Inside Financial Services

Eric Miller, RIP

He was a great investment thinker--and a role model to many

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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!

10 Responses to “Eric Miller, RIP”

  1. Foosie

    Eric’s work was erudite, to the point and the best part of DLJ research. I used to discard the other (orange) part and save his pieces. I know somewhere in my basement I still have them. Did not know he was on your advisory board. He was right up there with Ruckheyser, in my opinion. Thanks for your tribute.

  2. gary langbaum

    Enjoyed your comments on Eric and I, too, always looked forward to his stimulating comments. With Eric and Barton Biggs both passing away this year, it seems like two of the very best writers and thought provokers on Wall Street are gone. Have to wonder if there will ever again be this type of product and personality on Wall Street. Seems like another major negative change for those of us who have been in the business for years.

  3. Jeff Friedberg

    Sad to hear of Eric’s passing. He was refreshingly unique in the investment world. Nice tribute Tom.

  4. Spenken@icloud.com

    thank you for that piece. I have just spent a few days keeping company with Sue Miller, Eric’s wife and my mother. Young Eric Miller jr. Informed of us your piece and I pulled it up for her to read this morning. She was cheered by your appreciations. what a great guy

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  5. Willard

    Tom: I enjoyed reading your piece on Eric Miller. Eric moved to the Carmel area at least 15 years ago and made a most favorable impression on all who had the good fortune to meet or know him. He formed a discussion group comprised of retired business people looking for ways to keep their minds engaged and challenged. We all benefited from our periodic meetings and suffered as his health failed over the last couple years. I maintain the rather complete list of books Eric provided on Leadership and a sheet on Lessons and General Advice to the Individual Investor as a reminder of a memorable relationship.
    Regards,
    Bill Scearce

  6. Peter Schneeberger, DLJ Geneva

    Hi Tom, could not agree more, including your assessment of DLJ’s final days.
    Eric always gave us a balanced view of his findings, never letting excitement taking over.
    Looked critically at his own conclusions and never jumped in feet first,
    but instead progressed “cautiously” step by step.

    Peter

  7. Ben Graham

    Like Barton Biggs, Eric Miller was well-read and wrote readable prose. Fortunately the smarter folk on the buy side knew that actually following either Barton Bigg’s or Eric Miller’s investment advice was a sure path to financial suicide.

  8. Anonymous

    I am sorry to learn of Eric’s passing. I held him in high regard.
    Jim Engle…

  9. Jeantine

    Intiellgence and simplicity – easy to understand how you think.

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