Guy Spier is a Zurich-based investor. He is the author of The Education of a Value Investor. Spier is the manager of the Aquamarine Fund, with $300 million in assets. He is well known for bidding US$650,100 with Mohnish Pabrai for a charity lunch with Warren Buffett in 2008. In 2009, he was featured in The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande regarding his use of checklists as part of his investment process. His the brother of Tanya de Jager.
Spier was born in 1966 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. When he was three months old, his family moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, where he attended kindergarten. In 1970, his family moved to Iran, where he participated at the British Embassy School in Tehran. In 1977, his family moved again to Richmond in the UK, and he attended the City of London Freemen's School, in Ashtead, Surrey, as a weekly boarder. In 1984, he enrolled to study Law at Brasenose College, Oxford, where he was tutored by Hugh Collins, Peter Birks, and Mary Stokes, among others. Two years later, in 1986, he switched to studying PPE (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics).
Among his tutors was Peter Sinclair for Economics – where he occasionally shared tutorials with David Cameron, who would become Prime Minister. He also studied politics with Vernon Bogdanor. Although he was thoroughly mediocre at Politics, he proved to be a capable economist. He graduated with a First-class degree, having also been awarded the Georg Webb Medley Prize for his performance in Economics. During his university summers, Spier also completed courses of study at the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg and Harvard Summer School. He also interned with Creditanstalt in London.
In 1990, Spier was offered places in the Joint Business and Economics Ph.D. program and the MBA Program at Harvard. Instead, he opted to do the MBA, and in 1993, he completed his MBA. Contemporaries at HBS include Mark Pincus, Chris Hohn, and Sherry Coutu.
From 1988 to 1990, Spier was an associate at Braxton Associates, the strategy consulting firm which was later sold to Deloitte Consulting. Based out of the London and Paris offices, Spier worked with colleagues David Pitt-Watson, Michael Liebreich, and others in advising British and European companies on their strategy vis-a-vis the European Common Market. He subsequently took up an internship at the Forward Studies Unit (Cellule de Prospective) at the European Commission in Brussels.
In his book, Spier writes that although he interviewed white-shoe firms like Goldman Sachs and J. P. Morgan during his last year at Harvard Business School, he turned down these firms to work for the lesser-known D.H. Blair. There, as a Vice President, he sought funding for new technology startups. Spier subsequently described this experience as "not dissimilar" to the movie Wolf of Wall Street. It was a career decision that he quickly came to regret.
Upon leaving investment banking, Spier founded the Aquamarine Fund, an investment partnership inspired by, and styled after, Warren Buffett's 1950s investment partnerships. Spier continues to manage the fund today, and it had $300 million in AUM as of June 2021.
Spier closely follows Warren Buffett's principles on value investing and capital allocation. However, he also admits that value investing has changed over time as the popularity of the style means that, generally, fewer opportunities are available to investors. Of course, ideas that will work would still be around, but the successful value investor of today has to look further and sometimes think outside the box. More recently, Spier has eschewed all forms of activism, stating, "My goal as an investor is to compound money for my shareholders, not to pick unnecessary fights or conduct myself like an avenging moral crusader.”
Spier has regularly advocated for probity and modesty in the management of financial firms. In 2008, Spier published a paper along with Peter Sinclair and Tom Skinner on "Bonuses, Credit Rating Agencies, and the Credit Crunch," which argued that part of the cause of the 2008 crisis was short-termism leading to the miscalculation of bonuses at credit rating and other financial firms. He has also strongly advocated for zero management fees regarding professional investment management. Spier has supported for Switzerland to become a center of true investing excellence, writing, "while Switzerland’s biotech, health, and technology clusters are extraordinarily well developed, Swiss private banking still has a long way to go."