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Why do we use asset managers?

By Gareth Horsfall - Topics: asset managers, investment diversification, Investment Risk, Investments, Italy
This article is published on: 10th April 2020

In this article I would just like to touch briefly on a subject which, during the good times might seem somewhat banal and maybe even pointless, but when we hit the bad times we can see the merit of why we use asset managers such as Rathbones, Tilney, WHIreland and Cazenove to manage our clients’ money.

During this time in lockdown and financial market instability, I have been listening to a number of webinars from investment managers and financial gurus to try and understand what they think is likely to happen when we exit this crisis. Below are some of the points which I have heard:

  • Within the next 6-12 months dividends from some of the best dividend paying companies will be slashed or even cut completely, to shore up cash reserves.
  • Even more focus will be put on the way we live and the way companies operate. We could see an even greater resurgence into ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) stocks. If you are unsure what they are then you can check out the article I wrote on this earlier this year.
  • We may have seen the bottoming of the markets, but much depends on what will happen in the USA. As it stands, almost 7 million people have already applied for unemployment benefit. If that rate continues it means the US will have an unemployment rate of approx 15% very soon. A level not seen since the Great Depression in 1929.
  • Any early plateau’s in the infection and death rate in Europe will be a good signal for financial markets.
  • Companies who were struggling to survive prior to this crisis will likely collapse. A great example of this is the UK retailer Debenhams which, as I write, has just brought the administrators in to look at winding the company up. However, the new tech savvy companies that have responded to changing customer trends will strengthen their position as market competition fails.
  • Nationalisations are likely, more so in the EU than the UK and the USA. Companies in the travel, retail, and leisure sectors are at the greatest risk of being nationalised. Part nationalisations are a huge drag on company performance and would be areas to avoid when the dust settles.
  • Smart working could become popular. Companies may start to change their attitude towards office space and allow more smart working for their employees. This could mean potential productivity increases but may also change the dynamics of the property market as well, mainly in the cities.
  • Is Capitalism dead? A subject which seems to be thrown around whenever we have a crisis. Actually the thinking is, not at all. In fact, one manager thought that there was likely to be a resurgence of ‘responsible’ capitalism. A capitalism that is no longer unfettered, but is more controlled allowing prosperity to grow, while at the same time focussing on our care of the environment, social care and supervision of corporate governance practices. Will we ever be weaned off this perpetual standard of prosperity and GDP growth, which is unsustainable in so many ways?
Why do we use asset managers?

It is worth just going back to point 1 for a moment, the point about the dividend cuts, and why I entitled this section:

Why do we use asset managers?

Many clients rely on income from their investments to fund their lifestyle. That may include ad hoc withdrawals or regular payments to top up pensions, pay for healthcare costs, pay for schooling fees, and general lifestyle costs. If this is the case, then relying on what has been the traditional investment type for income: bonds and blue chip equities, might be a difficult strategy post crisis.

Now, more than ever, there is likely to be a need to take income from gains in the asset prices, rather than exclusively income derived from those same assets. (Think about it as a property that is rented, but after expenses and taxes earns very little income. However, the property itself has gained in price significantly and you could access those gains to help top up your income! A bit like an equity release plan)

The importance will be to be in the right assets at the right times, to sell the gains when they have been made and secure them as a reserve to pay income payments. If you imagine that most of the major companies could be cutting their dividends to hoard cash to survive this period, while in addition interest rates on cash are likely to be cut even further and the interest rate on bonds are equally likely to fall due to easy access to government cash, then where else can we turn to generate the cash we may need? We must turn to the gains in the prices of the assets that we hold as an alternative way to generate income. This is where the expertise of asset managers comes into play. They research the market, and aim to be in the right geographical and corporate sectors at the right times and look in depth at company balance sheets to predict their future.

It’s going to be a tricky time ahead for many people and relying on tried and trusted methods of generating income that have served you well in the past may not necessarily work in the near term.

I am happy to say that all our clients are with asset managers who we trust to manage our clients money and make sure they have the income they need in the good times and the bad.

Article by Gareth Horsfall

Gareth HorsfallIf you live in Italy and or have financial interests in Italy you can contact Gareth Horsfall directly on: gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com to request more information about how he may be able to help you. Alternatively you can complete the form below and a message will be sent to him. If you would like to read more about Gareth's work you can follow his blog on tax and financial planning in Italy HERE

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