I'm in the Philippines for the first time in over two years...

This past week I was on a flight to the Philippines for the first time since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. When I left in early 2020, I had no idea it would be so long before I returned. 

On the flight from Istanbul to Manila last week, I was thinking about a famous quote from a Greek philosopher... 

No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river, and he's not the same man.    

That statement was made by the same man who also said, "Change is the only constant in life." 

His name was Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher before Socrates, who was respected by Plato and Aristotle alike. 

Ironically for my trip flying out of Istanbul, Heraclitus lived in a part of Turkey once called Ephesus, which is known as the Izmir coast... or the Turkish Riviera as it's being branded. It's only a few hours from our offices in Istanbul, and I have spent a decent amount of time on its beautiful beaches. 

It seems like it would have been a perfect place for a philosopher to contemplate the nature of the world. 

Heraclitus may very well have been looking at the waters of Turkey when he discussed how not only does the water change as time passes, but people do as well. Therefore, one cannot repeat the same experience of walking on a particular path. 

So, as I wondered how different returning to Manila would be this time, it also reminded me of how different investing has become and why it won't return. 

As the world reopens, some things will remain, but some will never be the same...

There's no more mandatory quarantine upon entering the Philippines, so I could reasonably return to our Manila headquarters, which has more than 100 personnel. 

One thing I noticed on the way to the office struck me. Before 2020, according to Waze, Manila had the absolute worst traffic in the world. 

Now, driving around Manila is a breeze. It's not just that it hasn't fully opened... Some new bridges and highways have been built in the last 24 months that speed things up. 

Thank goodness the one thing that hasn't changed is the great charm and friendliness that has defined the people of the Philippines for generations. 

I also paid a visit to a late-night restaurant that I used to frequent. As I walked up to the restaurant before I could reach the front steps, the door swung open, and the manager who has been working there for more than a decade greeted me with a big, "Joel! Welcome back!" 

He's not likely to be reading this or even know what I do for a living, but it doesn't matter. He knows me as a loyal customer who loves his food and is happy that I'm back. 

While the river may change, it doesn't have to be unrecognizable. 

Some things about business and investing have changed for good...

While we've grown our personnel during the pandemic, we still haven't brought everyone back to the office in Manila. No one wants to return to the old commuting lifestyle, wasting hours every day. 

What we termed the "At-Home Revolution" will remain in full swing for companies and the workforce worldwide. 

At Altimetry, we're embracing a hybrid model for our workforce based on working remotely yet with necessary in-person time. 

Goldman Sachs' (GS) CEO, David Solomon, made the "return to the office" mandatory, and many employees have flat-out refused. We will see how that rebellion holds up closer to bonus time. 

Don't get me wrong. I wholly respect Solomon's belief that face-to-face interaction is necessary for an apprenticeship culture. One of the biggest benefits of being back in the Philippines is spending time with some of our people. 

But the investment banking 80-plus hour work schedule and no-sleep lifestyle were completely unnecessary. It doesn't matter how smart and ambitious you are... you are simply not at peak performance if you get less than seven or eight hours of sleep. 

That's a biological fact that bankers and consultants and other professions seem to want to brag about how they can get by on five hours of sleep. They're suffering intellectually, emotionally, and physically... they just refuse to admit it. 

If killing the commute allows people to work hard, long hours, and still have time for sleep and exercise, we can attribute the past two years for this realization. 

Investment styles also require an overhaul... 

One of my more popular presentations for chartered financial analysts ("CFAs") and institutional clients over the past two years has been called Splitting Sectors. 

Traditionally, investors would discuss sector strategies and weightings, such as being underweight in real estate and overweight in health care. 

However, what do you do when real estate comprises commercial properties in a five-year downward tailspin, and residential, where home prices are off the charts? 

How could you make a call on something as specific as food and restaurants during the past two years when that could include Domino's Pizza (DPZ), which crushed it with its delivery service, and casual dining restaurants, which are still trying to climb out of the pandemic morass? 

When telehealth services flourish and go-to-the-hospital services suffer, there needs to be a new taxonomy for thinking about major investment themes. 

The investment river of sectors and industries, and sub-industries can never be looked at the same way again. The performance of our stock-picking themes stems in part from a refusal to accept traditional investment paradigms the way the mainstream financial media does. 

Thankfully, some things aren't changing. All securities, all assets of any kind, still deserve to be valued using discounted cash flows. 

That means Uniform Accounting remains an absolute necessity in determining an accurate view of corporate performance as the financial statements become more complex and inconsistent... 

As always, I wish each of you all the love, joy, and peace in your day, 

Joel Litman
March 25, 2022 

P.S. Uniform Accounting recently led me to an emerging corner of the stock market that I'd bet 99% of investors have never heard of before. This has huge implications for you and your money. I just put together a brand-new presentation where I lay out all the details, including my favorite way to play this emerging trend – ticker symbol included, no e-mail address or credit card required. You can watch it here.