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Falling investment markets

By Mark Quinn - Topics: Investment objectives, Investment portfolios, Investment Risk, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 9th June 2022

09.06.22

Markets have fallen recently with concerns over rising inflation and interest rates and the war in Ukraine. In this uncertain environment, clients are asking me: “should I sell?”, and those with cash to invest are uncertain if now is the right time to commit to investing.

Why do falling investment markets cause concern?
Rather than seeing movements in markets as being completely normal and part of the regular cycle in markets, I believe the media instills fear among investors. I follow the financial news every day and read headlines dominated by talk of slumps, crashes, stagnations, recessions etc. but rarely see positive news stories about investments and markets such as how many global stock markets reached all-time highs in 2021.

This is getting worse with internet-based news as “click bait” headlines are used to prompt us to click through to read these apparently disturbing events.

Humans are bad investors
Our brains are not designed to make sound investment decisions as we are subject to biases and cognitive distortions and our emotions, rather than fact and logic, overly influence our decisions. One of our biggest weaknesses is our loss aversion which can lead to not taking advantage of investing at low prices during market falls.

Professionals versus amateurs
We often see professional investors reacting in an opposite manner to the general public/retail investors. Many retail investors will sell and are fearful when markets fall but professionals will be taking advantage of lower prices and be purchasing investments.

falling investment markets

Context for investing
It is important to reassess exactly why you should invest. Most people do so to protect their lifestyle as they want to ensure their investment and pensions maintain their real value after inflation over time – this isn’t possible in cash.

If you are investing for the long term, then you increase your chances of generating longer term growth and we know that, even though markets may go lower in the short term, over the longer term you are “stacking the odds” in your favour.

Time is on your side with investing
Data shows that the risk of stock market investment reduces with the time you spend in the market as you have the ability to weather the short term ‘blips’ in market. For this reason there is a popular stock market adage that time in the market is more important than timing the market.

Holding through downturn
The benefits of holding though short-term falls in the market were highlighted to me recently by Terry Smith, manager of the Fundsmith fund. He gave an example of a share he purchased at the end of 2007 for $7.07 and by 26th February 2008 it had lost almost 40% of its value at $4.28 – this promoted a lot of investor anger at his decision. However, this short term blip is dwarfed by the enormous increase the share price subsequently enjoyed, increasing in value to $172.39 by 4th February 2022. The company was Apple, until just last week the most valuable company in the world.

Tips for investors in this climate

  • Invest as early as possible and remain invested – act against ‘herd’ instinct
  • Remove the psychology from investment – draw up an investment plan and stick with it
  • Minimise tax – one of the biggest eroders of investment returns
  • Minimize fees on your investments and pensions – another big eroder of returns
  • Asset allocation – predicting which parts of the market will weather the storm better is difficult, so ensure you have a correctly constructed portfolio which is widely diversified and importantly, has corelation benefits

Investment management styles

By Mark Quinn - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investment portfolios, Investment Risk, investments in Portugal, Portugal, wealth management
This article is published on: 27th May 2022

27.05.22

There are several different investment management styles to consider and each will have benefits and drawbacks. The key difference are between a managed/active/discretionary route, and a passive/tracker approach, and this can be a divisive area within the investment industry.

In order to put into context the differences between these styles and which approach may be right for you, let’s first look at what a stock market index is.

An index simply measures the performance of a group/basket of shares. For example, the S&P 500 index tracks the performance of the shares in the largest 500 companies in America. As the US market is the largest stock market in the world, and the US is the world’s largest economy, it is often seen as a barometer for the health of global markets in general. The equivalent index in the UK is the FTSE 100 index.

Investment management styles

Managed/active management/discretionary
Historically, most private investors would invest through a fund manager. In this way, you would pay an annual percentage fee to an investment institution to actively manage your investment i.e. make the buying and selling decision on your behalf.

The aim of investing in managed investments is to generate better investment returns than the stock market index as a whole, or another appropriate benchmark.

Discretionary investment is a specialist branch of managed investment whereby the manager has a greater range of investment powers and freedoms to make buying and selling decisions without your consent (although always within with the remit and investment powers that you grant at outset).

Over recent years there have been numerous studies to suggest that many fund managers do not achieve their aims of beating their respective benchmarks, and it has led some investors to favour a “passive” investment approach.

Passive or index trackers

Passive investment does not employ a fund manger to make decisions, and instead of trying to outperform the market, you simply ‘buy’ the market as a whole. For example by investing in an S&P 500 tracker, you would effectively be purchasing the top 500 shares in the US stock market.

The key difference between the managed style is cost i.e. whereas a manager may charge between 1-2% per annum to manage your fund, you can access a tracker fund from as little as 0.1% which can make a huge difference to your fund value cumulatively.

Proponents of this approach accept they will only even achieve the return of the market as a whole (with no outperformance) but because you are spending far less in fees, believe they will do better over the longer term.

Proponents of active management on the other hand highlight the drawbacks of the passive approach viz. in a falling market, you will only ever track a falling market, tracker funds “blindly” sell what may otherwise be high quality investments at inopportune times, and that tracker investments can still be complex to understand, such as the difference between ‘synthetic’ versus ‘physical’ tracking methods.

Summary – balance pays
As my previous two articles have demonstrated, tax and investment planning generally involves shades of grey, rather than black and white solutions and in practice we do not believe either approach is the ‘holy grail’.

Rather each management style can offer benefits within a balanced portfolio. Holding passives can reduce the overall cost of your portfolio (thus increasing your net return) and using managed funds can complement by avoiding “blind” automatic sales and potential downside mitigation.

Whichever route you choose, minimising fund fees is crucial as it is the biggest eroder of returns over time.

When to keep ‘unsuitable’ investments

By Mark Quinn - Topics: Investment objectives, Investment portfolios, Investment Risk, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 20th May 2022

20.05.22

A lot of people contact me believing they cannot keep certain investments. As I said in my article last week, it’s all about the subtleties, so let’s look at some examples.

Individual Savings Account
For Non Habitual Residents (NHRs), interest and dividends are tax exempt during the 10-year period but realised gains are taxed at 28%. For non-NHRs, interest, dividends and gains are taxed at 28%.

If your move to Portugal is short-term, or if you are not certain that it will be your long-term home, then there is a case for retaining your ISAs. Although you cannot add to them whilst non-UK resident, you can continue to hold them, and once you return to the UK they resume their tax-efficiency.

A planning point you may wish to consider if you have a stocks and shares ISA is to ‘rebase’ by selling and then immediately repurchasing the same funds within your ISA prior to leaving the UK to ‘wash out’ any taxable gains accrued to the point of your departure. This way, if you did decide to restructure, encash, or withdraw from the ISA as a Portuguese tax resident in the future, there would be litle or no tax to pay in Portugal.

As a general guideline, if you believe your move to Portugal is long-term (as a rule of thumb, 5 years or more) then restructuring and starting an investment vehicle that is suitable for residency in Portugal would make sense for greater tax efficiency, amongst other reasons. If this is the case, planning well in advance is advantageous, as there is no tax on ISA closure for UK residents.

when to keep unsuitable investments

Investment bonds
‘Non-compliant’ bonds are those that are not officially recognised by the Portuguese authorities. Usually all premiums paid into ‘compliant’ bonds are taxed, albeit at a very small amount. This effectively registers their tax favoured status and guarantees the tax breaks, assuming all conditions are met.

There may be a case to retain a non-compliant structure if you do not intend to make withdrawals because there is no tax to pay if nothing is taken out. However, you should still review the plan as there may be lower cost or newer options out there. If you do withdraw funds, we have seen some non-compliant bonds benefit from the same tax treatment as compliant bonds, but there is no guarantee.

Encashment would be a good idea if the policy originates from a blacklisted jurisdiction as tax on gains is punitive at 35%, rather than 28% or less depending on how long the policy is held. Also, if you want to guarantee the tax advantages and policy qualification, you will want to ensure you are holding a Portuguese compliant product. Other points that might affect the decision are how succession laws are affected, policy flexibility, currency and fund choice, and the consumer protection offered.

UK pensions
Pensions are a more complex area of planning and if you get it wrong, it could have consequences for your future lifestyle or ability to support yourself in retirement.

You should always seek personalised qualified advice when addressing your retirement planning, but as some food for thought:

You may wish to retain your UK pension if you have no lifetime allowance issues or do not plan to take withdrawals during your lifetime. Again, you should still review the pension regularly. You might look transfer to an EU based scheme if your total pension benefits are close to, or more than, the UK lifetime allowance (currently £1,073,100), or you are concerned about currency fluctuations and want certainty. You might even withdraw completely if you have NHR, no UK Inheritance Tax or succession planning considerations and want tax-efficiency post-NHR in Portugal.

There are of course many other investments or structures out there such as premium bonds, EIS, VCTs, trusts, QNUPS etc. that may or may not work for you in Portugal and I suggest you discuss your options with a qualified and experienced professional.

Investment portfolios | The Principles of Success

By Mark Quinn - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investment portfolios, Investment Risk, Investments, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 18th May 2022

18.05.22

The world of investments can be intimidating, even for the most seasoned investor. Here, we will put aside the jargon and push past the hype of ‘the next big thing’, and instead focus on the key principles that every investor should know when building a portfolio of investments; irrespective of how engaged or involved you wish to be.

Ideally, you should look at your assets as a whole – your pensions, property, savings and investments, rather than at each area or structure in isolation. This way you can apply the principles to your wealth as a whole and be in the best position to potentially meet your financial objectives.

Asset allocation is key to investment success
Asset allocation is the percentage of each type of asset class making up your overall investment portfolio. In turn, asset classes are groupings of similar types of investments such as cash, equities, commodities, fixed income, or real estate.

The key principle behind asset allocation is to include asset classes that behave differently from each other in different market conditions to reduce risk and generate potential returns. For example, if equities are falling in value, certain fixed income assets may be rising.

The goal here is not solely to maximise returns but to blend your holdings to meet your goals, whilst taking the least amount of investment risk. The right allocation for you will depend on several factors such as your willingness and ability to accept losses, your investment time frame, and your future needs for capital – unfortunately, there is no one size fits all.

Many studies have shown that asset allocation is the most important driver of portfolio returns, so getting this first step right is critical.

Diversification to reduce risk
Once you have decided on the right asset allocation for you, you must then pick the individual types of holdings or investments within each asset class. Each asset class is broken down into subclasses, for example, fixed income includes holdings such as fixed deposits, gilts and government or corporate bonds.

It is not enough to simply own each type of asset class; you must also diversify within each asset subclass. For example, taking corporate bonds which is a type of fixed income asset class, you can hold them in many different types of companies, industries, currencies, countries, or long or short term.

Rebalancing
As assets perform differently over time, the initial percentage asset allocation will deviate over time. A typical example is the huge increase in the US stock market over the last couple of years which, whilst good for investors’ returns, will have increased the level of share exposure. This increase in the value of equity holdings because of the sustained rise will lead to increased risk across the portfolio as a whole.

This can be solved by regular rebalancing to ‘reset’ the portfolio to your original asset allocation. This involves selling holdings that are overweight and buying ones that are undervalued.

Rebalancing also provides the ideal opportunity to revisit your financial goals and risk tolerance, and to tweak your asset allocation accordingly.

investment portfolio

Long term perspective and discipline
As humans, our emotions can lead to poor decision making when it comes to investing. Decisions that seem logical in daily life can result in poor investment returns, with many retail investors selling through fear at the very point they should be buying at lower prices, and conversely, buying at much higher prices during a gold rush.

It is vital for most investors to keep a disciplined approach as it is easy to get caught up in the daily noise of the markets.

Minimise costs and maximise tax efficiency
Einstein described compounding as the 8th wonder of the world and the effect of compounding applies to fees. A charge that might seem small at the beginning can turn into a significant cost over time and research has shown that lower-cost funds tend to outperform in the longer term.

As a simple example, assume a €100 investment and no growth. After 10 years, an annual charge of 2% will result in €82, a 0.2% charge would result in €98.

Focus on minimising fund, structure and adviser fees. In the world of investing, more expensive does not necessarily mean better.

Tax is an often-overlooked cost, which if minimised can lead to the same positive compounding effects over time. This is done by ensuring that your investment portfolio is structured correctly for your resident status, and it might be different planning for normal residents, Non-Habitual Residents, or depending on if your move to Europe is for the rest of your life or if you intend to return to your home country in the future.

Withdrawal strategies
If you are taking income from your investments, you should consider the way in which you do this and the order. Not only will this affect the type of investments you hold within your portfolio, but it could also affect how you hold your portfolio and provide tax planning opportunities or pitfalls.

Focus on total return
With interest rates at historically low levels, it is difficult to rely solely on income returns in this investment environment. The total return is a truer picture of performance and takes into account the capital appreciation as well as the income received.

Be boring!
To quote Warrant Buffet, one of the world’s most successful investors: “Lethargy, bordering on sloth should remain the cornerstone of an investment style”.

Do not try to chase returns or the trends in investments – stick to tried and tested assets. At Spectrum, we only use investments that have worked over the long term, are easy to understand, daily tradable and transparent.

Real Estate vs. Diversified Portfolio

By Jozef Spiteri - Topics: Diversified Portfolio, investment diversification, Investment objectives, Malta
This article is published on: 26th April 2022

26.04.22

Owning property is important to many people and is probably one of the first goals of young adults once they enter the working world. People in their twenties and thirties usually make their first real estate purchase for residential reasons, sometimes renting a room out to generate some extra income. When people enter their mid to late forties, especially in Malta, they tend to start considering purchasing more property, this time as rental investments. This is what I will be looking at more closely in this article.

In the past, the main aim of people entering the latter end of their working lives was to accumulate as much property as possible to be able to live comfortably off the rental income generated. That doesn’t sound like the worst idea in the world, especially if you have the means for it. The more property one has, the more income is coming in and the risk of being caught out with periods of no rental income decreases. A question no one seems to ask though is, “What return am I really making?”

Real Estate vs. Diversified Portfolio

This is a question I have been asked quite a few times, and I will make use of a numerical example. Imagine someone has €1,000,000 laying around to invest in property. This could potentially be enough to purchase 4 apartments valued at €250,000. Assuming this investor has these apartments rented out all year round on a long-let basis earning him €1,000 per month each (€4,000 total), the annual return made would be 4.8%. This is assuming there are no months where an apartment is vacant and not taking into consideration maintenance costs and taxation; which means the net return can be substantially lower.

Is there an alternative though? One solution to the real estate approach is building up a portfolio invested in a diversified selection of assets. Such portfolios include property too, but they also allow exposure to many other asset classes which will help increase returns. The advantages of such an approach do not stop at the increased returns. Clients will not have to deal with the headache of maintaining their investment as they will have investment managers doing that for them. Another plus is that investment portfolios are more liquid than real estate and investors can take money when needed, leaving the rest of their funds in the portfolio to continue growing for them.

If you are interested in having a discussion and need some guidance on what your next steps should be, feel free to reach out to us. All our first consultations carry no charge and there is no obligation to proceed further.

Measuring investment performance

By Mark Quinn - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investment Risk, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 11th April 2022

11.04.22

There are several different ways of measuring your investment performance, and I will run through some simple tips to allow you to dig deeper into your portfolio.

Firstly, do not forget to factor in fees such as adviser and management fees and structure costs when looking at returns. I have seen the cost of some investments run as high as 4% p.a. through hidden commissions and explicit charges. These have been disguised by strong market performance over recent years, but are likely to be exposed if we experience leaner years in markets in the future.

Simple benchmarking
A simple and quick method of comparison is looking at interest rates on cash accounts. If your investment returns are generating the same returns as cash on deposit, why are you taking the market risk?

Similarly, take into account inflation. If you generate a 3% return and inflation is 2%, your net return is just 1%; is this what you thought you were achieving?

Lastly, look at what similar passive investments have done. These types of funds simply track a stock market index and are inexpensive. If you are paying a fund manager to outperform and add value by trying to achieve higher returns, have they done this?

measuring investment performance

More in-depth methods

Market indices
A market index tracks the performance of a group of shares or other investments e.g. the S&P 500 index which tracks the performance of the largest 500 shares in America. They can be a useful barometer for the ‘health’ of an investment market as a whole but it is important to use them appropriately.

For example, you cannot meaningfully compare the performance of the S&P 500 index (100% shares) with a portfolio that consists only 40% of shares. Similarly if you are comparing a euro denominated portfolio with the US market which is denominated in dollars, then again this is not necessarily an appropriate comparison.

The downsides of using indices as a comparison are therefore addressed by the use of:

Peer group
A peer group allows you to compare investments that are similar in nature e.g. a specific class of investments or geographical region, and because you are comparing “like for like” it can be a more meaningful comparison tool.

Morningstar.com is a particularly useful tool in this respect and can guide investors with regard to an appropriate benchmark and peer group.

Quartile rankings
These are used to compare returns of investments in the same category over a period of time. Investments in the top 25% are assigned quartile rank 1, the next 25% quartile 2 etc.

They can be useful in tracking consistency – what is important is not the quartile ranking in any one period, but they allow you to track trends over multiple periods and time frames.

There is no one way, or right way, to compare performance and you will likely need to combine several measures to get a more accurate reflection of performance. Even more importantly, this should be done regularly to ensure you are doing all you can to achieve your financial goals. Finally, you should take into account the risk you are taking to achieve a set level of return, and this will be the focus of a future article.

If you would like to discuss your performance or how best to build your own portfolio of investments, please get in touch.

Investing as a resident of Portugal

By Mark Quinn - Topics: Investment Bonds, Investment objectives, Investment Risk, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 23rd February 2022

23.02.22

If you are relocating to Portugal (or if you are already resident here) it is important to carry out a review of your investments to make sure they will be tax-efficient in your new county of residence.

Just because your investments are tax-efficient in one country does not mean that the tax advantages will transfer to another county. There are various ways of investing as a Portuguese tax resident, including directly held stocks and shares, collective investments, trust and pension structures. One structure that is beneficial to use in Portugal, and which is used widely across Europe as a whole, is the investment bond.

The benefits of investment bonds

There are several benefits to using investment bonds:

  1. Tax deferral during accumulation phase – gains within an investment bond grow free of tax, known as ‘gross roll up’. This means you can benefit from compounding and tax is only payable when withdrawals are made i.e. the gains are realised
  2. Low effective tax rates when withdrawing funds from the policy – Only the growth element of any withdrawal is taxable, and further tax savings are available after 5 and 8 years. It is important to note that this preferential tax treatment is enjoyed if you are a Non-Habitual Resident or a standard Portuguese taxpayer
  3. Control of the timing of tax events – the bondholder can control the timing of any withdrawal which creates the taxable event. This can be done to coincide with low-income periods, for example
  4. Investment flexibility and diversification – as income and gains roll up free of tax within the structure, you are free to pursue any investment strategy without being constrained by the potential tax consequences of re-balancing or switching between strategies. Additionally, these structures can accommodate a wide range of currencies, asset classes and fund management styles, such as discretionary fund management, index trackers and self-management
  5. Simplification of tax reporting – You are only required to report and declare any income and gains when withdrawals are made. This makes local tax reporting very simple
  6. Portability – the investment bond structure is widely recognised in other jurisdictions so you do not necessarily have to surrender your investment if you relocate from Portugal
  7. Succession planning – investment bonds allow flexible and certain transfer of wealth to beneficiaries. This may not be possible with other investment types and the default “forced heirship” provisions under Portuguese law
  8. Inheritance tax savings – with the correct planning, holding wealth in an insurance bond could mitigate or even completely avoid UK inheritance for British domiciles
  9. Estate administration – in the event of death, the proceeds of the structure can be distributed seamlessly to your beneficiaries without the need for any formal probate process
Investing as a resident of Portugal

At Spectrum, we can help analyse your options and if appropriate for you, advise on how to set up the optimum bond structure for you and your family, including:

  • How to set up the structure for maximum control and flexibility
  • Selection of a suitable provider and jurisdiction to hold your investment in, being cognizant of the relevant double tax treaty with Portugal
  • Which currency to hold the investment in and advise on the underlying fund choice
  • Consideration of trust options
  • Regular reviews of the structure and investment strategy on an ongoing basis in light of ongoing changes in taxation and investment markets

You can contact me using the form below to find out more on the services we offer and to arrange a free financial consultation.

*Mark Quinn is a Chartered Financial Planner with the Chartered Insurance Institute and Tax Adviser qualifying with the Association of Tax Technicians.

What is a good investment return?

By Mark Quinn - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investments, investments in Portugal, Portugal
This article is published on: 11th February 2022

11.02.22

This was a question posed to me by a client recently. I was taken aback by the question as most clients (rightly or wrongly) tend to have fixed expectations about what a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ return is. It was an excellent question and I answered by saying that ‘good’ isn’t absolute; it is relative to the economic and financial environment in which we live.

For example, I remember walking into Cheltenham & Gloucester, Manchester in 1997 and opening a savings account and earning 7.5% per annum! Back then, the Bank of England base rate was 7.25%. If at the same time you were achieving a 7.5% pa return by investing in say, shares or gold, this would not be a ‘good’ rate of return because you would be taking much more risk to achieve the same return as that offered by the bank and only a few basis points above the base rate.

So, with the Bank of England interest rate currently sitting at 0.50% and the ECB base rate at a negative figure of -0.50%, a 4% or 5% pa return looks very attractive today, even though it would not have done in 1997.

Another factor we need to consider when assessing what a ‘good’ return means is the level of risk we take to achieve the return.

In constructing our portfolios at Spectrum, we always consider performance in the context of risk taken to achieve that return. For example, two funds can both achieve a 5% pa return but one fund may have fallen in value by 20% whereas another fund may be down just 5%. Clearly, the latter is a better fund.

We can analyse this in more detail by considering “scatter diagrams” which is an interesting way of looking beyond headline performance figures.

investment return

CLICK ON THE IMAGE ABOVE FOR A LARGER VIEW

This type of chart shows performance on the vertical axis and compares this with volatility on the horizontal axis, which is a measure of risk.

Ideally, we want a fund that is in the top left of the chart i.e. it has very low risk and a very high return. Unfortunately, we know that we cannot have our cake and eat it and in the real world we have to take risk to achieve return, but the important thing that these types of charts highlight is if you are taking risk and not being rewarded for it.

For example in the above chart, fund B (purple square on the far right) is taking a high level of risk relative to the other funds as it is the furthest right on the horizontal axis and it is achieving a high level of performance as it sits high up on the vertical axis. Now, looking at fund A (aqua square second from the right), it has achieved a higher level of performance than fund B but has experienced much less volatility. It is clearly a superior fund, achieving higher performance with less risk.

The other factors we must also take into account when considering what a ‘good’ return means are the cost of running the investment and the impact of taxation.

Ensure you consider all costs when assessing whether you are getting a good return or not. Each fund manager will charge a percentage ongoing fee, but do not forget to factor in transaction costs on buying and selling investments.

Often more damaging is the taxation. Are you paying capital gains tax on each transaction as it occurs? Could you roll this up instead and benefit from compounding? Or are the tax implications impacting the decisions you make as an investor?

For example, a buy-to-let property that offers an attractive gross yield of 6% per annum looks like a good return on the surface, but once ongoing costs and tax are factored in, your net yield could be much lower, at around 2-3%.

Lastly, when comparing investments, you must always do a like-for-like comparison. So when you are benchmarking your investment ensure it is against its peers, for example, there is no point in comparing the gross return of your buy-to-let property against a BP stock you hold.

Investment options

By Jozef Spiteri - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investment Risk, Investments, Malta
This article is published on: 18th January 2022

18.01.22

Trust in the financial sector

Choosing investments can be daunting to someone who does not have a good understanding of financial matters. It is normal to feel intimidated when facing something you don’t understand, and it is a reaction many people have when considering investing their money.

For these people, the ideal investment is often something they can see and touch. Such investments are usually the purchase of property to let, or the establishment of some sort of business selling goods or services. Done correctly such ventures can be very profitable, but these types of investments require a lot of time and money, so they might not be suitable for most people.

An alternative is investing in financial markets, but how can you overcome the mental block when attempting to allocate your money? The best first step is to consult an adviser who will walk you through the key points of such investments, explaining the potential risks and also rewards of different investment options, and who will take the time to come up with the correct solution for you.

investment options

However, the most important step to get more comfortable with financial markets is to actually start investing. An analogy I like to use is of a person who has never been swimming, fearing that something terrible would happen if they were to get into the water. Typically, they would start by dipping their toes and legs in, getting a feel for this un-chartered territory. Once they feel comfortable, they will continue to walk further out, until eventually they will be completely at ease in the water. This is the approach new investors should take when looking to enter this “new world”.

If you are feeling confused or overwhelmed with all the different investment options available to you, feel free to reach out to one of our advisers. In the initial meeting we will be able to help you understand better what will suit you best and can answer all the questions you might have. All initial meetings are free of charge and there is no obligation to proceed with an investment.

Investment diversification

By Jozef Spiteri - Topics: investment diversification, Investment objectives, Investment Risk, Investments, Malta
This article is published on: 12th January 2022

12.01.22

A word which seems so simple, a concept that many think they can easily master, but do you fully appreciate what diversification means? If you check the meaning of diversification, you would find that in business terms it is usually the act of varying the range of products or services offered, or broadening the field of operations. In investment terms it has a similar meaning. Diversification involves spreading your money across different assets and asset categories.

Most of the time when people tell me that they are investing and I ask them if they have Investment diversification, I am met with a resounding “Yes, of course”. They then might go on to explain what they invested in and it is usually things which they would have come across on social media or heard about from another “investor”. These portfolios might comprise shares in a few US companies, a couple of US bonds and possibly some cryptocurrency for a touch of risk. Such a portfolio would seem OK to someone who had just begun investing some spare cash, but is it diversified?

Such a portfolio is not really diversified at all, and I will explain why. Starting off with the first part which is an investment in a few different shares. Firstly, they are all from one geographical region, meaning if something dramatic happened in US stock-markets, they would probably all be affected to some extent. Secondly, inexperienced investors often buy shares based on something they have read online or something they have heard from a friend or colleague. These investments are typically in growth stocks, in other words shares in companies which are perceived to have strong earnings potential and growth prospects, but often with a correspondingly high share price. Investing exclusively in this type of company may prove successful but also carries significant risk, as the expectation of highly profitable growth (sometimes reflected in an inflated share price) may not be realised for many years, if at all. This is why it is sometimes sensible to include more mature company shares in a portfolio, or possibly shares in a company paying good and sustainable dividends.

investment diversification

Moving on to the bond part of the portfolio, often this would be one or two bonds issued by the US government, maturing in say 10 years. It might also include a corporate bond to add a little bit of diversification. But how much attention has been given to the financial strength of the company issuing the bond or the bond’s yield to maturity (how much is received in regular income up to the date the bond matures). These are just a couple of basic questions that should be asked when considering direct investment in a corporate bond.

This brings us to the cryptocurrency portion of the portfolio, often consisting of holdings in popular names such as Bitcoin or Ethereum, or in a new ‘crypto’ trending online. Although I have nothing against a small allocation to cryptocurrency, it should always be treated as speculative with the likelihood of volatility and a high risk of capital loss. I sometimes question whether people investing in cryptocurrency understand the basics of this asset class, including its regulatory status and its ability to function as a currency. To read more about cryptocurrency – click here

One question all investors should be asking about diversification is how to achieve maximum returns with minimum risk. Or, put another way, how to make the most of their money without jeopardising their financial security. A well-diversified portfolio should include exposure to a range of asset classes, for example shares, bonds, property, commodities and cash. Investments should also not be restricted to a single country or geographic region, nor to a single theme or economic sector.

In practice, most people do not have the time or knowledge required to build a well-diversified portfolio which achieves the right balance between risk and reward, between capital growth and capital preservation. At Spectrum, on behalf of our clients, we therefore focus on identifying professional investment managers who specialise in maximising returns from efficient portfolio diversification.

If you have any questions regarding asset diversification and investment returns, our advisers are available to help. We do not charge fees for initial consultations and you have no obligation to use our services after meeting us. Please get in touch to learn more.