Value, growth... Why not both? An interview with Alex Waislitz

The Rules of Investing

Livewire Markets

When Alex Waislitz started his private investment company, Thorney Investment Group, back in 1991, he was a dyed-in-the-wool value investor. Having learned the craft from the legendary entrepreneur Robert Holmes à Court, who was Australia’s first billionaire, his focus was on being a thorn (hence, ‘Thorney’) in the side of “sleepy” management teams. This approach helped him unlock hidden value and underappreciated assets and propelled him to the realms of the AFR Rich List.

But rather than becoming stuck in his ways, in recent years, Waislitz has expanded his range of skills. After developing an interest in innovative growth companies, he launched Thorney Technologies in 2016, which invests in companies across the technology lifecycle. In FY21, it was one of the best performing LICs on the ASX, with share price appreciation north of 65%.

In this special episode of The Rules of Investing, we hear about the formative years of his investment career and how he developed the strategy that's been so successful, how he's taking a 'picks and shovels' approach to investing in digital currencies, and he tells us about two Aussie small caps - an undervalued turnaround, and an innovative company with a large addressable market.

This interview is being offered as a video podcast, in addition to our usual audio format. Plus, we’re offering a transcript. Please let us know what you think of this new format. 


Transcript - Part 1

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity...

Patrick: Alex, welcome to the show. Good to be speaking with you again.

Alex: Yeah. Thanks so much. It's been a big year since we spoke about that long ago.

Patrick: Yeah. It has been a while. I'm curious to get a bit of an update on how things are going for you and hear what's happening at Thorney. But I wanted to start first of all just with a bit of background. You have some pretty interesting extracurricular activities, I include being a company director for Visy and Pratt, you were Vice President of the Collingwood Football Club, sit on the International Advisory Board for the MBA qualification, and you've even tried your hand as a movie producer. Could you tell me which out of these things has been the most valuable and interesting for you? Is there anything that you wouldn't do again?

Alex: Well, yes. Look, I believe that you've got to have a full and eclectic life and active. I also believe from different industries and different experiences, you're always learning and you can cross-pollinate from them. That turns out to be valuable, not only in your life skills but as it translates to business. So I used to be on a board of the Visy and Pratt companies when I was actively engaged, not anymore. I've been on the board of the Zoos Victoria as well.

Collingwood Football Club was a fabulous experience for me. I was a life-long fan and got to work my way up from standing on the beer cans as a little kid at the front fence and being shouted over, to eventually becoming, I think, the longest serving vice-president of the club. And in a sense, we engineered a turnaround in the early days when Collingwood was in a lot of trouble. That was challenging but fun, and just being around the players. I'm a fan at the end of the day, was a pretty exciting experience for us. Football clubs are small but complicated businesses, and always in the media. So fortunately I had Eddie McGuire there at the helm when I was there. So I managed to avoid most of the media, but it was still a good learning experience.

Making the films was actually pretty good fun. It was an early adventure. It was a joint venture with Village Roadshow at the time and supporting Australian films and initiative actually. But what I did realise that it's just like any other business, it's got its complications, it's a series of contracts, you've got to execute on the contracts. When you're actually standing around on the film set and you're not the star, you're just on the sideline, there's a lot of wasted time, a lot of repeated endeavours. So you wonder about efficiencies and how to improve it. I'm sure there's technology now that helps you a lot there, but you realise despite the bit of glamour, it's just another business yet, an exciting business from the outside and other business on the inside. So you have to be passionate about it obviously to continue.

Patrick: Why don't you tell me about the origins of Thorney? Where did the name come from? Why did you decide to start it? And what were the early days like?

Alex: Well, I'd studied law and commerce in Melbourne, but was keen to head overseas, which I did, and eventually found myself in New York. Not wanting to work as a lawyer and study again to get the qualifications there, I found myself on Wall Street with an investment house called Prudential base. I was in the international department, which has a lot of foreigners, which was quite stimulating to meet people from all over the world. We had a broad introduction to the sort of financial markets and financial products. I realised then that I wanted to be more on the buy side than the sell side, and was lucky enough to join up and co-open the office of Robert Holmes à Court to Australia's first billionaire and a genius investor who I was somewhat in awe of, but managed to learn a lot from him.

I guess getting involved in the investment world on the buy side, we had a small team. So I was even though a junior member, I got exposed to a lot of different skills and opportunities. I think that whet my appetite to continue in the investment world, not go back to law to practice as a solicitor. So when I did return to Australia and after my six years in New York, I really wanted to find an entrepreneurial environment in my hometown which I did with Richard Pratt and the Visy Group, they were probably the most entrepreneurial industrial company in Australia and perhaps still are, one of the great Australian companies and success stories now run by Anthony Pratt, Richard's son.

But within that, I wanted to spread my own wings as well and continue, not so much down the manufacturing path, even though they were doing great things, but to go into the investment world. I realised that after seeing the energy and momentum and aggressiveness and competitiveness of the New York markets and the US markets, that kind of environment was lacking for the most part in Australia at the smaller end of the market. Sure Holmes à Court was there and other people like Alan Bond, and obviously Rupert Murdoch at the bigger end. But what I realised was in the micro-cap space and in the small cap sector, there was not a lot going on. They were relatively unknown sleepy companies.

Sometimes they had board members who were just there as more like rubber stamps or filling in the numbers, and they were largely undiscovered and I didn't have much capital to start with, but I wanted to be a thorn in the side, if you like, of those companies that were sleepy. That was part of the origin of coming up with the name Thorney.

Patrick: I've heard that there were quite a few years in the early days where you were producing returns of 100% or more per annum. First of all, is that right? And secondly, if so, how do you think you were achieving those kinds of returns?

Alex: Well, that is right. And as I said, I started off with a small amount of capital, just over a million dollars. In fact, in the first year I turned that the one million into $4 million. That was actually a fair bit of trading activity and there was active times there. I guess I was okay at it to achieve those results, but I wasn't really interested primarily in being a trader, although obviously we were good at it. I was more interested in building stakes in companies where I could engage with the management fundamentally or the boards or the decision-makers around the company and be part of really what was making the company the business tick. I was interested in the business, whether it was through a public company or through a private company for that matter.

So obviously with a smaller amount of money, I was focused on those micro-caps and taking a position in those and engaging with the principals. For the most part, it was well-received, even though I was a young guy. People liked the fact that I'd spent a few years in New York. I'd had some experience through Visy, through understanding business organisations. That was a pretty hardcore run business, and just talking to them about how to scale up and how to do things with the bigger picture in mind. Mainly I got pretty good responses and trying to help them not only improve their capital structure, but actually the decision about how they expand and where they expand, getting better board members on board, introducing them to my few connections in the brokerage world and the investment houses to get behind them. We achieved 100% plus performances in those early years.

So it was terrific and it was really exciting. I realised that actually I love the engagement in the variety of businesses. So I also decided I didn't want to become a super specialist. It didn't suit my personality because generally I'm a curious person. As I said earlier, I think you can cross-pollinate from one business to another business and learn and improve. So I set myself the task of being sort of a well-educated generalist and then reach out to specialists as needed for the particular nuances of those business. But taking the general business skills, which maybe account for 80% of any business, we were to adapt that from one to the other and targeted a lot of the ... As I said, they're very small companies, but somewhat exciting companies, or those that had hidden assets, such as real estate in them.

And then if you turned over the real estate or sold them, you realise that the NTA was actually triple what the stated NTA was because it hadn't been revalued for years, and suddenly the share price would explode on the upside because investors realised that there was a lot more worth in those companies... Or selling off a division that was poorly operating. Those situations still occur today. You know what? I would call orphan assets in businesses. I mean, TOP is an investor in ACM, the media group that myself and Antony Catalano bought out of Fairfax just over two years ago. So that was a business at one stage that was valued, I think at four or $5 billion and we paid just over $100 million for the assets. Obviously declining newspaper audience, but still many assets in there.

In fact, we got a lot of real estate as part of the deal, and it was a business that had not had enough love and attention and capital from the top-down, that it was actually more of a funnel of its cash going up. So it was under invested in and we've managed to turn that around very nicely, despite bush fires and floods and the drought and obviously COVID. So the point is, and I found 20 or 30 years ago and it still exists today, that there are many parts of businesses that are not focused on.

It's quite hard, particularly for founders to sell off what might've been family assets or icon assets in the group. But actually if you encourage and explain their rationale and their financial integrity in terms of doing that on behalf of a public company for shareholders, you can find superior performance comes out. That's very much what happened in those early years, we found a lot of those type of companies.

Patrick: You manage two different listed investment companies, TOP, Thorney Opportunities and TEK, Thorney Technologies. Could you explain the difference between the two in terms of their investment strategy?

Alex: Yeah. TOP is the older company and it came very much out of a lot of what I just described there. It's looking for value, it's looking for fallen angels that may be candidates for a turnaround and improvement, it's looking for companies that may have those assets that can be sold off to liberate the balance sheet and focus management on the core business. Those type of value or turnaround or orphan asset situations was main emphasis of that mandate, very much along the skills that we had within the Thorney Group. That's been where that series of endeavours have been focused on. It's got about 130, 140 million of assets there. It's a more concentrated kind of portfolio.

Over the last couple of years, of course, the focus of investors has very much been on the growth and disrupting tech world. So value has been somewhat forgotten, but I always believe value comes through at a certain point in time, and we keep working those assets. We had a pretty good year last year. I think our NTA was after fees, it was above 10% before a record dividend, and the share price I think moved about 15% to the upside. We think there's a lot of unlocked potential in that portfolio, which we're working hard to achieve that over the next few years. So, we need to explain that narrative a bit better because relative to tech it's been an under-performer, but in its own right it's been okay.

Patrick: Well, I was actually going to ask you what you thought was the reason for the diverging returns on those two, but I think you addressed it there. Do you have any plans to ...

Alex: We also went through a few thematics there and I think we were probably a little bit early. We've got some exposure in mining services and infrastructure services with companies like Austin Engineering (ASX:ANG), that if you look you'll see a new CEO has just been installed there. Mermaid Marine (renamed MMA Offshore ASX:MRM), which has moved to clean up its shipping fleet and rates are going up. Decmil (ASX:DCG), which has recapitalised to deal with problem on the balance sheet from two failed contracts or bad contracts. Southern Cross Electrical (ASX:SXE), a good company going well, not well-known. I think we went a little bit early in that thematic, but we're pretty happy with the infrastructure spend that's going on and the capital that's been raised in the mining sector, resources sector, that those companies are well-positioned to take advantage of a lot of capital in the next period. So we're looking for those companies to perform.

There has been a couple that we've got wrong that we're working through. One is Palla Pharmaceuticals (ASX:PAL), which legalised opium for pain medication. That's been a bit of a journey, but it's one of the few companies left in the world that is fully licensed and has all the government protocols to operate in that space. So that's been streamlined. A lot of work is going on, change of CEO is happening. Whilst it's been a long journey and we're down on our money, we haven't given up completely on that one. There's a few in that category as well; Murray River Organics (ASX:MRG), a food group out of Mildura, also as a new leadership team. These turnarounds, they don't happen overnight, you have to stay with them. Sometimes you have to invest more capital to support the balance sheet on the journey.

But as I said, some of our best successes at Thorney over our 30 years have come from these types of situations. Names that come to mind is HUB24 (ASX:HUB), the investment platform, manages superannuation funds and so on, which is a huge success now. 1.7 billion market cap, when we invested it was maybe 20 or 30 or $40 million market cap with bleeding money from divisions. Webjet (ASX:WEB), another company that was a turnaround ... Money3 (ASX:MNY), which I think I mentioned is the largest position that had to change its dynamic, it had some problems.

So we're used to those situations. They don't always go in the direction and the timeframe that you'd like, but I think for the most part they get there eventually. And so we'll stick with that thematic. We think, as I said, there's a lot of potential, I believe in the portfolio, that's why we've been conducting a buyback in TOP over the last year.

But switching to TEK, which people have become a bit more excited about, that had a terrific year and focus in the broad technology space, listed companies, pre-IPO earlier stage in the life cycle of a tech company investing primarily in Australia, but growing over the last couple of years as well in the USA and out of Israel as well, where we have strategic alliance partners. So the NTA of TEK was up close to 50 percent for the year just passed, and the share price I think moved up around 70-odd percent during the year. So TEK is not a dividend payer, TOP is a dividend payer.

As I said, it's been exciting. Again, we've taken the view of, we're not going to focus as a specialist on one particular sector or vertical within technology, we'll play a broader range within the thematics that we are confident in such as a fintech or ag-tech or the medical sector with devices or diagnostics, logistics, things like that, that we do have some working knowledge and that we can get expertise in as we need it. So that's been a lot of fun, and we've had some excellent successes there. I wish to some extent that we had a bigger pool of capital and hadn't had to sell out some of the earlier positions to keep circulating money. Indeed, we just recently did a small capital raising of 25 or $26 million to boost the opportunities because our pipeline of deal flow is very strong, very robust.

Part 2

Patrick: In your private investment group, Thorney Investment Group, I understand that you invest in some digital currencies. I'm curious, do you have any plans to carry that over into either of your listed vehicles?

Alex: Well, in the technology company, again, we've been following the thematics. It's not so much that we've invested in the currencies, but we are a believer in blockchain technology, for example, which is we think going to be more and more fundamental infrastructure of transactions. So we're looking for really, if I go back to the early days of Thorney, just to digress for a moment, we did a lot in resources sector, not so much in going directly into exploration companies, occasionally yes, but more so in what I call the picks-and-shovel approaches. So we invested in the mining services company; the engineers, the construction, the equipment suppliers, labour force supply and so on.

So to some extent, we've taken the same approach because I don't know which currency is going to be a winner in the long-term really, and I don't want to be a speculator on behalf of other shareholders. So we've invested around the space in the picks-and-shovel equivalent. So in Thorney Technologies, we have an investment in an Australian-led company, but Canadian listed called Banxa, which is a crypto exchange, if you like, and that's growing. Its transactional volume's quite successfully and dramatically off a small base. That's been a good winner for Thorney Technology and we still have that position that listed, we're in the pre-IPO. It listed, I think in January of this year of around the dollar Canadian and it's trading I think at $3, or thereabout about having been as high as six or $7, I think. And so we think that's well positioned to take advantage of the growing awareness and the growing transactions that are happening in the cryptocurrencies.

In addition, for example, we've invested in some Bitcoin miners. Cosmos is one that's listing on the Nasdaq shortly. Another one which we're very excited about and is a good size position in TEK is a company called Iris Energy run by a couple of brothers, Australian guys, ex Macquarie people, and they are growing their extra hash capacity and computer capacity enormously. I would add on a green-basis, in other words, their power source, which is a critical component of Bitcoin mining is from hydro electricity primarily. They're located primarily in Canada in order to take advantage of that.

So I think that company has shown enormous growth and with some of the disruptions in China into that sector. I think the more legitimate Western world Bitcoin miners I think will get superior valuations. I think that company will probably publicly list in the next 12 months. So we're looking forward to hopefully a very strong outcome from that investment in Thorney Technologies. So again, we like the growing awareness of cryptos. I don't want to say one crypto is going to be better than the other, but we do think that the space will become more popular, more utility in terms of transactions. So we want to be in the infrastructure around it.

Patrick: You tend to take fairly large positions in relatively small companies. Do you ever worry about your ability to exit these positions if they start to perform poorly? What's your approach for dealing with those situations?

Alex: Yeah, that's a good question. It's something that I've dealt with right from the earlier investment scenarios that we had, that I was talking about right at the beginning of Thorney with those micro-caps, because I would often buy five, 10, or even 15 or 20% of those companies, and there's not much liquidity in them. So you have to really work to achieve an outcome basically in two ways, the company grows and you support the growth and becomes more awareness, and a broader shareholding base emerges and you can sell into that progressively. Or in our experience, and fortunately for us, there's a lot of M&A transactions that emerge. And if you've got a substantial stake, you can be a key component in the success or failure of an M&A transaction.

And so we've often leveraged our position to ensure an outcome in that regard. Actually we're right now in an M&A cycle entering sort of turbo speed. We've seen that at the top end recently with bids for Sydney Airport and Afterpay, and we've seen that this smaller end with companies like Huon (ASX:HUO) just recently, last week having a bid, and Empired (ASX:EPD), an IT services company having a bid. Both of them from overseas corporations. So I think we're entering a cycle of M&A transactions. So I'm hopeful that companies, not only in the TEK portfolio but in the TOP portfolio in particular might be targeted. Now, is that the best companies, we don't want to sell too cheaply obviously and give up value, we don't want to sell it all if we can see a path for many, many years of growth. But obviously it's a nice thing to happen in a way because it validates your investment decision ultimately and you have optionality about liquidity event if you want that, and that performance.

So why is the M&A cycle so robust at the moment and likely to continue? I think for two reasons, one is money is cheap. Interest rates are still low despite the conversation about inflation and whether rates will go up. I do personally believe there is inflation in the system, and I do believe rates will go up at some point in the not too distant future. But at the same time, you've got massive government support going on and huge stimulus through infrastructure and other areas that perhaps we'll just defer that for a little bit.

But the result of that is that there is the ability to borrow at relatively or historical low costs. Share prices are high. So those with many companies have got value in their scrip that they can go and use also for consideration. There's plenty of money on the sideline for investment. Private equity firms out of the US, you've got all these SPACs that have got hundreds of billions of dollars actually to invest and they've got a limited time duration in which to do that. Actually retail has got a lot of money also to invest.

So money is a wash in the system at the moment, and that's finding a home in the stock market. Those companies that don't perform from a share price point of view for one reason or another, albeit it might be a short-termism reason, which is a direct impact through COVID and the lockdowns, which for example, in the TOP portfolio company, AMA Group (ASX:AMA), which is in automotive smash repairs, well, obviously if cars are not on the road, they're not having the same number of incidents and so their numbers down, and perhaps they're seen as vulnerable, for example. So I think the M&A cycle is one way out of those concentrated positions.

The other of course why is you have to work hard. And if you've got a big position you can usually get access to the board or to the management to have hopefully constructive dialogue. And if you can get your point of view across or other shareholders point of view, and we've got a pretty good track record in business decision-making, we hope we can get those debates going and that will hopefully help the company perform better. And indeed, making some hard decisions, such as closing off a division that's losing money and the capital is better off deployed elsewhere, and management time is better off elsewhere. Those hard decisions that maybe support of large shareholders would encourage the boards and management to get on and do that sooner than later.

So it's two or three different ways that we address it, but we are fully aware of the risk of concentration.

Patrick: Let's get into talking some specific stocks. One of the companies in your portfolio is Oventus (ASX:OVN), which produces a sleep apnea product, which puts it in competition with one of Australia's most successful companies ResMed (ASX:RMD). Could you tell us about the similarities or the differences between those two products, and what attracts you to the Oventus product?

Alex: Well, I think Oventus is really interesting story because the ResMed has been, as you said, a huge success. What we've learned through ResMed is how big a problem sleep apnea is and other sleep disorders, including snoring and so on. So as people are talking more about their health issues in today's world, it's coming out, it's even a bigger problem. The numbers are just huge in terms of people's discomfort and also the effect on GDP in terms of people's ineffectiveness at work when they don't sleep or haven't had a proper sleep that a lot of time off and a lot of under-performance. So it's a huge problem and it's a growing problem, people becoming more aware.

Now, ResMed has captured that market and done brilliantly, but with a machine that is very loud when you put the CPAP over your face, it's like wearing a mask, it's almost like you're an astronaut, having it confined there, it's very uncomfortable. It's hard to lug around. It's a big unit if you're travelling. The thing about Oventus, which is an Australian-based patented technology, it's the newest type of technology in an industry that's been doing the same thing for some 20 odd years. So as we've spent more and more time on the technology side, we're always looking for something that is a disruptor, something that can make a difference and address still a big market problem.

So Oventus is such a company. But being a very small company fighting against a giant and getting market share is a difficult process. So it requires capital, it requires patience, it requires education, it requires scientific confirmation of the effectiveness of this oral device that they've got. That takes a bit of time, and it's been a bit disappointing. Certainly COVID hasn't helped with a lot of the dentists and sleep clinics being actually closed. So they've had to adapt and then now teaching people how to get to fit out remotely with the kit that can be sent to you and training over a laptop or some other mobile device.

But we believe that the contrast is so significant relative to the cumbersome CPAP that it will capture some of the market. The market is so big that this company can be very valuable. So you've also got to put it into perspective. This company is only valued at something like 20 or 25 million Australian dollars. So what sort of sales and penetration would it take for this company to be a lot more valuable? We think even though it's taken a bit more time than we would've liked, we think the risks reward from a company like this is terrific, and it's going to do fantastically well for people's health and lifestyle enjoyment.

So I love those companies that can potentially have a great financial return and you're actually helping people's wellbeing. I think that's like the golden ticket, if you can do that. And if we can be a small part of that and help them on their journey, then I think the team attorney will be very proud of that outcome. But it's not there yet, but I think it's a company to watch.

Patrick: More on the turnaround side of things, Service Stream (ASX:SSM) was a company that was, let's say somewhat of a market darling up until about two years ago or so. To start with, could you maybe explain what some of the challenges that Service Stream has faced over the last couple of years have been? What are some of the changes that you have advocated for or are advocating for in order to turn it around there?

Alex: Well, if you go back a little bit further then a couple of years, we've been involved in Service Stream for quite a long time. It was connected to Skilled Engineering originally, which was a listed company, and it was a service for utility in the telco industry. It was actually like laying a lot of the cable and doing their trenches. So it was, if you like, another asset or division within Skilled that wasn't getting enough attention for what it was. So it eventually went on its own journey and became a separate public company, but struggled in doing that after some good momentum, because it went out of its bandwidth and it entered a JV which costs them a lot of money, and it was of a scale that they couldn't manage well.

So, that in itself led to a change for them to get back on the right track. They introduced new management, a gentleman who was on the board at the time stepped into the role. He'd actually sold his business to them. He came in and became a much more active director. He recruited a new CEO who's the current CEO, and they went about turning around that big city business, exiting the bad contract, taking that on the chin, recapitalize, streamline the business, went back to their basics. And then there've been a huge beneficiary over the last few years of obviously the NBN rollout and some of the things that's happening in the telco space.

People didn't realise that they started expanding also into utilities, smart meters, radio, gas and electricity, and those types of things which was a good diversification. But I think with the spend on NBN being so huge, everyone's focus was on that. There was kind of a view that, because that was a perception that that was being badly managed, that would be rivers of gold forever. I think even though they were running the company well, it would then got to be too expensive because the multiples of the market gave it were too high, I think on the basis that that would go on forever and achieving good margins while doing that. So I think it went too high.

In fact, we sold out a lot of our position when the stock, not that long ago got up to $3 or through $3 a share. We just felt even though fantastic management, even though good contracts and all solid the valuation had got ahead of itself. So we were quite disciplined in selling quite a lot of stock.

Now, I think it's come the other way around, as people have said, okay, NBN is finished and the margins are not there as much, it's gone right down. But NBN hasn't finished because there's so much maintenance to still keep going and they've diversified, as I said, previously in utilities, and then more recently through this acquisition of Lendlease services, and that gives them diversity, it gives them scale, it gives them plenty of synergies.

And if you believe in the management team, which we do, we think they've got one of the best management teams that are out there, certainly for a company of this size and a very strong, capable board of which many of the board members have equity in the business and actually put more equity in, in this recent capital raising. I think they will capture those synergies and run that business well. I believe that actually the market is valuing a too low now relative to the potential that this new business gives to them.

So we actually participated in the capital raising, and we look forward to them producing the results and the market understanding them better that telco is only one part of their business and this is a further diversification for them to balance the business and smooth out the earnings much better going forward, and that the management team is capable of delivering a very good outcome. So I definitely think this is a stock to watch over the next six, 12, 18 months.

Patrick: The last 12 months has been a rather challenging period for just about everybody. I'm sure everyone listening to this now would have experienced some challenges that they never expected to face before. What have you learned about yourself in the last 12 months?

Alex: Well, I think everyone has been super reflective during this period. So I think I probably have as well. I think the first thing you learn is that your health and your wellbeing, your family are the most important things, concentrate on them. Business is exciting, dynamic but not the main game. But within business, obviously there's been so many learnings as well. So we see how the world is connected, first of all, from the spread of the pandemic, but also from the use of technology like Zoom that you can connect everyone and you can still relate and you can still converse and you can still conduct business in one form or another. So I think the innovation of human beings, the ability to adapt is what we're seeing, and I think it's a pretty powerful message.

So whilst there's certainly challenges and we touched upon mental health earlier on, and we're saying that as well as those directly who had COVID, but we're seeing the mental health impact on people is huge. Obviously we've got to do a lot more in supporting each other and helping each other through the crisis time, but we shouldn't forget about it when the crisis is over. We've got to do more work on using technology to connect to people, to help people for people's wellbeing and their families and their carers and that whole ecosystem around that.

So I think we have to learn to be more compassionate, we have to be more understanding of individuals' workplace, environment, businesses who have genuinely out of their control being affected by what the world's thrown at them. I think you have to learn about that. I think that is relevant and I think it'll make the world a better place if we can do that and take the learnings from this period forward. For myself, personally, I think it's connecting with the people around you, your friends and family, it's keeping yourself safe and healthy, it's identifying what it is that excites you, what it is that you want to do in your life.

I'm fortunate enough that at this stage in my life probably got enough years of experience and enough financial wherewithal to pursue what does interest me. It does still interest me to do business. As I said, all this ability to hopefully create some value with investors who have supported us by supporting technology and innovation and change that can help our planet and businesses function better is very stimulating to me. I think there's never been a better time, I've been saying lately, to be an entrepreneur because the number of ideas that are out there and the deal flow that we can see young entrepreneurs have identified opportunities, they're fearless and they're global in their thinking. It's really an exciting time.

So there's no way I'm stepping away from business and being involved at this time. I like it. I think it's fascinating. And if we can take our experience and our wisdom and help some of these young entrepreneurs achieve their dreams, that'll be rewarding for us certainly. So I'm excited by that. More and more philanthropy from my point of view, I get to follow Collingwood as a fan rather than having to go to board meetings, which is another way of doing it. I'm excited about that and going forward. So I just think that, as I said, we've all had to reflect and we find a way that... and we should not forget our learnings from this year. Not that the world is going to normalise anytime soon, but let's all remember the important things in life.

Patrick: Well, Alex, thanks for taking the time to chat to me today. I know it's a bit of a logistical challenge during lockdowns, but I appreciate you taking the time out of your day. Thanks for sharing your views.

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The Rules of Investing is one of Australia's top investing podcasts. We interview the leading investment minds from Australia and overseas to better understand their processes and philosophy. After launching in October 2017, there have been over...

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