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Is this the time to invest and where?

By Charles Hutchinson - Topics: investment diversification, Investment Risk, Spain
This article is published on: 23rd October 2019

23.10.19

I was having lunch with a friend of many years the other day. When I asked why he was not currently invested and why he had not been for some time, he replied that it is too dangerous a time in the world with too many problems and that we were on the verge of a global market collapse. Further investigation revealed that he had had his money in the bank, largely unprotected against bank failure and earning less than a single digit interest rate (and that was for his Sterling) which was also taxed. What made it worse was that the majority of it is in Euros and he was actually having to pay charges to the bank for the privilege of keeping it there.

Although this sounds an extreme example of bad financial planning, it shows that we need to take professional advice sometimes. We need to diversify and we need to understand that the world is no worse or insecure than during the terrible wars and crises of the past. Money is not a Will o’ the Wisp, disappearing into thin air when not being utilised; it has to have a home in which to dwell for better or for worse. The secret, therefore, is to place it for the better in homes that are largely secure, allowing you to diversify smaller amounts somewhere else for better returns. In this era of low interest rates, which is set to continue for quite a while, that home should not be in a bank, except for your current account and a cash reserve for emergencies and planned spending over the next, say, 2-3 years. There is limited protection against bank failure and the return to be obtained is taxable and insignificant.

My old friend lamented that this was not the time to enter the market, to which I replied that there is no good time until you have left it too late (this is true of most markets). It is not market timing which is important, but time in the market. Unless you have a trading account for speculative investment, you must always plan to invest for the long term (5 years plus). The investment house Fidelity produced some excellent statistics which showed that (once invested) by not being in the market for just 10 specific days in the last 10 years, you would have lost nearly 50% of the market (London FTSE100) growth each year versus staying fully invested. Missing 20 days, this would have been halved again.

Missing out on 30 days, you wouldn’t have broken even after brokerage charges. Markets are like the tide on the sea shore – they rise and they fall. The difference is that each time the tide comes in, it reaches a little higher up the beach. And that is caused by a natural phenomenon called inflation, which moves hand in hand with growth

investing in tough times

I asked my friend if he was invested in 1987. He looked away gloomily and said that he had instructed his broker to sell out all his positions when the October crash arrived that terrible Monday morning. He watched with dismay as the markets around the world collapsed as soon as they opened and there were no buyers, fuelled by a flawed computer system over which there was no control. He lost over 35% of his capital over the next four days. At the time I was a trainee investment manager on the Australian desk of a prominent investment house in the City. The telephones rang off the hook and our advice was emphatic and simple: do not bale out. Hang in there. I remember my mentor, who was a keen yachtsman, saying, “If you are in a boat out at sea and a big storm blows up, you don’t jump overboard, do you? No. you batten down the hatches and wait it out”. This is the advice I have always given my clients ever since. Those who heeded our advice and waited it out actually ended that year in a higher position than when it started.

I can hear some readers already asking where they should place their hard earned capital after a life time of working and saving. There is no one single answer to this. It depends on your risk tolerance, your likes, and your needs (now and in the future). As ably described in our book “A Guide to Investment Risk” by Peter Brooke (opposite), diversification is everything.

Guide to investment risk

This could be across multiple global asset classes (to include gold bullion, diamonds, antiques, rare paintings, rare books, classic cars, etc.) or it could be an investment portfolio containing multi global assets managed by multi managers of different expertise and disciplines. It is always wise to remember that Risk is linked directly to Reward. The higher or lower each one is will reflect in the other. Also reflected is volatility, where the higher performing assets will mostly endure higher volatility (continuous high/low oscillations which are not for the faint hearted). When doing financial reviews with clients, we are careful to establish their risk appetite and the returns that can be expected taking into account that risk.

You cannot have a high performing low risk investment – there is no such animal. What you can expect from a good adviser is a steady performing investment at whatever level you set your tolerance to give you the return you want as long as you run the course, who does not try to time the market and who picks long established names who have been around many years. We often recommend long established (each over 150 years) London based investment managers to manage a client’s private portfolio, or we place clients in multi asset, multi manager investment funds. To those who are averse to volatility, we offer “smoothed” investments which are described by my colleague Anthony Poole elsewhere in this website in “Tax Efficient Investments“. These are safe secure investments which are tax efficient and which produce a steady return year after year, way above anything you can expect from a bank product.

Greed is the enemy of many investors. It is the curse of humanity. If you are not greedy, your money will grow securely at a respectable pace. Manage your own expectations – do not alter course when you see your returns are doing well. Do not cut corners, especially with tax. We only choose tax efficient products. Investment choice and tax efficiency are completely entwined. Tax is another subject to be explored in more detail and is covered elsewhere on this site by my colleagues. If you would like a copy of our Spanish Tax Guide 2019 (there is also one available for France), please contact me below.

To discuss these points in more detail, why not call me to make an appointment and let’s have a coffee together? Please remember, there is no commitment on your part but such a huge commitment on ours! With care, you will prosper.

How to invest – Multi-asset Funds – Investing Made Simpler

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Branch 23 investments, Investment Risk, Investments, multi assets
This article is published on: 16th October 2019

16.10.19

I have spoken about asset allocation and rebalancing and their affect on your investments. An-other strategy that is available to you is multi asset fund management.

You may have heard (read) that I have mentioned that here at The Spectrum IFA Group, we favour the ‘multi asset fund’ route of investing. But, what is that?

MULTI ASSET FUNDS

Multi asset funds provide you with access to multiple funds and asset classes through a single fund, managed and monitored by dedicated experts on your behalf. This type of fund can increase the potential for diversification and help reduce the overall level of risk.

Choosing the right funds and building a diversified portfolio can be extremely difficult. The options available to you are almost limitless, with tens of thousands available to investors in Europe alone.

Generally speaking, it is highly unlikely that a single fund manager is capable of delivering consis-tent outperformance, year on year. Making the right choice for a portfolio and then refining it and rebalancing it over the years takes time, information and skill. Therefore, fund managers need to be monitored to ensure they remain at the top of their game – and replaced when they are not. The resources and/or expertise to do this properly can be time consuming and expensive. There-fore, multi asset funds can play a valuable role in part or all of your investments.

All multi asset funds offer a convenient way to access a wide range of fund managers and asset classes. Spreading investments across a wide range of managers and assets reduces the proba-bility of a fall in value across the whole portfolio.

At the same time, multi asset funds that are designed to target different risk levels make it simple to adapt a portfolio to suit your changing circumstances. For example, if you have no need to ac-cess your savings any time soon, then you are likely to be able to take more risk than clients who are nearing the time when they do need to access their money.

How to invest – Rebalance Your Investments

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Branch 23 investments, Investment Risk, Investments, Netherlands
This article is published on: 9th October 2019

09.10.19

I previously discussed how asset allocation is an investment strategy that can limit your exposure to risk. As you get further along your journey of being an investor, you need to understand how to rebalance your portfolio to keep it in line with your investment objectives.

Rebalancing is bringing your portfolio back to your original asset allocation mix. This may be necessary because over time, some of your investments may become out of alignment with your investment objectives. By rebalancing, you will ensure that your portfolio has not become overexposed to one asset class and you will return your portfolio to a comfortable and more acceptable level of risk.

For example, let’s say that your risk tolerance determined that equities should represent 60% of your portfolio. However, after recent market fluctuations, equities now represent 75% of your portfolio. To re-establish your original asset allocation mix, you will either need to sell some of your funds or invest in other asset classes.

There are three ways you can rebalance your portfolio:

1. You can sell investments where your holdings are overexposed and use the proceeds to buy investments for other asset classes. With this strategy, you are essentially taking the profits that you have made and reinvesting it into a more cautious fund.

2. You can buy new investments for other asset categories.

3. If you are continuing to add to your investments, you can alter your contributions so that more goes to the other asset classes until your portfolio is back into balance.

Before we rebalance your portfolio, we would consider whether the method of rebalancing we agree to use would entail transaction fees or tax consequences for you.

Depending on who you speak to, some financial experts advise rebalancing at regular intervals, such as every six or 12 months. Others would recommend rebalancing when your holdings of an asset class increase or decrease more than a certain preset percentage. In either case, rebalancing tends to work best when done on a relatively infrequent basis.

Shifting money away from an asset class when it is doing well in favour of an asset category that is doing poorly may not be easy. But it can be a wise move. By cutting back on current strong performers and adding more under performers, rebalancing forces you to buy low and sell high.

To discuss further how rebalancing can help your existing investments, please contact me either by email emeka.ajogbe@spectrum-ifa.com or phone: +32 494 90 71 72.

Interest rate outlook and what it means for your investments

By Barry Davys - Topics: Barcelona, Interest rates, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain
This article is published on: 1st October 2019

01.10.19

I had a very nice dinner a few days ago with an investment manager I have known for 12 years. We meet regularly and he is one of the investment managers in London that we, as a company, use for some of our clients. So we know each other professionally quite well and one of us always acts as devil’s advocate to the other one’s position in discussions. It is a great way of getting your point of view tested. Yes, we did talk about Brexit, but the more important issue was the fact that long term interest rates are likely to stay low for a very long time in Spain and in Europe. So here are some thoughts about what these low interest rates mean for our savings and investing.

First, Brexit. Brexit is on everyone’s lips and quite understandably so. Whether you love it or hate it, no one seems to be able to work out what is going to happen. I admit to not being able to work out where it will end. The Brexit outcome is incredibly important to us as individuals and businesses. Yet what about for our savings? Britain is the sixth largest economy in the World. Sounds important. According to the World Bank, the World economy is $86 Trillion. Britain’s economy is $2.8 Trillion. So Britain represents just 3.26% of the World economy. Which means we still have 96.74% of the World economy where we can invest!!!

Perhaps the more important story for savings and investments is the impact of very low interest rates that could stay low for decades. My dinner guest gave good insight into the future of low interest rates. This insight is important to us as individuals with savings and investments.

In October 2007, interest rates in the UK fell from 5.5% to 0.5% in May 2009. Interest rates in Europe followed a similar path. The ECB in July 2007 cut its interest rate from 5.25% to 0.75% in May 2009. The ECB rate has now fallen to just 0.25%.

Will low interest rates stimulate the economy? Yes, it will, but not enough to get economies back on track. Mario Draghi, the current President of the ECB, says central banks changing interest rates will help, but Governments have to spend more too for sufficient economic growth to happen. As an example, Germany has been taking a lot of stick because it has not been spending. The amount it collects in taxes etc is equal to the amount it spends.

ECB

This is the German Government policy. This is a sensible policy unless parts of the country break down and need repairs. Two items that need repair in Germany are the military and the transport infrastructure.

The military, if the stories are to be believed, did not have one single usable helicopter earlier this year. Roads in Germany need repairs, including bridges. Spending money on these road repairs not only give jobs to workers and their companies but also helps the German transport system to run smoothly. This helps the logistics chain in the economy and gives a boost to the economy. These are two examples of where government spending is helpful and supportive of low interest rates. To offset a recession there has been some suggestion of Germany spending €50 Billion on infrastructure spending. As a comparison, Spain already is spending more than it gets in on taxes.

The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee is responsible for setting interest rates in the UK. It has said that due to the Brexit uncertainty, the next UK interest rate move is likely to be down. The UK official interest rate is only 0.5% now, which gives an indication of the outlook for interest rates: near zero for a long time.

JP Morgan is the sixth largest bank in the World with assets of $2.73 TRILLION. Bob Michele, Global Head of Fixed Income at JP Morgan, has gone even further than the Bank of England in predicting the European interest rates. His analysis shows that Europe will have negative interest rates for the next eight years. Mario Draghi has also said that European economic growth will be very low for seven years, which is another indicator for low interest rates. Indeed for both the UK and the EU there are many forecasts of very long term, low interest rates.

On the bright side, borrowing costs are much reduced as a result of low interest rates. Monthly mortgage payments are much smaller than normal. Businesses and Governments can borrow at much lower rates. On the dark side, we get little, or indeed no, interest on our savings. How low can interest rates go? Rates are negative in Switzerland and Denmark for people living outside the country. These non resident account holders actually have to pay the bank to take their money. When interest rates on savings are very, very low, what do we do with our savings?

If we have savings should we consider paying off our mortgage? Mortgage rates in Spain around 1.63% fixed for 20 years (via Spectrum Mortgage Services, email me if you require details). It can be better to invest than pay off a mortgage at this rate. If we have other loans you should look to pay off the loan from savings if the interest rate

property investment Barcelona

on the loan is greater than you can achieve by investing. A good benchmark figure to use is if the loan rate is greater than 5% per annum you should consider paying it off from savings.

Despite these low rates it is essential that we keep some money readily available, probably in a bank, as an emergency fund. Yet, with these historically low interest rates, it is also essential we do not leave more than we need in the bank. Inflation, even low inflation, eats into the buying power of money left in the bank. It is an insidious effect we often don’t notice until we come to buy our next big purchase. It is at this point we realise that we can’t buy what we thought we could buy because we have had interest on our savings that was smaller than the rate of inflation. When this happens, buying power falls. Instead of being able to buy the sports version of a car we find we can only afford the base model.

We need to use other types of savings and investing strategies during times like these. There are many other options, but most alternatives come with some investment risk. What does investment risk look like?

You may not have realised, but since the market collapsed in 2009 there have been corrections of -16.0%, -19.4%, -12.4%, -13.3%, and -10.2% in the S&P 500!

What is the investment return on the S&P 500 since bank interest rates hit their lows in 2009? INCLUDING the falls above, it may surprise you that the return has been 219%.

This is just one index based on shares in one country and is used to highlight volatility in a market. To reduce the impact of this volatility our savings should be in diversified pots. A fair question for you to ask me is “With these low interest rates, what pots do you invest in?” The answer is I have a mix. I have some very steady, some

stock-exchange

would say old fashioned, funds. Others are with a mix of investments managed by a fund manager, including some investments in the S&P 500. I have some UK Premium Bonds for my emergency fund as they are easily accessible. I have income producing investments in my pension. Index linked funds give me some protection against inflation (just in case we get an unexpected event). I have some forward looking funds that invest in India and China. And then… well I have three small holdings in UK private companies making new technologies and an Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.

There is diversity across types of investments, e.g. shares, funds, regions and bonds. Within the higher risk parts there is balancing of risk. The three individual shareholdings in tech companies are very high risk because the value of the shares in each company depends on the results of that company alone. Balance is provided because the ETF performance which depends on the 41 companies it tracks. If one company does badly, there are 40 others to take up the slack. It was sensible for me to diversify from an investment being dependent on the results of one company, to something which is dependent on the results of 41 companies. Especially as I am not a researcher in the fields of AI and robotics.

This is my mix of investments, but it may not be right for you depending on what return you want and how much risk you are prepared to take. Do I also choose superb investments and do these investments avoid market falls? I admit it, no they don’t. But my diversification does.

Tax is also relevant to the good husbandry of your savings at all times, not just when rates are low. With money in the bank and interest rates so low, it is not much more than adding insult to injury when the taxman takes 19% to 21% of your interest. However, it is important that having moved your savings from a bank account you make the investment tax efficient. How to do this will depend upon your situation and requires individual advice.

This brief note gives an example of what we need to do now as we are faced with low interest rates for a long period. What is right for you will depend on your circumstances. Is it worth taking some risk? Yes, especially if you use several different types of investments; investments in different types of assets and different geographical areas. Putting your savings in different pots can help to reduce the investment risk.

As is often the case, what looks like a disadvantage, the low interest rates, means opportunities appear elsewhere!

How to invest -The Importance of Diversification

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Investment Risk, Investments
This article is published on: 19th August 2019

19.08.19

There’s an old adage “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. I think about this every time I speak to a client about their portfolio. Often people wish to put their money into something familiar, like property. I remember in the early days of my career, I sat down with a property developer who had everything he had in his property portfolio of over a dozen properties, and all of his properties were in the same area of London. When I suggested that he needed to diversify because he was over exposed to the property market, he said that he had; that all the properties were not on the same road. When I checked the property addresses later, I realised that he was right, they weren’t. However, they were within ten minutes of each other!

This client had embarked upon a risky investment strategy as he was familiar with the asset class. Whilst he was having success with the returns, a sharp decline in the property market, particularly in the London area (which is what happened not too long after we spoke), would mean he would run into major financial difficulties. Enter, diversification.

Diversification is an investment strategy that reduces the risk that an investor is exposed to by allocating their funds into different financial instruments, industries, geographical areas and other categories. It aims to maximise returns by investing in different areas that would each react differently to the same occurrence.

Although it does not guarantee against investment loss, diversification is an important part of reaching long financial goals whilst minimising risk.

WHY SHOULD YOU DIVERSIFY
Let’s say, for example, that you are invested entirely in pharmaceuticals. It is announced one day that there will be a heavy levy against the pricing of drugs, which affects the costs that pharmaceuticals can spend on research and development. This would negatively affect the pharmaceutical industry, prices would fall and there would be a noticeable drop in the value of your portfolio.

However, suppose you have some of your portfolio invested in, say, technology. Strong performance in this industry, such as developments in cloud storage, could see the performance counteract the negative effects of the pharmaceutical industry on your portfolio. Even this small amount of diversification could protect the performance of your portfolio and ensure that all your eggs are not in one basket.

It therefore stands to reason that you would want to diversify as much as is feasible, while respecting your risk profile; across different industries, across different companies, across different asset classes. This will greatly reduce your portfolio’s sensitivity to market swings.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
It pays to go global. As you can see in the table below, having funds spread across different locations can give you access to the best performing asset classes each and every year. One asset class can be the best one year, but is not necessarily top again the following year.

investment diversification

Diversification also means ensuring that your overall portfolio has exposure to various different investment styles. Some shares, known as growth shares, are held by investors as their value is expected to grow significantly over the long term. Others, known as value shares, are held because they are regarded as cheaper than the inherent worth of the companies which they represent. Value shares and growth shares can react differently in different economic environments.

Whilst it is possible in theory, in practice having a perfect balance between assets, sectors, markets and companies to suit an investment objective or risk profile is extremely difficult. However, the diversification qualities of collective investments schemes, along with the option of investing into multi asset funds can present the investor with a sound, individually tailored diversification solution.

At Spectrum, we favour the multi-asset approach to investing for our clients. These investment vehicles allow our clients access to multiple funds, asset classes and locations through a single fund that is managed and monitored by dedicated specialists and experts on the investor’s behalf. This type of fund can increase the potential for diversification and reduce the level of risk.

For more information on how understanding diversification can help you grow your wealth, please contact me either by email emeka.ajogbe@spectrum-ifa.com or phone: +32 494 90 71 72.

Hot investments: It’s time to get creative

By Chris Burke - Topics: Barcelona, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain
This article is published on: 18th June 2019

18.06.19

Investing needs savvy, like a game of chess. It’s best to make carefully thought through moves so that it’s not left to chance. The most crucial part of investing is being in the know.

As a financial advisor, this is something I research and stay on top of so that I can best inform clients. And I only recommend what investments I would feel confident investing in myself. That is very important for clients to know.

When it comes to the stock market, it’s about knowledge and catching the wave at the best time. Right now in the world of investment it’s prime time for investing in some promising and exciting creative industries, namely the e-sports /online gaming industry and AI (Artificial Intelligence).

As we all know, the internet, Amazon and Netflix have totally changed the entertainment industry. We are no longer controlled by which shows are on television or in the cinemas, as we now have the luxury of watching whatever we want whenever we want. But perhaps the most massive surprise in the past year has been the overwhelming popularity of esports – which is simply fans watching professional video gamers compete online. Ever heard of Twitch? Well, there are more people logging on to watch pros gamers competing on streaming sites like Twitch than there are watching CNN or NBC.

Last autumn, a shocking 57 million people tuned in to watch a professional video-gaming (esports) match. It was triple the audience of the actual 2018 NBA finals. As a result of this success, the biggest companies including Coca-Cola and T-Mobile have spent hundreds of millions to sponsor these matches.

So, as e-sports and gaming continue to conquer all, which types of companies might be good to get in on? The top gaming companies you might want to consider investing with are Nintendo, Valve Corporation, Rockstar Games, Electronic Arts, Sony Computer Entertainment, Ubisoft or Sega Games Co. Ltd.

investments in games company

And behind every great game is the hardware required to make it fanstastic. NVDA might not be a name you’ve heard, but literally all video games require ultra-high-performance chips and NVDA chips are the crème de la crème, used by over 85% of professional gamers.

(Forbes, 2018)

The ever-growing world of AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been booming and helping companies solve and manage many previous b2b and b2c issues and right now France is aiming to be one of the forerunners in the industry. Last year President Macron announced his government was investing €1.8 billion over 4 year period. A few of the top French AI start-ups are insurance fraud detection companies like Shift Technology; the AI voice assistance platform, Snips, which manufacturers can utilise for their products and Saagie, the online protection platform to store and guard our precious data for banks and insurance companies.

So, there are some exciting and creative opportunities for investment out there but as a financial advisor, when it comes to investment portfolios research and timing are crucial, as is ensuring clients are in a financial position where they able to play the market without the fear of losing their life’s savings.

Before considering any investments, I always start by advising clients to ensure they have sufficient funds they can access quickly and easily and then discuss what length of time they would like to invest other sums for, as it’s my first priority to nurture and protect their financial future. I would not recommend any client to invest in something that I would not invest in myself, but each client is well-informed in the knowledge that if they have the money to try their hand at investing, it is of course a risk. But it’s a risk that can be rewarding and a real learning experience as well.

Understanding How Risk Affects Your Portfolio

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Investment Risk, Investments, wealth management
This article is published on: 11th June 2019

11.06.19

A crucial step to achieving long term financial security is recognising the importance of (and the relationship between) investment risk and return. In practice, this means implementing an investment strategy which matches your personal objectives and risk profile.

When I am speaking to clients about investing for the first time, they generally fall into two categories:

  • The Risk Averse
  • The Not So Risk Averse

Normally, within the first two to three years, one category changes their mind and changes to the other. Can you guess which one?

If you replied the risk averse becoming the not so risk averse, you would be right. This usually stems from clients becoming more comfortable with the idea of investing and the fact that taking risk can, when understood and applied properly, have a staggeringly positive effect on your portfolio.

There are many different reasons as to why people invest and no two people will have exactly the same objectives. Risk is a necessary and constant feature of investing – share prices fall, economic and political conditions fluctuate and companies can become insolvent. Therefore, understanding your risk profile is an important consideration before you actually invest.

Your risk profile is the relationship between your investment objective, risk tolerance and capacity for loss. As a result, you should be aware of your ability and willingness to accept risk and what level of risk might be required to meet your investment goals.

Investment profiles broadly fall into one of the following three categories:

Low Risk Profile
People with a low risk profile wish to preserve their capital and understand that there is very little scope for significant capital growth. These portfolios are heavily weighted to investing in cash and bonds.

Medium Risk Profile
People with a medium risk profile understand that to achieve long term capital growth, some degree of investment risk is necessary. Portfolios for this category of investor are usually balanced between cash, bonds and shares (equities)/equity funds, with perhaps some exposure to property as well.

High Risk Profile
People with a high risk profile are those who are prepared to accept the possibilty of a significant drop in their portfolio values in order to maximise long term investment returns. Higher risk portfolios have a far greater weighting towards equities/equity funds and less exposure to bonds and cash.

Different kinds of investment carry different levels of risk:

Cash
Cash or savings accounts are often regarded as ‘low risk’, yet, as the credit crisis of 2007 – 2008 showed, they are not ‘risk free’. Inflation will also reduce the value of cash savings if it is higher than the rate of interest being earned. At the time of writing, inflation in Belgium is just above 2% and the interest rate is 0%, which means that you are effectively paying your bank to hold your cash savings.

Bonds
Bonds or fixed interest securities are popular with many investors. If you invest in these instruments, you are essentially lending money to the issuer of the bond; usually a company or a government. In return, the issuer pays interest at regular intervals until the maturity date. The obvious benefit to the investor is regular income. However, there is a risk that the issuer may not be able to maintain interest payments and the capital value of the bond can fluctuate.

Shares
Although past performance is not a guide to future returns, historically the best long term investment performance is produced by equities or equity funds. The increased level of risk associated with equities is directly linked to the higher returns typically available from this type of asset.

The price of a company’s shares trading on a stock market is a reflection of the company’s value as influenced by the demand (or lack thereof) from investors. Essentially, when you invest in a company you are buying part of that company and hence able to share in its profits. The converse is also true, so you could be exposed to operating losses and a fall in the company’s share price. The risks, therefore, can be high, especially if you own shares in only one or a handful of companies. Equity funds, run by professional managers and which usually invest in a range of companies, are a means of avoiding such concentrated risk.

TYPES OF INVESTMENT RISKS

There are several types of investment risk that the you can be exposed to if and when you decide to invest, and you should be aware of the possible effect on your portfolio before you start:

Market Risk
Also known as systematic risk, it means that the overall performance of financial markets directly affects the returns from specific shares/equites. Therefore, the value of your shares may go up or down in response to changes in market conditions. The underlying reason for a change in market direction might include a political event, such as Brexit, government policy (consider current US-China trade tensions) or a natural disaster.

Unsystematic Risk
This refers to the uncertainty in a company or industry investment, and unlike market risk, unsystematic risk applies to only a small number of assets. For example, a change in management, an organisation making a product recall, a change in regulation that could negatively affect a organisation’s sales, or even a newcomer to market with the ability to take away market share from the organisation you are investing in.

Systemic Risk
This is the possibility that an event at company level has the potential to cause severe instability or collapse to an entire industry of economy. It was a major contributor to the financial crisis of 2007 – 2008. Think back and you will remember the phrase that Company X ‘was too big to fail’. If it collapsed, then other companies in the industry, or the economy itself, could fail too.

Currency Risk
Investment options include shares/equities in a range of currencies. Changes in exchange rates can result in unpredictable gains and losses when foreign investments are converted from the foreign currency back into your base currency, from US dollars into Euros for example.

Portfolio Construction Risk
This is the possibility that, in constructing a portfolio, you have an inappropriate income/growth split, or that you fail to monitor and manage the portfolio in line with your investment objectives. There is also a risk that you select assets that are inconsistent with your risk profile.

Interest Rate Risk
Interest rate risk is the possibility that an investment held will decline in value as a direct result of changes in interest rates. For example, bond prices are usually negatively affected by interest rate rises.

Concentration Risk
This is the possibility that you over-invest in a particular asset, sector, industry or region, which removes valuable diversifaction from your portfolio.

Opportunity Risk
This is the risk of being ‘under-exposed’ to other types of investments that could potentially deliver better returns.

Whether you are investing on a regular basis or have invested a lump sum, it is imperative to understand how risk, or your attitude to risk, can fundamentally affect the potential growth of your investment.

Tips in investing in tough times

By Robin Beven - Topics: Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, wealth management
This article is published on: 18th March 2019

18.03.19

When the economy slows down, it is inevitable share prices will take a hit. Such times are never comfortable, but there should be no need for investors to panic. Instead, they can offer an opportunity to review your portfolio and ensure it is positioned to weather any storms that might lie ahead.

This does not mean you need to make sweeping changes – after all, weatherproofing your house against the winter doesn’t mean you tear it down and rebuild it from scratch. Instead, you make sensible, incremental changes that provide some additional strength. With that in mind, here are 10 practical tips to help you fight off the worst effects of difficult times.

DIVERSIFY
It is the basic number-one rule of investing but it can need reaffirming. Different asset classes perform well or poorly at different times. If your portfolio is exposed to a single asset class – for example, equities – its performance will follow the fortunes of the equity market and returns are likely to be volatile. However, if your portfolio contains a selection of different asset classes and is spread across different countries and regions of the world, the various elements can perform differently at different times – so if one is doing badly, another may well be performing better and so could help to compensate.

LOOK BEYOND YOUR HOME MARKET
With diversification in mind, perhaps you could start looking overseas for opportunities. A UK-focused portfolio might seem a sensible and conservative option for a UK-based investor. However, this strategy leaves you and your portfolio at the mercy of domestic sentiment. Other areas of the world may offer a more positive outlook or could simply be better placed to help you through any domestic downturn. You need to be aware of the different risks involved with different international markets but even a small step into, say, other developed western economies could help to diversify some of your risk.

BE PREPARED TO ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES
Your attitude during negative periods is as important as your portfolio’s structure. Economies simply cannot keep growing indefinitely and recessions are likely to happen every few years. Successful investors tend to be pragmatic and realistic – they invest for the long term and expect that, while there will be good times, there will also be some bad ones. A short-term downturn such as the 4th quarter 2018 should not be seen as a reason to panic.

LOOK BEYOND THE ECONOMIC DATA
Remember that economic data releases are backward-looking. At the start of a slowdown, figures will continue to appear positive, perhaps contradicting our everyday experiences, as old numbers remain in the calculation. Similarly, once economic growth begins to recover, it will take a while to be fully reflected in the new data. Headlines that scream “worst figures for 30 years” may confirm what we have just been through but do not necessarily reflect the prospects for tomorrow. What they often do, however, is fan the flames of investor uncertainty – not to mention sell newspapers.

CASH IS NOT NECESSARILY KING
During a recession, it may be very tempting to get out of the stockmarket and opt instead for the perceived safety of cash. However, this strategy can be risky. Stockmarkets are volatile, which means that, just as they can fall quickly, they can also recover quickly – perhaps with little or no warning. If you have decided that equities are the right asset class for you, then moving out of them when you have already suffered a loss could mean missing out when they finally begin to recover. Moreover, inflation can erode the purchasing power of cash over time so, while you can be assured you will not lose the face value of money when invested in cash, it is not actually a “risk-free” option.

GO FOR QUALITY
During recessions and stockmarket downturns, established, high-quality and financially strong companies tend to bear up better than their newer or more debt-laden peers. A tough environment helps to separate the wheat from the chaff and struggling companies may be forced to cut their dividends or release negative trading statements. Holding quality stocks, therefore, could help you ride out some of the storm. It is also worth noting that, if the equity market is falling across the board, this provides a great opportunity to pick up quality stocks at relatively cheap prices.

ASSESS YOUR EXPOSURE TO SMALLER COMPANIES
Historically, as an asset class, smaller companies have been worse affected during a recession. You therefore need to be sure of your attitude to risk before you decide to take any significant positions in them. When things are going well, smaller companies can offer the possibility of greater gains than their larger peers – but when things are going badly, the losses can also be much greater. If volatility makes you nervous or if your portfolio is relatively small, you could consider reducing your exposure to smaller companies and perhaps reinvest into some less adventurous choices.

CHECK IF YOU ARE OVEREXPOSED
Different industry sectors tend to perform well at different stages of the investment cycle. During an economic slowdown, some companies are less sensitive to the effects of that slowdown because demand remains largely unaffected – for example, companies in sectors such as food retailing, pharmaceuticals and utilities. Consequently, these tend to hold up better than, say, leisure companies and housebuilders, which depend on households having money to spare. It is usually worth holding onto high-quality companies, regardless of short-term hitches, but this might be a good time to ensure you are not overexposed to any one sector or region.

THINK LONG TERM
A recession is commonly defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth (as measured by gross domestic product or GDP). Six months in the average life of a portfolio, however, is hardly a great deal of time. Even if we allow for the negative behaviour of markets before and after the publication of these sets of data, six months is not long compared with, say, the 20-plus years over which we plan for our retirements. Interestingly, the figures tell us that with a couple both aged 65, there’s a 0% chance that one will live until 92! If your portfolio continues to meet your personal criteria and is well diversified, a recession should not cause you to change plans. Sometimes doing nothing can be the best course of action.

THIS IS A FIRE DRILL – NOT A FIRE
Remember the saying ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…’ by Rudyard Kipling? Market downturns are a great practical example of this maxim. A fire drill is a good thing – the fire might never actually occur but, if the worst happens, at least you can be confident you have taken all the appropriate precautions. The real trick is to make sure you plan your portfolio properly at the outset, with the help of an expert. Then, when a downturn strikes, you can stay calm and review your situation sensibly and with confidence, rather than be panicked into any radical and potentially non-profitable reactions.

We hope you found the information in this guide useful and informative. If any of the points are of interest or you would like to discuss your own situation in more detail, please get in touch.

Common Investment Mistakes

By Chris Webb - Topics: Investment Risk, Investments, Spain
This article is published on: 15th March 2019

15.03.19

1. Failing to plan
I believe the most common mistake is not having any type of financial plan along with clear investment objectives. Research has shown that investors who plan for their financial future are more confident, relaxed and optimistic about the future. They tend to save more and have less financial anxiety.
Expert advice is essential to financial planning. Not discussing your investment needs with a professional can have a negative impact on your overall results. Financial advisers help you to identify your financial needs, analyse your level of risk, and recommend appropriate solutions. They are there for your financial journey, offering advice and guidance to smooth the path ahead.

2. Not understanding what your risk profile is
It is important to analyse and understand your tolerance for risk. As an investor, you will typically fall into one of the following categories:

Defensive / Conservative – you are very risk-averse, and not comfortable with watching markets fluctuate as they do. You do not want to risk your capital for a potential gain.

Balanced – you have some appetite for taking risk and appreciate how markets can fluctuate daily. You can tolerate moderate levels of volatility in order to get a better return but again you want security with your capital.

Aggressive – you are looking for high returns and you are not concerned about short-term volatility. You probably have a long time to invest, so any capital loss in the short term can be caught up in the future and you are fully aware that what happens one year shouldn’t affect your long-term goals.
Understanding your risk tolerance will help you choose investment goals that are appropriate for you. It will shape the investments you make in your portfolio as part of your financial plan.

3. Lack of understanding
It sounds obvious, but you should never invest in anything you don’t really understand. If it’s been explained and you still don’t “get it” then ask more questions and don’t move forward until you do. If you fail to understand it properly then you should look for an alternative. If you are going to invest in a specific stock, make sure you take time to learn about the company and do enough due diligence. If you’re looking at various types of funds, then make sure you understand the geographic and sector allocations within the funds. Make sure each choice is within your risk tolerance, this information is readily available to you.

4. Overlooking fees
Investors often focus on a fund’s performance, which is very important, but they overlook fees when considering how well their investment has done. It is important to be aware of and understand the fees on your investment. Fees are deducted from the performance figures to give you the net result. Some investment funds have entry and exit fees, performance fees, as well as standard management fees. Reducing these fees is a simple way to get more out of your investment.

You can measure the fees on a fund by referring to the fund’s Total Expense Ratio (TER), which is a measure of all the fees for that fund expressed as a percentage.

5. Getting diversification wrong
Diversification simply means selecting not putting all your eggs in one basket. It is a simple way of creating a portfolio that includes different types of investments to reduce your overall risk. Investments don’t perform in the same way during certain economic conditions. When one investment doesn’t perform well, other investments may outperform to give you overall good returns.
A typical portfolio will contain a blend of equities, property, bonds and cash based on your investment risk profile:

Equities – Often provide the highest growth levels over the longer term
Property – Protects against inflation and gives an alternative to stock market returns
Bonds – Usually lower risk than equities, and therefore usually a lower return over the long term
Cash – Provides security and stability within a portfolio. It has the lowest long-term return potential, effectively zero.

6. Having unrealistic expectations of investment returns
The most important expectation for any returns should be aligned to your own financial plan, which is unique to you. The investment return you are looking for will differ greatly from that of other investors, as their requirements, risk profile and time horizon will be different.
You also must look at what is happening in the wider economy. The investment returns you can expect will be different depending on market conditions.
The most important measure of an investment return is whether your investment is keeping up with inflation. Regardless of the risk profile, your investment should keep pace with inflation to protect the “real” value of your money. This won’t necessarily happen every year but over a certain time horizon, the average figures should do.

7. Withdrawing your investment at the wrong time
Investors tend to withdraw monies from the market for two main reasons: they need money, or they are reacting to market movements. Making a withdrawal because you need access to money comes back to the initial financial planning that was conducted. With a well-defined plan in place you will have ensured there was enough money readily available, meaning you don’t need to exit your investments when it may not be the best moment to do so. Reacting to market movements, maybe due to anxiety about the market performance is a common investment mistake. Many investors sell when the market is at a low point. They are only realising those losses, making it more difficult to recoup them, as they might if they had stayed invested. When markets are down and your investment is stagnating, it is difficult to stand your ground; that’s human nature. It is important to remain focused on the bigger picture. Markets generally move in cycles and will recover, given time. Remaining in contact with your financial adviser will help you understand the markets and what to expect in times of volatility. At no point should your adviser be recommending any investments that don’t fit within your risk profile.

8. Not monitoring your portfolio appropriately
Many people make an investment and then go one of two ways. They either decide not to look at the performance figures or worse monitor it too regularly and feel the need to make short-term reactive changes. These changes are rarely beneficial; it is “time in the markets and not timing the markets” that counts.

Your investment profile changes over time, which means how you feel about your investments in your 20’s or 30’s will be very different to how you feel in your 40’s and 50’s. Whilst it’s important to review the performance of your investment, it is also essential to review your risk profile as time goes by.

9. Waiting too long to invest
The younger you are when you start investing, the better off you will be. Waiting too long means that you miss out on the significant benefits of compound interest. Essentially, starting younger allows you to look for more opportunity and benefit from market cycles, possibly take on more risk and it build up discipline to continue to save in the future. See my alternative articles on compound interest and starting early for greater detail.

10. Not recognising that time affects the value of money
The main principle of investing is to make a positive return in order to increase the purchasing power of your investments in the future. Many savers make the mistake of keeping their money in traditional bank accounts that pay them rates well below the rate of inflation. Typically a high street bank will be offering anywhere from zero to 1% maximum on a savings account. In reality you are losing money if it is kept in the bank! It is best to invest your money while also making sure that your investment keeps up with inflation.

GUIDE TO GROWING YOUR INCOME

By Robin Beven - Topics: Inflation, Investment Risk, Investments, Spain, wealth management
This article is published on: 10th March 2019

10.03.19

A NEW ERA FOR INCOME STRATEGIES

Income investing has moved into a new dimension. In the past, income-generating strategies were largely restricted to cash and fixed income so that, to a large extent, investors had to accept the need to sacrifice the opportunity for capital growth in order to obtain a higher yield.

Times have changed and now, an income strategy does not necessarily mean you have to accept a hit to your portfolio’s value – especially if you are in a position to take on a bit more risk with your capital.

There are plenty of choices of all persuasions available to income-seeking investors and this guide sets out a number of the available options.

FLEXIBILITY AND VERSATILITY
For many investors, an income-generating strategy forms the core of their approach. Some want a portfolio that will provide a regular income stream for them to spend. For others, an income-based approach is a consequence of their attitude to risk, rather than an instigator of their strategy, and these investors might choose to reinvest their income to boost their portfolio’s total return over the long term.

Still others might have a core investment strategy that focuses on capital growth, complemented and diversified by an income-generating segment.

Every investor will have their own unique needs – for instance, they might choose to draw the income or to reinvest it for the long term. However, an income strategy can easily be adapted to meet each investor’s changing circumstances as time moves on.

A WORLD OF CHOICE
Whatever your investment risk profile, there are a wide range of asset classes from which to formulate a diversified income strategy – from government and corporate bonds, through UK and global equities to property.

Please click on the headings below to read more:

FIXED INCOME (BONDS)

Fixed income investments provide a stable and predictable level of income many investors find reassuring. They pay a set rate of interest that does not change, regardless of the prevailing economic environment, and also have a fixed repayment date. Bond prices are influenced by fluctuations in interest rates and the rate of inflation. In addition, corporate bond prices are also affected by individual company or industry newsflow.

Changes to UK base rates, which are set by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, will affect the level of interest paid on cash in a UK bank deposit account, but base rates will not affect the level of income paid on a bond. In an environment of rising interest rates, bonds become less attractive, because investors can more easily achieve a competitive rate of interest from their cash deposits.

Similarly, low interest rates increase the appeal of bonds, as it becomes harder for savers to generate an attractive level of income from their cash deposits. Funds investing in such bonds are freely available, of course, care should be taken in choosing the best-suited one that fits-the-bill. See, “Collective Bond Funds, below.

CASH: NOT NECESSARILY KING

A cash deposit account might be the first port of call for many investors who want to generate an income. In an environment of low interest rates, however, it is difficult for savers to generate a meaningful return from their cash deposits. How times have changed! Furthermore, the impact of inflation will erode the purchasing power of their capital over the longer term.

GOVERNMENT BONDS

As the name suggests, government bonds are issued and underwritten by a government. UK government bonds – also known as ‘gilts’ – may be regarded as lower risk investments as, to date, the UK has never defaulted on its debts.

However, because they are a low-risk investment, the level of return available on gilts tends to be relatively low and they offer little protection against inflation. Index-linked bonds are the only exception – they pay a rate of income that is partly influenced by the rate of inflation. If the rate of inflation rises, the level of income they offer is adjusted upwards while, in an environment of falling inflation, the level of income paid will fall.

CORPORATE BONDS

Corporate bonds are issued by individual companies as a way of raising capital for their businesses. As with gilts, a corporate bond is redeemed at a predetermined date for a fixed sum and, during the life of the bond, the investor receives a fixed amount of interest.

Corporate bonds carry a higher level of risk than UK government bonds but that level will vary from one company to the next. High-quality companies are regarded as relatively low-risk, whereas lower-quality companies are believed to have a higher risk of defaulting on their obligations to bondholders.

The level of income paid to bondholders tends to reflect the level of risk involved. Investors who take on a riskier investment are compensated for that risk with a higher level of income. If a company should go bust, bondholders rank higher than shareholders as the company has to meet all its obligation to its creditors – including bondholders – before it considers its shareholders.

It is important to understand the risks of investing in corporate bonds. There can be a substantial difference in quality between one corporate bond and the next. Many of the large fund management houses undertake research to evaluate the potential risk of each bond, but they also often rely on research produced by credit-rating agencies such as Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch. These companies assign a rating to companies that offer bonds. A high credit rating indicates the company is believed to have a low risk of default while a lower credit rating suggests the company presents a higher risk of default.

Bonds may be divided into two classes – ‘investment-grade’ for the highest credit ratings and ‘sub-investment-grade’ (also known as ‘high yield’ or sometimes ‘junk’) for the lower grades. A lower credit rating means a higher level of income paid, in order to compensate for the extra risk involved. Generally, investment-grade bonds are seen as a relatively lower-risk asset class, while higher-yielding sub-investment-grade bonds are regarded as higher risk.

COLLECTIVE BOND FUNDS

Collective funds that focus on government and/or corporate bonds will invest in a managed portfolio that can help you to reduce your risk by diversifying across a range of investments, rather than owning just one or two. Some funds will focus on a specific area of the market while ‘strategic’ bond funds are ‘go-anywhere’ portfolios, whose managers take a view on the bond market and focus on the areas they believe offer most value. If you are interested in adding an element of additional risk to your overall portfolio, therefore, strategic bond funds can offer an introduction to the sub-investment-grade arena or to overseas opportunities.

EQUITY INCOME

Over the long term, equities offer the potential for superior returns compared with many other major asset classes. An equity income strategy focuses on shares in companies that pay consistently high and rising dividends and typically aims to generate a consistent, above-average income stream, accompanied by the potential for capital growth over the long term.

Dividends are paid – usually in cash – by companies to investors and are taxable. By law, dividend payments must be paid out of the company’s profits or from profits generated in previous years. Companies are not obliged to pay a dividend, but a high dividend payout can provide an incentive for investors to take a stake in the company.

A company does not have to pay a dividend, and many, particularly small- and medium -sized ones, prefer to reinvest surplus cash into the business. The profits of a relatively young company, for example, can be unpredictable as it seeks to establish itself – and any profit it does make will probably be used either to repay start-up costs or as a reinvestment to help growth. Even as a company grows older, its management might decide to retain profits to finance debt, expansion or product development.

Longer-established companies tend to pay higher dividends – hence an equity income strategy tends to focus on large, high-quality companies, rather than smaller, younger firms. Nevertheless, a small but rising proportion of dividend payouts are coming from medium-sized and smaller companies.

Even large, well-established companies can fall on hard times, however, and the management might decide to shore up their firm’s finances by reducing its dividend payout or cancelling it completely. Furthermore, a diminished or cancelled dividend will undermine confidence in the company and its share price is likely to be negatively affected, cutting the value of your capital investment.

OVERSEAS OPPORTUNITES

While there is a longstanding culture of dividend payments among UK companies, a growing number of companies in overseas markets are returning value to their shareholders in the form of dividend payouts. The US has, for example, traditionally been home to a core of large companies that pay high dividends. More recently, Asian companies have sought to attract and meet the needs of international investors by focusing on dividend payouts, with countries such as Hong Kong and Taiwan establishing solid dividend regimes in this exiting region of the world.

A global equity income approach has become increasingly achievable, and many investment houses have launched funds to tap into this trend. Equity income investors now have much greater scope to diversify across a broadening range of countries by investing in collective funds.

EQUITY INCOME FUNDS

An equity income fund invests in the shares of companies that pay consistent and attractive dividends and then combines the dividend payouts in order to pay a regular income to investors. Diversification across a broad range of companies reduces the danger a single company’s decision to cut or cancel its dividend might drag down the overall yield of the portfolio.

PROPERTY

As an asset class, property can polarise opinion. It is often viewed as a relatively illiquid asset in that it can be time-consuming and expensive to trade. Some experts also believe investors are already overexposed to the property sector if they own their own home or a buy-to-let property, or if they are invested in commercial property through their business. However, property can play a part in an income portfolio for those investors who are not overexposed or who are attracted to its potential benefits.

RESIDENTIAL PROPERTY

‘Buy-to-let’ is a popular means by which investors gain exposure to residential property. Traditionally, buy-to-let has enabled investors to generate income through rents negotiated on short-term tenancy agreements. More recently, many buy-to-let investors have chosen to use their rental income to finance their own mortgage payments and to wait for the bigger profit in the form of a capital gain when the property is sold. Of course, as some investors have found to their cost, there is no guarantee a property’s market value will rise over the long term as we’ve seen along the Costas.

COMMERCIAL PROPERTY

In contrast, commercial property investment focuses principally on the generation of a high and consistent income that is generated through rents. Whereas residential leases typically operate on a series of short-term agreements, however, commercial leases tend to be much longer – perhaps 10 or 20 years.

Income from commercial property can derive from a variety of different sectors – ranging from City real estate, through shopping centres, to industrial parks and warehouses. Each sector commands a different level of rental yield and will react differently to the prevailing economic climate.

COLLECTIVE PROPERTY FUNDS

Direct investment in commercial property is very expensive but smaller private investors can access the asset class through diversified collective funds. Diversification helps to reduce the extent to which the loss of a tenant from one particular property might negatively affect the overall performance of the fund.

REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT TRUSTS

A real estate investment trust or ‘REIT’ is a company that manages a property portfolio on behalf of its shareholders. A REIT can contain residential and commercial property. Its profits are exempt from corporation tax, but it must pay out at least 90% of its taxable income to shareholders.

KEY FACTORS TO CONSIDER BEFORE YOU INVEST

Before deciding on the right blend of assets to generate an income stream, you should consider the following factors, which might affect the decisions you make:

INFLATION
The rate of inflation measures how the price of a basket of goods has changed over time. So, for example, if the cost of running your home increases by 5% in a year, you will need to earn 5% a year more to pay for the same level of comfort.

If you are aiming to maximise the income from your investments in order to pay for everyday expenses, you should consider the impact of inflation and – particularly over the longer term – whether you require a specific form of protection against inflation.

However, if you decide to invest in a fixed-rate investment – for example, a gilt or a corporate bond – be aware inflation will definitely have an impact. As an example, a fixed rate of 4% is attractive when the rate of inflation is 2%. However, if inflation rises to 5%, that return of 4% becomes less appealing.

RISK
Investment risk is a very personal thing as it can mean different things to different people. Some investors are not prepared to tolerate financial loss in any form while, at the other end of the spectrum, some investors most fear missing out on an opportunity. For still other investors, risk means not being able to meet future financial commitments.

Before formulating an investment strategy, every investor needs to be clear about their investment goals and their tolerance for risk. No investment is risk-free – the lowest-risk investments might guarantee the preservation of capital and/or regular income payments, but they cannot necessarily protect your money against the erosive effects of inflation.

Ultimately, in order to enjoy an absence or reduction of risk, a cautious investor has to accept the prospect of lower returns. Equally, an investor who is willing to pursue higher returns will also have to accept the possibility of increased potential for risk to their capital.

DIVERSIFICATION
Since every source of income carries some form of risk, it pays to diversify your portfolio across a range of different asset classes. Diversification helps to reduce the possibility that especially weak (or even strong) returns from a particular investment or asset class might have a disproportionate effect on the overall performance of the portfolio.

There is a world of choice out there for income investors. Whether you are a more cautious person or someone willing to take on higher levels of risk in the hope of achieving, ultimately, higher returns, please do get in touch so we can help you find a solution that meets your individual needs.