As you’d expect from an investment adviser, we exist to provide our clients with investments designed to  match their own needs.

We don’t believe that this has to be a complex or mysterious process to be successful, and we seek simple and consistent solutions. Our philosophy is straightforward too.


NOTHING HERE IS ADVICE, it's not intended for you to act on it, it is intended to raise questions for you to consider, to help you know when you need the added value of professional advice. Naturally, the values of all investments both rise and fall, and investments can go bust losing investors all their investment. Investment income can be cut or even cancelled, it is rarely guaranteed.

Investment risk, though, can't be summed up in a simple statement like this.  Our interpretation of risk is more personal, we think it is:

"Investment risk" to a person is that an investment will not behave as that investor expects, being the risk that the investor will not have the required amount of money at the required time.

The markets will go up and down - when the market falls that should not be seen as risk, that is expectation. If the market does NOT fall, but moves in a flat line, then THAT is risk because it is not what is expected, it is not how we understand the market to work. When the market falls that is the opportunity to buy shares that other people had to pay more for yesterday.

Think of this: when the market falls an investor can only lose money if he sells at that time having bought his shares at a higher price (known as buying high, selling low). The common reason for doing this is irrational fear because time/history/arithmetic/Buffett/experience/ every other market fall has taught us that markets move in cycles, and when they fall they then recover. 

Think of this: there are only two ways to lose money investing in the FTSE100 as a whole:

  1. To make the decision to sell your investment at a lower price than when you paid.
  2. For every company from BP to HSBC to M&S to BT to Glaxo to all go bust.

Without getting into a semantic debate about tracking errors, counter party risk or someone running off with your money, the point we make is with 'normal' diversification investors only lose money by their own decisions, selling when the market falls. We know the main markets always come back, though isn't it odd the papers never print the following headline:

"Billions wiped on FTSE shares"

 

Managing expectations

  • If an investment is not guaranteed then the value and income will fluctuate: it is a big part of our work to ensure you understand why and how the fluctuation occurs. The goal is to ensure the returns you receive are what you expect. Anything else will keep you awake at night.

  • A large part of managing expectations is demonstrating, teaching and guiding our investors through both our process and how the outside markets actually work. We ensure our clients understand how the investments work, to control and limit emotional interruptions to the investment process.

  • Try this: write down your expectations of how your investment/pension will perform over the next year, next five years, next ten years. Once written, show it to your partner/adviser/chum down the pub for a sanity check - this cathartic exercise normally injects a valuable dose of realism, which will make your investing experience much less stressful.. 

Research

  • Our commitment to research is evident in our employment of our own in-house investment analyst, and our commitment to myriad data and opinion sources. 
    • In research we are sceptical cynics: we're expert in deciphering marketing-speak so beloved of investment management firms.
  • We have no restrictions in our search for the best investments for your money and we undertake comprehensive research to be certain that they are the best fit for our clients’ needs. We prefer to focus on assets with long and strong track records of producing cashflow as well as capital growth.
    • Think of this: a UK tech fund manager can only invest in tech stocks, and can normally only hold a maximum of 5% in cash - even if the manager thinks his sector is about to fall off a cliff there's little he can do, and he's unlikely to ring you up and tell you to sell out of his fund.

Reducing Risks

  • We favour lower risk and lower cost investments, and see cutting your costs as a key part of our job.
  • We prefer cautious investments, viewing capital protection as a vital aspect of portfolio management. 
    • Think of this: humans respond to money emotionally, not rationally, we are not machines. Money value has to move UP twice as far for an equivalent emotional smile as it does when it falls producing an emotional frown - this means the pain of a 5% fall in value is equivalent to the joy of a 10% gain.
    • We prefer to protect the downside first, then drive the upside second. You don't want to risk losing what you've worked your life to save from earnings.
  • We recommend phased investment over one-off lump sums to decrease the potential impact of market timing risk.
  • Reduce your 'Capital at Risk' by ensuring your investments pay you to hold them:  for example -
    • Assume a £100k pension portfolio with a 5% income yield that is not accumulated but is paid into the pension bank account. 
    • If after a year 100% of the £100k investment was to go bust, then the investor still has the £5k dividend in cash in the bank account, so the maximum capital at risk at the end of that year is £95k.  If the income stays the same, then by the end of the fifth year the capital at risk is down to £75k.
    • After 15 years (15 x £5k = £75k repaid), the investor has a cost of £25,000 outstanding, and an income still the same at £5,000 per year which is now equal to a 20% yield to his net cost (the £5k divi / the £25k cost still outstanding).
    • At a 20% return, it will only take 5 years to have all the cost of the investment repaid, yet the investor will still own the shares that continue to produce the £5,000 income - is the 'yield to cost' now infinite?

Avoid whiplash

A long term income portfolio, for example within a pension or ISA, should produce sufficient natural income from the underlying investments; if the income is drawn from the 'pot' by selling shares (or units), then when markets fall more shares will need to be sold to generate that same income. When markets recover, the investor will have less shares so the portfolio value will take much longer to recover and the investor's income is now at risk. (Also known as sequential risk). For example:

  • You hold 100,000 shares each worth £1 - the share price grows 5% to £1.05, the portfolio is worth £105,000 so you sell 4,762 shares to generate £5,000 - perhaps your adviser or accountant has told you to do this to generate income tax free using your CGT allowance.
  • If the share price now falls, for example, by 10%, you have 95,238 shares at 94p, being £89,523. To raise £5,000 you now have to sell 5,319 shares at 94p, taking your holding down to 89,919 shares.
    • You've now had to sell 5.6% of your holding to raise exactly the same income as in the first year. (Don't think 0.6% is a small sum, its actually 10% more shares sold for the same income).
  • Remember: if £100 falls by 20% to £80, it then has to grow by 25% just to get back to the starting value. If you are selling capital to raise income prepare to take an income cut when markets fall.

Personalised Investing

We concentrate our investment selection on meeting your stated needs and not just beating the market average. Every client has an individual need, and we focus all our investing in meeting those needs.

  • If your adviser is simply allocating your money into a discretionary fund along with hundreds of other clients, and you feel your money is worth something more personal, then call us on 0207 440 6250, or email us at IncomeWizards@masteradviser.co.uk.
  • Have you met the person or team investing your money, or just the company's adviser? If you haven't, how important do you think you are to him/her?

Investment Technique

When pursuing a consistent rate of return over a set investment term there are a range of investment options open to you. Our favoured approach is to invest in a portfolio capable of producing a consistent dividend stream to complement any capital growth. This dividend investing approach is one that has become popular, owing to the effects that the dividends have on total returns over the longer term.

One example that illustrates this is the return of the FTSE All Share index over the past decade[1].

  • In capital terms only, for the decade ending on 31st December 2016 the FTSE All Share index returned a gain of 19.8% (opening at 3,221 at decade start and closing at 3,861 at decade end).
  • In contrast, had you received the dividends generated the total return over the same period would have been a growth of 71.8%.

We use compounding to create wealth for our clients - that's where the "slowly but surely" comes in. 

  • If a £100,000 investment pays 3.5% income today, and that income grows at 5% each year, compounding that income means that at the end of fifteen years the annual income will be £13,530, which is 13.5% of where the investment started.
  • There is no capital growth at all in the above calculation, although the accrued income means that the capital sum has actually increased to £208,000.

Investment strategy

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Invest for a purpose: if your future lifestyle is not dependent on these investments, it is not necessary to seek the highest possible returns, with the attaching risks. Consider these scenarios:

  • If your pension was worth £800,000 instead of £400,000 today would your attitude to retirement change?
  • If your pension was worth £200,000 instead of £400,000 today would your attitude to retirement change?

The loss of money is likely to be much more influential on your lifestyle decisions, so predictability must be a strong focus for your investment.

Invest in proven cash generating assets
Use both equity and fixed interest – with a strong focus on their ability to grow that income, and use cash proxies to prevent the portfolio falling in line with the markets. At maturity a pension has to provide income, not capital.

  • By the end of 2016 Coca Cola was paying Warren Buffett's company $1.65 million EVERY DAY just for holding their shares. That's a lot of money.

Understand your investment timescale
You may have the luxury of being able to apply an open-ended timescale to your investments; you might not have a fixed date when you would need to draw capital or income. Risk within a portfolio might be defined by the chance of the fund not providing sufficient income at the time it is needed – this chance increases the more volatile the underlying assets. Don't get caught short or you'll be a forced seller - Murphy's Law says that will coincide with a market fall.

Ignore the media hype - the media sells advertising, not advice.
We believe all assets maintain a long term valuation in relationship to cash returns – the investment industry is self-serving, and many companies hide behind the ‘greater fool’ theory.

  • If there is no income return, valuation growth can only be based on the persuasion of others that what you bought earlier is now worth more today.
  • Income producing assets always have arithmetic valuations, they can be compared to cash so they can be valued much more accurately by virtue of having a specific reference for comparison.

Invest in cash producing companies
Dividends are physical cash payments forcing ‘divi champions’ to focus on generating free cashflow – in a market sell off their prices tend to be more resilient, and are able to recover more quickly, and they are less likely to suffer accounting fraud. Plus they pay you back the cost of your investment without you having to sell anything.

Don’t hold cash
Deposits are producing virtually no returns – a reliable dividend stream will produce (with the relevant caveats) more annual income to you than cash holdings – share price fluctuations are not important until you wish to draw down capital, and you need to consider if you need the protection that cash currently brings.

  • See the Rule of 72 at the top of this page. It's just down to maths.

Inflation will come
It is the increase in the money customers pay for goods. Simplistically, as those prices rise, so ‘will’ the turnover of the manufacturers, and their likely profits, so equity values should rise (avoiding discussions of price elasticity). If you're over 50, you'll remember the inflation of the 70's, if you're over 60, you'll have been working during the age of inflation above 10%.

We invest, we do not trade
We advise clients to buy & hold – the investment industry bombards the public with reasons why they should switch frequently, all designed to support their revenue, not yours. Without trading income, most investment banks would cease to exist; the worst thing investors can do to investment firms is not trade – Warren Buffet, Terry Smith, Charley Ellis all preach the same message, with returns to back their convictions.

Don't be impatient, don't invest for 12 months
Relevant measurement should be the total return on rolling three year periods, and the total yield being earned. A fall in value is not a loss unless crystallised – you have time on your side, do not interrupt its restorative powers. Geo-political shocks and investor sentiment make 12 month returns unpredictable.

Compound your returns
Your pension should hold yielding assets, with growing income streams – eventually you will draw income, at which stage you draw the investment income or annuity income. We plan that you invest in dividend stocks today so that their dividends when you retire may have grown to an income higher than that available via annuities.

Confirm your strategy and be consistent
Fads come and go, share prices move according to who is buying and selling on a given day – given that we don’t know who is intending to buy or sell, we cannot know how the price of a stock will move in the near term – that price is solely in the hands of market traders and their institutional customers. There will always be an investment success you weren’t in, that doesn’t mean your strategy is wrong.

Most investing is common sense, the trick is to do what is right, not what is easy.


[1] Statistics sourced from Financial Express Analytics, period measured 01/01/2007 – 31/12/2016