No Pain, No Gain

By
Douglas Isles,
User

An actuary by training, Douglas first joined Platinum in 2003 as an investment analyst, having spent some time at the Commonwealth Bank as a product actuary and, prior to that.. More

09 Jun 2021

At the core of Platinum’s investment approach is a desire to go against the crowd, as we believe this is where the best opportunities lie. To achieve successful outcomes, we must embrace discomfort.

On 19 May 2021, I spoke at Portfolio Construction Forum’s Finology Summit, where I suggested that when investing, it’s a case of “no pain, no gain”. There are three embedded aversions I believe we need to overcome:

1. Firstly, the pain of loss is more acute than the pleasure of equivalent gains.[1]

2 Secondly, ambiguity can be more stressful than dealing with a certain bad outcome.[2]

3. Finally, we have a desire to be liked, but taking on the market requires us to challenge our team mates,[3] and the market’s views.

I believe investors must learn to embrace three discomforts in loss, risk and conflict.  “No pain, no gain” is appropriate with the analogy of a gym workout applicable, as we train our minds to overcome our natural instincts.

Last month, Platinum hosted New Zealand All Blacks rugby team manager, Gilbert Enoka for an internal employee learning session. In his 21-year association with the All Blacks, the elite sports team has achieved unparalleled success in world sport, winning 85% of 261 tests.[4]

The session allowed us to hear his personal principles and engage in a Q&A session.

The “no pain, no gain” mantra was not stated directly, but it echoed throughout his message. Hard work is at the core of success in elite sport – tirelessly seeking small improvements.

Setting the right goals is critical – a key take away for me, was that success comes from “creating a gap” and then “bridging that gap”. This is where discomfort must be introduced. For true progress to be made, the vision must be energising and exciting, and wide enough to be uncomfortable.

In moving forward, being present is critical, enabling us to focus our energy on achievement. We must recognise when we are at our best, and aim to replicate that at key moments. The key parallel with investing, is the importance of focusing on the process rather than the outcome. In the case of the All Blacks, individual match results have displayed high levels of randomness, but over the long term, the process has led to sustained success.

We discussed how we might deal with this required discomfort, being something, we don’t naturally seek out. Enoka’s mantra is to keep it simple: align what you are aiming for, with what you love. He also spoke of the importance of surrounding yourself with the best people that can help you with specific objectives. He noted that team members never all perform well at the same time, so success is not just about one person, but how all the interactions within the team play out.[5]

Managing high-performance teams is all about the team, and making sure everyone is contributing, or more importantly, weeding out those who are counter-productive. This was a process the All Blacks had to go through almost 20 years ago to get back on track.[6]

In sport, there is direct interaction with competitors. However, it’s about focusing firstly, on what you can control, and being adaptive and responsive, acknowledging you don’t win every single moment, and tolerating mistakes, but not the same mistake twice!

Finally, we touched on the impact of the COVID pandemic on a team like the All Blacks, and learned that the rugby context was helpful in preparing the team for this. After every game, they deal with responding to Saturday’s result, its lessons, and planning on that basis. That keeps everything agile, everyone knows there is uncertainty and that they have to deal with it.

This is exactly what markets are like – full of uncertainty, which is one of the key things Platinum must deal with in order to deliver successful outcomes for clients.

 

[1] As per the work of Kahneman and Tversky, 1979.
[2] https://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/2016/mar/uncertainty-can-cause-more-stress-inevitable-pain

[3] Intel described this process in their organisation as “constructive confrontation”. For more detail: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/intel-constructive-confrontation-still-21st-215429157.html
[4] 219 wins, six draws and 36 losses over 21 seasons. Draws treated as half a win for the 85% success rate. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_Zealand_rugby_union_Test_matches
[5] This ties in nicely with our previous work on cohesion: https://www.platinum.com.au/Insights-Tools/The-Journal/Cohesion-with-Ben-Darwin-(Video)
[6] This article explores the All Blacks’ history, and its system that has led to sustained success: https://www.platinum.com.au/Insights-Tools/Investment-Fundamentals/Investing-What-Matters/Article-Item/All-Blacks-The-Outcome-of-a-System

DISCLAIMER: This article has been prepared by Platinum Investment Management Limited ABN 25 063 565 006, AFSL 221935, trading as Platinum Asset Management (“Platinum”). This information is general in nature and does not take into account your specific needs or circumstances. You should consider your own financial position, objectives and requirements and seek professional financial advice before making any financial decisions. The commentary reflect the author’s views and beliefs at the time of preparation, which are subject to change without notice. No representations or warranties are made by Platinum as to their accuracy or reliability. To the extent permitted by law, no liability is accepted by Platinum for any loss or damage as a result of any reliance on this information

You may find interesting

What’s in The Journal