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Book Review: The Stock Picker: A financial history from the sharp end – Paul Mumford.

Paul Mumford has over 50 years’ investment experience, running funds since 1988 (he manages the UK-focused Cavendish AIM, Opportunities and Select Funds). It’s an unexpected book, effectively a personal and investment biography rather than a “how to” manual, covering the twists and turns of the market and of sectors and companies within in it over a long career.

He touches on rather than detailing his investment processes. Schoolboy amateur bookmaking drilled into him the importance of research and careful stock selection and avoiding gambling, and to have a large spread of investments to reduce risk (he holds over 200 companies in the c£230m he manages in his three funds). As a stock picker, he looks for undervalued, unloved shares in out of favour sectors, with a focus on smaller companies as both less researched and because (to quote Jim Slater) “elephants don’t gallop”. He welcomes bear markets as an opportunity to find bargains, influenced by acting for a contrarian client during the 1973-4 crash, and had a good number of “baggers” after the 2008 crash. Unusually, he uses several chapters to describe train crashes amongst his investments over the years rather than trumpet blowing his successes (“too many”).

It’s an honest and enjoyable read. He’s still hard at it and very effectively too, judging by the performance of his funds. But the description of companies, institutions and processes that have disappeared (jobbers, messengers, 3/- luncheon vouchers, ledger departments) means that the book is particularly likely to appeal to the older reader.

Jeremy Prescott

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