Fundraising challenge for Children in Need

I’m delighted to say that I finished the Beachy Head Marathon in one piece on Saturday afternoon.

Although very cold, the weather was beautiful, with barely a cloud in the sky and the supporters along the way were fantastic.  They definitely spurred us all on .

In my last post, I mentioned sausage rolls.  They were stationed at mile 16 but even I couldn’t face one at that point.  Still, I’m sure they fuelled many a runner on the last stretch!

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Thank you to everyone who has sponsored me.  We’ve raised a very healthy £350 for Children in Need.

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Beachy Head Marathon

As many of you are aware and because a number of clients have kindly asked for details, I wanted to let you know about my plan to run the Beachy Head Marathon tomorrow.

Having spent the last few months marathon training, I am pleased to say that I have made it to the end in one piece but wanted to reach this stage before publicising my efforts!   As I am highly unlikely to be silly enough to agree to another marathon during my lifetime I’ve chosen to run for a charity with a presence across the UK.  Running in a bear suit was a step too far, but running for a bear seemed achievable.

BBC Children in Need support disadvantaged children and young people all across the UK. With our support, they are able to change almost half a million young lives across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland every single year.

Assuming I am able to, I will add a post-race update and photo (sausage roll in hand) next week !

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/catherine-greeves

Election uncertainty…

What happens next?

I stayed up until the early hours watching events unfold and listening to commentators who were struggling to believe the results of the exit poll conducted by a consortium of the BBC, Sky and ITV.  Whilst it proved to be very accurate, pre-election polls where unhelpful in predicting the results, as has been the case in recent election results.

The election result has undoubtedly been influenced by the results of the Brexit referendum and people’s desire for a softer exit than that proposed by Theresa May in her “no deal is better than any deal” approach.

The defeat is highly embarrassing for Theresa May.  How long she remains as party leader will be seen in coming weeks and months.  However, there is no doubt that her dictatorial approach did not sit well with voters (or indeed many of her MPs).   It is highly likely the approach to Brexit will now need to change.  Those negotiating from a European perspective will know that the Conservatives do not have a mandate and this is likely to cause challenges.  However, the positive outlook is that it could become more of a win/win negotiation than a zero sum game.

Jeremy Corbyn ran a good campaign.  It looks as though Labour benefited from the desertion of UKIP voters towards those who were willing to take a more conciliatory approach to Brexit negotiations.  Similarly, Labour also appear to have benefited from the surge in young voters and indeed voting percentages in many of the constituencies were respectably high.

Never-the-less, last night’s result, along with the wider political landscape and recent terrorist activity, all create an air of uncertainty; something which humans and markets dislike intensely.  That said, although Sterling fell overnight, it was not by as much as expected by some pundits, although there is still a long way to go.

So what could all of this mean?  Some commentators are suggesting that a hung parliament would mean a consistently weaker Sterling which in turn means higher prices for UK consumers and a corresponding impact on retail sales.  On the other hand, this does mean that internationally biased investments, which many of our clients hold through their investment portfolios,  are worth more.

The significant losses experienced by the SNP and the corresponding move to the Scottish Conservatives (and Labour), also indicates the lack of appetite in Scotland for a further Independence referendum.  This in turn suggests a stronger United Kingdom which ought to be viewed positively and has to be better for the economy as a whole.

Much will happen in coming days and months but as we have said before, the sun still rose this morning and we will all go about our business as usual.

We have talked before about our three key principles and it is worth reiterating those again:

Have faith in the future –There will always be some crisis or other around the world that impacts on markets, but if we believe they are broadly efficient and capitalism works, then the long term trend is upwards.

Have patience – Have a plan and work it patiently for your lifetime and if appropriate, the next generation.  None of us are in this for the short term.

Discipline – Avoid doing the WRONG thing.  At times like this it is easy to be caught up in the broader sentiment.

Uncertainty presents opportunities and we will continue to work with you to make sure your plan stays on course whatever happens in the short term.

Keep calm and carry on.

After the election…

The past seven weeks have been torrid and not just in a political sense.  An election which was originally intended to be about Brexit, has morphed into something altogether different, with issues around National Security, Social Care and the funding of the NHS coming to the forefront; and Brexit very much taking a back seat.

Later tonight we should (hopefully) have a clear idea about who will be leading the UK out of Europe and into a new era over the next 5 years.  In the meantime, we all know that, whoever is in power this time tomorrow and once the dust settles, the sun will rise, we will all continue about our business and the business of government will continue.  So what can we expect to affect us in a practical sense over coming months?

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. However, when it comes to general elections, there is plenty of history to suggest that tax increases are more likely in the first Budget to occur after the polls have closed. From a politician’s viewpoint, it makes sense to deliver the medicine immediately, as that leaves the longest gap before the next election. For example, it was in the summer Budget after the May 2015 election that the new dividend tax rules, reduced tax relief on buy-to-let properties and 3.5% increase in insurance premium tax were announced.

In the post-election environment, whoever ends up as Chancellor will be presenting a new Finance Bill, probably in July. There is a raft of measures to reinstate because so many were dropped from the March Finance Bill in the rush to get it passed before parliament shut down. When reviving the spring Budget, the Chancellor will almost inevitably wish to add some new tax legislation based on what was (or, as important, was not) stated in their party’s manifesto.

Changes which were not originally in March’s Finance Bill are unlikely to take full effect before the start of the next tax year (2018/19), but even so there may be some “anti-forestalling” measures that bite immediately. One area which looks ripe for a further attack is tax relief on pension contributions. You may recall that the tapering of the annual allowance for high earners was announced in the July 2015 post-election Budget.

If you are contemplating large pension contributions in this tax year, it could be a wise precaution to make them before the new government’s first Budget.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. The value of tax reliefs depends on your individual circumstances. Tax laws can change. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate tax advice.

 

Greenstone is growing….

We are delighted to introduce our newest team member

Whilst 2017 has certainly started with a political jolt, here at Greenstone we are expanding and are absolutely delighted to introduce Stella Richardson, our new Office Manager and PA to the directors.
Stella has extensive experience, having worked for both IFAs and a Discretionary Management Service in the past. She will be a familiar face to many of you and I hope you will join us in welcoming her to Greenstone.
As ever, should you have any queries or simply wish to say hello, please feel free to contact Stella on 020 3931 0340 or stella.richardson@greenstonefp.co.uk.

 

Meet the Manager

In the first of our occasional Meet the Manager interviews, we spoke to Richard Philbin, Chief Investment Officer at Wellian Investment Solutions about Brexit and the impact of the Leave vote.

Following the US election result earlier this month, we thought it would be an excellent opportunity to ask the experts at LGT Vestra what they think are the threats to be aware of and the opportunities to be grasped.

Although this absolutely does not constitute a recommendation to invest in LGT Vestra (we are of course, independent and have relationships with a wide selection of firms), we thought you might like to hear their views following the vote and how they have positioned their portfolios now and into what it looks like may be, a turbulent 2017.

So we asked Phoebe Stone (PS), Model Portfolio Manager at the firm, a number of questions:

CG – How did your team position the LGT Vestra portfolios in the run up to the election and did you forecast a Trump win?

PS – The work that was done by the LGT Vestra equity research department concluded that a Trump win was very much possible. However, we didn’t expect the support for Trump to be as strong as it turned out to be. Because of the lack of clarity and detail in Trump’s policies throughout the campaign trail, it was difficult to get a good understanding of the impact that his election as President would have on global economies and nations.

In terms of positioning, gold exposure was added to portfolios. This was to act as our ‘insurance policy’ in case Trump was elected and the markets fell in response. This worked initially but since then gold has sold off in line with increasing implied US real interest rates and a surging dollar as investors have u-turned on Trump.

Gold remains an important asset in portfolio construction particularly at a time in which we could see persistent inflationary pressures as a result of fiscal stimulus by governments. In this type of environment, holding an allocation to gold is a prudent hedge.

CG – How are your investment managers taking advantage of the new uncertainty?

PS – The most remarkable thing we have seen since the Trump election is how quickly the markets have shifted. From initial falls in equity markets stemming from uncertainty over what an elected Trump would result in, the markets have undergone a massive rotation.

We saw investors in the days following the election fleeing bond markets as they expected the President-elect’s stimulus policies to generate strong US GDP growth and consequent inflation. In this scenario bonds are relatively less attractive than equities. With bond prices falling and corresponding yields rising, investors looking to achieve specific levels of income could start to view the fixed income arena as more attractive, without the equity risk of dividend income.

CG – In light of the vote for Trump, do you foresee any immediate portfolio changes?

PS – We are certainly in for a rockier ride than if Clinton had been voted in. In terms of portfolio positioning, we have been reducing our sovereign debt exposure over the past few months ahead of the US election. We were therefore sheltered from the falls in the bond market seen during November. This was triggered by the rotation out of bonds and into equity on the Trump rally. Following the election of Trump we increased our exposure to both US mid-cap equities and global value equities in the higher risk portfolios. Trump’s protectionist and US-centric policies are likely to most benefit US small-cap companies and cyclical stocks (held in global value strategies), as investors anticipate stronger GDP US growth ahead.

CG – What might the long term effects of a Trump Presidency be? Will this be positive or negative for investors?

PS – A lot of attention since President-elect Trump’s victory has been on fixed income markets. We have seen a consequent selloff in bonds across the globe. Many people have been predicting a reversal for bond markets after years of falling interest rates. Could this be the start of a much bigger move or a short term correction? Bond markets are driven by interest rate expectations and supply and demand. With many central banks targeting inflation, the path of interest rates is dependent on long-term inflation expectations.

Globalisation has kept prices low as manufacturing was able to move to the cheapest parts of the world. Trump’s indicated trade policy would be a retreat from this and would involve raising tariffs on imports. If the UK fails to make a good post-Brexit deal on trade with Europe, a similar effect will be felt here. These are potentially one-off effects but do remain a concern.

Another concern for markets is the influence on prices, supply and demand. Donald Trump, in his acceptance speech, only mentioned one real policy and that was to increase infrastructure spending, which would imply more government borrowing. Interestingly, at the Conservative party conference there was also talk of a relaxation of the previous Chancellor’s austerity measures, which could mean more supply in the Gilt market.

As for Trump, we will see how much US Congress will let him do in the months to come. In many ways there are still deflationary forces at work. Globalisation cannot be entirely reversed and internet price checks, automated production and an ageing population all mean that we are probably not in for a long-term higher inflation rate. Given the amount of gearing in the global economy, in both government and private sectors, any rise in interest rates will be a further constraint. Thus we believe that official rates will only rise very slowly in the UK and US despite short-term inflation threats. However bond markets may remain volatile as fears come and go.

 CG – Given the protectionist rhetoric we heard throughout Trump’s campaign, what do you think the biggest challenge will be for our clients over the next 4 years?

PS – Trump’s election is another catalyst for the increased levels of volatility that we have been experiencing in markets since last August. Initially triggered at that time by concerns over China’s GDP growth rate, and followed by the fall in the oil price there has been increased volatility in equity markets driven by macroeconomic events. Interest rate cycles and political events (Brexit, US Presidential Election) have all contributed. One thing that unites these events is the consequent uncertainty; we don’t know at this point how each will pan out, what the effects will be on the economy, society and on each other.

We believe the volatility we have seen permeating markets is here to stay, and this will therefore be the biggest challenge for clients. In portfolios we are specifically focused on managing the volatility, using absolute return funds for example, to provide ballast to the ship. This will smooth the path of return during a time when macroeconomic events continue to shake markets.

CG – Looking forward to the European political scene, a number of countries in Europe have important elections coming up in 2017.  What are LGT Vestra’s views on the political climate in Europe and how are you positioning your portfolios to take advantage of potential changes.

PS – After President-elect Trump’s success and following the ‘Brexit’ referendum over the summer, potential constitutional crises have never been more in vogue. With this in mind, the world’s attention will now shift to the upcoming referendum in Italy. On 4th December, the Italian electorate will go to the polls to vote on the fundamental changes to their country’s constitution. The referendum is also another opportunity for the populists, buoyed by results from elsewhere in the world, to land another blow against the established mainstream. In Italy this is led by the ‘Five Star Movement’, notably led by a comedian (literally, rather than the accusation levelled at other similar parties) and is highly Eurosceptic.

Next year will bring a Dutch general election and French presidential election in spring, with German federal elections to follow later. Anti-Europeans are doing well and will only gain more momentum if the Italian referendum is interpreted as another vote against the establishment.

In terms of portfolio positioning, we have reduced our exposure to Europe in light of the upcoming uncertainty. We are also exposed to Europe on a hedged basis which will allow the portfolios to benefit from a falling Euro versus Sterling (likely with the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Eurozone).

CG – What are the key points for clients to be optimistic about?

PS – We continue to see value in equity markets, the asset class that will drive portfolio performance over the next four years. We are selective in terms of exposure, for example in the UK equity space, choosing to use active fund managers who are able to get access to areas of the market in which there is particular value. The election of Trump has acted at a catalyst of sea-change. Despite there being a multitude of uncertainties ahead, this change has already thrown up a huge amount of opportunities and from an investment perspective, will generate new drivers of growth and prospects.

As ever, we appreciate that each client is very different, with widely varying circumstances.  This article is for informational purposes only. It is considered to be a general market commentary and does not constitute advice or a personal recommendation or take into account the particular investment objectives, financial situations or needs of individual clients. It is not intended and should not be construed as an offer, solicitation or recommendation to buy or sell any investments. You are of course recommended to seek advice concerning suitability of any investment from us.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance; and the value of investments, as well as the income from them can go down as well as up, and investors may get back less than the original amount invested.

The information and opinions expressed herein are based on current public information we believe to be reliable; but we do not represent that they are accurate or complete, and they should not be relied upon as such. Any information herein is given in good faith, but is subject to change without notice. No liability is accepted whatsoever by LGT Vestra or its employees and associated companies for any direct or consequential loss arising from this document. 

 

The next generation

First Greenstone baby

We are delighted to announce the birth of the first Greenstone baby. Michael, Lucy and girls have welcomed Miles Henry Alexander Hill into the world, weighing in at a respectable 7lb 5oz. Mother and son are well. Michael however, is slightly shell shocked, having realised that two hands and three children can be rather a challenge!

We wish them all the very best and look forward to the first photos.

Hospice in the Weald Charity Run

Last week was a busy one at Greenstone.  Not only did we celebrate our first birthday in style at the Shard, but on Sunday, Catherine Greeves, one of our co-founders, ran in the Tunbridge Wells Hospice in the Weald 10k race.  She managed to complete in an astounding (for her) 56.10 minutes, meaning she was rewarded with a medal presented by Dame Kelly Holmes.

She was joined (for which read “dragged round”) by her good friend Stella Richardson, herself a seasoned runner.

Over 600 runners took part in the race which is supposedly one of the hilliest in the local area (that’s Catherine’s excuse and she’s sticking to it).

The event raises funds for Hospice in the Weald which provides valuable palliative and relief care and support for patients and their families.

Greenstone birthday celebrations

The Greenstone team, clients and friends, celebrate their first birthday in style at The Shard, London

On Tuesday 20th September, Greenstone celebrated its first birthday with around 45 clients, family and professional connections.  The party took place in the Foresight offices on the 23rd floor of The Shard.

Guests were treated to a fabulous view, great wine courtesy of Barry Dick from Wine Superhero and a wonderful selection of the Best of British food by Freddie Southwell from Wild Seasoning catering.

Michael and Catherine took the opportunity to reflect on how far the business has come in the past year; from fledgling planning firm to a business which is building its reputation by attracting a wide range of clients with bespoke planning and tax needs and all of this in an environment of significant political and economic environment.

Michael said “As a firm, we recognise that none of this would have been possible without the patience and support of those who attended and we were therefore very pleased to celebrate a great night with them”.

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won”

An Investment Manager’s Perspective

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won”. Winston Churchill famously uttered these words in a speech on 21st March, 1943, at the height of the Second World War. As we have seen, the UK has been thrown into a state of flux following Friday’s vote. However, as always, this also represents opportunities; the question is how to take advantage of those?

As many of our clients hold Wellian portfolios, we decided to speak to Richard Philbin, Chief Investment Officer at Wellian Investment Solutions earlier this week.

Although this absolutely does not constitute a recommendation to invest in Wellian (we are of course, independent and use a range of investment firms), we thought it might be helpful to hear their house view on the decision to leave and how that may impact decisions taken in relation to their portfolios.

So we asked Richard (RP) a number of questions:

Richard Philbin image
Richard Philbin, Chief Investment Officer, Wellian Investment Solutions

CG – Had you known the result in advance, how would you have positioned the portfolios?

RP – Hindsight is a wonderful thing. We are longer term investors and have been changing the shape of the portfolios for quite some time now – it is better to close the stable door BEFORE the horse bolts. We also build portfolios to be diversified across geographies, styles, asset classes and so on, whilst still being very mindful of the risk profile and investment objectives of the underlying client. We often use the following (potentially flippant) saying “if you’ve bought a toaster, you expect it to cook bread, you don’t expect it to change into a washing machine.”

We build and monitor our portfolios to meet defined risk boundaries as well, and had been aware that correlations and risks were rising in the UK, so we reduced UK exposure to a number of funds. In a couple of models we increased our cash weight too.

With perfect hindsight, you would be fully weighted in equity until Thursday night and then go short Sterling, and correspondingly long US Dollars (USD). You would have increased exposure to gold. Then, this morning (28th June) you would have gone back into the market….

I guess the question could also be phrased along the lines of “how far in advance would we have known the outcome?” Our models have performed very well over the past couple of days – our funds are not 100% exposed to the UK stock market, and even though we do have some exposure to the domestic market which has hurt, we have been increasing our international holdings and diversification which would have benefited from the currency weakness. A good example would be the purchase of Fundsmith Equity which we placed into a number of models almost 5 months ago. It accounts for instance 8% in the Growth model.

 

CG – How are investment managers taking advantage of this uncertainty?

RP – A very good question. I have been talking to a number of fund managers in the last couple of days; collating their views and thinking about the future, and the vast majority are talking about “caution.” The dust is far from settled – politically the Conservative and Labour parties are rudderless, Article 50 – the now famous Article 50 – has not yet been invoked, and there is no precedent regarding how a European “divorce” will happen. All we know is that it will take some time and not be painless.

Some indices have sold off dramatically – especially the Small Cap and Mid 250 indices, and within these there have been some large movements – stocks within the retail, real estate, construction sectors (and many more) for instance are down greater than 20%. Some approaching 50%. This means there will be opportunities – for domestic as well as international buyers (just think – US investors can now gain an extra 10% due to currency movement alone…)

In the large cap space, insurance and banking stocks have taken a beating – financial services is seen in the immediate term to likely be a large “loser” and that is not too surprising all in all. The fear of inflation, interest rates, corporate failure, bad debts and so on weigh on the mind of the market.

There will be opportunities – the market is both “a weighing machine as well as a voting machine” when it comes to share prices.

Liquidity seems to be fine (unlike 2008) which should give some comfort to market participants. I only know of one major “winner” – Crispin Odey – who runs a hedge fund – where his portfolio was up greater than 15% on Friday alone. But, his fund is still massively down on the year….

 

CG – In light of the decision, do you foresee any immediate portfolio changes?

RP – I don’t think “immediate” changes are on the cards – we will closely monitor the situation. I would imagine over the next couple of months though that we might increase our exposure to the UK due to the benefits already gained from the weakening currency and the recent stock market sell-off. We do not know if the sell-off witnessed on Friday and Monday is a knee-jerk reaction or the start of something greater. Fortune favours the brave, but I don’t think it is our job to be super “brave” at the moment.

Our portfolios are diverse and we will have had some funds deliver excellent numbers as well as some that have disappointed. But, we are happy with this approach and aim to deliver outperformance over the medium to long-term.

 

CG – The biggest casualty to date seems to be Sterling.  How have portfolios been affected by this?

RP – It is very interesting to see that Sterling has been the main “casualty” of Brexit. The Bank of England is independent and has the ability to print money. Over the past 12 months or so Sterling has weakened against most currencies – the Euro and the US Dollar especially. Of course our funds would have taken some impact from having UK holdings, and to a certain extent, the old “pound in your pocket” saying still remains. We have been increasing our international holdings over the past couple of months, and the translation effect of Dollars to Sterling or Euros to Sterling will have positively impacted returns.

It is (sorry for sounding like a stuck record here) still very early to say whether the short-term weakness in Sterling will become long-term weakness, but companies that export will be beneficiaries and the UK does operate within a global marketplace. Japan has been trying for years to weaken their currency and would love to see the Yen fall to such an extent.

 

CG – Looking forward, what are the key points for clients to be optimistic about?

RP-

  • The UK stock market has a great deal of businesses that are both inward and external looking when it comes to revenues, profits and therefore there will be winners in this recent “turmoil”. We have global leaders in many market segments and there will be opportunities.
  • When markets sell off, dividend yields rise (although you need to be mindful of pay out ratios.) With interest rates low, inflation muted (but this could change if Sterling remains weak) and yields on gilts touching less than 1% yesterday for the 10Y Treasury, sometimes taking risk when others are taking cover could provide a very timely investment return.
  • Interest rates could fall at the next BoE meeting (July). Low interest charges can be translated into higher profits.
  • The UK is very entrepreneurial in spirit. (Potentially) less legal constraints due to Brexit can free up innovation
  • The UK is still 0:00 on GMT. We speak the global language of business and have some of the best laws in the world. London is a global city and will always attract foreign money – whether that be for business, property or leisure spend. It’s now 10% cheaper to come… Maybe the leisure industry will be a big winner.

 

Although we are going through a turbulent time, it is precisely these moments that can create opportunities. It is important though to make sure you are as comfortable as possible with everything that’s going on – remember your plan and work it patiently.

We are always happy to answer any questions you may have and to discuss any concerns you or your friends and family may have.