How The Event Was Born And The Resulting Chain Reaction

Written in May 2018 by Sophocles Sophocleous, CFA

In 2014 I went to the European Investment Conference organized by the CFA Institute in London.  I left the event disappointed.  I met new people but no active equity investors.  Everyone worked in risk, compliance, wealth management, structured products, and other areas.  I was hoping to meet at least one few fellow CFA Charterholder to discuss stocks.  The event was nice and there were some interesting presentations (such as ones by James Montier and Pippa Malmgren) but I felt that there wasn’t anything tangible I could use.  Fortunately, my only costs were only travel as I had won a free pass to the event.  But I was concerned how events in general can be quite expensive and how the benefit may be limited.

When I came back to Cyprus, I expressed my feelings to Tim du Toit who agreed.  Tim turned to me and said “Heck, why don’t we do our own event”.  We decided we would create an event that we would love to go to.  An event where we could meet fellow active value investors.  Where we could discuss the markets and hear new investment ideas.  An event where it wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to attend.  Hence the Cyprus Value Investor event was born.  Little did I know that it would be the best investment I made in the last 5 years!

We organized our first event in 2016 in Nicosia, Cyprus.  Tim and I did all the work on our own.  The event went well and we had great ideas presented (such as Fiat Chrysler by Simon Caufield).  But it was a blur to me as I was so stressed about it and it was so much work.  Plus if it wasn’t for the support of the CFA Society of Cyprus we would have been seriously in the red.  But I did have the pleasure of meeting many investors.  Bob Robotti was an encyclopedia of information and we couldn’t get enough of him.  (See part of an open Q&A we had with him in this video).  I also met Diego Moreno from the Forum Family Office who gave us their investment idea and who later on invited me to their event in Omaha in 2017.  Thank you Diego because your invitation resulted in a chain of events!

So I packed my bags and I was off to the Mecca of value investors to see the Oracle.  At the Forum event I ran into a wonderful man named Dominic Fisher who had also been to the Cyprus event.  Dominic told me that he loved the Cyprus event and urged me to do it again!  Thanks to Dominic’s encouragement I repeated the event in 2017 and am organizing it again in 2018.  Dominic was not the only person who enjoyed Cyprus (as this video of testimonials shows) and we have several repeats and new participants due to word of mouth.  At Omaha I also met David Pastel who spoke to Guy Spier about me and I got an invitation to the excellent VALUEx.  The event has similarities to VALUEx.  Before I had gone to VALUEx I asked one person what it was like.  He said “It’s like the Cyprus event but with a lot of skiing!”  It was a pleasure to meet Guy Spier who offered to inform his subscribers about the Cyprus event.  Thank you Guy!

People ask me why I’m organizing the event.  I’m obviously not making any money from it.  The fee is EUR 200 and that covers the venue, 2 business lunches, 1 Greek meze dinner, 1 ticket to the beer festival (includes unlimited beer from a selection of over 150 beers, 1 food box and souvenir glass), and additional activities (for example in 2017 we did a happy hour by the pool with unlimited drinks).  I’m also get asked whether I’ve received AUM from participants to which I reply no because everyone who attends is an investor themselves.  The attendance is capped for 2018 at 40 persons and we have a non-solicitation rule (like VALUEx) which is a turn off to service providers.  Hence we get a small crowd of investors who come to share their knowledge and meet other likeminded individuals.  Some people still don’t get it and ask me “So what’s your gain?”  My response is a) Investment ideas (I bought Simon’s 2016 Fiat idea and David Kessler’s 2017 Norbord idea), b) Education (no price can be placed on what I have learned from others but also about myself which have made me a better investor), c) New friendships that can lead anywhere (did I mention how I met Guy Spier?).

So if you would like to join a group of oddballs on the sunny, beautiful island of Cyprus, join us at the event.  Expect to hear a ton of ideas, and meet some highly intelligent and genuinely nice individuals.  And if you have some time, combo the event with a holiday as the weather is fantastic at that time of year.