Day in the life of a fund manager in Las Vegas

Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:20pm EST
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By Noel Randewich

Las Vegas (Reuters) - Hampton Adams has been one of CES' most loyal devotees for 15 years. But unlike a good chunk of the 140,000-plus who descend on the world's largest technology showcase every January, the portfolio manager is less keen on fiddling with cutting-edge technology than picking winners.

Adams, and thousands of his peers with real money burning holes in their pockets, dives gamely into the throngs of jostling gadget geeks and harried executives at the annual Consumer Electronics Show year after year. There, he kicks the tires on new gizmos; plies executives with tough questions; annoys a string of marketing reps; and tries to smash glass screens -- all in the name of seeing first-hand which technologies seem a good long-term bet

There's just no substitute for good old-fashioned touch and feel, argues the fund manager and head of research at Pasadena-based boutique firm Gamble Jones Investment Counsel, which manages over $1 billion.

"You ask people what they're showing, why they're excited about it, and about their competitors," he said as he embarked on the first of three days of touring the cavernous showfloor. "You build a mosaic, getting bits and pieces of information wherever you can that will help you in the investment process. You try to put all those pieces together.

"That's what we've been trying to do."

The Consumer Electronics Show is in danger of shedding some of its allure. In addition to Apple's (AAPL.O: Quote) infamous absence, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O: Quote) is making this show its last.

Wall Street itself has long viewed CES primarily as an outsized dream factory, meeting and brainstorming venue. But others, like Adams, see a gigantic shop window for the singularly patient and longer-term minded.

CES spans venues all across the U.S. gambling capital, with a total surface area equivalent to over 30 football fields crammed with technophiles, industry insiders and booth babes. But navigating that morass of gadgets and humanity can be rewarding -- even for getting a read on companies that aren't represented.   Continued...