The Lone Ranger

Many of you will remember the television series “The Lone Ranger” which was made from 1949-1957 starring Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels. I remember watching the re-runs during school holidays. Well, Disney have now brought the story to the big screen and its rather long, but very watchable.

In essence, the story is set at the end of the 1860’s Wild West, when the railroads were being built across America. Set in the context of a new nation (the American civil war ended in 1865) but one where native Indians had been displaced by force and a variety of “Treaties” which were largely legitimising the land grab of the growing white population. The history as we have come to know, is like most, rather bewildering in the context of 2013. The film has not been warmly welcomed in the US, perhaps due to some historical inaccuracies (but its a story!) but probably due to the discomfort that stirs.

Step up small town, educated John Reid, lawman who believes in justice, not vengeance who is of course tested in his belief  and thrown together with a tribe-less Comanche Indian. The plot isn’t complex – the usual face of respectability covering a menacing, corrupt heart of greed.

There’s a bit of John Reid in most of us. Hoping and seeking integrity, justice and fairness. Reluctant to use force, but aware of our human desire for “getting even”. Let me say this clearly. The stockmarket is no place for the lone ranger. Expecting companies to behave well and be fair is sadly only going to lead to a lot of disappointment. The ethics of trade are not easy to pin down – what is “fair” is not easy to define in a world where we all have very different resources. Its also inescapable – the markets are full of “good” and “bad” companies and of course often they are both and as complex as we are as individuals. There are many parallels today with 1860’s north America, substitute railways for domination or rather monopolization of any market and you get a sense of what I mean.

So, whilst this is not a plug for ethical investment (or socially responsible investing) it is a reminder that investing does carry some uncomfortable truths. We may disagree (thankfully!) on what is right or wrong in many instances. As a financial planner, my job is not to dig as much gold (or silver) as I can, but to ask you what life you want to live and point to the resources you have and how to grow these so that you have enough to sustain you… enough even to share. I attach no value judgement to lifestyle choices, but draw attention to the consequences of actions or inactions. I don’t possess abnormal heroic traits, the mystical powers of a shamen or an ability to rescue every situation, and I cannot predict the future. I highlight possible risks and potential solutions, seeking a “tolerable forbearance”. I have learned not to blow up bridges but to be wary of powerful large corporations. I’m signed up to the lawbook, but aware of its many inadequacies, and yes I would be able to suggest a few changes. Whilst being different, like Tonto and Reid, I work in partnership with clients (we are not the same) so experience occasional elements of “lost in translation” that needs revisiting. In other words, I believe that the value of financial planning is in partnering with you to help you chose the path you wish to travel and keeping you covered…and yes, I do value my independence (as will you).

Dominic Thomas: Solomons IFA