Letter From Cobleskill: Autumn 2022
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Dear Fellow Shareholder,
As the leaves begin to change color in Upstate New York and the nights become chilly, my fall routine kicks into gear. The first thing I do is call my perennial firewood supplier to negotiate the price and place an order. After much friendly banter during our recent call, this hard-working entrepreneur said that there will be a large price increase in 2022. Higher labor, gasoline, truck and equipment maintenance, and overall operational costs give him no choice but to raise the price. This pattern is being repeated throughout our economy.
So, it’s not surprising that shareholders are primarily asking us the following questions:
- Are we in, or headed for, a recession?
- What does this mean to me and my investments?
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1. RECESSION OR NOT?
There is a current debate about the official definition of a recession. Whether we are technically in a recession or not, there’s no doubt that most consumers are feeling the pain of higher interest rates and high inflation.
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) defines a recession’s start and end dates. It relies on government information that takes time to compile, so it cannot officially designate a recession until after it starts. At the same time, the NBER’s research shows that, from February 1945 to June 2009, recessions averaged 10.8 months in duration and the expansionary periods that followed averaged 60.2 months.
Since no one knows how much longer this difficult environment will last, it can understandably create apprehension. After many conversations about this first question, however, we’ve come to understand that shareholders are ultimately seeking an answer to the second question.
2. WHAT ABOUT MY FAM FUNDS INVESTMENTS?
If you’re wondering if your FAM Funds investments are strong enough to weather the downturn, we believe the answer is “yes.” Our goal is to invest in quality businesses that have a strong balance sheet and manageable debt; cash profits to invest in growth or pay dividends; a distinct competitive differentiator; and a talented and ethical management team.
We want these companies to be positioned to not only perform well in good times, but to endure the most challenging economic conditions — and even increase market share — while emerging on the other side poised for future growth.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Fenimore’s research analysts continue to visit businesses, tour facilities, and have face-to-face meetings with management teams of existing holdings and prospective investments. During the month of September alone, we had 32 meetings throughout the U.S. and 8 phone calls.
This firsthand, in-depth, company-level research provides invaluable insights that help us gain a better understanding of the current challenges facing businesses while reinforcing our confidence in our holdings’ abilities to persevere and potentially thrive during a variety of environments. We believe we have a collection of quality companies that can build wealth over the long term.
HELLO AND GOOD-BYE
Fenimore is pleased to welcome Christian Snyder as our new president. He succeeds Debra Pollard, who announced her retirement after 30 years of service to our investors, associates, and community. A Cobleskill native, Deb returned to her hometown after college. During her tenure, Deb earned a steady series of promotions culminating in her appointment as president in 2016. She will remain here to help with the transition over the next few months. Deb is a dear friend and we wish her all the best as she moves into a new phase of life!
Christian joins us after working in the financial services industry for nearly two decades, most recently serving as Chief Operating Officer of the Wealth Strategies Group at Goldman Sachs Ayco Personal Financial Management. He will work closely with our management team to help guide the firm. Christian earned his bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics from Colgate University, law degree from Suffolk University Law School, and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation. He and his family live in Saratoga Springs, NY.
STAY IN TOUCH
Whenever you have questions about your investments, please contact us. Everyone has unique needs, plans, and life circumstances. For example, you may be relying on your investments to pay bills or preserve your principal, or you may be in a position to purchase more mutual fund shares while stocks are on sale.
Through one-on-one conversations, we can get to the heart of your financial objectives, explain your options, and give you the information and confidence you need to make an educated decision. Our associates are invested alongside you, so we are sensitive to your concerns and goals.
Please remember that our team is here for you at our Cobleskill and Albany offices, by phone at 800-932-3271, or via email at email@example.com.
Thank you for your trust and friendship.
John D. Fox, CFA
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER