Rob joined DGI in 2003. As a portfolio manager, he analyzes and recommends stocks for all three DGI portfolios—small cap, mid cap and balanced. He also manages separately managed accounts for DGI clients.
Prior to joining DGI, Rob spent four years at US Bancorp as a portfolio manager of a small cap mutual fund and separately managed accounts. Before that, he served as an equity analyst of retail and consumer services stocks at Piper Jaffrey for six years. He also served a short stint at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
In identifying stocks for the portfolio, Rob looks first and foremost for companies with a defensible business model that have sustainable competitive advantage in the markets they serve. Ideally, the targeted companies should have a large unexploited market opportunity as well.
“These are the types of companies that not only generate above-average returns on invested capital, but can also compound those returns at a high rate for many years,” he explains. “This powerful combination of growth and sustainable competitive advantage can result in substantial long-term gains for shareholders.”
Corporate culture is also a critical factor in Rob’s search for quality companies. “History has demonstrated that the lifeblood of any organization that has experienced sustained success is its culture.”
“Rob puts the ‘cult’ in culture,” says DGI Director of Marketing Robert Buss. “He is so dedicated to managing it and getting it right. He thinks about the culture both at DGI and the companies he’s analyzing. That’s the first thing he asks. If they don’t have a good answer, it indicates that they don’t necessary have a good grasp of who they are as a company.”
Rob explains his obsession with the concept of culture: “By gaining a deeper appreciation and awareness of the elements of firm culture that contribute to long-term success, my hope is that we can both improve our ability to identify compelling companies to invest in and, at the same time, use that knowledge to enhance our odds of making DGI a great place for future generations of employees and clients.”
When he isn’t analyzing stocks, Rob spends most of his time with his wife and “sanity preserver,” Mary, and their twins—Alec and Kylee. He shares his daughter’s passion for painting, sketching and other visual arts as well as his son’s zeal for mindbenders and virtually all things sports.
On the rare occasion when the twins’ expanding list of activities fails to capture all of his free time, Rob enjoys a quiet dinner or a walk with Mary and, whenever possible, tries to squeeze in a session of Taijiquan or other physical activity.
Rob is also an avid reader. While he is attracted to intriguing concepts regardless of the origins, he tends to gravitate toward such topics as psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, organizational theory, behavioral finance, and science fiction.
“I am a bit of a book junky. When I go to buy a new book, I cannot buy just one. I think it is some sort of genetic defect. As a consequence, I have stacks of books in my office and basement at home. But, I treasure every last one of them.” His attraction to books is not some Luddite longing for paper-based products. Rather, he cherishes the breadth of ideas they offer, “Books can take me places no airplane can, into the minds and times of unique and interesting individuals across history. How great is that?”
It turns out that his fascination with books is actually a vehicle to feed a deeper motivation. He explains, “When you get right down to it, what I enjoy more than anything is the process of creative discovery – be it abstract or concrete. For instance, I love to paint. The process is incredibly organic. Subtly trying to shape a painting as the pigments mix and the colors shift is not unlike the process of exploring an interesting new idea or a new investment. In each case, you have to be open to arriving at outcomes that may be entirely unexpected.”
Rob also looks forward to his fall grouse hunting outings with his father. The two have a favorite area in Northern Minnesota that they’ve hunted for more than 30 years. “It’s all about getting out in the North Woods on a beautiful fall day,” says Rob. “Getting a grouse is a bonus—but I have to admit, they are tasty.”
Rob is known around the office for his personal frugality. He is oddly proud of the fact that his “new” suit is “nearly as old as DGI analyst Nick Hansen” and that his last three cars all approached 200,000 miles before he even considered shopping for a “new” one (aka, largely depreciated used model). He sums up his personal financial approach this way, “I don’t mind spending money; I just hate wasting it.”
“It’s easy to see why Rob is so good with money,” jokes DGI President Fred Martin. “He’s beyond frugal. He’s cheap. He really likes it when I buy lunch.”
“Rob is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met,” says Nick Hansen, DGI analyst. “If you met Rob, you would think his work was his first priority, but the truth is, the people around him are actually what is most important to him.”