When I think of the driving force behind the work we do at Beck Bode, which is “to act for the greater good,” I can make a direct connection between why we do the work we do, and the notion of disrupting the status quo.
You may not be surprised to hear that this goes hand in hand with one of our core values,, which is to not take things at face value, to always ask, “Why?” and to question things that have been a certain way, “Just because.”
We’re not like every other financial firm. It may be even accurate to say that we are not like any other financial firm. How we bring our work into this world can be quite disruptive to the status quo.
How Can You Be a Contrarian Investor Without Being Reactive to Market Conditions?
You know how some people say things just to be different? To stand out? To stir things up? To me, that’s simply attention-getting and ultimately empty of purpose.
When I say that we’re different, or we do things differently, I really mean it from a place that has intention behind it. We are deliberately different. We do things deliberately differently. It’s not easy to go counter to everything that the industry is saying, everything the media is saying, everything that we have been indoctrinated to believe in investing. Yet we do it, we tell the unvarnished truth, despite how people might react to it, for the greater good.
I don't think there's a greater form of authenticity out there.
Consider our Growth Strategy (our flagship investment strategy, for those who are not familiar with our work). What is the Growth Strategy really about? If you were to ask my mentor, David Mallach, or listen to one of his talks, you may come back and say it’s about making money. Of course, it’s about making money; it’s about capital appreciation and all those fancy industry terms.
But dig a little deeper and you’ll uncover that the Growth Strategy is about capturing the power of disruption and riding it. It’s about identifying companies that are disrupting the status quo and harnessing the energy that they’re unleashing.
Accept That Change Is a Constant and That the Future Is Unknown and Unknowable
The Growth Strategy is about being OK with change, being OK with not knowing where or when change will come but being ready to meet it.
Think of a company like Uber. Now, Uber has been around for a while. Uber was disruptive for the transportation industry; it basically put the taxicab folks out of business and changed the way we looked at how to get from point A to point B. When the pandemic resulted in a global economic shutdown hit, the virus turned Uber and other ridesharing companies on their heads. No one wanted to ride in a car with a stranger if they didn’t have to.
But wait a second.
Enter — I think sooner rather than later — self-driving vehicles that Tesla and other manufacturers are developing. They’re going to need technology, specifically technology that is very similar to what Uber is using, to run their cars. I suppose these companies could spend a lot of time and money creating ride-sharing applications and other ways of integrating GPS into their autonomous cars. But why not buy Uber or Lyft for their technology? This is just a hypothesis, me imagining a possible scenario about how this may play out. I am not suggesting this will happen, but it’s fun to think about the possibility of one technology supporting another.
We have no idea where or when change will come. We don’t know how anything will end, yet I am convinced that there are companies that nobody is talking about today that will in fact be the next Amazon or Apple. And there are highly-regarded companies like the Amazons and Apples of today (I am not saying specifically these companies, but rather the so-called blue chip company of today) that 10 years from now will no longer exist, or will exist in diminished and different ways.
You need to look no further than Lehman Brothers, which was the fourth-largest financial institution in the world when it filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Or IBM in the early nineties. Apple wasn’t a household name for a long time before it eventually was. Oh, yeah, and RCA. Remember RCA? Maybe you’re too young to remember. You could buy an RCA TV at Circuit City when you wanted to get a new television. RCA is gone, and so is Circuit City, because those big box stores came and went. The one remaining big box store is Best Buy, which in fact is simply a storefront for online purchasing.
Achieving Financial Success Requires An Optimistic Attitude
So, the world is changing, always changing, and with time it feels like the pace of change keeps picking up. The whole point of the Growth Strategy is to get in front of some of this change that nobody's talking about today and to harness it.
We harness it to disrupt. We disrupt for the greater good.
In order to commit to the Growth Strategy, we have to be open to possibility. It’s impossible to be in the Growth Strategy and to concurrently have some fixed expectation or idea of what the future will bring. This is why I speak so much about possibility and optimism, keeping in mind that there are no guarantees. We don’t know what the future will bring, we just know that tomorrow will be different from today. We have to be optimistic about the future.
In order to believe in the Growth Strategy, we have to at the most fundamental level believe in humanity. I believe that people want to move forward whether it's to create a better life for themselves and their families, or for the thrill of creating something new, perhaps something that benefits someone else.
This notion of creating something better or acting for the benefit of others explains the nature of my relationship with my mentor, David.
In all the years that I have known him, he has never benefited financially from any interaction with me. When I met him, I was a rookie advisor, and he was an internationally recognized investor, advisor, speaker, and author. After I finished reading his book, we had our first-ever phone call where we spoke for 25 minutes. Not even a week later, he spent another two hours with me on the phone. He could have been making a lot of money in those two hours, or doing something else instead of spending it on the phone with me. But he didn’t. He chose to spend the time with me.
Since then, our relationship has continued to grow. Why does this man spend so much time with me, when he gets nothing materially from our relationship? There is a higher level of fulfillment for him in knowing that his creation, the strategies we employ at our firm, are benefiting others through the work that we all do here at Beck Bode. This, to me, is so powerful. It inspires me to do more.
Work With a Financial Advisor Who Is Comfortable With Change
Coming back to disruption.
Disruption is good when it’s focused in the right way. If something I do or say causes another person to think critically about something, then already I have created value. They don’t even need to agree with me. No matter how much I personally disagree with the opposing argument, it is the debate that’s valuable. The debate is great.
I don't think we go anywhere unless we continually have that debate — whether it’s about bonds, or how long you should hold on to a stock, or any other topics where there is another side to consider. (Isn’t there another side to everything?) There are so many information sources that present a one-sided view of a given topic. For every one of those, we need a counterpoint. We need to at least entertain the notion that the opposite may also be true.
Our job at Beck Bode is to challenge the financial industry and conventionally held views about how to invest. Our job is to disrupt. It’s not easy, but it’s healthy and necessary work.
We can always keep in mind: we are doing it for the greater good.
Ben Beck is Managing Partner & Chief Investment Officer at Beck Bode, a deliberately different wealth management firm with a unique view on investing, business, and life.