- ELLEN POSNER
BloombergSen Investment Partners President, SANJAY SEN, CFA®
One of Sanjay Sen’s first lessons in the power of curiosity came from baby zoo animals. He was just a 12-year-old living in Dubai when he asked his mother, who worked for the local newspaper, if he could write a story about the new baby animals being born at the Dubai Zoo. He thought there could be a story there, and he wanted to write it. The editor agreed, so Sanjay went to the zoo, interviewed the Director, and wrote his first published story. Thus, began Sanjay’s first career as a teenage freelance newspaper reporter. He would bring that personal commitment to learning to his career in finance, ultimately leading Sanjay to found his own investment firm: BloombergSen Investment Partners. “I always wrote pieces I wanted to read,” he said. “Now I invest other people’s money the way I would invest my own. The way we invest is like investigative journalism. It’s about determining what questions to ask, figuring out the mosaic of what is happening and then putting it all together into a story. There are tremendous similarities.”
Becoming a finance guru
Today, Sanjay Sen manages the wealth of individuals, families, endowments, foundations, and pension funds. With his strong investment background and acumen, Sanjay helped the firm rank in Barron’s Top 100 Funds globally from 2014 to 2017.
Sanjay is the President and Chief Investment Officer of BloombergSen Investment Partners, a concentrated, long-term value investor.
Sanjay and his co-founders, Jonathan Bloomberg and Lawrence Bloomberg, are the firm’s first and biggest investors, so their clients know they can trust them, he said.
“There’s a big thing about eating your own cooking,” Sanjay said. “Jonathan [Bloomberg] and I would never do for our partners what we would not do for ourselves. It’s about protecting their principal over the long-term, which is different from reducing volatility over the short-term.”
He started in finance early. At just 19 years old, while getting his Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Toronto, Sanjay began working at a boutique investment firm in Canada called Burgundy Asset Management. At Burgundy, Sanjay was the lead analyst on the U.S. Small Cap Value Fund. However, due to a lack of rigid silos at the firm, he was able to roam intellectually and study companies of all sizes from different industries in North America, allowing him to learn a lot quickly. “This really helped me grow.”
Sanjay’s curiosity was also ever-present, and he became a financial auto-didact, reading books and articles by investment gurus Peter Lynch, Ben Graham, Warren Buffett, and Joel Greenblatt.
“They affected me without me ever having met them,” he said.
“Accomplishment comes from learning”
Sanjay worked at Burgundy for six-and-a-half years, until he was 25 and then was a private investor from 2002 to 2006. In 2006 and 2007, Sanjay worked at Cumberland Private Wealth Management, where he focused on U.S. equities.
In the early 2000s, he befriended hedge fund manager and neurologist, Dr. Michael Burry, who would later be portrayed by Christian Bale in the Adam McKay film “The Big Short.” Burry also ended up being an important intellectual influence on the development of Sanjay’s investment philosophy.
“The greatest sense of accomplishment comes from figuring things out,” Sanjay said. “Learning new skills and getting better at things. It was only when I read a great interview with [American psychologist] Carol Dweck that there was a phrase describing how I’d always approached life. She coined the term ‘growth mindset,’ when discussing childhood learning. Her point was that the most important thing is not for kids to think they’re good at something. The important thing is that kids learn that with enough hard work and thinking, you can figure things out. My happiest memories are about the process of learning...Not about a specific stock.”
When he founded BloombergSen with Jonathan Bloomberg and Lawrence Bloomberg, one thing which Sanjay felt was particularly important to do was to implement employee reviews twice a year, not just annual ones.
“Most organizations don’t have transparency. I’ve never understood the thing about people avoiding confrontation. If you feel someone isn’t doing a good enough job, you need to give that person an opportunity to improve,” he said. “I understood what people go through when they’re let go. If you’re going to let people go, you want to do that in a transparent, fair way.”
Overcoming the pandemic
Though nearly every industry has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, BloombergSen has continued to find attractive investment opportunities for their clients. They made all the necessary changes, like meeting with clients remotely, but their investment style didn’t change at all, Sanjay said.
“When the market was demolished last year, there were lots of opportunities to find companies more cheaply,” he said. “We added more names to the portfolio than ever before. Last year was phenomenal from a work standpoint.”
The most obvious example of this was when shares of Alphabet, which owns Google and YouTube, fell 31 percent in March 2020, allowing Sanjay and his partners to invest. Their fund held 10- 15 companies before the pandemic, and now they have about 20, Sanjay said.
“There’s a cycle to investing styles,” Sanjay said. “It’s often driven by crowd psychology. You want to stick to what you do well. You don’t want to be chasing what someone else is doing which happens to be working today because it might not stay that way for long.”
A passion for family and the environment
When he’s not working to invest for himself and his clients, Sanjay Sen loves being with his family, which he describes as his “great love”.
He lives in Toronto with his wife and three children: twin 4-year-old boys and a baby girl.
From childhood, Sanjay has been very passionate about the environment and conservation of endangered species. After he and his wife spent their honeymoon in Southern Africa, they became donors to, and eventually he joined the board of, the African Parks Foundation (AP). AP manages 19 national parks and protected areas in 11 countries covering 14.2 million hectares. Its mission is to “utilise a clear business approach to conserving Africa’s wildlife and remaining wild areas, securing vast landscapes and carrying out the necessary activities needed to protect the parks and their wildlife.”
“What they’re doing is phenomenal,” he said. “As those countries develop, there’s not going to be that much land left for wild animals. Like Yosemite or Yellowstone in the U.S., these parks end up being the last havens for these beautiful species...That’s a really amazing project.”
Sanjay is also an avid tennis player. He believes it’s critical to have an activity that briefly allows you to forget about everything else in life and exist only in the moment. Seeing both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal play, and the beauty of how they ply their craft, brought him back to the sport after a prolonged hiatus.
“Whatever you’re selling in life, you need a great salesman and a great story. Federer and Nadal provided that for tennis fans and that’s why the sport is so popular again,” Sanjay said. “They’re a great inspiration to me in so many ways.”
Ellen Posner has spent over a decade in the field of news and media,
covering everything from business to pop culture and more.
Her passion for writing comes from asking the big questions that get to
the heart of every story.