Image credit: “Patientia (Patience),” Pieter van der Heyden, engraving after Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1557, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. It isn’t easy being patient in an impetuous, often crazy world.
By Jason Zweig
Feb. 26, 2015 4:53 p.m. ET
Irving Kahn, one of the world’s oldest professional investors and the most senior student of the father of financial analysis, Benjamin Graham, died Tuesday night of natural causes in his New York home. He was 109.
The chairman emeritus of Kahn Brothers Group Inc., a New York-based investment adviser that now manages $1 billion, Mr. Kahn began working on Wall Street in 1928 as a “runner,” executing trades on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange for a small brokerage, Hammerschlag, Borg & Co.
He later became Mr. Graham’s teaching assistant in the classes on security analysis that the great investor taught at Columbia Business School. Mr. Kahn also assisted Mr. Graham and Columbia professor David Dodd in researching their classic book, Security Analysis, published in 1934.
The crash of 1929, Mr. Kahn told an interviewer in 2012, taught him that “the gambling nature of Wall Street has little or no interest in the serious, underlying nature of businesses.” He described rapid trading, then and now, as “crazy competition that had no connection to the real facts.”
His central goal as an investor, he said, was always “to know much more about the stock I’m buying than the man who’s selling does.”
For Mr. Kahn, the most important quality an investor could possess was patience. “You gain much more by slow investing and concentrating on what you know,” he said in 2012, “than on fast investing, which is nothing more than gambling.”
In an article in the Financial Analysts Journal in 1977, Mr. Kahn set out seven “guidelines for intelligent investing.” Among them: “Don’t depend on recent or current figures to forecast future prices….Capital is always at risk unless you buy better than average values….Don’t trust quarterly earnings….Look beyond the one or two largest companies in a given industry.”
He concluded, “The analyst must both practice, and to his client preach, patience.”
Until the end of his life, Mr. Kahn kept about half of his assets in stocks, with the rest in cash. “If you command a lot of cash,” he said in 2012, “you can be wrong and still not have to worry.”
Mr. Kahn and his three siblings were part of a research project at Albert Einstein Medical College in the Bronx, N.Y., that studies the genetic and behavioral characteristics of healthy centenarians.
Two years ago, Mr. Kahn told an interviewer that there was “no secret” to longevity and that “millions of people die every year of something they could cure themselves: lack of wisdom and lack of ability to control their impulses.”
Asked on Thursday if he had any thoughts on Mr. Kahn, Warren Buffett, who also studied under Graham, said, “I’d rather have Irving’s thoughts on longevity.”
Source: The Wall Street Journal