Library / 'Do-not-waste-your-time' Books

Date of review: June 2022
Book author: Max Gunther
Вook published: 2010

The Zurich Axioms. The Rules of Risk and Reward Used by Generations of Swiss Bankers by Max Gunther (2010)

 The book is about risk, which is, of course, an essential concept for value investors (Margin of Safety). But it talks about risk more in the context of speculation and gambling. 
I think it is not a book worth reading because it would put you on the wrong path. The book is about risk, which is, of course, an essential concept for value investors (Margin of Safety). But it talks about risk more in the context of speculation and gambling. The problem with reading such a book (as well as similar books (e.g. The Battle for the Investment Survival by Gerald Loeb)) is that you walk away thinking that investing is about buying the right stock at the right price and then selling it at the right moment. Technically this is, of course, correct, but to do that, you should start with the analysis of the company's fundamentals, and for that, you should think of stocks as pieces of business. Buying stock to me means becoming a partner in a business. I care much more about the business, who it is run by, who are its main competitors, what its prospects are, and how much it could earn in 1, 5, or 10 years from now.

While books like The Zurich Axioms create a false impression that it is about anticipating the next market move and what other investors will do, forcing you to care much more about macro than business fundamentals.

If you look at the Content page of the book, it becomes clear that the book can be pretty dangerous, especially for someone who has not yet developed a clear strategy and investment philosophy. Chapter 2 is called 'On Greed: Always take your profits too soon'. Chapter 3 is 'On Hope: When the ship starts to sink, don't pray. Jump'. Chapter 11 - 'On Stubbornness: If it doesn't pay off the first time, forget it'.

The only two valuable concepts that I would highlight in that book are that to generate wealth; you have to take a risk and, secondly, that what matters is not the return on your bet but how much money you put on that bet.

The first point leads you to embrace volatility, an inevitable price you have to pay if you want to generate 10% or so returns from public equities. Putting money in a bank account will not make you rich is one of the ideas in the book.

The second point is also critical, especially for a young person with a stable income from the main job, which should be putting most of his savings into equities. It is more important than deciding whether Google or Amazon is a better stock to buy and allocating 3% of your net worth to equities.

You may also be interested in...