I was sad to learn this week that Eric Miller, former DLJ investment strategist, Bankstock.com contributor, and board member of my investment firm, passed away recently after a period of failing health.
Quite simply, Eric Miller was a great investment thinker and a wonderful role model for me and many others. At a time when the default mentality on Wall Street was rapidly morphing into get-the-deal-done-no-matter-what, Eric stood out for his for his thoughtfulness, independent-mindedness, and integrity. He was also an absolute pleasure to work with. I first came to know of Eric in 1980 when I entered the investment business as an analyst at Kemper Financial Services. I followed the chemical and financial services industries at the time, but the piece of sell-side research I looked forward to the most (and I wasn’t the only one) was Eric’s wide-ranging strategy comments on whatever topics he found most interesting and worthy of delving into. One week Eric might do a book review, the next, he might summarize a “contrarians” conference he’d attended or analyze a pressing national political issue. Whatever the subject, Eric’s pieces never failed to be exceedingly informative and thought-provoking.
This sort of aggressive curiosity is what made Eric such great investment strategist, as well. He was what I think of as the ultimate anti-dogmatist: he understood that it wasn’t so much his opinion on an investment issue that mattered, but how that opinion was arrived at. I’m still astonished at his skill in being able to dispassionately (and convincingly!) present both sides of a given argument. He understood more than most people on Wall Street that in investing, it’s the process that matters, not just the conclusion.
After I went to work on the sell-side in 1984, I lost touch with Eric until I moved to DLJ in 1991. He was the head of the investment committee there, and I relished the opportunity to work with him personally. I know we agonized together as watched Wall Street’s fabled “House That Research Built” turn into just another second-rate investment banking schlock house. My blood still boils at the memory of how DLJ’s research department essentially became the publishing arm of its investment banking division. Banking clients got glowing write-ups and investing client interests be damned.
Soon after I started our investment firm in 2000, I was delighted when Eric agreed to join our advisory board. The counsel he provided as a member never failed to be thoughtful and wise. His contributions to what we accomplished will always be appreciated.
Eric Miller was simply a great man and a wonderful true role model. RIP.
What do you think? Let me know!