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How To Make An Investment Thesis

An Introduction to Investment Thesis

An investment thesis forms the basis of an investor's strategy and serves as a framework to direct investment choices as well as articulate the reasoning behind targeting assets or markets. A robust investment thesis clearly outlines the factors that will drive returns while minimizing risks. Developing a thought-out investment thesis is crucial for achieving success in investments.

This guide will take you through the components of creating a compelling investment thesis from beginning to end. We will discuss how to identify promising investment opportunities, analyze target companies, perform valuation modeling, build a portfolio, present the fund's thesis to potential investors, implement the thesis in investment activities, and adapt it as market conditions evolve. By adhering to a disciplined investment thesis, investors can consistently make informed decisions and make choices to outperform the market.

Identifying Investment Opportunities

The initial step in developing an investment thesis involves pinpointing areas of focus that will shape your investment decisions. This entails determining sectors, asset classes, geographical regions, or other frameworks on which you wish to concentrate your research and analysis.

When determining the area you want to focus on, there are four key questions and factors to consider;

  • Your expertise and knowledge - It is best to concentrate on areas where you have experience or can gain expertise without stretching yourself
  • Macroeconomic trends - Look out for trends that can have an impact. These trends could include shifts, advancements, policy changes, and more. Identify sectors, regions, or asset classes that are likely to benefit from these long-term shifts
  • Market inefficiencies - Keep an eye out for market inefficiencies. Opportunities often arise in markets that are fragmented, complex, or experiencing changes
  • Investment horizons - Consider the investment horizon required for investment theses. Some ideas may require a time frame to materialize their potential returns while others may offer shorter-term gains

Once you have determined your area of focus, it is crucial to conduct in-depth research on the macro trends shaping that market. Look for trends that will drive growth over the years rather than focusing solely on quarterly fluctuations mentioned in market reports. The objective is to identify factors that can positively impact revenues, margins, and valuations of well-positioned companies.

With an understanding of the landscape established through research, you can then search for companies positioned to take advantage of the identified trends. Look for firms, with products/services/customers/geographical reach or innovative strategies that give them an edge when it comes to capitalizing on these opportunities.

Analyzing the Company

For an investment thesis, it is crucial to assess the company you are considering for investment. This assessment should include an evaluation of the company's drivers of growth, its management team and strategy as well as potential risks and challenges.

Growth Drivers

When analyzing the market value of a company, you'll want to closely examine the products, customers, and competitive positioning that are fueling its growth.

  • Products: Look at the company's current product portfolio and pipeline. Do they have innovative products that are gaining market share? How large is their total addressable market and how much of it have they penetrated so far?
  • Customers: Evaluate who their key customers are and how loyal they are. Look at metrics like net dollar retention rate to understand how loyal their customers are
  • Competition: Analyze the competitive landscape and the company's positioning. Do they have a durable competitive advantage? How do they compare to rivals on factors like pricing, product features, and customer experience?
  • Scalability: Do margins get larger or smaller as a customer increases its size? In some cases, unprofitable companies become highly profitable with growth - in other cases, costs increase in line with revenues. 

Management and Strategy

The strategy and execution capabilities of management are critical to a company's success.

  • Management Team: Research the background and track record of key executives. Do they have relevant industry experience and a history of generating returns?
  • Strategy: Assess management's strategic priorities and plans to drive growth. Do they have a coherent plan to expand their market opportunity?
  • Culture & Incentives: Assess how they attract and retain talent. Are employees actively involved and motivated to excel?

Assessing the management will help ascertain whether the company has the leadership to seize the upcoming opportunity.

Risks and Challenges

When conducting an analysis it's important to consider factors;

  • Technology Shifts: Take into account innovations that could affect the company's market.
  • Regulation: Consider possible changes in regulations that may impact the business model and financial aspects.
  • Macro Trends: Look at shifts in the wider economic environment that could influence customer demand.

Thoroughly examining the company across these dimensions provides the information and perspective to build confidence in your investment thesis. It helps you understand the business model, growth trajectory, management capabilities, risks involved, and valuation potential.

Conducting Valuation

Whilst a company's valuation is largely based purely on how much an investor or acquirer is willing to pay, there are a number of methodologies that help to guide valuations:

Choosing the Appropriate Valuation Method

DCF valuation is typically preferred when assessing situations where reliable projections can be made. However, for early-stage or volatile companies, it may be more appropriate to consider comparable multiples based on similar industry peers.

Making Projections and Assumptions

When making projections and assumptions it is essential to conduct research to establish credible forecasts.

Projections should encompass metrics such as revenue growth, margins, capital expenditure requirements, and working capital needs. Additionally, explicit assumptions should be made regarding elements like market size, market share, pricing strategies, and costs among others. Conducting sensitivity analysis can help stress test these assumptions.

Ensuring Upside to Current Valuation

Once you have determined the value of a company you can compare this value against its market capitalization. Look for the ultimate goal of valuation is to support your thesis that the company is undervalued. If the current market price exceeds your estimate of value it may be prudent to reassess your assumptions and analysis. The greater the upside potential identified within your analysis the stronger your conviction becomes in considering an investment opportunity.

Constructing Your Portfolio

When constructing your portfolio based on your investment thesis, you should diversify your holdings and size your positions appropriately based on conviction and risk tolerance.

Diversification

Your investment thesis should guide how you diversify your portfolio. For example, if your thesis focuses on emerging market consumer stocks, you would want exposure across multiple countries and consumer product categories. Diversifying appropriately helps manage overall portfolio risk. You want to avoid overexposure to any single company, sector, or country.

Position Sizing

When determining position sizes within your portfolio, larger positions should be allocated to your highest conviction ideas based on your investment thesis. However, position size should also be constrained based on your risk tolerance. Larger positions will drive portfolio performance but also increase volatility. 

Rebalancing

As market conditions change, rebalancing your portfolio involves  realigning holdings in line with your investment thesis. If certain positions have increased significantly in size, trimming them down and reallocating to underweight areas can improve diversification and risk-adjusted returns. Revisiting your thesis and rebalancing at regular intervals instills discipline in sticking to your core investment tenets.

Presenting to Investors

When presenting your investment thesis to investors it's crucial to communicate and address important information right from the start. Your objective is to explain your insights and build confidence in your ability to generate returns.

To begin - guide investors through your thesis, research process, and valuation methodology. Elaborate on the trends you've identified and analyze the company's growth drivers and competitive position. Share how you arrived at your valuation.

Next, emphasize your "edge”. The expertise, relationships, or analytical skills that give you an advantage in assessing this opportunity. Provide examples of investments you've made in the past by leveraging an edge to establish credibility

Lastly, demonstrate your risk management abilities by addressing challenges and risks. Outline the assumptions underlying your thesis and discuss scenarios where they may not hold true. Describe how you plan to monitor and mitigate risks related to regulations, supply chains, customer demand, or management execution. 

Implementing the Thesis

Once you have developed an investment thesis the next step is executing trades to construct a portfolio that aligns with your thesis. It is crucial to approach this process with strategic planning in order to achieve results.

When making investments it is important to allocate positions based on your level of confidence in each holding while also ensuring diversification. Generally speculative or higher risk assets should be given allocations that don’t jeopardize the portfolio as a whole.

Ongoing portfolio management necessitates actively monitoring performance against the expectations outlined in your investment thesis. By keeping track of metrics, business drivers, and macroeconomic factors you can gauge whether your thesis remains valid.

As new data emerges over time adjustments and rebalancing of your portfolio will likely be required. This involves reducing exposure to holdings where the original thesis has weakened or deteriorated while increasing exposure to emerging opportunities. 

Continuously refining your portfolio ensures that it remains closely aligned with your investment thesis as market conditions evolve. Successful investors remain adaptable. Adjust their allocations while keeping their long-term perspectives intact.

Updating the Investment Thesis

As time progresses it is crucial to revisit and update your investment thesis accordingly.

Markets are constantly changing and it is crucial to stay updated with information that emerges. Your initial assumptions may not always hold true which can lead to poor investment decisions if you stick to an investment thesis.

To ensure the relevance of your investment thesis periodically reassess all your assumptions and projections. Take a look at your growth estimates, address any emerging threats, and analyze how market sentiment has shifted. If there have been changes in the investment narrative it's essential to update your thesis

Incorporate insights from sources such as earnings reports, industry conferences, macroeconomic data, and more. I. Objectively evaluate if adjustments need to be made based on the information at hand.

The key here is flexibility; being able to adapt to information sets good investors apart from the average ones. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Developing an Investment Thesis

To ensure the success of your investment thesis it's important to steer clear of pitfalls. Here are a few common ones;

Lack of Diversification

Having an overconcentration in a sector, geography, or asset type can leave a portfolio vulnerable. For example, an investment thesis focused solely on fast-growing US tech companies could miss opportunities in emerging markets. 

Biased Assumptions

It's easy to fall into the trap of making projections that confirm your existing bias about a company's growth potential. Avoid exaggerated assumptions that are not grounded in facts, and remember that “hope” has historically been a bad investment strategy 

Ignoring New Information

Markets and companies are dynamic, so no investment thesis holds true forever. Do not blindly stick to your original assumptions if new data suggests your thesis is no longer valid. Be ready to change course if your investment case deteriorates. Failing to adapt can turn gains into losses.

Conclusion

To summarize this guide - here are the most important factors in an investment thesis ;

  • Identifying economic trends and sector-specific opportunities to focus on when making investments.
  • Conducting a thorough analysis of potential companies, for your portfolio including their products, customers, competitors, and management.
  • Using valuation models such as discounted cash flow (DCF) analysis to determine a target value based on your projections.
  • Creating a diverse portfolio by considering your confidence level and risk tolerance for each position.
  • Clearly presenting your investment strategy and unique advantage to inspire confidence in investors.
  • Consistently implementing your investment strategy when making buy or sell decisions.
  • Monitoring your portfolio and assumptions, updating the thesis as needed based on new data.

Creating a thoughtful investment thesis takes rigorous research and ongoing discipline. However, it also establishes a framework to capitalize on the upside potential of emerging trends. Investors who take the time to develop a compelling thesis are more apt to outperform the market. With the right blend of macro perspective and individual security analysis, your investment thesis can unlock substantial value creation.

Cash Flow Forecasting Xero
Ray Wyand, CEO of gini
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