Neff, John B. 1931-

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NEFF, John B. 1931-


Born 1931, in Grand Rapids, MI; married; wife's name, Lillian. Education: University of Toledo, B.B.A. (industrial marketing; summa cum laude), 1955; Case Western Reserve University Weatherhead School of Management, M.B.A. (banking and finance), 1958.


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National City Bank, Cleveland, OH, securities analyst, 1955-63; Wellington Management Company, securities analyst, managing partner, senior vice president, manager of Vanguard Windsor Fund, 1963-95; consultant, 1995—. Chair of University of Pennsylvania's investment board, 1979-c. 1998; member and former trustee, Chartered Financial Analysts; trustee and member of executive committee, University of Pennsylvania; trustee, Case Western Reserve University. Military service: U.S. Navy, served two years.


Distinguished Alumnus award, Case Western Reserve University, Weatherhead School of Management, 1995.


(With Steven L. Mintz) John Neff on Investing, John Wiley & Sons (New York, NY), 1999.


American investment fund manager John B. Neff is known as a "contrarian," one who goes against the grain of popular investment strategies and buys stocks at sale prices in low-profile, undervalued companies with a good price-to-earnings ratio. As manager of the Vanguard Windsor Fund for thirty-one years, Neff delivered his investors an average annual return of 13.7 percent, compared with a 10.6 percent average for the Standard & Poor's 500. His success earned him a stellar reputation and the trust of many fund managers. Neff's strategy for successful investing has been described as a combination of patience and discipline. For example, he habitually spends every Saturday afternoon reading every issue of the Wall Street Journal from the prior week.

Neff reveals his story and investment techniques in his memoir John Neff on Investing, published in 1999. He tells of his high school years in Corpus Christi, Texas, where his stepfather hoped to strike it rich in the oil fields, and then of his move to Ohio to live with his biological father, after a sixteen-year separation from him. After two years in the U.S. Navy and then earning his business degree at the University of Toledo, Neff hitchhiked to New York City in January 1955, hoping to get a job as a stockbroker. His only offer was a job as a securities analyst. He turned it down but took the same job with National City Bank back in Cleveland. He patiently worked toward his M.B.A. degree during the eight years he worked at National City, and in 1963 he was offered a position at Wellington Management, where he spent the rest of his career. His success has made history in the world of investments. Neal Lipschutz, in Barron's, called Neff a "master investor" with an "astonishing career."

In an interview with Tyler Mathisen for Money, Neff said, "We've found that you make money by bucking the conventional wisdom.… You should buy into weakness and sell into strength.… It's the only intelligent way to run big money and maybe even smaller money too." In an article for Kiplinger's Personal Finance, Fred W. Frailey pointed out that Neff once said he buys "uncomfortable stocks … that make you twitch a bit."

Neff's book has received praise from financial writers and laypersons alike. A Publishers Weekly contributor found the book "wise and engaging." Patrick J. Brunet, in Library Journal, recommended it as an "interesting, practical work," while Robert Barker and Hardy Green, writing in Business Week, called Neff's book "a thoughtful blend of investment theory and autobiography." Rich Blake wrote in Institutional Investor, ldquo; Any serious investment professional, or even someone just getting started in a 401(k), will benefit from the insights of this great stock picker.… Neff makes clear that a true value investor is not afraid to bet against the crowd, even when the crowd is big, noisy and powerful." Martin S. Fridson, in the Financial Analysts Journal, wrote that Neff's career "stands as a shining example of high professional standards, service to the community, and above all, integrity. Readers … will do well to emulate him."



Barron's, December 6, 1999, Neal Lipschutz, "Balancing the Books: John Neff on Investing," p. 68.

Business Week, January 31, 2000, Robert Barker and Hardy Green, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?," pp. 17-24.

Financial Analysts Journal, May/June, 2000, Martin S. Fridson, review of John Neff on Investing, pp. 86-87.

Institutional Investor, December, 1999, Rich Blake, "A Valued Lesson," p. 128.

Kiplinger's Personal Finance, February, 1994, Fred W. Frailey, "John Neff: After Thirty Years of Running Windsor Fund, He's Practically Perfected the Art of Picking Turnaround Stocks," p. 78.

Library Journal, November 15, 1999, Patrick J. Brunet, review of John Neff on Investing, p. 79.

Money, March, 1995, Tyler Mathisen, "To Invest Smarter, Listen to John Neff," p. 7.

Pennsylvania Gazette, March, 1998, John Prendergast, "An Eye for Value," p. 27.

Publishers Weekly, December 20, 1999, review of John Neff on Investing, p. 69.


Case Western Reserve University Web site, (November 5, 2003), "Neff Elected to Board of Trustees."

Yahoo Finance Web site, (November 5, 2003), "Ten Investment Gurus: John Neff."*