Todd Combs, an investment lieutenant at Berkshire Hathaway, got great advice the first time he encountered his current boss, Warren Buffett, in 2000, the year he started his MBA at Columbia Business School. The Oracle of Omaha was speaking to Combs and 165 other students during an investing class.
In response to a question about how to prepare for an investing career, Buffett told the students, "Read 500 pages like this every day," while reaching toward a stack of manuals and papers. "That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will do it."
Combs, now 47 and a protege of the Berkshire Hathaway CEO, took the advice to heart. As he began his investing career, he read even more, sometimes hitting up to 1,000 pages a day.
"Combs's approach was a race against the clock to consume information, says one person familiar with his strategy during that period," Bloomberg reports. "If he wasn't in a meeting with his analysts or taking a break to exercise, he was reading, three people say."
Reading voraciously appears to have helped him get ahead.
Combs, who started as a financial-services analyst after graduating from Columbia, began running his own hedge fund, Castle Point Capital Management, in 2005. He joined Berkshire Hathaway in early 2011 as an investment manager and he "is already in line to manage a huge swath of Berkshire's investments when Buffett, 87, leaves the scene," Bloomberg reports. Some shareholders even "speculate that he could one day become CEO as well."
The investment manager, who recently helped join together Buffett, Jeff Bezos and Jamie Dimon in an effort to change American health care, still finds time to read. "I read about 12 hours a day," he told the Florida State alumni magazine last year. "Our offices are like a library. So I read annual reports, conference call transcripts, trade magazines, etc."
At this point, he's logging more reading hours than his boss, who spends five or six hours a day poring over books and newspapers.
"I read and think," Buffett once said. "So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life."
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