As the sprawling and increasingly desperate Franchise That Would Not Die limps towards its close, I find myself pondering the power of naming. As any fule or fan of the spotty wizard kno, naming something gives you power over it, or calls it into being.
This is roughly the same post-structuralist Weltanschauung that led Ferdinand de Saussure to his celebrated sign theory, and Jacques Lacan to identify the fundamental aporia between signifier and signified. Except, you know, with spells and stuff.
Anyhow, let’s crowbar this round to investment. The IMA have been taking a shoeing in recent weeks for their temerity in trying to make their investment sectors a bit easier to understand. Specifically we’re talking about the managed fund sectors and their handles of ‘adventurous’, balanced and cautious.
In a whizzo masterstroke, the cats at the IMA dynamised their left-brains, thought outside the envelope, put on a black poloneck and a pair of thick-rimmed glasses and came up with A,B and C to replace these. There would also be a, D for very cautious managed funds, which I think must stand for Dead-cautious, at least some of the IMA presumably being from Glasgow.
Now, as any Creator will tell you if you buy Her a beer, naming stuff is a thankless task. Just look at the famous Fiat Pinto snafu, disturbed by low sales in Brazil, only when marketeers got their Italian-Portuguese dictionaries out did they find that pinto means small, er, wand in that country.
But even allowing for this, the IMA re-definitions are pretty fatuous. Mind you, they’re not as bad as the ABI ones, but that’s like saying Bernard Manning isn’t as ugly as John Prescott.
The thing is, the part I object to isn’t the A, B or C. It’s the word ‘managed’. These massive, lumbering, herded, inefficient beasts serve one main function, to mop up margin behind insured products. They’re not managed in any sense of the word that the public might understand. They crowd together for fear of standing out, desperately hoping that 10bps of luck will lead to a quartile ranking bump that will get some inflows from group pension scheme mandates picked by people who really should know better. They’re a relic of the industry that the public has rejected time and again, they have no place in the here and now, let alone after RDR, and they need to evolve or die.
But in the meantime, let’s call them for what they are:
- – Funds For The Unwary With Quite A Lot of Shares In Them And A Bit Of Other Stuff!
- – Funds For The Criminally Lazy With Fewer Shares But Not Too Few Otherwise Our Quartile Rankings Will Slip!
- – Funds For Jessies Who Won’t Notice There’s Nearly As Much Equity Exposure As In The Other Ones!
- – Funds We Have Just Made Up!
I think that would help, don’t you? Who’s with me?