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THE TOP CLASS WEDNESDAY UPDATE IS HIGHLY LIQUID

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I’ll let you into a secret – sometimes coming up with a grabby title for the Update is a bit of an effort. Sometimes, however, it falls into your lap, and today is one of those days.

I’ll get to the big issue of the week in a moment, but first just a small word about our Home Game event last week. We had a blast, and unless everyone we spoke to afterwards was lying then other folk did as well. My two highlights were John Rowland of Cicero who got more laughs than someone starting a talk up our way with “As an English Tory…” has any right to, and the adviser panel.

This was expertly chaired by our very own Rebecca Christensen and was notable not only for being interesting, involving and vibrant, but having more women than men on it. Tonnes of stuff came from it – especially the need for adviser firms and universities to hook up more (don’t let the big providers have all the fun) and the need for those big providers to involve firms more at design stage for new stuff.

No-one was put off by the hail of sirens outside as a major police event unfolded (‘but this is Edinburgh!’) and everyone that stayed left well fed and watered courtesy of Origo.

Our next event will be in November back down in London (yes, I know) at the Crypt on the Green as we bring The DeadX Talks back to life. Get in touch if you want to reserve a place, but loads of details left to sort.

RIGHT, LET’S DO WOODFORD

People having a good week: those who don’t like active management, and people whose first name is Terry and second name is Smith. People not having a good week: big D2C platforms in Bristol, massive wealth managers, fund managers in Oxford and journalists who are suddenly coming over all forgetful about the articles they wrote about just exactly where the sun shone out of not all that long ago.

My take, for what it’s worth – there is a good discussion to have about illiquid investments inside OEICs. There is also a good discussion to have about concentration, the high levels of holding in terms of company ownership that the funds have/had, and about just how risky a fund like that is.

And that’s the core, really. This is a high risk fund. It may not have been sold like that, but last I saw Woodford discloses its holdings same as anyone else does, and the video released yesterday afternoon is decent as well.

Much more interesting is the impact this has on Hargreaves, SJP and other shops which, frankly, appear to have assumed that the new equity income fund would be the same as the old one because it shared two out of three words. And I know that’s not true, but I also know that’s how it has been heard by small investors.

What we’ve done, in an attempt to get people interested in investing, is inject pure retail dynamics into long-term saving and investing. And when we do that – whether it’s through promoting lowest cost solutions, or following the talent of a star manager – we can’t be surprised when the industry says “oh, so we’re retail now?” and then goes about being all retaily about everything. And that’s what’s sitting in behind the relentless hyping of the income fund – pure retail.

I’m reminded of an argument Steve Bee had years ago with Mick McAteer, then of the Consumers’ Association. Steve suggested that Mick had no place at the table because saving and investing was the opposite of consumption; it’s about not consuming. I think the meeting probably ended badly, but this week’s events remind me of it.

The answer, to stop retail dynamics influencing / infecting investing, is just to stop it. A big part of that would be regulating or removing best buy lists, or forcing direct platforms in particular to be very clear on any direct or indirect benefits (for example, segmented mandate deals for house multimanager funds) deriving from the folk on the list. Advised platforms have a higher standard than direct in this regard; PS13/1 took care of that.

Meanwhile, it’s time to hold on and remember that even the suspended property funds of a few years ago eventually unfroze. Investors might even be glad that the suspension was put in place to defend against those scamps gleefully shorting every holding in the Woodford fund. But as ever, the key lesson is to look past the name on the box and into the ingredients list – and don’t eat anything you don’t understand.

A NEW LINK COAT

  • A very good piece from one of the best ginger beards in the business, Gregg McClymont, on gender inequality in pensions. I learned a bunch reading this.
  • Another bit off the back of the Open Money advice gap report (disclosure: Open Money is a client of the lang cat and we helped put this report together). That affordable advice gap is a killer.
  • And your music choice this week? Has to be a message to Woodford investors: Hold On by the incomparable Tom Waits off of Mule Variations. This might be my favourite Waits song, but then again it might not. Many to choose from.

 


Right, begone. See you next week

Mark

Posted in: #Top Class Wednesday Update  

About Mark Polson

lang cat founder and boss. Expert on all things platforms, pensions and investments. Prolific writer and public speaker, even when people ask him not to be. Knows more about Scandinavian black metal than you, and isn't afraid to prove it.