Alumni Profile

Richard Weiss '73

Strong Returns Richard Weiss credits a mentor and an approach he learned at USC for becoming a top investor.
Finance and business economics professor Kenneth Trefftzs “had a profound influence on my decision to go into the investment business as well as the way I invest,” says Weiss, a 1973 graduate in business, Harvard man (MBA) and today manager of Strong Capital Management Inc. in Menomonee Falls, Wis.
“During the first few years I was in the business I carried around a couple of pages of notes from his class,” Weiss says of Trefftzs, who today is an emeritus professor. “Whenever I thought I was losing my way, I’d go back and look at them.” Trefftzs combined quantitative and qualitative analysis of com-panies in a way that Weiss has used throughout his career.
And what a career it is. At a time when public opinion surveys find that people are more likely to believe in flying saucers than in the possibility that social security will pay their retirement benefits, top money-manager Weiss has been featured in such publications as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, Christian Science Monitor and Money magazine.
“Over the long haul, he’s been consistently excellent,” says Larry Chin, of No-Load Fund Analyst, a San Francisco newsletter. Weiss was one of six veteran managers the publication named “gurus” last year.

Richard Weiss researches firms to determine private market value, an investment strategy he learned from his former professor Kenneth Trefftzs.

WEISS AND HIS TEAM manage more than $6.5 billion for Strong. Central to his strategy is coming up with a “private market value” for small and mid-sized companies. “We look at it as if we were buying the company. What would we really pay for it?” he explains.
To determine value, they do extensive research, visiting the firms to see how they are managed. “We’ll buy the stock when it’s well below its private value,” he says, “and generally sell when the stock reaches that value.”
Weiss’s funds have been solid and consistent performers. Morningstar, the mutual-fund rating service in Chicago, recently placed Strong’s Common Stock fund at No. 8 and its Opportunity fund No. 43 out of the more than 300 funds that have been around at least five years. Weiss was recently selected as an advisor to Masters Select Equity, a new fund designed to access the favorite stock-picking ideas of six of the mutual fund industry’s most successful portfolio managers.
That success, Weiss points out, is due to his discipline in sticking with the knowledge Professor Trefftzs taught him, which includes “not getting caught up in the Wall Street hype.”
An inherent modesty is exemplified in Weiss’s appreciation of his USC education.
“He’s a little like Clark Kent, quiet and unassuming,” says Chin, “but there is much more there than people realize.”


 
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