Stake is an online share trading platform where you can buy US stocks with $0 brokerage. This is my interview with Russel from Stake. Read on as we get to know Russel!
Stake is an online platform for share trading that thousands of investors use to gain access to the US markets. They have $0 brokerage fees and an easy to use app. You can check out my review of Stake in my article HERE.
Following is my interview with Russel from Stake where I ask some personal questions, and some questions about his financial education and philosophy. Read on as I get to know Russel!
Interview with Russel from Stake
Russel, Markets Writer from Stake
How old are you?
I am 26 years old.
Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
For the first 20 years of my life, I lived on the East Coast of the United States. I moved out of my parent’s house when I was 18, and migrated by myself to Australia when I was 20. I started in Newcastle, NSW, and currently reside in Sydney.
What is your current job?
I am the markets writer for Stake, an Australian-owned digital brokerage platform providing investors access to the ASX and Wall St.
Do you have a blog or website?
Most of my regular updates and market analyses will be found on the Stake blog.
Where can we find you on social media?
Did you pursue tertiary education (if yes can you please explain)?
Yes, in this day and age you cannot find a job in finance without a piece of paper from a university. I completed a Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Newcastle with a major in Finance and a minor in Accounting.
If I could do it again, I would focus more on economics and accounting. I love finance and would have always followed the career path I have chosen, but I don’t believe academia as it currently exists is able to prepare you for a modern career in equities with a finance degree. I mean this in a general sense, not specific to the University of Newcastle. I can confidently say that ~75% of the technical knowledge I use in my career I taught myself.
Who inspired you to excel in life? Who are your heroes?
My father and grandfather have been hugely influential in my life. Both are self-made men who built businesses from scratch. They supported me, were always there to provide counsel and most importantly let me take charge of my investments completely, even when they thought it would fail.
Outside of my family, I have always been inspired by the story of the men who built modern America – Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and JP Morgan.
How did you learn about finances and at what age did you “get it”?
My family has always been open about what it takes to earn the money we have, and the process behind their decisions on how they spend it. But things really clicked for me when I was 12 and my grandfather gifted me US$1,000 with two conditions. I had to use it to invest in the stock market and, while I should use my father and himself as advisors, the decisions were my own to make.
For the next four years, I invested and honed my research skills by reading the companies’ SEC filings (primarily 10Ks and 10Qs) and googling anything I did not understand. I also would watch at least an hour of CNBC when I got home from school, listen in on conference calls and read books on investing. By age 16, I felt confident enough to submit my first investment thesis report to Seeking Alpha, which was accepted and published.
Would you recommend people to pursue the same career path?
I love what I do, I love the markets and I don’t regret any of my choices. However, I won’t pretend it’s been easy. Writing for Seeking Alpha has been a massive boon for my career, but it could have backfired if my analysis was not up to scratch, having a harmful impact by discrediting me.
Additionally, I decided to move to Australia after researching and analysing for approximately two years because I believe I have more opportunities here. But when I first got off the plane I did not have any connections or know a single person.
Still, I am glad I have done what I have and would recommend people follow my path if it suits them. Just don’t think it will be easy or risk-free, and expect to have to make sacrifices. But I promise the rewards are worth it.
Would you choose a different job if you could go back?
No, I have always been operating under a ten-year plan and while it has not gone perfectly, where I am now will enable me to continue on the track I have laid out.
What’s your work-life balance look like?
My grandfather always told me if I loved what I did I would never work a day in my life. I won’t pretend there aren’t days where I need to drag myself out of bed, but I love what I do and it is not uncommon for me to be unable to sleep and just pop open my laptop and get some work done. Basically, I am always on and I admit my work-life balance is not the best. But it suits me and my personality.
I classify my time commitments into four categories: work, personal work, social and downtime. Work and personal work more often than not are directly related, but can simply be defined by writing content for Stake, and personal work on my investments, networking, research, etc. Work and personal work take the majority of my time. Social is time I spend with friends, whether it’s going out for dinner or a night of board games. Lastly, downtime is playing video games, watching TV, reading or listening to podcasts and audiobooks.
What is your favourite thing to splurge on?
My favourite thing to splurge on is a night out. Whether it’s clubbing, axe throwing or bowling, I find a fun night is a great way to blow off some steam.
How do you think differently than the average person when it comes to money?
I don’t view money as an end to itself. What I mean is I view money as a tool, rather than the goal. By taking this outlook I find I am able to more accurately complete a risk-reward analysis as well as determine if an investment fits within my larger objectives. Just because an investment might make you money does not make it a good investment for you. What is the time frame, what else could you invest that money into, does it fit into your overall goals and strategy?
Do you have any favourite investing tools and resources you recommend (books, podcasts, apps etc)?
I know I work for Stake, but I can’t stress enough how valuable Stake’s market-depth data is for my investments. I have significantly improved my entry and exit prices by consulting that data, especially with companies outside of the ASX 200.
Two of the books that have most influenced my investing are “Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction” and “The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics”.
Superforecasting has heavily influenced how I go about my research, and The Dictator’s Handbook completely changed how I analyse macroeconomics and politics. I give the political theory in The Dictator’s Handbook full credit for my ability to predicate the focus of the third round of Chinese Tariffs against the U.S. in 2018.
A mistake I see many people make when researching a company is relying on the analysis of others. The first thing I do when looking at a company is review its regulator fillings: you can’t beat the source. However, outside analysis has its place. I still read analyst reports (like Stake’s Under the Spotlight series), but I view these as primer pieces to point me in the right direction for future research.
For podcasts, I recommend The Diplomat | Asia Geopolitics, The Exchange by CNBC, The Journal by the Wall Street Journal and Exchanges at Goldman Sachs as a starting point.
What tips do you have for others who want to grow their portfolio?
Never be afraid to accept you don’t have enough time to properly research the market. The good news is there are plenty of cheap and efficient ETFs that will allow you to subsidise your income without gambling. You don’t just have to use market tracking ones either, Smart Beta ETFs allow for a targeted, yet still diversified approach to investing. The most powerful tool in life and investing is accepting, acknowledging and finding ways to manage your limitations.
What has been your investment strategy/philosophy?
Cast a wide net and don’t skimp on the research, especially if everybody is saying something is true. I have never specialised in one industry or asset, but I never just dive into a new asset class. I always make sure I understand exactly how it works and its unique risks before I invest.
As such, my strategy tends to be to read and keep up with as much as I possibly can. Then a trend or piece of misinformation or misunderstanding will grab my attention, and I dive into the topic or company to see if there is an opportunity.
When evaluating an opportunity, I focus on four key aspects: the fundamental basis, the macro environment, are ‘unlikely risks’ really unlikely, and how long will my assets be tied up. The last one includes a best, base and worst case scenario analysis.
My biggest weakness is I have historically kept most of the information and analysis in my head. In the long run this is not ideal, especially when you’re doing a post action review when an investment goes south.
What has been your best investment?
On June 14 2018, I published a report on Seeking Alpha outlining why I believed milk and dairy products would be a prime target of China’s next round of tariffs against the U.S. As part of the report I outlined how and why I was shorting Dean Foods as a direct result. Within a year the company’s share price declined 89% and was delisted within two. This was a contrary investment at the time, as I argued China was primarily targeting California, rather than focusing on states which had voted for former President Trump.
What has been your worst investment?
My worst investment was a now defunct U.S. listed oil and gas explorer called Linn Energy. It was one of my earliest investments and the focus of my first Seeking Alpha report in 2012. I failed to pay proper attention to the price of oil and associated risks, oversized my exposure and ended up getting out at over a 90% loss. It was both my earliest and greatest mistake and I completely transformed my strategy afterwards.
What’s been your overall return?
When I moved to Australia, it took a few years to transfer all my assets from the U.S. I finalised this in 2019, and have generated an analysed return of 14% as of 19 September 2022. Last financial year I generated a 15% return.
How often do you monitor/review your portfolio?
Multiple times a day, but mostly by checking news that could be related to what I own. I believe it’s important to always know off the top of your head where you are invested. This allows you to better catch information that affects your investment, especially if it’s not obvious.