|Let’s start with some good news. The price of wheat is back to where it was before Russia invaded Ukraine. I bet you haven’t read that anywhere. It really is quite amazing however, now almost down half on its March high. At this rate we’ll be thinking of buying-in again as we sold ours (and the composite Agricultural Products’ Fund) at embarrassingly high prices in the spring. Also this week we offer a snapshot of what we do as wealth managers and financial advisers.
We also sold all our Aluminium and have no base metals now. That said, with tin off about 55% and aluminium down 35%, it is time to reconsider as these will be needed in vast quantities for the ongoing green revolution.
Meantime these falls will have a big effect on inflation – in due course – though China’s capacity to expand and not stagnate will have a big bearing too as it is a vast consumer of commodities.
Unrelated to that but our latest newsletters are on the way now. If you don’t receive one, please pop us your address and we shall be delighted to add you to the database.
A snapshot of what we do
I have been doing this job for just a while now but realised that sometimes we don’t say exactly what we do and why we are different, so here is a snapshot. I hope you enjoy it! We are highly qualified financial advisers and look to use all the tax opportunities available to you in terms of what financial planning you should be doing with your money, risk mitigation and opportunity-seeking to help you achieve your objectives.
We are staunchly independent and within our very diverse investment management strategies, select from the whole market place (including all the best fund managers) the holdings which are most suitable for you to fulfil your objectives and to create the ideal arrangement across the various tax products, etc, just like ‘other advisers’ who may simply ‘sell’ you products and then ‘move on’.
However, we then monitor what we have acquired for you, every day and make changes when we believe it is wise to do so, looking after you continually and not on a random basis, often ‘after the event’.
The third point differentiating us from ‘the rest’ is that we look for special opportunities to add to your returns, buying quoted investment funds at deep discounts to their underlying asset values or funds which may be closing-down and returning cash to subscribers where we buy cheaply from impatient investors exiting early.
In the past these have included the most secure of loan funds, winding-up private equity funds and once-popular funds which are no longer so, so they are out of favour. Whilst we cannot guarantee what this ‘extra’ return (unrelated to what the markets do) is worth, any bonuses for you are on top of the normal market exposure we have through them anyway.
Whilst informal and impossible to quantify, we like to aim that this is a way for us to provide all of our investment management and advisory services to you effectively for ‘free’ as the extra returns this will make for you are above what the markets will provide to you normally.
Even then, for all investing clients we charge not a penny more for detailed financial advice about their investments and their suitability, at any time. See the examples below!
Bad local service
This week I have accepted some new clients moving from a local IFA salesman. I don’t ever like to imagine that there is bad advice or guidance out there and don’t go looking for it but what I discovered is that this person, despite taking 1%pa from the clients’ funds, hasn’t been providing much ‘advice’ and the responses to their concerns over the investments these last few years has been simply to sell the bad things and buy something else and of course every time a transaction happens, there are costs (hidden or not).
Finally, as markets continued deteriorating, he suggested an inappropriate With Profit Bond which would have generated a multi-thousand pound fee for the salesman and losses crystallised. They didn’t do this but came to us in worry and trepidation instead. Sadly one of their family members is also with this person and he did ‘move’ and a £3,000 payment to the salesman ensued for the bond sale.
The clients had not been encouraged to use ISA allowances every year either and certainly had not been told about the fantastic savings opportunity of additional Pension investment for them of £2,880pa each which is boosted by £720 from the Taxman (and as the wife is a non-taxpayer, she can take the whole pot free of tax too!). He also had not considered their Will provisions (where special attention is necessary as they have children from previous relationships).
We did our usual overall appraisal of the clients’ situation. She doesn’t have the full State Pension record and I encouraged her to prioritise making-up the part-years’ NI record to boost the pension for the rest of their lives, a matter of £2,000 for many hundreds of extra pounds every year for ever (with increases) and starting soon (they’ll have that back in two years). They have also been drawing an excessive ‘income’ by selling units in investments so as values fell, they sold even more units leaving even less behind to recover. Had they been told about this over the time? No – no communication about market conditions or hopes at all.
These clients had assets with Fidelity FundsNetwork. What an absolute administrative nightmare these poor clients had with these arrangements! So unnecessarily complicated, the costs (in their words) to the adviser were hidden amongst the myriad monthly encashment of pennies’ worth of units across all accounts and holdings etc (think of the tax consequences as most wasn’t ISAs!).
They had added other money and each consignment created yet more segregated pots within the account. Husband and wife had identical assets (why? Spread the risks!). Typically they had been sold ‘popular’ funds – ones which had performed well previously (but it’s the future that is important, not the past!) so sadly they had quite a few things that had been hit hard this last year.
So to make a single £50 ‘income’ withdrawal, 15 sales of units took place each month and of course this was replicated across each sub pot to make the total payment (£500) the clients needed! Of course Fidelity and the salesman’s fees also had to be found by selling more units every month! Who on earth created these systems! And of course, there were no Investment Trusts – all less attractive open-ended funds.
I am not often left feeling angry but I was here. It is hard not to be cynical. The salesman charged fees for the work, took a ‘commission’ to sell the original assets (and no doubt all changes, of which there had been many as the clients met him frequently and the concept was that ‘change’ suggested positive decisions rather than encouragement – from knowledge and experience and which may have been lacking – to stay put but that doesn’t generate any money for him…)
However, he will have many clients who may well think he is a ‘nice chap’ but that is not the point. This is not good service nor guidance and care. It smacks of the ‘old regime’ and frankly I thought most of those previously commission-orientated salesmen had long gone but clearly I am being naive. Even on leaving his firm (which the clients encashed before consulting us), he did not suggest they may want to keep the ISAs to transfer or were any other consequences considered – and apparently not even a letter in acknowledgement of what was going to happen. It’s not how we work – boy, don’t we make our service hard for us – but we care about our clients and the optimum outcomes for them!
Contradicting that, well done Felix on page 22 of the top 35 younger generation advisers in the Country! I was young once…! The Top 35 Next Generation Advisers 2022
Starting in 2023: For Coffee and Company, Choose to Come for a Chat at Choweree!
We have all had many things to contend with over the past few years and we still are. Lockdown left many of us of all ages without the routines we used to enjoy. Now that some semblance of normality is back, it can still be a wrench to go out and mix with other people.
Hopefully we have a solution! The Philip J Milton and Company Plc Charitable Foundation would like to facilitate something to help, with the generous support of Philip J Milton & Company Plc. At Choweree House we’re going to host fortnightly Coffee and Company social mornings on a ‘Chooseday’ (Tuesday) for anyone who’d like to meet up. There’s no cost and we are not collecting for anything – it is simply another way to give a little back to our Community, with our pleasure. You don’t have to be a client and please feel free to bring along your friends too.
Our first gathering is Tuesday January 10, 2023, from 10.30am-12pm. We invite anyone who fancies some company and who would like to meet with others for a chat and a coffee (and probably cake!). Just drop by! You’ll be made most welcome!
To join us, please call or email firstname.lastname@example.org so we have an idea of numbers. However, don’t worry if you haven’t told us in advance – just turn up! We hope to see you there and achieving our simple aim of reaching out, bringing in and joining up!
(Whilst it isn’t a ‘business’ event and staff won’t attend in that capacity but if you have any concerns to share in confidence, if the moment is appropriate, we can happily relay messages.)
Helen L Milton, Trustee and Director
Some more good news
You will recall those closing-down loan funds of which we have acquired plenty from impatient investors exiting at any price? Some more good news. Ranger Realisations is making a further distribution of 24p a share just before Christmas, much more than we expected as the final payment. This one has been especially rewarding, though some investors think they have lost lots, as the capital has been paid as chunky dividends so the cost price on the books still looks very high. Check the income receipts to show the full reward!
Then SLF Realisation Fund Ltd – a different one but again, I am very happy we bought significant quantities of this stock from impatient holders. This started life as a secure loan fund. Whilst there had been big write-downs of some values from poor management, on 31/12/20 the shares in both classes of capital were worth a depressed £117million on the market. Since then, distributions worth £167million have been made and there is another £33million expected. So for this one, the joint share prices will have been doubled in two years and I have a sneaking suspicion that the end result will be even more. We were buying plenty of these cheap shares… and accrued 5% of the Ordinary class.
Well, if UK banks can sort out their customer service and especially for businesses, then they represent very cheap investments. We have quite a few and exposure to funds which hold them too. After all, now there is a good income yield and excellent prospects for improvement in capital values which, in the main, are still in the depths compared to their heady heights pre the Financial Crisis in 2008/10.
Whether still they have enough provision against an almighty collapse in residential property prices I don’t know, but aside from that, they are low risk and with the portents positive with juicy interest returns for their balances now – compared to recent years at least. Most investors won’t have them as the momentum hasn’t been there as they look bad from the past – they’ll wait to buy after they have doubled, maybe…
Large European banks have excess capital presently, equal to 0.5trillion Euros and for the listed banks, that represents 43% of their market value. Their shares trade at only 0.6 times their book value and we are reminded that these banks could pass this free capital onto their shareholders now, without constraint, as this sum is the part above the relatively high reserves they are obliged to keep as provisions and safety regardless. They are all not suddenly going to start being reckless, either.
What has happened to the Investment Fund created to acquire residential property to house homeless people? We didn’t support it at float, but it raised the best part of £1billion and the very safe shares rose from £1 to £1.20 as the values of the homes rose with the general market. You’ll know we don’t like house prices now compared to other investments but last week a US brokerage called Viceroy issued a negative report on the Fund and said it had sold shares short. The directors and brokers have gone out of their way to refute the allegations but that didn’t stop the shares falling to 45p at one stage.
Threat or opportunity to a vulture investment manager like us? Many of the original investors are dumping stock at any cost, worried there may be fire behind the smokescreen. It may be immoral of Viceroy – they may have sold at say 90p and could already have bought-back at 45p so making a 50% return for issuing a spurious report… What are we doing? Our clients will find out in due course but if we think this is a very attractive financial opportunity, then this is just the sort of ‘special opportunity’ we love adding for them, as the upside (in a rather safe asset class now with plenty of comfort against some wobbles) could be 100% and we are paid a good income from rentals from the government whilst we wait… or is it!
My best wishes
Philip J Milton DipFS CFPCM Chartered MCSI FPFS FCIB
Chartered Wealth Manager
Fellow Of The Personal Finance Society, Fellow Of The Chartered Institute Of Bankers