As everyone in the business has probably heard, Barton Biggs, the oft-contrarian market strategist, died this weekend at the age of 79. Plenty of press reports paid homage to the man who warned investors away from the tech bubble of the late 1990s, but who got his call wrong in 2007. As usual, I like the work of Brad Hintz and his research team at Bernstein Research. Today, Hintz and his team issued the following analysis of Biggs’ impact on Morgan Stanley in particularly and on equity research in general.
For our part, we like literate, off-beat investment research as much as the next media house. And so we excerpted two of his books. Hedgehogging, a popular book published by Wileyabout the hedge fund industry, and his very erudite discourse on markets during World War II, also published by Wiley, this last one in 2008. In his research he points out how the “market,” so now sullied by politicians and other class-warfare mongers, accurately predicted bottoms and tops. It’s a great read, if a tad granular for the average lay reader.
Here is Bernstein’s financial services research team’s observations about Biggs in a note sent to clients today:
"As investors, we are only the limited product of our own experiences and therefore vulnerable unless we read and assimilate the accumulated wisdom of the great ones."
- Barton Biggs
We would like to express our condolences to our clients at Traxis Partners, the current and former partners of Morgan Stanley Group and to the Biggs family on the passing of Barton Biggs.
Barton Biggs joined Morgan Stanley as a partner in 1973. Mr. Biggs was one the founders of modern equity research on Wall Street. He convinced the skeptical Senior Partners at Morgan Stanley of the potential value of a well-reasoned, impartial quantitative equity research franchise to the firm's asset management clients. He proved his point by showing that MS' equity research unit could support the growth of Ansen Beard's Institutional Equity business in the 1980s and over time won a loyal following of his iconoclastic market insights and his research publications.
In 1975, Biggs was chosen by the MS partners to head Morgan Stanley Investment Management. Mr. Biggs was the principal architect of the 'new' Morgan Stanley Asset Management. As an early evangelist of global capital markets, Biggs expanded MSAM with new offerings in Europe, he established a Japanese presence and later led MSAM into the developing markets. In 1995, Biggs endorsed the expansion of MSAM into fixed income, merging with Miller-Anderson, and in 1996 he supported the expansion into retail asset management with the acquisition of Van Kampen. Mr. Biggs retired from MS in 2003 and founded Traxis Partners.
Wall Street has lost a leader. Equity research has lost an icon.