Every time I speak with Christopher Davis, chairman of Davis Advisors, I walk away with a clearer understanding of things I thought I already knew. That’s a big deal to me because I’ve interviewed hundreds of successful finance pros in the past 15 years, and—while I’m always impressed by their knowledge—I’ve recently been disturbed to find that many of them have lost sight of the basics.
But not Davis. He’s taught me, for example, to avoid overly complicated approaches to investing because, after all, “complicated” almost always costs you more in the end. By presenting a shorter route to the truth, Davis helps guys like me—and you—make the best decisions.
And he’s not some shaman, sitting isolated on a mutual-fund mountaintop. He’s in the thick of it—close with Jeff Bezos since he read the Amazon founder’s first annual report, and friends with Warren Buffett, whose job he got when Buffett left as lead director of The Washington Post.
Davis is also the rare CEO who finds ways to give some back—seldom found in a business that defines “innovation” as new ways to separate investors from their money. Coming out of the financial crisis in 2009, he actually lowered the fees on his firm’s mutual funds, a selfless gift to battered shareholders that he announced with all the fanfare of…a footnote. A financial columnist who actually read the small print broke the story in Fortune and concluded his column by writing: “So there it is: Wall Street acting good. Next on the agenda: looking West to see the sun rise.”
But in 2015, after years of booming postcrisis returns, the bull market showed its age by turning in the stock market’s worst performance since 2011. So in ’16, Wall Street is working even harder to separate us from our money. That’s why I decided to catch up with Davis and learn from him what I wish I’d learned in my 20s.