What did I learn from Guy Spier (Aquamarine Capital)?

In September 2019 I had the pleasure to interview the well-known investor Guy Spier of Aquamarine Capital. Who doesn’t know Guy Spier, should take a look at his book “The Education of a Value Investor“* and check his portfolio on dataroma.

Guy Spier invited me to his office in Zurich, where we sat down in his library and his balcony to chat. We separated our talk in three sequences.

How did Mohnish Pabrai inspire Guy Spier?

Guy Spier is an inspiration for many investors. But he is also inspired by other investors. Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are two role models for Guy. Mohnish Pabrai is also a source of inspiration. In our interview we worked out four learnings from Mohnish Pabrai:

  1. There is an art of cloning: If you want to clone the successes of an investor, you must figure out what the key points for success of your role model are. You should work out the relevant points before you clone.
  2. How do you build an organization, that makes the world happy, that you exist? You should not only learn about a good behavior, but also integrate it over a long period of time in your doing to make you successful. The king’s discipline is to scale that behavior up in an organization, that helps you to make other people happy.
  3. A false positive is much more expensive than a false negative: To say nobody to someone, who turns out to be a fantastic person, costs us nothing. But to say yes to a person, who turns out to be a negative in our lives, is extremely expensive.
  4. You must look for givers in live: Givers share a lot with you in live. They often develop a very rough exterior because they need to keep some people away from them.

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What has a bar to do with finding investment ideas?

This very interesting questions came up in our second interview with Guy Spier. Here we have discussed his investment process and the question how he is finding ideas.

Guy decided to draw a very realistic picture of his process of creating ideas. In his eyes, many investors try to draw a picture of well-prepared fighter pilot with a finely tuned, highly precise machine with a clear target. For Guy, a better model to describe idea generation is “a drunk stumbling around in a bar trying to get the next drink”. Also based on this more realistic model, that factors in a lot of irrationality, Guy has set up some rules:

  1. Do not do anything in the portfolio. Avoid creating trading fees.
  2. Select stocks, that you can hold for a long time.

Guy Spier is also accepting his limitations. Based on that he is trying to grow his circle of competence – to better understand the world of other companies.

He is also engaging with his network to find better opportunities. Guy is activley investing in the relationship with his network and trying to “compound goodwill”. Learn more about this very intelligent concept in the full video:


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What advice does Guy Spier of Aquamarine Capital give young managers?

At Aquamarine Capital Guy Spier has a focus on fair management fees – no wonder this topic was an important part of our interview on his advice for young fund managers. In this shorter interview, that was taken on the balcony of his office, we learn also more about marketing for young fund managers and the long-term impact of writing a book.


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Tilman is a very enthusiastic, long-term investor. Over the last years he has taught himself important investing concepts autodidactically. He tries to combine a positive climate and environmental impact with his investments.
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