Art & Craft

Leonardo Da Vinci dissected over 30 bodies during his life-time by his own accounts. There was a period in his life where he virtually lived in a morgue.

Why did he have such fascination with human body dissection? What did he gain out of these dissections? How did it improve his art?

The portrait of the Old Man with Ivy Wreath and Lion Head took over 15 years to paint.

Some of the written accounts around this period describe a perceptible change in muscle and nerve formations in this painting during these 15 years.

This obviously was a result of the body dissection exercise that Leonardo went through over these years.

While Leonardo’s Art was a mixture of experience, learning, intuitive skills and in-born genius, the way he honed his craft with his work around human bodies, use of light, reflection etc., holds several lessons for those learning to excel.

Lessons for the Lesser Mortal

Any professional looking to excel is thus looking to not just rely on the innate intuition but to hone the craft related to the job.

Technique, Process, Technique, Process………Outcome

Developing the technique to do things better and outing together a process that keeps you on track is the key.

The recent challenges faced by the Fixed Income market in India throws a great example:

Portfolio construction has always been a mix of art and craft.

Even when the objective is the maximize the return, the craft of “risk management” has to take its rightful place to ensure a balance.

What seems like a great idea on paper might increase the risk disproportionately for a product where the customer expectations are of stable returns.

Portfolio Construction and Management has always been a bit of art and craft challenge.

While intuitively a Manager or advisor can advice on a asset allocation, the underlying the asset classes and how the risk is being managed is really a matter of craft/science.

Which asset classes is adding to the risk and which one diversifying the risk is a calculation and that’s where the advisor/manager’s craft plays a role.

Investor’s Dilemma

The investor’s dilemma then is to find the manager who has mastered the craft rather then purely mastering the art.

Any Advisor/manager can impress you with knowledge, however there are several clues for the investor while listening to them:

  1. How many times does the discussion hover around the portfolio rather than the product?
  2. How many times are you advised against an asset class which the advisor has on platform and not only as underselling someone else’s advice?
  3. How balanced is the advisory vis-à-vis the questions being raised?

The bottom-line is don’t just expect the Advisor/Manager to have the “Art & Craft” but develop your own “Art & Craft” while taking a decision.

Beware though that you don’t get bogged down by details.

Keep it simple.

The above few questions are of-course a way to think.

You can do a few more things:

  • Develop your method;
  • Don’t focus merely on the outcome;
  • Think about the process and what’s the process that makes you comfortable;
  • Develop your time-horizon and review mechanism to track progress of the process that you have agreed to;
  • Have a written thesis for every decision of yours so that review becomes easier

Happy Investing

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