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VALX: A New Guru ETF That Mimics The All-Time Greats

Charles Sizemore
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When it comes to investing, originality is overrated. You get no brownie points for using only your own research. Returns are returns. So, if you can piggyback on the research of famous investors like Warren Buffett or Peter Lynch, why wouldn’t you?

I’ve spilt quite a bit of ink writing about assorted smart-money, guru-following strategies (see “iBillionaire to Launch New Guru ETF”), all of which involve some variation of 13F mining. In a nutshell, if you want to know what a famous investor is buying, you need only look at the 13F filings they are required to file with the SEC. Several sites, including GuruFocus and Insider Monkey, track 13F filings, and there are currently three popular guru ETFs, including  the Global X Top Guru Holdings Index ETF (GURU), the AlphaClone Alternative Alpha ETF (ALFA) and the Direxion iBillionaire Index ETF (IBLN).

Now, Validea Funds is taking the guru ETF in a new direction with the Validea Market Legends ETF (VALX).

VALX, unlike its peers, does not mine the 13F filings of famous investors. Instead, it picks stocks by imitating the strategies of famous investors. It’s a matter of copying the style rather than the specific stocks.

There are pros and cons to following this kind of approach. One obvious selling point is that you are not limited to the current pool of famous investors. The strategies used by investing legends that practiced decades ago, such as Benjamin Graham or Peter Lynch, can be included alongside those of managers that are in the trenches today.

And there is also the matter of timing. The mining of 13F filings is an exercise in tracking what the smart money has already done, and by the time you get the information it might already be dated. By emulating the underlying strategy instead, you can potentially invest ahead of the manager whose strategy you are ostensibly cloning!

Of course, the obvious downside, particularly when looking at the strategies of long-retired managers, is that we can’t say with any certainty whether that manager would still be using those strategies were they in the business today. Many of Benjamin Graham’s favorite strategies are all but unusable today because the market is a lot more efficient than it was when Graham was investing. If Graham were alive and practicing today, I have no doubt that he could compete with the very best value managers in the business. This is the man, after all, that literally invented value investing as we know it today with his publishing of The Intelligent Investor and Security Analysis. But would he still be hunting for stocks trading below their net current asset value per share, as he was famous for doing during the Great Depression? We can only guess.

Let’s take a look under the hood of VALX. This guru ETF’s portfolio is comprised of 100 stocks using 10 distinct guru-based models, which are themselves chosen from a pool of 17 total models. The original pool of 17 is narrowed down to 10 based on their long-term performance and their correlation to each other.

VALX is not beholden to any one strategy type; its 17 identifiable strategies are a mixture of value, growth and momentum strategies. VALX is also not hemmed in by market cap restrictions; its holdings span the small, mid, and large-cap universes.

So, what is VALX buying today? Let’s take a look at the current portfolio.

There are definitely some contrarian plays in the portfolio. Russian oil company Lukoil (LUKOY) and battered American handbag maker Coach (COH) are current top holdings, as is oilfield servicer National Oilwell Varco (NOV).

So, what’s the verdict on the Validea Market Legends ETF?

It’s too early to draw any conclusions based on performance, as the ETF has only been trading since December, but its methodology is interesting and warrants following. It’s definitely worth noting that the ETF’s manager, John Reese, is a respected researcher and a long-time contributor to Forbes.

For the individual stock pickers out there, VALX—along with the other guru ETFs GURU, ALFA and IBLN—can be used as a convenient stock screener for investment ideas and a launching pad for further research.

Charles Lewis Sizemore, CFA, is chief investment officer of the investment firm Sizemore Capital Management and the author of the Sizemore Insights blog

This article first appeared on Sizemore Insights as VALX: A New Guru ETF That Mimics The All-Time Greats

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