Answers From Tom Gayner’s Interview With GuruFocus

Great interview from Gurufocus with Tom Gayner. It is worth a careful read.

Tom Gayner, a renowned investor, has been executive vice president and chief investment officer of Markel Corp and president of Markel Gayner Asset Management, the investment subsidiary of Markel Corp., since 1990. He manages about $2 billion.

Recently, he joined GuruFocus for an interview and took question from readers. His answers are below:
GF: How did you get started with value investing?

TG: Well, I started out life as an accountant, from the University of Virginia. Then a CPA, working at PriceWaterhouseCoopers. I found as I got into accounting that I was more interested in dollars than numbers, so investing seemed to be a little more in tune with business itself and the world of finance. Now, I think accounting is a phenomenally good way to begin to be an investor because accounting is the language of business, and you need to understand the language and what accounting entries mean in economic sense. But once I had that language down, I found the craft of investing was just very attractive to me. So that was sort of my mental switch. There was a local investment firm in town called Davenport and Company of Virginia, which was a small group here in Richmond. They had an interesting practice where they were brokers, and they did research on regional companies in Virginia and North Carolina. I had the opportunity to go there and work as a stock broker, and as a research analyst covering companies in Virginia and North Carolina, to be exposed to a lot of different industries, a lot of different companies, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. One of the companies that I covered starting in 1986 when they went public was Markel. I got to meet Steve Markel, and from 1986 through 1990, I covered the company. He was doing acquisitions for Markel, then Markel did the second half of the Shand acquisition, which more than doubled the size of the company and the investment portfolio. Steve was managing things himself and decided that he would like a wingman to help him out. He mentioned something to me about coming out here, and I said, “Great,” because I saw an insurance company that I liked and respected, that made underwriting profits, and was willing to invest underwriting profits for the long term. I knew that that was the formula that Buffett, at Berkshire practiced. And I got to stay right here in Richmond, Virginia. That sounded great, sign me up. That is the short story of how it happened.

GF: So you made it all the way up to the Chief Investment Officer and President. But, we know that accounting is different from value investing, right. Over the process, were there any persons or books that influenced you?

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