“You don’t have to be brilliant, only a little bit wiser than the other guys, on average, for a long, long, time.” – Charlie Munger
Happy 2024! We are grateful to roll into this new year with you and pleased to report strong portfolio results for the year just ended.
At the end of a challenging year for investment markets in 2022, facing persistent inflation pressure and tightening financial conditions with rising interest rates, we held a cautious outlook heading into 2023. We shared our view that finding the right pockets of the market would be important to produce attractive returns that would deliver on your goals. Boy, how little did we know just how important that would be.
Just over a year ago, a small private technology company called OpenAI launched a new tool, ChatGPT – an innovation spark that caught fire and investment fervor soared around the potential of generative artificial intelligence. Especially through the first three quarters of the year, the excitement around a narrow set of companies poised to benefit drove most of the broad market returns as highlighted in our mid-year update. Large technology companies that had taken a beating in 2022 roared back to life and a “Magnificent 7” (Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Google, Tesla, Nvidia, and Meta) emerged that produced impressive investment returns driving the stock market higher. Thankfully, our core equity strategies participated nicely through ownership of several of these companies while also benefiting from solid wins in many other wonderful companies owned in the portfolio. This is one thing we love about the dynamism of the market; just when you think it may be cooked (even temporarily), a new shoot breaks through!
It’s important to acknowledge that the stellar gains we’ve experienced in these companies tied to the promise and potential of a new wave of technology have elevated their valuations to levels that could present a risk of temporary underperformance if, and when, growth stumbles or investor enthusiasm wanes. However, we continue to see these companies as worthwhile long-term holdings and will exercise discipline and prudence in managing the overall portfolio exposure. We also highlight that we own many attractively valued companies that we believe are poised to drive strong portfolio returns going forward. Companies we own such as InMode, Ford, Ciena, and Berkshire Hathaway have wide appreciation potential in our view if they execute on their business plans as we expect, and the investor interest broadens beyond the “Magnificent 7”.
Even as higher interest rates tightened financial conditions as we expected, creating challenges for certain imprudently leveraged companies and real estate owners needing to refinance their debt at a higher cost, we cheer higher rates as a win for savers like you. Although still below long-term historical average, bond returns have improved. We’ve also uncovered new opportunities for generating income-oriented returns through private credit and real estate markets, both of which we believe can produce attractive income and total return in addition to providing a diversification benefit alongside our ownership of great companies. Finally, the rapid rise in rates last year upped the game for returns on cash alternatives, giving us an opportunity to help clients tap the potential of cash balances earning little to nothing in low or non-interest-bearing accounts.
Sadly, we lost an investing great in Charlie Munger at the end of November. Over many decades of partnership with Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway, a long-held position in our portfolios, he was a tireless advocate for lifelong learning and common-sense decision making—two things we hold dear at Tschetter Group. And, as is often present with the (true) greats, there was a genuine humility there alongside his brilliance and Berkshire’s phenomenal investment record.
We fondly remember attending the 2017 annual Berkshire meeting, just months before setting out on this wonderful adventure of establishing the Tschetter Group, and this exchange in response to a question about how they missed the opportunity to invest in Amazon.
WARREN: “We missed a lot of things.”
CHARLIE: “And we’ll keep doing it.”
WARREN: “Yeah.” (laughter) <pause>
CHARLIE: “Luckily, we don’t miss everything, Warren. That’s our secret. We don’t miss them all.”
And so on we go, all of us, both bold and humble into this new year. One that is full of promise, brimming with potential, and certain to have its share of challenge and uncertainty. We won’t tire of saying it, there is nothing more important to the Tschetter Group than getting to the heart of what matters to you. We’re committed to the quest for lifelong learning and as it relates to our work much of that is directed at how we can better help you achieve your family or business goals and vision.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out any time there’s a challenge we can help tackle or a win we can celebrate. Or if there are others in your life who might need us in their corner as they navigate what’s next. We continue to strengthen the team and look forward to being in good touch.
Cheers to a healthy, relationally rewarding, and prosperous 2024!