How to Be the Perfect Copycat Investor (2024)

Copycat investing, as the name implies, refers to the strategy of replicating the investment ideas of famous investors or investment managers. The strategy is also known as coattail investing since the investor rides on the coattails of those who presumably have much more investment prowess.

But is copycat investing a viable investment strategy? While the evidence about its success is somewhat mixed, there are certain techniques you can use to increase your chances of becoming the perfect copycat investor.

Key Takeaways

  • Copycat investing, also known as coattail investing, is an investment strategy that involves mimicking famous investors.
  • Copycat investing has mixed results, although there has been a strong rise in the strategy in recent years.
  • The best investors to copy are successful money managers, buy-and-hold managers, and activist investors.
  • The key risks to copycatting are that the investor has different investment objectives or horizons or the stock has already moved before you learn about the investment.
  • To successfully copycat, an investor should exercise patience and do their own due diligence.

Buffett Bootleg vs.Miller Mime

The long-term success of legendary investor Warren Buffett has attracted a host of copycats over the years, and that could be because replicating Buffett’s strategy has made people money.

According to a 2008 study by Gerald Martin and John Puthenpurackal, a hypothetical portfolio that invested in Berkshire Hathaway’s investments a month after they were publicly disclosed would have outperformed the S&P 500 by an annual average of 10.75% from 1976 to 2006.

But before you rush off to check Buffett’s current holdings, consider the other side of the coin, when a long streak of outperformance ends with a resounding thud. Fund manager Bill Miller joined the pantheon of great investment managers after his Legg Mason Value Trust Fund beat the S&P 500 for 15 years in a row, from 1991 to 2006. Miller’s fund finally had a bad year in 2007—losing 7% while the S&P 500 advanced 5%.

However, 2008 was an outright disaster for the Value Trust, which plummeted 55%, compared with a 37% plunge for the S&P 500, as Miller loaded up on flameouts like Bear Stearns and AIG. In the five years to March 2012, the Value Trust Fund posted an annual return of negative 6.9% even as the S&P 500 gained 2.0%, underperforming the benchmark index by almost ninepercentage points on an annual basis.

Investors who had mimicked Miller would have rued their decision if they had continued to do so after 2006. Miller eventually opted to step down from managing theValue Trust Fund in 2012.

How to Be a Copycat

Copycat investing is more widespread than one would think, although it is often done discreetly and without much fanfare by institutional investors like mutual funds and hedge funds. But the idea of latching onto someone else’s investing ideas has also caught on among retail investors.

The earliest copycat investors would routinely scour regulatory filings from mutual fund companies to discover which stocks star managers had loaded up on in recent months. Nowadays, online value investing research companiessuch as GuruFocus offer an alternative to this arduous process by tracking and displaying the holdings of the best investors and investment managers.

Then there's "mirror investing," which copies the copycat strategy and takes it one step further. Services such as TD Ameritrade's Autotrade enable an investor to link investment accounts to portfolios actively managed by other investors or investment professionals and automatically mirror every investment move that the latter make, within specific allocations set by the investor.

The obvious difference between copycat investing and mirror investing is that the former attempts to duplicate trading ideas only of well-known and recognized investment gurus.

Who Should You Copy?

Investors considering a copycat strategy should consider replicating investment ideas from the following sources.

Successful Money Managers

All institutional money managers with over $100 million in qualifying assets are required to file SEC Form 13F quarterly detailing their investment holdings. This is a great source document for copycat trades.

Buy-and-Hold Managers

Copycat investors would be much better served by getting ideas from long-term managers who believe in buy-and-hold, rather than investment pros who are short-term traders. This is because the time lag between an actual trade and its reporting may be a detriment to effective trade replication.

It's better to go with someone like Buffett, who has often been quoted as saying, “Our favorite holding period is forever.”

Activist Investors

Activist investors like Carl Icahn can usually cause a stock to appreciate as soon as the news of their involvement in the company becomes public. Icahn often shares his investment plans on X (formerly Twitter), which makes it easier for copycat investors to act on them rather than waiting for regulatory filings.

What Are the Risks?

Like any other strategy, copycat investing has its share of risks.

Success Is Not Guaranteed

No investment strategy is a sure-shot winner. For example, a copycat investor may have to stick with the strategy for many years if following a value-based manager since value stocks sometimes take an eternity to turn around.

Losing patience and abandoning the strategy prematurely may result in substantial losses.

Stock May Have Already Moved

A stock may have already moved significantly between the time it was acquired (or disposed of) by a money manager and the time this news is made public. This has an adverse effect on the stock’s risk-reward profile for the copycat investor.

Too Many Copycats

Too many investors—retail and institutional—are watching the top hedge funds and money managers. Given the speed of information dissemination and trading nowadays, an investor who is a little late to a copycat trade is at a huge disadvantage, because the stock may have already moved quite a bit in a short time span.

Differing Investment Objectives

Your investment horizon and objectives may differ from that of the money manager. For example, you may have a very short-term horizon, while the manager you are copying may be in for the long haul. Or the money manager may have a risk tolerance level that is much higher than your own.

How Should You Do It?

Here are some suggestions to consider while implementing a copycat investment strategy.

Follow Credible, Successful Professionals

Stick with the tried-and-tested money managers, since you may occasionally come across a stock that could be a spectacular success. As an example, Carl Icahn sold close to 3 million shares of Netflix (NFLX) in October 2013, after the stock had more than tripled that year.

Icahn’s average cost of the Netflix stake was $58 when he originally acquired the shares on Oct. 31, 2012. A year later, the shares were sold around $323 for a gain of 457%. Copying a timely investment like that could juice up returns for any investor’s portfolio.

Exercise Patience

Chasing a stock is never a good idea. If a stock has already moved up on news that an investing heavyweight has taken a position in it, the best course of action may be to wait for it to come back within your buying range. If it does not, move on to something else.

Look for Accumulation

Large-capitalization stocks that are having hard times may be a great opportunity for patient investors. Look for such stocks where money managers have commenced accumulating significant positions since this signals their confidence in a turnaround in the near- to medium-term.

Follow Pros in Different Sectors

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket by focusing only on investment professionals in one or two sectors. Many top managers and investors in a specific sector have a considerable degree of overlap in their holdings. Diversify your copycat strategy by replicating investment ideas from gurus in different sectors.

Conduct Your Own Due Diligence

Do not assume that copying trades from the best money managers around absolves you of the responsibility to conduct your own due diligence. Ensure that copycat stock you are considering is suitable for your investment objectives and risk tolerance before you acquire it.

Who Are the Best Investors to Copycat?

If you're going to use a copycat investing strategy, the best investors to imitate are ones with a proven track record of success, such as top mutual fund managers and well-known investors. You can also use a company's public filings to find out more about shares bought and sold by corporate insiders and significant shareholders.

Does Copycat Investing Work?

Copycat investing can work, and it's a great way to learn from top investors. But keep in mind that these investors, such as Warren Buffet, are working at a much greater scale, which allows them to diversify their holdings in a way that's difficult for retail traders to emulate.

Which Investing Apps Can Do Copycat Investing?

Investing apps can help you copy others' investments. For example, you can use eToro's Copy Trader platform to automatically copy trades in real time. There are also investing research platforms like Guru Focus, which can help you identify the trades that big investors are making. You can then use nearly any investing app to place your trades.

The Bottom Line

While copycat investing has its risks, common-sense measures—such as following successful investors, exercising patience, looking for accumulation, diversifying with different sectorsand conducting your own due diligence—can help you become a (near) perfect copycat and improve your chances of investment success.

How to Be the Perfect Copycat Investor (2024)


How to Be the Perfect Copycat Investor? ›

If you are following a well-known fund or investor, they may have already published some of their research. With coattail investing, you take information (most often from the investments of successful investors or managers) and decide how much of your own capital to invest according to that information.

How to copycat invest? ›

If you are following a well-known fund or investor, they may have already published some of their research. With coattail investing, you take information (most often from the investments of successful investors or managers) and decide how much of your own capital to invest according to that information.

What is Warren Buffett's 90/10 rule? ›

Warren Buffet's 2013 letter explains the 90/10 rule—put 90% of assets in S&P 500 index funds and the other 10% in short-term government bonds.

Does copycat trading work? ›

Copycat investing, also known as coattail investing, is an investment strategy that involves mimicking famous investors. Copycat investing has mixed results, although there has been a strong rise in the strategy in recent years.

What is Warren Buffett's number one rule? ›

Buffett is seen by some as the best stock-picker in history and his investment philosophies have influenced countless other investors. One of his most famous sayings is "Rule No. 1: Never lose money.

How to double a $1,000 investment? ›

If your employer offers a 401(k) with matching contributions, it's entirely possible to double your $1,000 investment. How much money your company matches will vary, but many offer to match half or even all of your contributions. If they offer 100% matching, you can double your money in no time.

Who are the best investors to copycat? ›

Coattail investing works well when the institution or investor being mimicked invests with a buy and hold mindset. Successful investors worth replicating are those who have enjoyed continuous success for a period of 20-30 years. Examples of such investors include Warren Buffet, Miller Mime, and David Einhorn.

What is the Warren Buffett 70/30 rule? ›

A 70/30 portfolio is an investment portfolio where 70% of investment capital is allocated to stocks and 30% to fixed-income securities, primarily bonds.

How much money do I need to invest to make $3,000 a month? ›

Imagine you wish to amass $3000 monthly from your investments, amounting to $36,000 annually. If you park your funds in a savings account offering a 2% annual interest rate, you'd need to inject roughly $1.8 million into the account.

What is the Buffett's two list rule? ›

Buffett presented a three-step exercise to help streamline his focus. The first step was to write down his top 25 career goals. In the second step, Buffett told Flint to identify his top five goals from the list. In the final step, Flint had two lists: the top five goals (List A) and the remaining 20 (List B).

Can copy trading make you a millionaire? ›

Whether and how much profit you will make depends entirely on whose trades you are copying. There is no guarantee that copy trading will bring you more profit. To reduce the risks, you are better off dividing your portfolio between several different traders. Low chance to grow as a trader.

Is copytrading profitable? ›

The concise answer is yes: people can profit from copy trading. They have the option to follow experienced traders or even become a provider, where their trading expertise can attract followers and generate income.

Is copy trading illegal? ›

In the United States, copy trading is generally considered to be legal as long as it is done through a regulated broker or trading platform. The main regulatory agency for the financial industry in the United States is the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which has jurisdiction over securities trading.

How many hours a day does Warren Buffett read? ›

Indeed, the Oracle of Omaha has said that he spends "five or six hours a day" reading books and newspapers. And while it may be difficult to set aside nearly a full work day's worth of hours to read, it recently got a little bit easier to consume information like Warren Buffett.

What is Warren Buffett's weakness? ›

When he goes down a track that doesn't make sense, he does not pay attention to anything, which is a weakness for a big business leader like him. His biggest weakness is greed. He loves money too much that it interfered with his relationship with his family for a long time.

What are the Warren Buffett's first 3 rules of investing money? ›

Some of his most important rules include:
  • Rule 1: Never lose money. This is considered by many to be Buffett's most important rule and is the foundation of his investment philosophy. ...
  • Rule 2: Focus on the long term. ...
  • Rule 3: Know what you're investing in.
Mar 6, 2024

Is copying investors a good idea? ›

Copy Trading helps with diversification, which can make it profitable. Through copy trading, users can easily diversify their investment portfolio by following multiple skilled traders with different strategies, while also investing in various assets such as forex, stocks, indices, commodities, and metals.

How profitable is copy trading? ›

In essence, copy trading can be a useful endeavor for traders that are strapped for time, and want to take advantage of the market's volatility. Provided you find a consistently profitable trader, copying this trader will likely be profitable – at least in the short term.

How can I start copy trading? ›

Everyone can start copy trading by opening an account with a copy trading provider, choosing a trader, and clicking “follow”. Here are a few tips to get started as quickly as possible. Open a trading account – Opening a live account with a copy trading provider is the first step of copy trading.

Can you copy Warren Buffett's investments? ›

Because of these reporting requirements, and Buffett's transparency, it has become fairly easy to duplicate his investment moves — a practice known as copy trading. There are even apps that can automate the process for you. Here's a look at whether or not this is something you should consider.

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