2002: Men In Black 2 – Sonnenfeld
On your behalf (and mine) I have been seeking out the wisdom of “experts” again today, with the second and final day of the Morningstar 2012 conference.  That said, one of the most memorable talks was from Dave Fishwick, Head of Macro and Equities Investments at M&G who pointed to the flaws in human nature to consistently seek out the opinions of supposed experts. “Men in suits”, who purport to have a valid, credible opinion. He suggested that many of those claiming to have spotted significant moments of change, invariably have only done so once, and perhaps this has something to do with luck. This was acknowledged later by contrarian investor Alistair Mundy of Investec, who talked with great honesty about the need for Fund Managers, advisers and investors to be honest about our mistakes and to learn from them, something that is often difficult for Fund Managers in particular, to do. He pointed to the abilty of humans to forget all too readily and this is something that investors need to be mindful of in the coming months as yet more market turbulence is likely as European markets eventually figure out how they will address their problems.
The world has changed though, particularly in the credit markets, what was once low risk, is now arguably high risk, for which there is a considerable premium. The Bond market has seen huge inflows of money as investors seek safety, yet many corporate bonds are actually paying lower levels of yield (income) than equities from the very same companies. Risk has been moved from the private sector to the public sector, with sovereign nations more at risk than many investment banks. This is a fundamental change in the way Bonds have worked throughout my time on earth (or indeed anyone else’s for that matter). Luke Spajic of PIMCO, argued that the new upside down credit world poses questions for portfolio construction and something that I am currently reviewing, though thankfully believe clients are well positioned.
The key points from my perspective frankly have little to do with investment selection, but everything to do with having robust, repeatable processes that are tried, tested and work. This is something that I have constantly worked on for our clients over the last decade or so. Financial planning has a fair bit to do with artistry – applying experience and professional opinion to the reality of data. Ultimately though, achieving goals is the purpose of financial planning, not calling the market (right or wrong).. but helping our clients to get where they need to go, as cost effectively as possible and ensuring that purchasing power and lifestyle are protected.

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