Dan Sweet

Warren Buffett on Chinese insurers (2 of 12)

This is the second in a series of twelve posts. The introduction to the series is here. By way of review, these are my notes of Warren Buffett’s responses to questions from Notre Dame and Stanford MBAs on October 9. 2007.

Do you find any of the insurers in China attractive?

You can’t own more than 24.9% of anything—that’s a problem for us.

Distribution is still expensive there.

Do some business with reinsurers. Look at auto – didn’t exist 100 years ago.

Insurance was a cartel with bureau rates. Competed to get the best agent with the best insurance.

1921 – a farmer started State Farm. “The Farmer from Merna” took captive agents direct to consumers.

1936 – Leo Goodwin and his wife Lillian went more direct by mail and started Geico—lower customer acquisition cost than competitors

Look for a big business where you can offer the consumer a better deal.

Geico got in trouble in 1976—bought half. 1995 – bought the rest.

Gates called and asked Munger and I to come up to give the orangutan perspective on the internet. Gates said “Here is the internet—tell me how to make money with it. I had just bought Geico but I never thought of it. No one in the room thought of disruptive technology, direct selling, search, etc.

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“So I was down in Omaha talking with Warren Buffett…” introducing a series of 12 posts.

I took a trip down to Omaha in October of 2007 to meet Warren Buffett with a few of my Notre Dame MBA classmates.  We joined a group of Stanford MBAs and spend the morning in conversation with Warren Buffett.  He is a class act as these pictures illustrate.

He pulled out his Notre Dame “INVEST LIKE A CHAMPION TODAY” sign to welcome us:

Warren Buffett - Invest like a champion today!

He took us out to eat at one of his favorite restaurants:

Lunch with Warren Buffett at Piccolo's

He posed for pictures with us:

Warren Buffett

And he signed my copy of The Intelligent Investor (Wow, I’m a nerd):

My signed copy of The Intelligent Investor - thanks Warren!

Anyways, it was an amazing experience and I want to share some of the content from the trip so I’ll be typing up a series of posts here to archive the notes I took in my notebook.  I’ll write his responses to our questions in his voice; however, some responses will be paraphrases and some will be direct quotes.  I don’t know which are which so I won’t be differentiating.

Theses are the questions that I’ll be sharing Buffett’s response to:

1 – What are your thoughts on investing in China?

2 – Do you find any of the insurers in China attractive?

3 – Can you comment on the challenge presented by Berkshire’s size?

4 – How do you perform due diligence? What do you look for in management?  What question do you find most useful when meeting with companies?  Is it true that Berkshire will never sell a good company?

5 – How do you decide on an appropriate premium over book?

6 – You’ve been critical of hedge funds in the past.  Didn’t you run a fund with a similar structure before?

7 – What are your personal goals for the next 5-10 years?

8 – Do taxes in the U.S. favor the rich?

9 – Is the Fed doing a good job? (October 2007)

10 – Which railroads do you like and why?

11 – How do you feel about derivatives?

12 – What do you see as the best investments for young investors now?

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