top of page
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • TikTok

Beyond wide moat: How to identify companies with a growing moat

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

When it comes to making investment decisions, choosing companies with strong competitive advantages, often referred to as "wide economic moats," is important.

Warren Buffett, the legendary investor, emphasizes the significance of businesses that possess a wide moat — a substantial competitive edge that allows them to defend against rivals and generate substantial profits.

While this concept seems intuitive, there is a crucial caveat to consider: it is not enough for a company to have a wide moat; it must also focus on maintaining and growing it over time.

If we only focus on the size of the moat, disregarding how it is maintained or grown, there would have been instances where we would have chosen:

  • Yahoo instead of Google

  • Nokia instead of Apple

Investing in Yahoo or Nokia solely based on their initially larger moats would have had disastrous consequences for our portfolio.

Nokia Oyj stock performance over the past 20 years
Source: Yahoo Finance

While investing in companies with a larger moat at the time might seem attractive, if the moat is not growing or, worse, weakening, it can lead to detrimental outcomes for the investment portfolio. Therefore, it is important to consider both a moat that is wide and expanding.

To identify companies with a growing moat, we will explore three key indicators: significant investments in the business, safeguarding the competitive advantage, and ensuring benefits for all stakeholders within the ecosystem.

Indicator #1: Significant investments in the business

One fundamental indicator of a company with a growing moat is its commitment to making significant investments in the business. These investments often take three primary forms: research and development (R&D), marketing activities, and capital expenditures.

Companies that prioritize R&D demonstrate a commitment to creating improved products and services. Software and pharmaceutical companies, for instance, continually hire developers and researchers to innovate and enhance their offerings, ensuring they stay ahead of the competition.

Marketing activities play a vital role in strengthening brand identity and capturing a larger share of consumers' attention. The Coca-Cola Company, renowned for its marketing prowess, invests in creative ways to boost its brand recognition, while Nike secures endorsement deals with iconic figures like Michael Jordan and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo with his golden Nike shoes
Source: Twitter @Cristiano

Capital expenditures aimed at expanding capacity, improving reliability, or enhancing product and service quality also contribute to a company's moat. Amazon serves as an exemplary case, investing heavily in infrastructure to ensure a robust future. Their commitment to expanding warehousing, fulfilment centres, and delivery networks has solidified their position as an industry leader.

Jeff Bezos captured this sentiment with a powerful quote:

"Friends congratulate me after a quarterly earnings announcement and say, 'Good job, great quarter.' And I will say, 'Thank you, but that quarter was baked three years ago.'"

Indicator #2: Safeguarding the competitive advantage by avoiding short-term pursuits

Companies that safeguard their competitive advantage by avoiding short-term pursuits are more likely to have a growing moat. Tesla, the electric vehicle (EV) manufacturer, offers a prime example of a company that has prioritized long-term vision over short-term pressures.

While traditional automakers relied on internal combustion engines, Tesla invested heavily in research and development to create innovative EV technology and infrastructure. By taking risks and emphasizing long-term growth, even during periods of financial uncertainty, Tesla has maintained a competitive advantage in the rapidly evolving EV market.

By focusing on its long-term goals and avoiding short-term compromises, Tesla has successfully positioned itself as a leader in the automotive industry. Their commitment to sustainable energy, continuous improvement, and forward-thinking strategies has built a strong brand reputation, a loyal customer base, and a robust network of charging stations. As a result, traditional automakers are now playing catch-up in the EV space.

Tesla annual net income for the past 10 years. From negative net income to positive net income.
Source: macrotrends

Conversely, companies that reduce investments to prioritize short-term profit gains and appease Wall Street run the risk of compromising their competitive advantage. This becomes particularly precarious when competitors aggressively invest to capture market share.

Indicator #3: Ensuring benefits for all stakeholders

Companies that can provide advantages to all stakeholders while earning profits tend to have an enduring competitive advantage. Costco serves as an exemplar of such a business model.

Costco generates substantial sales for its suppliers, offers low prices to its customers, pays its employees’ wages well above the minimum requirement, and earns favour from the government for maintaining affordable prices. By successfully satisfying suppliers, customers, employees, and the government, Costco solidifies its competitive advantage and bolsters its moat.

When a company operates in a manner that benefits all stakeholders, it becomes challenging to undermine its competitive advantage or erode its moat. This approach fosters a positive reputation, customer loyalty, and long-term sustainability.


In summary, selecting companies with strong competitive advantages, or "wide economic moats," is important for investment success. However, it is equally important to evaluate how these companies maintain and grow their moats over time. Merely considering the size of the moat without assessing its expansion or weakening can lead to poor investment decisions.

Identifying companies with a growing moat involves examining their significant investments in research and development, marketing activities, and capital expenditures. Furthermore, safeguarding the competitive advantage by avoiding short-term pursuits and ensuring benefits for all stakeholders within the business ecosystem are crucial factors to consider.

By understanding these principles and incorporating them into investment strategies, individuals can make more informed decisions and increase their chances of long-term success in the ever-changing market landscape.


bottom of page