Another busy year is under way; at least it’s certainly started that way. I can’t believe that March is on the horizon already. January saw the gathering of most of the Spectrum clan in Davos for the Financial Forum. This is our annual conference; a time to gather together to discuss the last year and to ponder what might await us in the coming months. As it transpired, 2013 was a fabulous year for Spectrum, with business up a massive 51% over the previous year, which had in itself been a record year.
We are joined at these events by market experts from leading financial houses to offer their input on various financial topics. These sessions are always informative, and often entertaining. The ‘most entertaining’ title clearly went to a Swiss lawyer, who took us through the demise of the famous Swiss Banking Secrecy era, a subject very pertinent to Daphne’s article two weeks ago. Amazingly tax fraud, or ‘frode’ as it became for the session, is not illegal in Switzerland. It is a civil infringement of course, and subject to fines, but the genteel Swiss still recognise that to err is human. Anyone can forget a few tax details here and there, can’t they? Not if you live in France or the UK you can’t, so please bear that in mind.
It is amazing to me how administratively far behind you can get when you take a five day break from the office. Despite keeping in email contact and handling any urgent items by phone, my in-tray was overflowing when I returned from Davos. This was partly because of my policy of sending out policy statements to all my clients just after the end of each quarter. I find this can tend to focus the mind on investments, and helps both me and my clients to keep on top of things. Anyway, the two factors combined to ensure that any leisure pastimes I might have had planned were put aside for a while.
Since then of course a more normal timetable has been restored, and it is largely business as usual, albeit still busy. Meeting new clients for the first time; writing up reports and then arranging follow-up meetings; executing (hopefully) the ideas presented in the reports, these are only a part of a day’s work. Monitoring existing business on a regular basis is vital, hence the quarterly reporting. Then there is also the financial ‘agony uncle’ side to the work, which I find extremely interesting. E-mail enquiries generated from any number of sources covering all types of financial questions land in my in-box every week. Sometimes I read them and have no idea what the answer is (such as ‘where can I source bulk volumes of ice cream for my new business in Carcassonne?’ or ‘can I use my UK credit card on motorway petrol pumps on national holidays?). Yes, really.
Life as a financial adviser is fairly consistent. There are only so many mainstream subjects (not ice cream) that can crop up in my daily routine, so it is refreshing when something out of the ordinary comes up, and recently I had a very interesting time doing some research for a new client who wanted his money to be invested in SRI funds. I doubt that many readers will have heard of SRI, but it stands for ‘Socially Responsible Investing’, perhaps better known as ethical investments. This is not new to me of course, but it isn’t something that crops up in many client meetings. I tend to think of new clients in investment terms along the scale of carnivores or herbivores; meat eaters or vegetarians. Meat eaters will invest in most things, and tend to assume that they are not consuming, or indeed investing in, anything toxic. Vegetarians are more complex. A normal Veggie will need reassurance that he is not eating any meat or meat derivative products. In other words he doesn’t want to invest in any of the bad people who pollute our world physically or morally. Then there are the Vegans, who are not satisfied by the Veggie approach. No occasional fish or eggs or milk for them; they are straight down the line. No meat. Period. The Vegan investor isn’t satisfied with avoiding the bad guys; he’s out to find the good guys and invest in them. He wants to support irrigation projects; AIDS and Cancer research; sustainable energy sources and the like. Vegan investors can be difficult to please, as to some even ‘profit’ is a bad word, but trying can be a rewarding experience.
Back to more mundane matters next month, but until then, keep the calls and mails coming!
If you have any questions on this, or any other subject, please don’t hesitate to contact me, Rob Hesketh:
By phone on 0468 247758 or mobile 0631 787647