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What's it like to meet the Oracle of Omaha?

20 JMSB undergrads and alumni spent a bracing day with investor Warren Buffett
November 22, 2016
By Alison Fogel and Chloé Evans

Concordia delegates share a laugh as they reach for investor Warren Buffett's wallet.

On November 18, 20 students and alumni from JMSB's Kenneth Woods Portfolio Management Program (KWPMP) travelled to Omaha, Nebraska to meet renowned American investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

KWPMP director Reena Atanasiadis, and founder and benefactor Kenneth Woods accompanied the delegation.

Here, two students share their experiences.


Alison Fogel

The opportunity to participate in a Q&A session with Warren Buffett, as well as visit some Berkshire Hathaway subsidiaries was life-changing. I came away from this trip feeling uplifted and inspired, with a new outlook on my career path.

The highlight of the day took place at Anthony’s Steakhouse, where we were seated with students from seven other schools. I felt quite lucky to be among them as we were the only Canadian group and the only undergraduate students present.

When Mr. Buffett humbly entered the room, all conversation ground to a halt.

He started off with a joke about Charlie Munger, his right-hand man, then opened the floor to questions, to which Mr. Buffett provided very comprehensive answers. Each response lasted about 10 to 15 minutes.

The discussion covered a range of qualitative, investor-related and macroeconomic topics. The first school asked him which qualities he looks for in hiring people. He said intelligence, energy and integrity, but most notably passion in what they do. He suggested that we should pursue jobs we would do even if we didn’t need to work.

I was selected to ask one of Concordia’s prepared questions: “If you could restart today with $1 million, how many stocks would you buy and why?” In keeping with his investing style, Mr. Buffett said he would maintain a very concentrated portfolio with only four or five stocks that he would buy at low valuations.

Throughout the Q&A period, a few key takeaways resonated with me. Firstly, a good investor does not need a super high IQ. Rather, he or she requires a good temperament with emotional discipline.

Second, it’s important to surround ourselves with people who we admire as we move in the direction of the company we keep. Do not put emphasis on mistakes, and when we notice a problem, act quickly.

And most of all, be passionate about what we do in life. These words of wisdom are powerful enough to last a lifetime and will surely guide me in my future endeavours.

We ended the magical day with a journey through one of the Oriental Trading Company’s fulfillment centres. It was quite a trek — wandering through this 750,000-square-foot facility. I had never before seen anything as incredible, methodical and efficient.

I am truly grateful to Mr. Buffett for taking the time to share his knowledge, humour and wisdom, and to our program director, Reena Atanasiadis, whose devoted persistence allowed us to gain access to this unparalleled event.

Chloé Evans

Our day started off with a visit to Nebraska Furniture Mart, a high-volume retailer of furniture, general supplies and electronics, and one of Berkshire’s many subsidiaries.

We then made our way to lunch to meet with the Oracle of Omaha. He invited the attending schools in alphabetical order to question him (we were there alongside students from Boston University, Columbia University, Grinnell College, Marquette University, University of Maryland, St. Louis University and Yale University).

A multitude of topics were discussed, including the passive vs. active management debate, the country’s high debt-to-GDP ratio, the Dodd–Frank Act, central banks and fixed income markets’ impact on stocks, artificial intelligence, cyclical stocks and high-frequency trading.

An element Mr. Buffett couldn’t stress enough was that surrounding yourself with people you admire pillars success. My favourite quote from the event? “Don’t sacrifice what you do have and do need for what you don’t have and don’t need.”

Vibrant, intelligent, wise and funny are some of the many words I would use to describe Mr. Buffett. I am extremely grateful to the program and Concordia for this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Established through a donation by Kenneth Woods, the KWPMP provides a select group of undergraduate JMSB students with hands-on training in investment management by working with a real-life portfolio of over $2 million.

Learn more about Concordia’s Kenneth Woods Portfolio Management Program.




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