Today I “celebrate” 20 years in the industry. 10th February 1997 seems like a long time ago now and indeed I have changed quite a bit from the 21 year old graduate trainee back then!
I remember thinking back then that there must be some special formula that leads you to the good investments and that my boss at the time must be some sort of genius. I soon found out that neither were the case but rather the key to success was to be honest, be yourself and do what you believe to be right. Seems simple but so many times I have come across people in our industry over the years who have failed to hold onto these simple rules.
When I started in this industry I would build portfolios from direct shares. The idea that I could have the same, let alone a better, insight into a particular company than an analyst or fund manager working for M&G or Invesco, for example, is a ridiculous notion. By being honest with myself I now focus my efforts on picking the right funds to invest in. I can do the research into a sector, I can ask the right questions of a fund manager to know what to expect from their fund and I can construct a portfolio that is right for my client.
I prefer it when markets go up. Clients are generally happier. To all those who say they like difficult markets as it gives them a chance to shine I say go for it but if I am being honest I have no idea what the market is going to do tomorrow, never mind 1, 2 or 5 years from now. As a result, I do not try to time the markets. I will go under or overweight asset classes and I will look to trade in and out but this is on the periphery of a portfolio. I will not suddenly move a client from 70% equities to 10% equities. Anyone who does is either a better investor than me or they are not being honest with themselves. Protecting the downside is important but if you do not participate in the upside then what is the point? The most important lesson I have learned over the last 20 years is make sure you are not a forced seller. Take profits, manage your cash flow and next time the markets have a wobble you can sit back and ignore it.
All Investment Managers do the same exams as all other Investment Managers. We all have access to similar research. We all want to do what is best for our clients. So why should a client pick a particular Investment Manager over another? Style of investing can play a part, as can marketing and glossy brochures. However, ultimately, what it comes down to is do you like the individual you are working with? You had better do as you are likely to know them for a very long time. I genuinely enjoy meeting clients and talking about their investments and markets. Anyone who has witnessed me in a client meeting knows I can go off on tangents and speak enthusiastically about a multitude of topics, mostly related to investments although not always! I will also try to keep things light and cheery. This is who I am and trying to be someone else doesn’t suit me. I won’t suit every client out there but I am right for some.
What you believe to be right
When I decided last year to leave my previous employment and leap into the unknown of setting up on my own I did it because my gut told me it was the right decision. A senior member of the firm I was leaving told me I was having a mid-life crisis! I am not old enough for one yet!
I believe that clients deserve to be treated as you would want to be treated yourself. I believe they are not a commodity to be traded. I believe that when a client sits down to speak to their Investment Manager they should be speaking to the person who is actually making the decisions. I believe that by acting in the best interests of the client this will lead to the best outcome for my business too.
I believe in every investment decision I make. I believe that not all decisions will turn out to be the right ones but I will know why I made them and understand why they proved to be incorrect. I believe in applying this across all clients so that there are no surprises. I believe that no one can guarantee great performance but you can strive to achieve consistency.
20 years ago the index of top 100 UK companies stood at just over 4300. Not being forced to sell at the wrong time and reinvesting the income would have given you a return of 225%. Not bad. Buying the average UK All Companies fund would have given you a return of 250%. The average active fund beat the index, imagine what you could have got if you had had a well managed portfolio of better than average funds?
20 years done, bring on the next 20. Anyone else up for it?