[00:08:50] Laura Geritz: Go, I’ll pay you 10 cents a peach if you go out and pick the peaches up off the ground, and I kind of looked down, and I’m like, I don’t think my mom realizes there’s thousands of peaches on the ground, so I went out and did that, and I’m like, my mom’s like, what do I owe you? And I’m like, you owe me a hundred dollars, that was a lot of money back then, so I benefited from that.

[00:09:07] Laura Geritz: And for my father, it was, you can have 5 a week, or you can, I’m going to put all my change when I come home in a jar, and you can have my change. He said, I watched my father’s habits for a little while. And I said, I’m going to take the change. And I ended up having the highest allowance in school by the car.

[00:09:23] Laura Geritz: And that’s when I acquired the nickname money bags, because every time he got in the car with me, I had these bags that were jingling because they were full of change. So, I grew up playing these games when I was little and always enjoyed them.

[00:09:37] William Green: And then you ended up with a very unusual education for someone to go into finance.

[00:09:41] William Green: You studied history and political science at the University of Kansas and then ended up getting a master’s degree in East Asian languages and culture from the University of Kansas and then went off and actually lived in Japan. And I remember you once saying to me that you lived in the Japanese countryside and you were doing Some sort of social and economic study of peasants and lords in in the Tokugawa period, which I looked up and it’s something like 1603 to 1868. How does, sorry, what were you going to say?

[00:10:11] Laura Geritz: One of those wonderful papers, that’ll put you straight to sleep at night, but only one of those, one of those things that’s only done in academia, right? This very narrow study, but yes.

[00:10:22] William Green: I once had an editor who told me that he had written a paper. He’d done his master’s thesis on bear imagery in 18th century literature. And when I laughed, he looked so put out like he didn’t realize just how obscure that was. So, so these studies of Japanese peasantry and Japanese feudal lords and the like how did this strange education going off to Japan, studying these things that weren’t really related to investing in any way, set you up in some way for a life as a money manager?

[00:10:57] Laura Geritz: I think, we were, the time frame I was going to college was this period, I think, of the original kind of Friedman, the world is flat era, right? You had the fall of the Berlin Wall. You had the opening of China. You had, when I was in school, I was taking South African history when apartheid crumbled.

[00:11:15] Laura Geritz: So, you had this sort of great period of globalization starting and I think I was aware of that. In a school, and this international education would differentiate me from sort of everyone else, and so that’s part of why I studied, what I studied also just the challenge and studying at the time for Japanese, because it’s still known today.

[00:11:37] Laura Geritz: If you’re an English speaker. is one of the five hardest languages, according to the CIA, anyway, for English speakers to learn. So, there was a challenge in learning this language. I didn’t fall in love with the culture until later. I guess when I was living there was when I really fell in love with the culture and the literature of Japan.

[00:11:55] Laura Geritz: But I can say the way it prepared me for what I do. I, there was this one period of time, as we talk about technology further, where I looked after I’d gotten in the industry and said, what makes a great portfolio manager? And I mean, we spend some of our time in spreadsheets. I think in our earlier years, when we’re really learning app shouting and numbers and math, you spend a lot of time in spreadsheets, but that sort of evolves over time.

[00:12:19] Laura Geritz: And one of the things about portfolio managers, it is this multidisciplinary industry. I have to be able to go public speak and talk to clients in a way that they can understand and write and read and think. My father would always say liberal arts. Taking, studying liberal arts is, it’s about how to think, not necessarily what you study. So, that’s why I think that education is so important, it taught me how to think.

[00:12:45] William Green: Yeah, you’re synthesizing information from so many different areas as a really good investor. I mean, we’ll talk much more later about your weird reading habits and travel habits, which are very idiosyncratic. But it feels like from very early on, your willingness as someone from rural Kansas to go off to the middle of nowhere in Japan and start studying the world from a different perspective. Very characteristic of you from very early on it sounds like.

[00:13:14] Laura Geritz: My parents studied abroad too. They had quirky degrees, English, but then also minored in art, so my father and mother had actually done a study abroad program in Mexico, so I grew up with parents who wanted to see the world and thought it was important to understand the world.

[00:13:34] William Green: And my sense was that in some way you felt like if you were going to break into the investing profession, which I think you wanted to do from fairly early on, you were going to have to set yourself apart in some way. You didn’t have the Ivy League pedigree, the sort of compulsory degree from Wharton or Columbia Business School, or whatever.

[00:13:55] Laura Geritz: I probably wore a chip on my shoulder from that for a long period of time, it was probably 8 to 10 years in where sort of I lost that chip and that was a really freeing experience, because I think probably if you look at the education I’ve given myself, it rivals some of the best educations.

[00:14:13] Laura Geritz: I intentionally seek out knowledge. So, I read prolifically and take courses when I don’t have to. And so, it took me a while to get over that. I think you’re definitely at a disadvantage by not having that education early on in the industry.

[00:14:31] William Green: I think having a chip on your shoulder though is weirdly helpful and getting you started because it forces you to hustle in a way that people who are smug and self-satisfied and think they actually know may not be inclined to do.

[00:14:46] Laura Geritz: When I came back from Japan, I wasn’t taking business classes or finance courses, but I was reading the Wall Street Journal every day at college and I was interested in finance and money and, but I just didn’t know anything about the industry.

[00:14:59] Laura Geritz: there was no one who, I didn’t have a mentor who taught me about the industry and that there were jobs in this field, so. When I came back from Japan, I wanted to do something global. I didn’t, still didn’t know about the asset management industry. My father said to me, there’s this fantastic company in Kansas City.

[00:15:18] Laura Geritz: And the timeframe, it was 20th century, not American century and it was. They were hiring bilingual client relations representatives, and he said, this is one of the top hundred companies you can work for in the country. So, why don’t you try to get a job there? And so, I had gone to interview in New York and my husband, this was sort of goes back to my husband, who is also a guy from Western Kansas.

[00:15:41] Laura Geritz: He’s a believer, and if you think about what. He thought it would take to be successful in life and get to this point of wiser and happier. He thought, okay, we need to have to accrue savings so that we can choose what we want to do in life. And so, he’s like, I think we can accrue savings by staying in Kansas.

[00:16:00] Laura Geritz: So that’s sort of how I ended up in 20th century accruing savings. But exploring the world. And then I think also to the people who come to work in Kansas City, there’s sort of a different breed of people too. So that was sort of a nice set of people to surround, to be surrounded by in the early years.

[00:16:23] William Green: American Century Investments as it became was a very prominent firm back then and you went to, I think in probably 1997 became a bilingual investor relations rep and I remember talking to you once about what it was actually like being on the phones and talking to clients about asset allocation and diversification and how they would sort of, often they would start their conversations by saying, you guys suck. And they would always be complaining. What did you know? Sorry, say again.

[00:16:50] Laura Geritz: Yeah, it was the period, it was the tech bubble, so and we ran diversified strategies. So, I spent a great period of time getting yelled at for, only having 35 percent returns or something along those lines, they were still extraordinary returns, but they weren’t keeping up with the NASDAQ of the moment.

[00:17:10] Laura Geritz: So that was how I started. But that was still in the days when people called. I sort of cheated too. We talked about this before. I knew I would never have to use Japanese on the phone in American Century. If you think about the culture of Japan, I mean, it’s a culture that it’s sort of funny because, when you think about a crowd, there’s, I mean, it’s, again, a culture where there’s a lot of contradictions, but you have imperfection in architecture, but people who are Japanese and they want to speak English they want to speak in perfect.

[00:17:42] Laura Geritz: So, I didn’t think I didn’t think anyone would ever call in actually spoke Japanese and no one ever did really. Yeah, no, once. Americans 20th century that time had gotten acquired by, partially acquired by JP Morgan.

[00:17:57] Laura Geritz: And so, the only time I really ever used my language skills and they got rusty for a while was when a camera crew came in from Japan to interview. And that was the only time I really used my Japanese.

[00:18:09] William Green: And when you think about what that experience of talking very directly to clients actually taught you about things like fiduciary responsibility, how did that have an enduring effect on you?

[00:18:22] Laura Geritz: I think we hear often in this industry; I don’t get the sense that a lot of people understand it’s not their money. I hear, I listen to that over and over again, and to me, like the greatest reward is doing something well for a client. I mean, I live and breathe. I don’t always do, I win I don’t always, I’m not always right and I make mistakes, but it’s always sort of in the back of my head is this is someone else’s money.

[00:18:47] Laura Geritz: This is someone else’s future. This is their goal. This is their children’s goal. So that, that matters to me. It really matters hearing these people’s stories. I mean, I know you, you’re a great storyteller. And for me, just hearing other people’s stories is really magical.

[00:19:03] William Green: Thanks. I remember once Will Danoff, who’s obviously one of the legendary investors at Fidelity, showing me this old photograph of a kid who’s, who had just been born and his parents sent him this photo and said, this is who you’re managing money for, this kid who’s going to go to college eventually.

[00:19:20] William Green: And he had kept that all those years. And he said to me once, frankly, I care more. It was a very, it was quite a powerful statement. Like I got the sense that actually really caring, not so much about the private planes and the yachts and the big cars and the big extensions on your house, but actually really having that sense of caring about the plant is a very powerful motivator if you have it,

[00:19:43] Laura Geritz: I think within 20th century from the leadership, there was and that’s also part of Midwestern culture, right? There’s a culture of frugality in the Midwest, of humility. the sense of humor in the Midwest is self-deprecating, so nobody takes themselves too seriously. And so, there’s actually, even among these, I was, I didn’t know anything when I actually feel very lucky because I’ve never felt like having to have.

[00:20:08] Laura Geritz: This sort of like focus on quality of life for a lot of free time or because I found a job I love to do. And so, there’s not really a separation between work and life for me. And so, I think I’m really fortunate. And then in my early years, I was surrounded by this group of people who you wouldn’t have known.

[00:20:28] Laura Geritz: I didn’t know anything about how much the industry was paid. I just really loved the job, and I was paid very little. So, in that time frame, I started as a bilingual client relations representative, so I wasn’t paid very much. And, but you wouldn’t have known, that you were surrounded by this great wealth.

[00:20:46] Laura Geritz: Because it’s just not the culture of the Midwest. We actually competed for worst car. I was on one of the largest funds in the country at the time. It was the second, I think the second biggest fund in the country. And one guy drove this ancient Civic, my windows were actually had fallen off my car, so they were taped up and then, I mean, it didn’t snow in Kansas City.

[00:21:08] Laura Geritz: So, we’re all like, it was like something out of the Incredibles, where we’re all in these mini cars, driving into work, so that was just the culture of Kansas City. I mean, there’s not this culture of flashing money. In fact, and I think Japan has a very similar culture, which is why I feel comfortable there.

[00:21:23] Laura Geritz: Right? [Inaudible] the elements hammered down. So, I, this sort of culture of showing your importance by flashing your wealth is just nothing. I just didn’t grow up in that culture. It’s not important to me in any way, shape, or form.

[00:21:39] William Green: And presumably coming from farming communities as well, those were places where people would have tremendous wealth in terms of land and cattle and the like, but you couldn’t tell it from their clothing.

[00:21:51] Laura Geritz: My grandpa, my grandpa and grandmother, they splurged twice once was on a they bought a grandfather clock and then one time the speed of the clock and they had this very small farmhouse, we had a tiny TV in the front room, the only TV, but my grandfather wore these beat up overalls and you’re, this man was a millionaire, you would have never known it.

[00:22:11] Laura Geritz: Right. But, and so everyone I grew up with and surrounded myself with through most of my history is like that. I would even say, with great respect, my, I chose to partner with Granger Peak, that’s what those founders are like as well. they have this culture that I really adore of, it’s about more than just me. They’re very charitable, they care about their community, so.

[00:22:37] William Green: The person you partnered with at Grandview Peak, Robert Gardiner, who you worked with at Wasatch, I was thinking this morning, I literally, I wrote an article in 1998, where I went to Utah, when Robert was a very young analyst. Well, no, I guess, I guess he was running this hot micro-cap fund at Wasatch.

[00:22:59] William Green: And I wrote an article that was basically, I think it was called The Rookies. And the subtitle was something like, all these mutual fund companies are paying these outrageous wages to these hungry young stock pickers. And are they worth the money? These young whippersnapper kids. And I was there with Robert when one of the stocks he had bought, I think it was KNG, was collapsing, and it went down something like 80% and it was a terrible time for micro caps and small caps, and his fund fell something like 20 percent over the next few weeks and so it’s funny that all these years later, that’s the person that has played this sort of very formative part in your life.

[00:23:37] Laura Geritz: He was my office mate for a long time, so and he was generous with his time, in mentoring and coaching, so, and I just, his, the personality of caring about something greater than himself is very similar to the philosophy I think you grow up with on the plains of Western Kansas.

[00:23:56] William Green: Well, he was also a devout Mormon, right? And I always, I, I invested with Wasatch for a long time in Jeff Cardin’s fund for many years. And I always, maybe it was an absurd piece of stereotyping, but I loved the fact that they were Mormons. I sort of felt like Sam Stewart, who ran the firm and Robert Gardiner, like they were very serious about morality, about taking care of your money, and they would close the funds when they were absurdly small in this self-defeating way that was so wonderful for clients.

[00:24:24] Laura Geritz: Yes. I mean, they’re still like that. So, I mean, I always consider myself an honorary member of the culture, I’m not from Utah, but there’s something about the culture where I grew up, there’s something about the culture of Western Kansas that is similar.

[00:24:41] William Green: And [Inaudible] said to me at one point would, even if he had sort of mediocre returns one year, would just refund the fees.

[00:24:51] Laura Geritz: Yes, he’s done that in the past, so I mean it, we’ve talked about this, but I mean the one thing that there’s not a day that goes by that those guys don’t think about their fiduciary duty and so to me being partnered with people who think that way is important, so yeah, he’s really cares about his clients.

[00:25:10] Laura Geritz: I mean, he takes us here and all of his biggest victories. I mean, which I don’t want to say his biggest victories, but almost every time you hear about a win, it’s when he’s done something well for clients. So, and that culture kind of pervades.

[00:25:28] William Green: One thing that was interesting to me when I look back on that period is I remember being in Robert’s car. So I was like a 30 year old whippersnapper of a journalist and I remember his fund had closed at some ridiculously small amount to like a hundred million dollars closed to new shareholders so that he could really protect his existing shareholders by the Really, truly buying microcaps instead of having this sort of asset creep and style drift because of massive bloating of assets.

[00:25:58] William Green: And he said to me, look, if you wanted to invest, I would let you invest because we spent so much time together. And he was obliging. And I, I remember just being like, oh, that’s very kind. And I wouldn’t have let him do me a favor like that anyway, as a journalist back then. And also. I remember thinking, well, I don’t know how good you are, and I have no idea how good you will be, and it really highlighted for me, when I saw how enduringly good he did turn out to be, it highlighted for me just how hard actually it is to identify whether a fund manager has what it takes.

[00:26:33] Laura Geritz: I think it’s hard because you look and you think, does the person have an actual discipline approach to investing? do they have a process? Do they have, and then the other thing, does that process translate to the other members of the team and these other personalities?

[00:26:49] Laura Geritz: How do transmit that process? But I think that’s very hard to tell from an outside view. you look at people in the industry. This is true for me at the moment. I mean, I mean, I am working in the most out of favor asset classes, I think on the planet, I think the only people left in the emerging markets, right?

[00:27:07] Laura Geritz: Or the very old, the very senior and devoted or the very young because they can’t get a job in private equity or venture capital. So, they’ve had to take a job in emerging markets. So, luckily, such a role in this industry, right? There’s hard work, and then there’s being in the right place at the right time, and sometimes you can be good and just be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

[00:27:30] Laura Geritz: I mean, I love Howard Marks, and reading his most recent letter on sea change, and, I think We’ve been through this period of absurdly easy money, and he, we say this all the time internally, don’t hit these bull markets with brains, and I think, that your comment again about who is good and who is bad, that’s particularly hard to tell right now, too, because the bull markets I’ve made a lot of things good for a long time.

[00:27:55] Laura Geritz: So, but I mean, I think just when I look at the people who I have thought of as good investors in my life, they approach stocks in the markets with an incredible amount of humility and they have a lot of respect for their clients.

[00:28:11] William Green: So, to go back to your story, you moved to the investment team at American Century in 1999 and you got on the financial analyst team.

[00:28:19] William Green: I think at a time when you once told me they were getting 12, 000 resumes for every job. And I’m wondering, like, when you look back, why you think you succeeded against such high odds? What did they look at and think? Yeah, this young woman from the middle of nowhere, although it wouldn’t have been the middle of nowhere to them, has what it takes. Why do you think they saw something in you?

[00:28:42] Laura Geritz: Well, and I, I owe them such a debt of gratitude because, yes, I had no accounting background either. This was an accounting job, I’m a financial analyst, so they weren’t looking at the time frame for people who thought globally, who thought about other places because they already had.

[00:28:58] Laura Geritz: I love Adam Grant’s book on when he talks about cultural enhancements and a culture fit, but they had enough accountants and enough financial analysts in their time frame. What they needed was someone who could think globally. And so, I think that is why. I got the job, I was a foreign language speaker, I’d lived abroad, and when I was lucky enough or fortunate enough, one of the first stocks I was ever given was Tiffany’s. Tiffany, at a time frame when Japan mattered to Tiffany, and I really understood the culture of the Japanese consumer. So that gave me this different lens into that stock that I think others didn’t have.

[00:29:38] William Green: And it wasn’t a good time in many ways for women in the business. I mean, it’s never really been a great time for women in the business. And I’m always sort of trepidatious getting onto this this topic, but I remember you once saying to me, there was a, there were just no female role models there at the time, and you once told me that there was a woman there who was basically told you’ll, you’re never going to be promoted because you work from eight till five. Can you talk about that, about just the pressure and the realization very early on that you were going to have to deal with this tremendous challenge, not necessarily just of structural sexism, but actually of. The hours that were going to be required to become really good.

[00:30:23] Laura Geritz: Yeah, I mean, she was actually married to the head of I.T. at the company and, they had children in her. So, she said, I can put in this amount of time, which actually most people were only putting in that amount of time.

[00:30:39] Laura Geritz: Anyway, there were a few extraordinary, people who were really trying to advance far ahead but the fact that she couldn’t was that she actually said. I think most people just would never admit openly that this, these are going to be my hours, right? So, she was penalized for being honest.

[00:30:56] Laura Geritz: So, I don’t really see why she couldn’t have achieved that level of success because a lot of people were only working those hours anyway. I mean, especially like, if you’re doing domestic equities now, if you’re doing international equities. I can tell you for any young person thinking about the real, becoming an analyst or portfolio manager, I mean, there is sort of no, end and beginning to your day because some market is always open somewhere.

[00:31:25] Laura Geritz: So, but I mean, most of us who’ve been international and, with the long hours of international also just absolutely love. learning about different cultures and places and stocks and talking to different people. So, there’s a different level of a reward. you’re compensated for the hours worked by the knowledge that you gain from doing these unique markets.

[00:31:48] Laura Geritz: So, but yes, that was, I think I told you, I mentioned this to you, but when I left and decided to start, it was with a greater purpose of trying to do something to create a role model or strength out in the industry. It certainly wasn’t for monetary reasons because it’s starting a business and one of my friends jokes, who did a startup company and be called startup, not for profit.

[00:32:11] Laura Geritz: So, it’s very difficult, to get to the level scale where you’re making a lot of money again. And it was never my intention to earn the kind of money I made working for other companies. It was about, trying to do something to change our industry. Yeah, what I saw in, when I left Wasatch was exactly what I saw when I started in the beginning.

[00:32:34] Laura Geritz: The actual number of females who were left in the end, it was actually, I think the number of females in actual research had gone down. So, from when I started, and I can count on. One hand maybe out of finger. How many people are in American century, who were, so really yes. So, I mean, there were, there was one woman who was a role model for me.

[00:33:00] Laura Geritz: She actually came up in a similar way to me and she quit in her forties. She just set it up.

[00:33:06] William Green: I remember you once saying to me that, actually I have the quote here because I was looking at through all my notes from our past interviews last night and it, this really struck me, you talking about alpha males in the business and you said, most of the women I know in the business have quit in their forties.

[00:33:22] William Green: They just tire of it. Part of it is that it’s draining to be surrounded by personalities that don’t fit yours. This linear thinking, chest beating personality, the desire to be on the cover of a magazine. before doing anything that generates the success that warrants that. Can you talk about that sense that there, as you put it, there were all of these people who wanted to dress like Mark Mobius and thump their chest, but weren’t actually as successful as Mark Mobius?

[00:33:47] Laura Geritz: Maybe life has gotten a little, kind of controlling my own destiny around here. Maybe it’s gotten a little better for me because I’ve sought out sort of men who are great partners in the last at least five or six years of my career as sort of different type of male and I mean, we didn’t talk about the positive males in my life.

[00:34:08] Laura Geritz: I have had some of the best male mentors and men who have supported sort of this push for more diversity in the industry. Through the years as well. So, I always say, I know we’re both big fans of Mars way. So, the little book is safe money. He has that one.

[00:34:25] William Green: Oh, Jason’ Zweig.

[00:34:26] Laura Geritz: Thanks so much but yeah, the little book is safe money, right? I’m a huge fan of them. Yeah, but there’s that great chapter provocatively titled sex, right? Yeah, gender pairings in the industry and I think, some of my best years is as a money manager has been why I have been paired male and female pair together. I think that’s just a great pairing in money management and again, I think a lot of them, when you talk about sort of the traditional stereotypical female personality.

[00:34:58] Laura Geritz: This gets into nature and nurture being in our industry, right? But a lot of the great value investors have. These characteristics that are similar to, how you describe a female investor, they manage for risk as well as return. So, a lot of my greatest influencers are, these great male value investors.

[00:35:24] Laura Geritz: So, anyway, that, I think that’s all interesting and I’m confusing what I’m saying here, but I think a lot about nature versus nurture in our industry. And I think a lot of investors are a product. Of their early years or their foundational years when they’re investing, when I started investing, the tech bubble was starting to blow up, so I am naturally risk averse.

[00:35:47] Laura Geritz: And then, of course, I was nurtured to be risk averse as well. But then I look, over the last 12 years, when it’s been sort of higher than being in your portfolio, the more you’ve returned, the more risk you’ve taken, the more leverage you’ve had. The better your returns. I mean, I think you have a whole generation of investors, male and female, who’ve been nurtured to take risk.

[00:36:09] Laura Geritz: Yeah, I think that, that idea that you’re very much shaped by the market in which you grow up is really powerful because I like you. I started covering Wall Street, I guess really in the late 90s, I got serious about it, 2000, and so I was watching the craziness, the crazy behavior, and then it coming undone, and I was invested with people like Marty Whitman, who you’d invested with, I think that was the first fund you ever owned, so these really hardcore, deep value survivors, people who were built for resilience, And so then when we saw everything fall apart, it kind of confirmed for us in some way, this probably temperamental tendency to be risk averse, to be afraid of things falling apart.

[00:36:57] Laura Geritz: I think that’s right. So, I mean, just think about how much the dark, how much sort of a risk mentality. Dominating investing right now, because just of how I mean, I’m a believer that period of pre money or easy money went far too long. And so, I think it’s ingrained this cultural risk taking that might be dangerous in a world where, again, how our marks have seen change where rates may be higher for longer.

[00:37:26] Laura Geritz: I mean, you’re having to rotate your mentality dramatically in this environment. For one, Well, again, I’ll use Dalio here, cash is trash, which I am a diehard believer in, of Ben Graham, so cash is never trash to me, there is an option out of an optionality value of that cash that is very important or sort of, a resilience factor in that cash is important.

[00:37:51] Laura Geritz: But I mean, that was the environment we’ve been in for 12 years where cash is trash. And so now I think, when you’re getting 5 percent on a 30 year or 10-year treasury, cash is no longer trash. I think the sort of mentality of debt or leverage has to change.

[00:38:09] William Green: And you think there’s some kind of shift going on? I mean, as Howard Marks, who you’ve always revered and who I revere and have written about extensively always talks about this kind of pendulum effect where just when you start thinking one thing works, the other thing starts to work. And so, you wrote a paper with your colleague, Blake Clayton, who’s the Co-CIO and a portfolio manager at your firm, Rondure, a white paper saying, talking about how deeply out of fashion emerging markets have been after this kind of perfect storm since 2010.

[00:38:43] William Green: And you have this strong sense that it’s very likely to shift over the coming years. Can you talk about that? What the case is for emerging markets at a time when pretty much everyone has decided, I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t, they’ve lost interest in the same way that people like Jean Marie Eveillard were penalized in the late nineties for being international value investors.

[00:39:07] Laura Geritz: Well, I mean, the dollar is just literally, I mean, that quote, right? The dollar is our currency, and your problem has just swashed everything around the world. So, I mean, I think your case is, if that ever reverses, you have two drivers of really not just emerging markets, any international stock right now, because you have weak currencies around the world and then you have a good cheap value, relatively cheap valuations.

[00:39:36] Laura Geritz: So even in a world of higher interest rates, valuations have come down. So, I think, you have when we started Rondure, I thought large cap US stocks were actually quite attractive. I mean, I started as a large cap global stock analyst in a period when big caps were in favor. So, I was very aware that Microsoft looked like it was sunk the perfect intersection of quality and value and momentum because the Fed kept the momentum cycle going through a very long period of time.

[00:40:06] Laura Geritz: So, you had that, but I don’t think that world looks quite as perfect today. The quality is there. The momentum in these big caps is there. The value isn’t. There as much as it used to be, and the value is there in international emerging market stocks, at least in the high quality one. So, at some point I’d like to think that of the dollars, it’s the catalyst. And these stocks have value.

[00:40:29] William Green: In that paper that you wrote with Blake Clayton, I was very struck by some of the statistics you used about the cycles that have occurred. And so, you wrote that from 2010 to 22, the S&P rose 355%, whereas the MSCI Emerging Markets Index rose 26%.

[00:40:51] William Green: So, I mean, just an astonishing underperformance. But then you pointed out that there were these previous periods that were very different, which is something that, that I write about a lot in my book that, the sort of Ben Graham idea of the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

[00:41:06] William Green: Right. So, so emerging markets outperformed from 1999 to 2010 with the rise of the BRICS. And then, Before that, from 1994 to 1999, the U. S. outperformed, and before that, from 1989 to 1994, after the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, emerging markets outperformed, so there’s this sense that We go through these cycles where it’s not like holy writ that the U.S. and large cap stocks must outperform forever and I think investors forget this.

[00:41:41] Laura Geritz: I mean, I think one thing we didn’t talk about too is I think allocations are down in the single digits now to emerging markets, which because you’re going back to like this generation of investors again. I mean, there’s a very large generation of investors who have only seen the U.S go up and particularly a few stocks in the US go up. I think that’s also the product of the easy money period we’ve been in. I mean, easy money benefits scale. It benefits the biggest companies in the biggest countries. We didn’t write about this in the article, I was separate. Sometimes we do white sheets because we don’t think their intention spans are there anymore.

[00:42:19] Laura Geritz: And then we call white sheets a white paper. Five white sheets equal a white paper. But there’s also like, it’s unbelievable. If you look at like, it’s hard to like, want to be boots on the ground. I love being boots on the ground personally. But you look, there has been one heavy influencer in the world.

[00:42:38] Laura Geritz: And again, I’m going to, again, we keep going back to Howard Marks, but in C Chain, he just talks about the dominance of the global central banks in terms of its influence on investing. And I think that is just their control, sort of this control of the interest rate environment and the consequence of, building of the wealth effect and then the unraveling of the wealth effect is going to heavily influence how stocks do.

[00:43:02] Laura Geritz: But how we see it percolate in international or emerging markets is if interest rates come down in the U. S., the first thing, interest rates go down, stocks go up, the consumer starts to get a little, extra money in their pocket, and they go out and spend, and then the job market gets better, it’s just building wealth effect.

[00:43:20] Laura Geritz: But that was, like, highly beneficial to the biggest of big countries. It was beneficial to Korea and Taiwan, who make everything that the U. S. consumer consumes in the form of chips. semiconductor chips in cars. They are the factory, I think, for the U.S. consumer and then it benefits, it benefited China to a great degree because of scale.

[00:43:40] Laura Geritz: The scale of China, the absolute size of China. These. Really kind of complicated things can be boiled down into kind of one simple cause and effect. So, and that’s the world we’ve kind of been in. So, it’s either those markets are in favor or they’re not, then they’re in favor or they’re not. It’s sort of an uninteresting time as an investor, I think, where sort of narrative dominates, or interest rate environment dominates fundamentals.

[00:44:07] William Green: Yeah, it’s worth just reminding our listeners of this sort of eternal truth that the pendulum swings, but you just never know when it will. And so, I was looking at this statistic from Clifford Asness who said that U.S. investors have only one sixth of their equity allocation in overseas markets. How can that be smart?

[00:44:27] Laura Geritz: We I mean, it just doesn’t feel like it can be to me, like I, you look at valuation, you look at, I mean, I’m a big believer. I mean, actually, and he’s not seen Taliban too, he calls it a white swan today, right?

[00:44:44] Laura Geritz: He’s like, it’s, this should be obvious. The U.S. has let money go be, it’s we’ve kept the cost of capital too cheap, too long. He thinks, it’s almost like thinking about crocodile, right? You’ve got this risk building in a system where I think diversification, if anything, the longer this occurs, the more diversification makes sense, but this notion of concentration and concentration in the U. S. big caps has been what has worked for so long that I think people forget that. I agree that pendulum will shift. We actually say Blake Clayton is a really smart guy, but he actually talks a lot about the pendulum swinging double and triple time in China and Taiwan. It swings so fast.

[00:45:30] William Green: China is a particularly interesting case because as you and Blake pointed out it’s by far the largest component of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. It’s I think it’s 33 percent or thereabouts down from about 42 percent in 2020. And when you compare places like Mexico, that I think is 2%, or Brazil, that’s 5%, you see just how important China is, and so there’s a sense in which if you’re investing in emerging markets heavily, which you are, you’re so dependent on whether China is popular or not, and China obviously has gone through this terrible period, but first, I mean, partly with the COVID lockdown policy, the hostility of the government towards private enterprise, the clobbered things like Alibaba, which I bought when it was incredibly cheap and just it keeps getting cheaper massive debt problems in the property sector now.

[00:46:20] William Green: And you have quite a lot of money in China. I mean, I think when I last looked, 20 percent of your portfolio at Ronja New World Fund was in, in China and about 18 different stocks. How do you think about China, which so many people at this point are saying is uninvestable, and it’s just going to fall apart, and it’s peak China, and the future is terrible, and the demographic disadvantages are appalling, why is it attractive to you?

[00:46:47] Laura Geritz: Well, I mean, the demographics are bad everywhere. I keep thinking of, I love that, Louis Ice Age when, the Zotos are out playing with the watermelon, playing football, and you throw the watermelon, it goes over a cliff and their female, runs over the edge of the cliff and falls on, the dildos are like, oops, there goes our last female.

[00:47:06] Laura Geritz: I mean, that’s a problem around the world. I mean, it’s not just a China specific problem. That’s why I love spending time in Japan, too, because it’s such a Petri dish for, all these problems that are coming from the rest of the world, the easy money. Policies that have prevailed there for so long and then shrinking demographics.

[00:47:25] Laura Geritz: And how do you deal with that? So, I think that’s a common problem that isn’t unique to China. It’s a global problem, but we really try to invest in companies that we think are quite good. They can grow in spite of sort of this macro landscape. Our process doesn’t sound all that different than Ben Graham on, or, Ben Graham, it’s a combination of Ben Graham and Warren Buffett, in global markets, it’s what companies grow thoughtfully over time, who is a good capital allocator, buys back shares, pays dividends.

[00:47:57] Laura Geritz: So, there’s sort of these smart companies that we think still can grow in this landscape. I mean, I think China is going to have to look more like the rest of the world. It’s going to have to become a nation of consumers. So, whether it can pull that off or not, I don’t know, but we’ve been too early. I don’t know if we were too early or too late.

[00:48:16] Laura Geritz: You’ve always had an, I guess, in our world where we think in terms of relative. Well, at least we’re supposed to think in terms of weight relative to the index. We’ve always been underweight trying to just Because of the exact problems you point out There’s such a small set of companies that fit our quality criteria, our transparency criteria, where we think they’re less influenced by the large hand of the government.

[00:48:46] William Green: Yeah, and I was looking at your holdings and they were things like Alibaba, which I was saying has been a costly mistake for me, but luckily not that costly. Cause I didn’t have that much in it. But going [Crosstalk].

[00:48:56] Laura Geritz: I’m sideways now, at least.

[00:48:57] William Green: Yeah, that’s a treat when it doesn’t go down a couple of percent a day. That’s a good day for me. And then Tencent Holdings, which a lot of good investors think is cheap. And then things like Yum! China Holdings and China Tourism Group, Judy Free and Tsingtao Brewery. And so, it looks like there’s a sort of common denominator that. You’re looking for fairly conservative companies that are likely to survive, whatever.

[00:49:20] Laura Geritz: Insanely modem businesses, right? I mean, we’re looking for financial characteristics, great balance sheet, good cash flow characteristics, and the ability to use that cash flow well, even in bad times. I mean, part of the good thing about a bad economy or a bad market is good businesses tend to gain advantage during those periods because everything else goes under.

[00:49:41] Laura Geritz: I mean, I go back to 2000, I think it was, I get my time years confused these days, but you know, you go back to the last market in China, 2000, I think that was 15, but that was a time frame from China. The business is there consolidated. So, you actually had incredible notes for me. You’re going from fragmentation to a lot of ballistic industry. So that was actually a period of time where you see that good balance sheets and businesses with the mo only getting better. So, you think about the U.S. during the worst periods of the macro environment, you still had stocks that were big winners.

[00:50:17] William Green: So, and you’re always looking for good companies that are at a reasonable price that are likely to survive whatever and you’re often looking for them in horrible countries that everyone hates at that particular moment. So, this is not dissimilar to your approach in places like Turkey over the years or elsewhere.

[00:50:38] Laura Geritz: Yes. So, I mean, that’s good businesses got more reasonably priced. When most people had heavyweights in China, we thought the market was way too expensive. I mean, the animal spirits were incredible.

[00:50:49] Laura Geritz: Stocks were overvalued. So, we didn’t have much investment there. I guess this was a couple of years ago. I mean, it’s part of why we had such a good year last year. We didn’t know Russia. And we, when Russia Ukraine happened, we didn’t know any, and then, we were dramatically, and we sold a lot of China when it got expensive during COVID.

[00:51:09] Laura Geritz: So, trying to, if you remember their policies or the best at the beginning of COVID the stock market was. on fire and stocks were expensive. And that’s when we were peeling back on our China weights. And I think we’ve been too early this time.

[00:51:23] William Green: You have this unusual process that I wondered if you could explain quickly to people, because it starts with you doing this bottom up screen of something like 70,000 companies around the world to give you a sense of where there are patents of underpriced stocks or overpriced stocks places you need to avoid.

[00:51:42] William Green: Can you talk about how this iterative process of doing this enormous and very time consuming and arduous screen helps to guide you and keep you out of trouble.

[00:51:54] Laura Geritz: Yeah, I mean, we, it’s, to be honestly, it’s, if you read Defense of the Investor, and you go back and read your [Inaudible] Investor, I mean, we have stolen a lot from Ben Graham.

[00:52:03] Laura Geritz: I mean, we, like, we start with the balance sheet. I mean, that’s where I differ from Wasatch. My original mentors, Value investors. You go by, oddly enough, at a growth from Mid-American century, my mentors, I was an accidental tourist to Graham and Buffet. They were teaching me. I was 25 years old and they’re teaching me, Graham and Buffet and I had no idea that’s what they were teaching me.

[00:52:24] Laura Geritz: But so, we just apply that to the international markets. I mean, we, look, we started the screen, it encapsulates what does a balance sheet of a company look like? It goes back, 10, 15 years but yeah [Inaudible] cash flow, whether the company adds economic value. So, we start with balancing. You say, does this company have reasonable leverage or is the debt on the balance sheet improving? So, you’re looking for these terms in the business and then you’re saying, is this, well, is this the type of business where it’s acceptable to have some debt, is it a business where there’s a high level of recurring revenue or a simple business where people, consumers tend to consume even when it’s bad, ramen noodles or, but and then we look at the cashflow.

[00:53:12] Laura Geritz: How does the company use the cashflow? are they investing for growth? did they pay dividends? Do they, buy back shares? And then last but not least, we really look at, I mean, this is from this kind of book, like, studying how Warren Buffett invests, but is there, does their margins suggest that they have a competitive advantage?

[00:53:32] Laura Geritz: And then Graham, does they have stable or durable growth? We’re not looking for the fastest growth, but we’re looking for a business that, has a history of growing through a lot of. And then we whittle that world down. And believe it or not, it’s, when you whittle the world down today, there aren’t that many companies that fit that level of quality, as when you look around the world.

[00:53:56] Laura Geritz: So. Here’s another reason, when we talk about international or emerging markets that we haven’t gotten to, but I, you always hear this one, quality of the company must be terrible in small cap land, right? Well, that, in America where stock prices have gone up, up, and up, I think what has been left in small cap, and given we’ve had high levels of inflation, how we define small cap should probably change.

[00:54:19] Laura Geritz: But I think if you’re using old definitions of small cap pre inflation, then yeah, the quality of a small cap here. probably isn’t all that good. You’ve got a lot of unprofitable companies in small cap land today. But I mean, we’re dealing with small countries, you’ve got countries like New Zealand, where the population is just tiny, or Australia, we’re dealing with a nascent economy.

[00:54:43] Laura Geritz: So that means, you can have an 800-pound gorilla in the small cap land. When you look overseas, I mean, the quality of companies quite good down cap is overseas, especially because it’s been out so long. So, we’re not sacrificing quality down cap.

[00:55:00] William Green: So you have this very systematic process on the one hand, where you do this rid ridiculously detailed screen, I think, twice a year, and then you spend much of your work week kind of, going through these companies one by one, seeing whether they fit these requirements.

[00:55:14] William Green: So, you can reduce those 70,000 companies to something like 300 to 500 companies, maybe, that’s your target list. And then the thing that’s really distinctive is you go travel like crazy. I remember you once telling me that you would travel six to nine months a year and you’ve talked to me about in the past your investing style resembling unconstrained free verse.

[00:55:37] William Green: Like there’s, and the company is named Grandeur right after a passage from a Walt Whitman poem. So, so on the one hand, there’s this very systematic, rigorous process, and on the other hand, there’s this very free, flexible process that’s more creative, that really revolves around travel and reading in an incredibly broad way.

[00:55:58] William Green: And so, I wanted to switch to that topic because I think it’s something that’s so distinctive about your approach and it’s very idiosyncratic. It’s not common in the investment industry. So first let’s talk about travel. Like, how many countries have you been to over the years?

[00:56:13] Laura Geritz: 75. So, and many of those countries, like, if you think about where there’s a broad array of high quality mode in businesses, some countries I’ve been to many times, I mean, when you go to Korea, Korea is still a country where you exchange business cards and, I walk into a corporate meeting and I don’t want to exchange cards with me.

[00:56:37] Laura Geritz: it’s probably a slander that I’ve been in meetings a few times, but. Yeah, so there are some places, I’ve only been once or twice, and some I’ve gone to many times.

[00:56:48] William Green: And can you talk about the patent recognition that comes from that, because I think of you going, whether it’s to a place like Turkey, where I remember you once telling me, look I was there when the hotels were 1, 200 a night, and I was there when the hotels were 75 a night.

[00:57:04] William Green: Can you talk about the patent recognition that comes from these repeated boots on the ground trips?

[00:57:11] Laura Geritz: Well, we just, we, I was in, when I was in Japan, I’ll give an example I was in Japan this last time, I actually wrote my quarterly letter on the Hamburger economics. I was talking about the big Mac index, but I noticed every country we’ve been to over the last by a month.

[00:57:27] Laura Geritz: So, everything that’s not dollar denominated or dollar oriented has really cheap hamburgers right now. This goes back to international markets today, they’re cheap, almost anywhere you go, emerging, develop, it’s funny, we read that stuff. Here. You read that stuff. And we know like the dollar is strong, but I don’t think you realize it until you’re all really truly realize it until you’re on the ground.

[00:57:49] Laura Geritz: Just how strong that dollar is today. So. these are things we see, I think, because I’m a consumer analyst and I was trained first in consumer. That was my first sector. And so much of what I do, or the types of companies that we invest in, or where my circle of competence lies is tangible.

[00:58:12] Laura Geritz: So, I can watch people’s behavior and that’s really helpful to me to see what they’re doing. But. You’re right. I mean, it just, there’s a combination of this real rigor of we don’t have a lot of time, but we’re in this industry and it’s, we’ve got to narrow it down or whittle down the world.

[00:58:31] Laura Geritz: in a way that makes sense. So, we narrowed down, these are the types of companies and businesses we’re going to look at. And then getting on the road serves multiple purposes. I think, again, it goes to everything today is interconnected, I think. there’s no company that exists in a vacuum and exists within a global economy.

[00:58:52] Laura Geritz: And so, for me to try to go out and solve for what makes this company tick, it requires doing a lot more than just reading the sell side report on the quarter.

[00:59:04] William Green: Another thing that’s very unusual about your approach is that you’re not just constantly traveling to countries to visit companies, but you’ve actually planted yourself in many different countries for extended periods of time. Can you talk about what you’ve done in the past, some of the places? where you’ve put yourself and how you do it and why that’s been so helpful to you.

[00:59:30] Laura Geritz: There was a part of it too. I mean, it was actually when, when shared, the shared economy came about all these apartments, it actually became frugal.

[00:59:42] Laura Geritz: It’s actually, he has his plane ticket is actually often the most expensive part of travel. So, you’d go, and you’d rent this apartment in this place. You’d get on the time zone. I think One of the biggest things was like saving your own health, getting in the same time zone with these companies, you were able to get a lot more done and operating in the U.S, in the U. S. time zone, in a U. S. frame of mind. So, I’ve hubbed out of, when I was covering Africa, I used to hub out of Europe a lot. So, if I were going to French speaking Africa, I would have about a Paris because the flight, the flights were really. Common, and easy. So, if I were, traveling to English, speaking Africa, I often hubbed out of the UK I’ve hubbed out of Japan.

[01:00:29] Laura Geritz: I’ve spent weeks in Indonesia. I’m not one either, like, you hear about people who, they go live in Thailand, and they go out of, a beach city. I mean, I like Bangkok, so I’ll stay in Bangkok. I find it fascinating, and you learn a lot about how people behave when you’re in, when you spend time in these places, you learn a lot about culture.

[01:00:53] William Green: I think I remember you saying to me you’d also spent a lot of time staying in places like Abu Dhabi and Dubai and you’d spent a month in Kenya at one point and you’d go to Tanzania so you could learn more about East Africa and I think there was a time you stayed in Amsterdam for an extended period, Paris for an extended period, so there’s a Thailand, Singapore, so there’s a This is an unusual way to build a kind of competitive advantage by having a deep sense of how a particular part of the world operates, what the culture is like there.

[01:01:26] Laura Geritz: I think it saves a lot of time too. I traveled recently with two or three, there were three different generations of investors, sort of entry level or new investors. Like, beginning of their career, kind of mid-career investors, and then, I’m usually the most senior person in the room these days, but it’s so interesting how you approach things because for me, there’s this nuance of culture.

[01:01:53] Laura Geritz: I don’t know how to explain it, but like, the first part of a lot of meetings is lost in translation. I think we all waste a lot of managerial time by sort of not understanding these cultural things when we go into the meeting. So, I mean, I think 1 of the things that is enabled me to do is cut to the chase of what makes the investment tick a lot quicker by understanding how the company functions within its particular culture. I think that’s important, and I think that can really come from reading a lot.

[01:02:24] William Green: You also have this sense of, I would say, respect for the local cultures that’s different, I think, from a lot of the Brash Americans and I count myself as an honorary Brash American having lived here since my early twenties, although I did live in Hong Kong and London along the way, but I remember you talking to me about Japan, and you obviously years ago had bought a home in Kyoto, so you spent a lot of time there.

[01:02:48] William Green: And you talked to me about just how different the actual priorities of a Japanese company are to the priorities of a U.S. company. Can you give us a sense of that? Cause it just, it’s a perfect embodiment of why you actually need, not just to impose your own values on the cultures that you’re visiting.

[01:03:09] Laura Geritz: And ESG are responsible investing before it was fashionable right now. I mean, it’s, stakeholder, customer, customer comes first, there’s these actors, that we don’t count. I mean, mainly employee, we don’t think as much about employees in Western culture customers.

[01:03:29] Laura Geritz: It’s really sort of this environment of managing for the quarter maximizing profit, right? Yeah. Profit maximization, right? In the short term. Versus, surviving for the long-term. I think it’s dramatically different culture. And I know, by the way, I know, we both have one, I think we both love ground green.

[01:03:52] Laura Geritz: I’m a huge ground green fan. My favorite, one of my favorite books of all time is the quiet American. So that probably sums up who I am a lot. I mean, I’m embarrassed by Americans overseas often, and. I’ve embarrassed myself a few times by being American overseas, but I mean, this notion of there’s no such thing as a quiet American, I think is that statement rings true.

[01:04:16] Laura Geritz: So, I try not to bring my American ness to global investing. I think maybe you haven’t we take a unique approach, when we think, when we thought about like who we wanted to be as responsible investors. We wanted sort of this, and I didn’t want this Western notion of I think the problems in the U.S. I mean, this is changing and, you look at Europe, a lot of these problems are rich people’s problems. I’m always said after spending all kinds of time in Africa, poverty has no carbon footprint. That’s. completely true. And so, you think what, how we try to approach, going into each different country was with respect for the culture and, trying to speak on the company’s terms and not our own.

[01:05:02] Laura Geritz: And how do you think that any business selling and opening in India, how they should run their business? I don’t have that. Well, this notion of like, I am listening to your podcast. The older I get, the less I know is true. So, on one planet, should I be going into India telling someone who’s lived and run a business in that culture forever, how to run their business. I just don’t think I should.

[01:05:27] William Green: I remember Mohnish Pabrai once saying to me, talking to me about a famous investor who had gone into Japan and was telling them here’s what you need to do to fix your economy and he, he was this sort of big billionaire activist investor in Japan. And he’s like, this guy’s just going to get his head handed to him and it was a kind of wonderful example of a foreigner. In this case, an Englishman, I think so weary to blame a foreigner thinking we could go in and civilize the locals and tell them how to be better and smarter.

[01:05:58] Laura Geritz: I mean, I think even just language, like, the nuances of language, Americans are direct. So many cultures are not direct, and so I think by going in with this notion that everyone is direct, I mean, a lot of times people will say something, and especially, I think, I’ll speak to Asian cultures because I know they’re the best, but you like They will tell you what you want to hear just to get you to leave not alone, So, I mean, you have to go into a meeting, this is again why reading is so important. Mosaic theory is so important to me because most cultures are not going to tell. I don’t think Americans. They’ll tell you what you want to hear too, and they’ll strongly voice their opinions, even if their opinions are dead wrong, because I think particularly when I was younger, right?

[01:06:45] Laura Geritz: Maybe I was a braver investor when I was younger, because I thought I was right, or knew I was right. now I feel like I’m wrong all the time. there’s just this, Immense sense as time goes on of not knowing all the things I want to know. So anyway, I think that sort of level of humility and nuance of culture is important.

[01:07:07] Laura Geritz: I always tell people in Japan, yes, may mean no, I will try means no, maybe means no, perhaps means no, and if you get them to say no, then you really said something wrong. So, it’s just a different world. And I think a lot of North Asia is in that mode as well, and I was surprised. I was surprised when I traveled to Africa, how much sort of the culture of a group or community was more pervasive there. It almost felt Asian in nature, versus Western, I guess, if we’re using Western.

[01:07:46] William Green: You once had a lovely image that you explained to me where you were talking about seeing the world in terms of nesting dolls and having this sense of only having got to the second layer.

[01:07:56] William Green: Can you explain what you meant? Cause it’s a very good way to, to visualize this kind of Acceptance of our own ignorance in a way.

[01:08:06] Laura Geritz: Now I think I might only be on the first but yeah, no, I mean, the world is a complex place. I mean, I think it’s one of the reasons I avoid complexity in businesses at all costs.

[01:08:18] Laura Geritz: One, I don’t think I’m very smart, so I stick to simple businesses, but I mean, understanding a simple business in a complex world, is something I believe tremendously in, but I feel like, with each trip, you discover something new. And it’s not what you think you’re going to discover when you go, so like, it’s always a surprise to me what it is I find out on a trip.

[01:08:42] William Green: The image you had given me was you, like with those Russian nesting dolls, there’s a whole series of layers and we’re always sort of on the outside, maybe you get to the second layer, but you’re nowhere near the center. And I think that’s a really helpful way to visualize our own ignorance or level of knowledge.

[01:08:59] Laura Geritz: I think a lot of it too, the more I read, I mean you can take, I’m just one person in a complex world, there’s only so much I can know, so by picking up a book, I can still harness somebody else’s knowledge, a different personality type too, so they may be seeing the world in a different way. And I think, like not reading or not traveling and I do all the fundamental work too.

[01:09:23] Laura Geritz: I mean, during COVID, I read more 10 Qs and Ks and I was loving it then, you can imagine I build models, but you, you look and you think it’s sort of like when you check into a. Airbnb and you see a puzzle and it’s snowing. And I think the other way to think about it is like you get like partially done with the puzzle and then you realize like 10 pieces are missing.

[01:09:43] Laura Geritz: So, it kind of drives you crazy. So, to me, traveling and reading is kind of discovering those missing puzzle pieces. And I walked I was in my colleague went to Blake went to He was in China, and I think he was in Indonesia this quarter, last quarter he was in the Philippines, I was in Japan during a couple weeks, and it wasn’t, my epiphany was like, oh, at least the finance industry may have interesting business models again, because there is leverage and I think the strong are going to survive so that you might have consolidation in Japan that you weren’t going to expect.

[01:10:17] Laura Geritz: So, it’s always something different that you discover on a trip and it’s not what you think you’re going to discover that you discover.

[01:10:23] William Green: So, you also do a lot of structured reading before the trip, and I wanted to talk a little bit about what you have referred to me as intentional reading. How do you structure your study of these countries before you go on a trip. What are you reading?

[01:10:41] Laura Geritz: Whatever I can find. So, I haven’t, it’s a very odd, almost compulsive habit of mine. So, I’m actually going, I’m traveling with my husband on a business trip, one of his business trips for the first time ever, actually. He’s going to Australia for work.

[01:10:58] Laura Geritz: In a couple of weeks and I’m joining his trip, I’ll be working remotely, but I went out and bought, I will buy whatever book I haven’t read on Australia, and I will, it’s a joke. My husband always asks, do you have enough clothes in your suitcase or is it just full of bugs?

[01:11:19] Laura Geritz: But every country I go to, I bring a minimum 3 books. I like to leave room in my suitcase for discovering other books, and just like you, William, I read physical books still, because I told them, I highlight them, I, there’s a purposeful reading, it’s intentional reading, so.

[01:11:37] William Green: And you re-read a great deal as well, which I was very struck by. I remember you saying to me that you would read the quiet American Graham Greene’s novel. Every year you’d read The Intelligent Investor, every year you’d, there were a bunch of books you just would read over and over again. What’s the benefit of that type of compulsive re reading?

[01:11:56] Laura Geritz: You find quotes that, really, mean, I think passages are passages that really mean something to you.

[01:12:04] Laura Geritz: I don’t know, that help you identify with thinking about the world in a different way. Again, I mean, I think if we’re trying to generate alpha, I mean. You have to be different at the right time. So those, we have a culture. I always find it interesting that we have this culture of reading, and we all sit back, and we read the greatest investors.

[01:12:26] Laura Geritz: And the greatest investors tell us things like, don’t trade. the greatest investors tell us plant seeds, but yet the, and culture, our culture is. quantity over quality, more over less, surface level over deep thinking. And so, I think in some ways you have to sort of rebel against the culture in order to actually be a good investor.

[01:12:49] William Green: It’s also striking to me that there’s You have both on the one hand this kind of re reading obsession, right? I remember you saying to me recently that you’d been re reading things like William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury or Macbeth by Shakespeare. And then at the same time, you have this tremendous breadth in your reading.

[01:13:07] William Green: Like before these trips, you would often say, Okay, so I’m going to read economic books, political books about this country, but I’m also going to read great literature and then I’m going to read mysteries and thrillers because they give you more of a sense of pop culture. Can you talk about that combination of going very narrow and repetitive and yet at the same time tremendous breadth, why that’s helpful?

[01:13:30] Laura Geritz: I think there are certain books that just resonate with you in life, right? Just for your own personal enjoyment or fulfillment. I mean, for me, The Quiet American is one I love. I think a lot of people from who have lived in the West for a long time also love A River Runs Through It. I mean, that passage at the end where, you have the river running over these rocks and it’s reminding him of the passage of time, it brings even all the, it brings us to the tears that last passage.

[01:13:57] Laura Geritz: But I think there are certain. passages and that you just reread just for the pure beauty of the language, and it just resonates with you. Another one for me is Snow Country, the opening Japanese novel, but Japanese plot novels, we talk a lot about, they have a lot of white space, it’s a culture where people don’t have to be speaking all the time.

[01:14:17] Laura Geritz: You don’t have to fill empty space and so you have these beautiful novels, but back to someone gave me the advice a long time ago, a mentor, I was just telling him, my reading on. he’s been kind of in finance and he was a global traveler. His background is very similar to yours, actually, UK, Hong Kong.

[01:14:37] Laura Geritz: But he said, I would recommend that you read mystery novels set in these wonderful places. So read travel books and novels and mystery set in all these magical places, politics. And what I learned about the countries from those books, Often, one quote said in Malaysia could be better than spending tons of time there or even just what you learned from reading nonfiction.

[01:15:03] Laura Geritz: So, I think reading these, you can, I think it would go back and you think about Moby Dick, and I think about Kansas and they’re talking about travel and Moby Dick, and he said, well. I can’t remember who makes the reply, but he says, well, I can see a lot, or I can see the whole world from where I’m standing.

[01:15:22] Laura Geritz: And I think there’s an element to that is what reading does for us. I mean, when you grow up in Kansas too, right? You can really see the world. You can see the curve of the earth from Western Kansas. So anyway, I don’t know how to explain it very well. It’s hard to articulate. Just those, when your mind is free, when you have white space, when you’re reading, that’s when your best epiphanies come from that have nothing to do with actually what you’re doing.

[01:15:48] William Green: You also have this very unusual approach where you pick one big topic a year, which I think is fascinating. Can you talk about that and what some of the topics have been in recent years?

[01:16:00] Laura Geritz: This year it was, and it still is, I think it’s getting more eclectic and multidisciplinary, but it started to sort of, I mean, it does almost always tie into my interest in the markets.

[01:16:11] Laura Geritz: I see value in Japan, you see this great intersection of high quality and value. So, I started reading about craftsmanship and In Japan and cooking because I’ve read almost all the literature in Japan. So, I moved on to a new topic, but so, I was reading these beautiful books about, craft craftsmen and in Japan.

[01:16:34] Laura Geritz: So, in cooking, there’s this a lot of, I think a lot of the investors you spoke to and what struck me about your book. was how many of us sort of hold this sort of philosophy of Zen. And so, I was reading, the art of Zen cooking and all these sort of craftsmanship books, and so that was my topic for the year, and

[01:16:56] William Green: How has it helped, Laura? Like, what is it how does it resonate into investing?

[01:17:03] Laura Geritz: Well, we haven’t talked about this, but the older I get to feel, there’s this compulsion in Americans to do something to trade. So sometimes reading just, like, distracts you from your worst compulsion too, right, which is to trade. So, there’s this element of just slowing down, to do deeper research, to think.

[01:17:21] Laura Geritz: I think when you’re thinking about these craftsmen too, it helps you think about what really makes a great business as well, what is it about? These craftsmen that, parallel to these great businesses in Japan because a lot of the great businesses there too started as some form of craft.

[01:17:39] Laura Geritz: So that was something I pulled from these books, but it also makes you think a lot about that environment of investing too. It’s a slower process. That was my topic next year is historical fiction. So, I’ve already picked it out. It’s a bunch of meaty books.

[01:17:55] William Green: I remember Nick Sleep talking to me about how he got me to read Michael Pollan’s book where he was building his writing shed in his garden, and one of the reasons he got me to read it was he was talking about things that are lovingly made over long periods of time, things that endure, and in a way you think of Nomad, the fund that Nick and Zach Kei Sakaria were running together, it was lovingly made.

[01:18:24] William Green: It was constructed with this great care. There’s this, there’s a sort of craftsmanship, and then you think of Buffett talking about painting his masterpiece with Berkshire, that again, it’s lovingly made. I think there’s something very powerful about this idea of trying to make things that endure, that are made simply, but with great care.

[01:18:45] Laura Geritz: We also talk about, every year when you think about portfolio management, right? It’s like painting a picture as well. So, one of the things like reading and changing topics and travel does is, I like to think about starting every year with a blank piece of paper. how would it look the same today?

[01:19:05] Laura Geritz: Would I paint it differently? I mean, I certainly think invest in craft, how every year, how do you get better?

[01:19:13] William Green: You’ve also, I was thinking, I was looking through some of your old topics that we’ve discussed over the years, and I just wanted to give our listeners a sense of the breadth of what you’ve done, and there was one time, I think we spoke in 2020 and you said, oh yeah, I’ve been focusing on U.S. frontier history, plus explorers, and so you’re saying, I’m reading all the books on the West, on the Dust Bowl, on Native American history, and Willa Cather who I love, who’s great Death Comes to the Archbishop is fantastic. And then there was a, yeah, it’s a great book. And then there was a time where you were focused on the Middle East.

[01:19:44] William Green: There was one year where you told me you were focused on Russia and physics. And so, you were doing the history and literature of Russia and physics at the same time. There’s another time you told me I’m doing explorers starting from the Vikings and another time where you told me I’m doing oil.

[01:20:00] Laura Geritz: Sometimes you bite off more than you can chew, right? Russia is a big topic. Oil was a small hoods topic, I mean, Marks was asking in that recent Leather 2 about like, what are the sea change events to me, oil, which was a sea change for emerging markets and international investing, because if you go back.

[01:20:19] Laura Geritz: In U. S. history, the last few years of history anyway, when the U. S. was importing oil from the Middle East, see, this, these are topics that I get from my book that I don’t think I would get from reading young, sell side analysts who are focused on a quarter, but. You look and you think, okay, just from travel, from reading, from doing 10 Qs and Ks and working at companies, we were exporting dollars to the Middle East when we were not, when we didn’t have our own oil, when oil shale and shale oil wasn’t working at a profitable level in the United States.

[01:20:56] Laura Geritz: Oil prices stayed high for a long time. you had innovation in an industry that isn’t very innovative, and we drove down the cost of producing a barrel of oil or producing oil in the United States, and we ended up in the U. S. running a, we run a trade deficit for a long time, and when you’re sending money to the Middle East for oil, these are countries built on sand, and oil, And they don’t have a lot of other things.

[01:21:22] Laura Geritz: They’re not producing Nike tennis shoes or, they’re not producing food. Those dollars percolate out to the rest of the world when they go to the Middle East. So, when we started producing oil, and when we stopped having a trade deficit. This was a pivotal change in the global economy because the dollar strengthened, the dollar became hard to get for the rest of the world.

[01:21:42] Laura Geritz: So, to me, that was just this weird sort of connecting the dots thing that you get from reading and doing all sorts of different work that isn’t just staring or building a spreadsheet.

[01:21:55] William Green: So, you’re doing the building of the spreadsheet and you’re doing the very systematic analysis and you’re going to visit all the companies, but it’s very interesting to me that you have this very freewheeling, more creative approach.

[01:22:06] William Green: And I mean, just to give our listeners a sense of just how deep it goes. You also have a kind of what you regard as rondeau university, right? This sort of in-house university. Can you talk about what you do with your colleagues, how you get together very consistently to whether it’s to cover an accounting topic or to read books that you then discuss together?

[01:22:30] Laura Geritz: Well, we had gotten out of the habit a little bit during COVID, so we’ve been getting back into the habit again. But, I mean, and one of the things we’ve been doing is listening to more podcasts as a team as well, I think COVID brought about a lot more really straight podcasts, so that was something we did EDX and Coursera.

[01:22:47] Laura Geritz: Last year we all studied the CFA ESG. Curriculum together. So that was what we did as a group last year. It was a little different than normal. This year we were reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead together. Huh. It turns out I had the done translation. So, my colleague did a really good translation.

[01:23:05] Laura Geritz: I didn’t have a very good one. So we were, those are some of the things we do. For us. I think it, I mean, I think as time goes by, if anything, the thing that you’re spending, you know what the good companies are throughout the world. I know today they fairly well what are the good companies, right?

[01:23:22] Laura Geritz: It’s having the discipline and the behavior and or philosophical mindset to not do something stupid. That’s what I find myself, as I get older and older, it’s just. It’s much about, your disposition for investing, your ability to stomach the bad times. I don’t celebrate the good times like I used to, because I know that the bad times will come. Investing’s hard.

[01:23:49] William Green: Do you think having read all these books about difficult periods, in American history and other history, like whether it’s studying the dust bowl or whatever, whether that actually helps you in terms of your own resilience and ability to endure difficult times. Cause you you’ve been in the desert in a way for the last 12 years, right?

[01:24:09] William Green: While emerging markets have been hated. I mean, it’s the worst time. That you could be somebody who would be buying small cap emerging market stocks. I mean, you just been going against the tide for year after year. Very difficult. And I’m wondering if you’re reading, and your sense of history enables you actually to handle that kind of adversity.

[01:24:31] Laura Geritz: Maybe this goes back to the talking about, sort of Zen philosophy and Zen practice. I mean, there’s all sorts of things other than just meditation that are like mindfulness training. I think reading is one of them. Travel is one of them. Sort of takes you out of your comfort zone, takes you away from your daily routine it expands your mind.

[01:24:56] Laura Geritz: And I think also it helps you, I don’t know, focus on things are bad. Things are good. there are things we can’t control, right? That’s just I can’t control this. So, I’ll focus on controlling what I can control. I’ll run the process. Someday the process will come back in favor again. The worst thing I can do is change the process, So, I mean, I can make the, we can all make the process better. We can get better at our craft, but the basic elements of the process of identifying a good company haven’t changed.

[01:25:29] William Green: Yeah. So, in a way it’s having the strength and discipline to keep doing things that haven’t been working. Yes. Do you trust that they’ll eventually work because they make sense?

[01:25:40] Laura Geritz: We keep going back to Hart Marks, but I was at a, I went to my first kind of big event, it was the Ivy value conference. It was held in person this year in Toronto. Marks was the keynote speaker, but he said I was on some panel, but he said he was speaking about his writing. In the 90s and he said, that was a period of time for what I think it was the 90s.

[01:26:04] Laura Geritz: I’m going to forget the exact periods, but I’m going to paraphrase what he said, because it was sort of this similar moment for me, but he said, there was this period of time where he was writing and he didn’t even know why he was doing it because he was, it was so out of favor. Nobody was reading it.

[01:26:18] Laura Geritz: And then all of a sudden, while his memos became. read and people asked him questions, but he said he went through like this decade where no one asked him a thing. I

[01:26:28] William Green: think it may have been 25 years, literally. I mean, it was a very long time.

[01:26:32] Laura Geritz: I think that’s right. So, I mean, that’s resilience. that’s resilience to keep, practicing your craft when nobody has an interest.

[01:26:43] Laura Geritz: So. If I look at our team in general, everyone’s really passionate about stocks. I mean, I don’t feel like I’ve ever gone to work a day in my life. So, or at least since I’ve been in the investment industry,

[01:26:57] William Green: one of the things that’s very distinctive. about you and your approach that I found very thought provoking myself is the amount of empty space you leave in your life to think and read and write so you can distill your ideas.

[01:27:12] William Green: And I wrote to you about three weeks ago and I said, Laura, I’m kind of embarrassed, but I put myself in this impossible situation where I said because of my perennial inability to say no to anything, I’ve taken on way too much, and here I am, I’m always preaching to people about the importance of reducing complexity, and I’m constantly piling on ever greater amounts of complexity in my life, so I said, could we postpone our interview, which was supposed to be about three weeks ago, and you wrote back to me, not a problem at all, I’m wide open the next few months, and you said, that’s intentional, it’s just docs and writing.

[01:27:45] William Green: And that struck me as very typical of you to be so focused on giving yourself enough time. To read, to write, to think to analyze stocks, to visit companies. Can you talk about this mindset of very intentionally leaving your time less cluttered? Cause it strikes me I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, and this strikes me as just inordinately important and something that I’m failing to do the whole time.

[01:28:12] Laura Geritz: I come from a culture where it’s hard to say no as well, like we, it. I grew up in this place where you just you want to help people. I think for me, I’ll tell you COVID 19 was this horrible thing and in almost this personal great thing for an introvert, it was introvert’s paradise, right?

[01:28:33] Laura Geritz: Like, offices never worked for me. Office works for people who I think when people are afraid of you, office works. When you’re not approachable, office works, right? But when people are not afraid of me, they’ve never been afraid of me. So, you put me in an office, and I’ve got, someone will come to talk to me, every, however many minutes, right?

[01:28:54] Laura Geritz: And they say, every time you get interrupted, that’s 24 minutes that it takes your brain to get back to focused on the task at hand. Right. I mean, and we know that about ourselves too. Like when we’re interrupted, it takes a long time to get it back to that state and so, yeah, I mean, I try not to take on very much.

[01:29:15] Laura Geritz: I’ve learned to say no. I stay to myself a lot. I moved again during COVID. Utah has become, I love Utah, I love the friends I’ve made there, but it’s become A more popular investment destination and I don’t want to be called, by a broker every day, even though some of them are my greatest friends, with a company coming through that doesn’t fit my process.

[01:29:40] Laura Geritz: I just don’t think that’s a good use of time. So, I’m very intentional about focusing on the stops that we screen. reading about the environment that those companies are operating in. So as a Japanese company, I want to know a lot about Japan and then writing for me helps me invest. It helps me sort of purge my brain. So, it’s writing is synergistic to investing. So, for me, so.

[01:30:08] William Green: I remember during COVID, Laura, you said to me that you had rented this small house in a very quiet part of Idaho that had a stream in the garden. And I think you said to me I have three outfits and 45 books, and it struck me, Bill Miller was much the same.

[01:30:23] William Green: I remember him once saying to me, yeah, COVID was just great for me. Like nobody bothered me and I could just sit around reading. And for me as well, I felt kind of guilty about it, but. I love my family and my wife started, stopped working in an office and started working from home, so I was much less isolated because I was working at home and my kids came back from college, so they were at home.

[01:30:43] William Green: It was kind of wonderful. It was like, I could be at home, see my family when I wanted, and the rest of the time just kind of read and write and think. It was amazing, that reduction of complexity.

[01:30:53] Laura Geritz: Introvert’s paradise, right? I mean, because the funny thing about investing, I, this is a Buffett comment, but he always says, stocks are the easy thing, people are the hard.

[01:31:02] Laura Geritz: Introvert’s paradise. Right. And so, you and I think that’s true for introverts and our industry attracts a lot of that personality type, but yet, the whole corporate culture, right. Are corporations are typically led by extroverts. So, there’s this element of sort of misery or distraction that just doesn’t work for my personality. So, I’ve kept up. We have an experienced team as well. I think it’s different when you have, or you’re mentoring or training young people, they need more physical time with a team that’s really passionate about stock syndrome. And then I don’t need to sort of bully them into doing their work.

[01:31:43] Laura Geritz: They want to do their work. So, yeah, I keep my calendar pretty clean. Plus, I’m a miserable husband. I don’t think I’d still be married. My husband told, If I put too much on my calendar, I’m a miserable person.

[01:31:55] William Green: And your husband is often in a different country, right? I mean, I remember your husband, Rob, who, when we first spoke, was handling sales for baseball and the like for a big company and would go around.

[01:32:08] William Green: Asia, he would be based in Kyoto. You would be based for months a year in Utah and then you would go off on trips together. So, you’d sort of structured your life in a way. So, you didn’t have kids. You had a husband who was incredibly supportive of your work but wasn’t around the whole time.

[01:32:24] Laura Geritz: Yes, I mean that we did that right six months before, I think I told you six months before COVID we downsized.

[01:32:32] Laura Geritz: We said, why do we need this much space? like, you’re always on the road, I’m on the road, I can go to an office, and then we ended up, COVID hits, and we’re in a loft condo with both of us doing night calls, right? Like. It was not a conducive environment for work, which is why we rented a house in Idaho, and we didn’t stay there.

[01:32:52] Laura Geritz: We should have locked that house down because it was funny. We were there early, and it was cheap because no one was traveling. It was just the beginning and then the prices went through the roof because everyone sorts of did this staycation sort of thing. So, but it was, really empty and lovely.

[01:33:09] Laura Geritz: And I read a lot about it. I mean, I really went back to basics. I don’t know if a lot of people said this about that timeframe, but it really went back to basics. I read all these things that you had wanted to get into, but just didn’t get to, about companies.

[01:33:26] William Green: You also, over the years you’ve had this ability to detach yourself physically from the noise, right?

[01:33:33] William Green: So, I remember you once telling me that you would go every year to a little island off Australia that only had eight houses. Can you talk about that? Because it seems consistent, right? You have this little condo in Utah that you downsize to. You have, I think, a 900 or 1000 square foot of home in Kyoto.

[01:33:52] William Green: So, like, these are you’ve managed to withdraw from the noise actually physically. Tell me about Australia and how that kind of this island sort of embodies that ability to give yourself the peace to think and read and write.

[01:34:06] Laura Geritz: I was raised on Thoreau. So, this sort of anti-materialism or I guess it’s like cheap life as simple as possible so that you can actually enjoy your time or focus on the things you want to focus on, whether that’s, achieving a sort of financial level of comfort that allows you to focus on what you focus on.

[01:34:28] Laura Geritz: Whether you have commented on this, I constructed a life, I have a partner. that was very intentional. It allows me, I mean, not a lot of people, right, can disappear from the U. S. for months at a time, without having some sort of commitment back home they have to get to. I told you recently you should read, I just read that Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, which was Absolutely wonderful.

[01:34:52] Laura Geritz: He’s constructed a life that’s very similar to mine and I didn’t, you don’t look at the biography at the end at the beginning and I was reading this and I’m like, boy, this guy could be like my twin, and then it turns out he was from North Central Kansas, as I went back and read the book, but you would love it because it has all your favorite authors, it’s just littered with all these beautiful thinkers, but yes, yeah, I’m for sure I constructed this life of being able to get away and Badera, it’s called Baderas.

[01:35:23] Laura Geritz: I shouldn’t give that away. There’s actually a really expensive hotel on the other side of the Island that I’ve never set foot on, and you can’t get through it from these houses because you’ve probably. It’s Australia, you get bitten by a poisonous spider snake, going through the jungle. The Island itself, you have a cell tower that’s far away.

[01:35:43] Laura Geritz: You have no internet. You have these sorts of houses that you have to, the boats only come every five days, so you carry your stuff, your groceries, and you get off in the house and. I carry books and some food and, and I read and meditate and it’s when I typically write a quarterly letter or, but it’s really lovely for thinking.

[01:36:05] William Green: I think when I was writing my book I don’t know if I stole this phrase from someone else or if I came up with it myself, where I talked about intentional disconnection from technology, and it seemed like you were a very good embodiment of that. And then you and I were discussing the interview that I did recently on the podcast with Pico Iyer, who talks about.

[01:36:23] William Green: Not having a who also lives in Kyoto much of the year, who talks about not having a cell phone and not actually using his computer in the morning and just answering email for like an hour and a half every afternoon. Other than that, he’s writing by hand and he’s traveling constantly to report, but it’s a very quiet, very simplified life.

[01:36:44] William Green: I’m curious how you use technology in general how you protect yourself against this sort of barrage of inputs from phones and computers and Bloomberg terminals and the like.

[01:36:57] Laura Geritz: I haven’t picked up my phone and I can’t tell you the last time I picked up. I have like a few select people who I’ve marked, where I’ll pick up my phone, but I do not randomly pick up my phone and I haven’t done that for years.

[01:37:10] Laura Geritz: Just because, mainly I’m getting soul. I mean, I am an ardent believer in everything Munger and Buffett say about how many times you get sold in this industry, so I avoid that at all costs, especially at Furmore Science. Can you imagine what we’d be sold, at a couple hundred million in AdSense management?

[01:37:29] Laura Geritz: So, so I tune all that out. All of my, I have a filtering system for all of my emails. I’ve created a filtering system where only a few emails a day actually come through to my inbox. And then I selectively go in at the end of the day and I read research. I don’t read trading emails because I don’t find most trading.

[01:37:50] Laura Geritz: I don’t find insightful, right? The original research report might be insightful, but the trading memo isn’t all that insightful to me. And then, I really block a lot of. Email and I only read it at certain times of the day. And yeah, and I should mention, like, when I talk about building models, we have harnessed technology as well to our advantage.

[01:38:10] Laura Geritz: So, we have incredible tools for. Affirm, our size. So, we have this I would say this sort of, I guess I want to call it like a CFA caliber model where we enter our tick and ticker and our initials, and you hit a button. And it literally pulls in all the historic data for a company. I can do, I can compare and contrast, like I can enter a ticker, multiple tickers, and compare and contrast this business to any business I want in the world on any metric I want and then all my time is built on the forward thinking in the model. I spent, spend very little time thinking about the past.

[01:38:50] William Green: So, you’re not a Luddite, you’re using technology in ways that are very powerful for you, but you’re not letting the technology own you.

[01:38:58] Laura Geritz: Yes, quite sophisticated actually in our utilization of technology.

[01:39:03] Laura Geritz: So, I mean, when we, early on when we had, consultants come in and look at our technology, they were pretty amazed by what we had accomplished. So, I mean, literally, I can build a model, a five year forward model in 20 minutes with incredible amounts of detail, cash flow, balance sheets, income statements, competitor valuations evaluation, the drivers. It’s pretty incredible technology we’ve built and use. And then we, I mean, we have the screens that we use for monitoring a portfolio. I sort of, I think we try to eliminate all things that are not things where we need our intellect or our thinking. So, we try to get rid of all tasks that are very monotonous and not thinking tasks.

[01:39:56] William Green: And you’re not being bombarded by day-to-day news either. It’s, it seemed to me that you, from what you’ve told me in the past, you weren’t spending a lot of time reading news updates on your Bloomberg terminal or even reading daily newspapers. You are much more focused on books. And I remember you once saying to me you wrote to me in 2021 and you said, I generally tune out CNBC unless I see someone like Greenblatt or Marx hop on air.

[01:40:22] William Green: I thought that was really interesting that you’re actually very consciously taking yourself away from, I guess what Nick Sleep would call this very perishable information that kind of has a very short shelf life.

[01:40:37] Laura Geritz: Yes, well, and I think because everything went on in a period of low interest rates or declining interest rates, that sort of short-term sinking or like bombardment with liquidity comments.

[01:40:52] Laura Geritz: That even became more pervasive, right? So, to getting away from it, completely ignoring it became more important. Sometimes our colleagues have more insight into our personality than we do ourselves. And I asked my colleague once, I said, why is it, I don’t get as much anymore from rating, this in this report.

[01:41:13] Laura Geritz: And he’s like, well, you’ve, you’re more senior now than most of these things that you’re reading. You’re focused on the longer term. They’re focused on getting you to trade, right? Every level there’s invest. The industry of investing is absolutely in opposition to investing, right? The industry of investing is to get us to trade and buy something.

[01:41:35] Laura Geritz: And in my mind, being a good investor is doing not doing those things, right? So, I’m always trying to not do those things and to not do those things, you really have to. Tune out what you’re being sold on a day-to-day basis.

[01:41:48] William Green: You’re also tuning out social media, right? I mean, I think I, I see you a little bit on LinkedIn occasionally sharing something that someone like Blake has written.

[01:41:57] William Green: I don’t see you on Twitter at all. I think we used to be friends on Facebook. Now I look yesterday to see. See you. I think your Facebook account disappeared. Someone else actually has stolen the name Laura Geritz on Facebook. Is that right? Like you kind of consciously disappeared from social media in a way also because you’re moving away from this sort of ephemeral distractedness.

[01:42:19] Laura Geritz: It’s tricky because, what is so difficult, and I’m sure you feel this challenge as well, is that we think that might be the future direction, particularly LinkedIn, where content is being read, right? You can see that eyeballs are going to LinkedIn and not to. You’re a personal website, right?

[01:42:38] Laura Geritz: So, I mean, you do want to get your content to where, or you’re thinking to where it is being read. So, I think that’s one area where we’re constantly battling. I’m personally battling what should how should I approach this, because I don’t think I’m particularly good at being on social media every day.

[01:42:58] Laura Geritz: I mean, I enjoy, I actually go read a lot on social media because I, in some senses, like, at least I know who’s publishing what and I can trust the information. So, with LinkedIn, if you’re publishing something, I can trust it. Half the time when you Google something, you don’t know if you can trust the information or not.

[01:43:17] Laura Geritz: So, I did use LinkedIn for that purpose, but. I’m not, I would have probably never been on Facebook or Instagram to begin with, one of them, I think my friends forced me at some point when we were out to dinner, we’re going to put you on social media. So, I probably had all of three posts.

[01:43:34] William Green: I think what’s interesting is, as I try to figure out like what I need to learn from you and kind of clone from you, like one, one of the things is that you shifted very much towards what I call in the book, the art of subtraction, like you’re prioritizing what matters and I remember when we met I think it was in 2019, you and I had lunch at this sushi restaurant I love in New York, Hat Suhana, which is still one of my favorite restaurants on earth, and you talked to me about Stephen Covey’s paradigm of big rocks and little rocks or gravel, and I was looking at it, Last night at this video because I wasn’t really familiar with this concept and it shows this video of this woman trying to, you know, she’s got a jar full of this gravel and on top of it she’s trying to jam these big rocks each of which represents like a major long term goal or a priority like a Family or her biggest clients or some big career opportunity.

[01:44:28] William Green: And then Stephen Covey says to her, well, so now take this other jar. And she, he tells her to put the big rocks in at the bottom and then he pours and then she pours these little pieces of gravel around the rocks. And you said to me. I’ll call you back to you. You said, I think one of the things I’m good at over the long haul is getting rid of the little rocks.

[01:44:49] William Green: I have very few distractions. I just screen stocks, travel, come back, build models, build portfolios, outsource the stuff I’m terrible at.

[01:44:59] Laura Geritz: It’s so true today. I mean, and then I still think of that Covey class and our lunch all the time because we were talking about books. I think you and just starting your book club.

[01:45:08] Laura Geritz: Yeah, and you’d ask, there’s always a question when you’re with someone and sits with you for a long time. And your question about team sat with me for a long time too, why do you have a team of people? And I think there’s one, succession issues. There’s two, like, everybody on our team is sort of different and good in different things.

[01:45:31] Laura Geritz: And so, we’re better as a whole than we are as one. But, yeah, I mean, I still think that art of subtraction is just, it gets more important by the day, doesn’t it?

[01:45:44] William Green: Yeah, we’re just bombarding and it’s very difficult because if you’re Reasonably successful, you get more and more complexity in your life, and you’re more and more reachable, so you get more and more opportunities, more and more feedback from people who are really nice and who you want to reply to because you don’t want to be rude to them, and so you just have this accelerating complexity, and then on top of it, all of the information that’s coming in at you constantly, so Pico Iyer was saying that we get more information in a single day than Shakespeare got in his lifetime.

[01:46:20] William Green: And so just the complexity, so it seems to me that one of the keys to a successful and happy and abundant life is actually to be extremely clear about what matters to you. What’s really important, what’s really adding value, and what you’re here for. And then really to have the discipline to reduce the other stuff. And the reason I’m emphasizing it and saying it out loud is because I don’t do it.

[01:46:47] Laura Geritz: I mean, I’ve been doing that. I mean, starting, I mentioned this to you, starting a business is not the best thing, really. the art of subtraction, right? I mean, because you get drawn into so many things that you’re not particularly, exorbitant in doing, so, or have an interest in doing.

[01:47:03] Laura Geritz: So that part at first, I don’t think I managed that well in the very beginning. And then I’ve gotten better at managing it. I’ve got, I’ve partnered with people, I think, where we all complement each other really well, so. We’re each good at different things. And I mean, you’ve probably seen Blake is an exceptionally good writer and probably gave me credit where credit wasn’t due and that white paper.

[01:47:26] Laura Geritz: But yeah, we have a team of writers too. So even. things like quarterly lettering. We can almost seamlessly move it from one person to another without the voice being lost. So yeah, I think it’s just critically to be, I’ve gotten back to even a team agrees that the things I’m the best at are looking at stocks, reading, reading, which helps me look at stocks and writing.

[01:47:50] Laura Geritz: So, we’ve, I’m very much focused on. Those things today. I think the other thing I do reasonably well is talk to clients because I hear about them and, but I don’t know, I, one of my books on my recent trip to Japan, I just read his new book the half million lives. Oh, it’s brilliant. Yeah, it’s just brilliant.

[01:48:12] Laura Geritz: It’s about all these different cultures. How they, in conflict in ways, but all trying to pursue the same goal, which is back to your point about they’re focused on what is paradise, finding paradise. And so, it’s sort of this. Everyone has the same target, but they’re getting there in different ways and belief systems.

[01:48:33] Laura Geritz: And so, I think, keeping your eye on the ball or on that target is really important. I told you, like, one of my favorite books is Snow Country, and in the beginning of the book starts with, there’s this train going through a tunnel, and it talks about going through this long tunnel into snow country.

[01:48:52] Laura Geritz: And so, I’m always sort of trying to find that snow country, right? I mean, Japan is this beautiful place for writing because it’s, you’ve got this white, it’s the snowiest place on earth. So, you have this sort of white cleansing palette there for creativity. So, it’s this great place for the imagination.

[01:49:12] Laura Geritz: He also talks a lot. I’m not sure if he’s here, but he talks about like, we all have the same amount of time, right? Time is the same for all of us, but each one of us uses our time differently. And that’s such a profound statement to me because I want to spend my time subtracting the things I don’t like. I want to do the things I absolutely love because time is finite.

[01:49:36] William Green: So, when you look forward now, I mean, you’re about the same age as me, right? Maybe a little younger, I’m 55. So, when you look forward and you think, I’ve got to subtract all the nonsense, all the stuff I don’t care about. Here’s what I really care about.

[01:49:52] William Green: Like, what’s your sense when you look at the next 30, 40, 50 years of like, here’s what will actually make this a really successful and happy and abundant life.

[01:50:02] Laura Geritz: He’s great. what’s great, when I was young, I used to look forward a lot more anxiety. I was a very poor, I was planning my retirement at age five, like I’m saving and, thinking about retirement.

[01:50:15] Laura Geritz: But today I’m actually very content in the moment. it’s funny more so than I’ve ever been in my life. And I think it’s because of the removal of all those sorts of things. That I didn’t enjoy. So, it’s funny. I don’t know. That’s sort of a Zen way of being too, right? It’s just being in a moment.

[01:50:35] Laura Geritz: So, I’m really happy just celebrating the moments today versus, again, always kind of thinking about what does retirement look like? Right? Because you may not think of anything. That’s another thing COVID taught us, right? Is we may not have it. 30, 40 years. Now, I’m not, this isn’t some YOLO, mentality, but it’s definitely, it’s amazing how we evolve as thinkers over time or as human beings.

[01:51:04] William Green: And do you think the meditation that you’ve done and studying Zen and I remember you went to Tibet when you had a sabbatical at Wasatch and you were going to Tibetan temples and like, has that helped you to rewire yourself so that you’re more capable of being in the present without just fixating on the future the whole time?

[01:51:26] Laura Geritz: I think being in some of those cultures that are better at being in the moment is really helpful, right? I don’t know, you look at just, I mean, this is a bigger topic altogether, but you look at the proliferation of technology in our mental health. I mean, they seem to go side by side, right? And so, going to these places that live a different way, to me, at least teaches me how to balance the best of our culture and the best of theirs. So, I think so. If anything, I don’t know how often you, I think you’ve, I’ve heard you say before, you’ve tried meditation, but you know, Soto, sitting, Soto Zen is so uncomfortable. If anything, it makes me appreciate everything else during the day.

[01:52:11] William Green: How much do you sit and meditate in Japan?

[01:52:14] Laura Geritz: I don’t I have a, like, place in Japan, I’m cushioned. My house my place in Japan is not big, and as my husband works out of it part time, so it’s also kind of this hybrid. It was hybrid before hybrid was cool, but yeah, we have like a pillow and I’ll just go sit and kind of cleanse my mind for, 20 minutes a day.

[01:52:34] Laura Geritz: And it might not be through, actual meditation, but it could, cooking to me is also, a form of Zen practice. So., I don’t know if you’ve ever been making a sauce or something and your husband comes up and asks, or your wife, or whatever, your kids come up and ask a complex question. I mean, it’s impossible to answer a question while you’re like, trying not to get lumps in whatever it is you’re making.

[01:52:56] William Green: My cooking abilities extend to toast and oatmeal. That’s about as far as we go. So that’s one of the forms of complexity I’ve removed from my life. I sort of, but I think a lot about these things that you’re wrestling with, and it feels like you’ve done a really good job of prioritizing what’s really important to you, subtracting complexity. Focusing on the things that really matter and then just kind of plugging away.

[01:53:22] Laura Geritz: Well, I think when I met you I was in that point in my life where, you are, your investment style is in, you are popular and in demand and as a consequence, you’re exhausted and so, like, and you’re trying to, I was also at the point in my life where you’re sort of coming into this sort of, I don’t know whether you want to call it like bigger, what is the bigger purpose of life?

[01:53:50] Laura Geritz: So, I was in sort of this period of transition. I think I learned, and actually, yes, I was coming to this, conclusion that you practice the art of subtraction. I’ve gotten even better at it as the years have gone by. So, it’s yeah, it’s really nice to be kind of content in the moment.

[01:54:10] William Green: Is there any final thought you’d like to leave us with, before I let you go? Because I know I’ve exhausted you with a million questions.

[01:54:19] Laura Geritz: Oh, no I’ve enjoyed your, I mean, I actually forwarded your Pico Iyer podcast on to a bunch of people I know, because I mean, it’s just so good. It got me, I had kind of gotten out of some of my practices during Covid and it really caught me back into this sort of intentional reading practice and I, so I really appreciate.

[01:54:43] Laura Geritz: What you’re doing and the deeper thinking you’re enabling us all to enjoy. I really enjoy your podcast. Anyway, I forwarded it on. It was great. Thank you. I don’t have anything to add.

[01:54:56] William Green: Well, it’s been a, it’s been a real pleasure, Laura. And I’ve been a great admirer of what you’ve done with Rondure and just with your career and the way in many ways you’ve structured your career out of these passions for continuous learning, constant reading obsession with books, obsession with travel and discovering other cultures and obsession with stocks. It’s a kind of beautiful thing to see the way you’ve aligned your life around these passions.

[01:55:20] Laura Geritz: Well, I’m just, I’m envious. I mean, I’m not, I try not to like to be envious, anymore in my life, but you wrote such a beautiful book and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. There’s an area where I have not subtracted enough to accomplish what you accomplished.

[01:55:35] William Green: So, truly a beautiful book. Well, I figure you’ll end up writing a book at some point, but I know you’re a very good writer, but I sort of figure it’s so busy doing chasing around the world and visiting companies and like, it’s not a bad thing just to keep collecting string for the book, which I’m sure will come out at some point in the next decade that you’ll work on.

[01:55:56] Laura Geritz: Maybe, I would love to do that but anyway, I just want to congratulate you on all your success and the wonderful book you wrote.

[01:56:03] William Green: Ah, thank you. I’m so glad you were in it, and I look forward to many more conversations in the years to come.

[01:56:09] Laura Geritz: Thanks so much, William.

[01:56:10] William Green: Thanks so much. Take care.

[01:56:11] Laura Geritz: Take care.

[01:56:13] William Green: All right, folks. Thanks so much for joining me for today’s conversation with Laura Geritz. If you’d like to learn more from Laura, you may want to check out my book, Richer, Wiser, Happier, where I wrote about her at some length in a chapter titled High Performance Habits. I’ll be heading to Switzerland in a week or so to visit my old friend, Guy Spier, and I’ll be interviewing him at his home in the mountains for a future episode of the podcast.

[01:56:36] William Green: In the meantime, please feel free to follow me on Twitter, or X, @WilliamGreen72, and do let me know how you’re liking the podcast. I’m always really glad to hear from you. This morning, I was especially moved to receive a message from a devoted listener named Samuel, who’s currently serving as a soldier in a very dangerous war zone.

[01:56:56] William Green: Apparently, he’s been downloading the podcast and listening to it during calmer moments when he’s whiling away the time. Samuel wrote to me; I’ll wager there is a good chance that I’m your only listener who’s had to go back 15 seconds to hear some Pearl of Wisdom because a nearby tank or explosion has been too loud for me to hear.

[01:57:14] William Green: So, I wanted to send my very best wishes to Samuel, and to any of our other listeners who are out there going through particularly difficult and perilous times. Here’s hoping for the return of peace. In any case, I look forward to being with you all again very soon. For now, stay well, and stay safe.

[01:57:33] Outro: Thank you for listening to TIP. Make sure to follow Richer, Wiser, Happier on your favorite podcast app and never miss out on episodes. To access our show notes, transcripts or courses, go to This show is for entertainment purposes only. Before making any decision, consult a professional. This show is copyrighted by The Investor’s Podcast Network. Written permission must be granted before syndication or rebroadcasting.


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