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Irwin-McAfee joins Pacem

We are pleased to announce that, from May 2021, we have combined our business with Irwin-McAfee. Though we will be operating as one company, our clients can rely on the same personal, trusting relationships that they are used to. Coming together will create more opportunities and enhance the expert advice we offer our clients.

 

Pictured are Directors Lesley Irwin, Lizzy Crossan and Daniel Glover.

 

All together now: ‘Costs really matter.’

The late, great Jack Bogle – the founder of Vanguard and the grandfather of index investing – left us all with a simple mantra that he repeated almost every time he wrote an article or gave an interview ‘costs matter’.  He also often used to say, ‘in investing you get what you don’t pay for’. And therein lies the rub.  In day-to-day life, we tend to make a connection – largely correctly – that you get what you pay for.  If you need a good lawyer, it will probably cost you.  If you want the paint to last on your windows, employ a decorator who costs more because they will spend more time prepping the surfaces and uses better quality products.  Buy cheap, buy twice!  Yet when it comes to investing, broadly speaking, the exact opposite applies.  The more you pay in ongoing charges to invest in a fund and on all the costs associated with owning the fund over time, such as those it incurs when buying or selling shares, means, on average, that there is less money left to put in your pocket.  It would be easy to select a good fund if all you had to do was pick the most expensive manager, which might set you back significantly more than 1% a year.  Yet we know, for example, that over 85% of all US equity funds failed to beat the market over 20 years, not least because of the high costs they incur[1].  Trying to pick – in advance – skilled managers who will beat the market in the next 20 years is extremely taxing.

In fact, if you reverse your strategy and pick the cheapest fund, it is likely (although never guaranteed) to be a better option. Taking equity funds available for sale in the UK[2] – both index funds delivering the market return (295 in all), and non-index funds (4,969) seeking to beat the market return, the average costs and the difference between them are set out below.

Figure 1: Equity funds for sale in the UK – Ongoing Charges Figure (OCF)

Source: Morningstar Direct © All rights reserved. Data as at 30th June 2021.

If we assume that both sets of managers (index and non-index) capture the same market returns before costs – a reasonable position to take, in aggregate, as winners and losers have to net out to zero – we can calculate the differential wealth outcomes over time between the less costly index funds and the more costly non-index funds.  The seemingly small difference of 0.85% make a huge difference to what an investor’s retirement might look like.  The chart below shows you how much more money you would have with the lower cost strategy over different time frames[3].

Figure 2: Wealth outcomes differ depending on costs – lower = generally better

Source: Albion Strategic Consulting using Professor William Sharpe’s Terminal Wealth Ratio calculation.

Put another way, at the end of 40 years – not an unreasonable investing horizon – if the high-cost strategy ended up with £1 million, the lower cost strategy would have £410,000 more to spend, all else equal.

Perhaps we should also take heed of another investing titan, Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hatahway, who reflects on the trouble the wealthy sometimes have in buying something cheap, in this case index funds:

‘The financial “elites” – wealthy individuals, pension funds, college endowments and the like – have great trouble meekly signing up for a financial product or service that is available as well to people investing only a few thousand dollars. This reluctance of the rich normally prevails even though the product at issue is – on an expectancy basis – clearly the best choice.’

Warren Buffett (2016) Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Letter

As investors we should not lose sight of the fact that we put up 100% of the capital and take 100% of the risk of doing so.  Surely, we deserve to pocket the bulk of the returns on offer.  So, all together now, one last time, ‘costs really matter!’

Risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product.  Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

[1]  US Scorecard 2021. http://us.spindices.com/resource-center/thought-leadership/spiva/

[2]  As of 30th June 2021.  Open-ended, UK domiciled funds and ETF, or funds with UK reporting status, publishing KIID OCF data.

[3] This uses Nobel Laureate William Sharpe’s Total Wealth Ratio calculation

Pacem Support Belfast Business Idea Award 2021

Pacem was delighted to, once again, support the Belfast Business Idea Award 2021. The Idea Award, supported by Belfast City Council, Danske Bank, Pacem, Enterprise NI and Innovation Factory, differs from other awards in that it is the strength of the idea that is assessed, rather than the achievements of the venture so far. The competition is designed to unearth, recognise and help to fast track the best business ideas in Belfast and means that people who have yet to set up a business have as much chance of winning as those who have already started to trade successfully.

For the first time, the 2021 Belfast Business Idea Award was open for ‘Video Entries’ and applicants sent their submissions electronically to be judged by an independent panel. Each applicant had 120 seconds to explain why their business/idea is great and why they should win the competition.

Speaking at the judging day, Daniel Glover, MD at Pacem spoke of his support of the initiative;

We are delighted to support the Belfast Business Idea Award again this year and we have been extremely impressed and enthused at the quality of submissions received. It has been difficult to shortlist to five winners today, and there was much deliberation and discussion within the judging panel, which is a testament to the calibre of entries received. Belfast has a great entrepreneurial spirit, and we are thrilled to do our bit to help early-stage businesses flourish in Belfast. It is great to be able to share our experience and financial expertise to new entrepreneurs who are setting out.”

The competition seen entries received from a diverse range of applicants across Belfast with the five shortlisted winners announced at the finalist’s night which took place on 22nd June 2021. On the night, the five winners each had to pitch for 120 seconds and explain why they think their business/idea should win the overall prize; a cash injection of £2,500 to help their business grow. The overall winner was decided live on the night via public vote. Each of the five winners also received an impressive support package worth over £3,000 which includes:

  • Six months free accountancy services (including software) from Pacem Accounting and Tax Advisory
  • 1 year Innovation Factory membership (including an open plan co-working desk, access to masterclasses and on-site bespoke business mentoring)
  • 1 year membership of the ENI Plus online resource

The 2021 Belfast Business Idea Award Winners announced at the finalist’s night on 22nd June were:

All finalists present on the night also had the opportunity to hear from, and put questions to, three of NI’s most successful entrepreneurs and founders of, BLK BOX, Bperfect Cosmetics and Suki Tea, gaining some welcome advice from those who started in a spare room in Belfast and have gone on to compete, and win, on a global scale.

Speaking at the finalist’s night, Daniel commended all applicants and expressed his enthusiasm towards working with the winners,

We are looking forward to working alongside the newly crowned winners of the 2021 Belfast Business Idea Award by providing six months free accountancy services. We love helping new businesses develop and grow and to play a part in their journey is a real privilege. We can’t wait to see what is in store for these blossoming businesses and predict great things ahead –  watch this space”.

The unhelpful noise of short-term performance

Investing is simple, but not easy.  The decision to invest in the first place requires foresight, as well as the discipline to deny oneself spending today so that you don’t have to eat own-brand baked beans out of the tin in retirement.

The second is deciding how much you want, need and are able to invest in equities, which will act as the drivers of positive portfolio returns, above inflation, that will help fund future spending goals.  Getting this right is key and where good advisers can add value.

Next an investor needs to decide the broad structure of their equity and bond components of their portfolio.  A good place to start for equities is the structure of the global markets, which defines the basic country, sector and company weights and offers broad diversification. As Eugene Fama, who won the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, said in a recent webinar:

‘You need to be able to talk your way out of a market cap-weighted portfolio’.

By this he means that any decision to move away from this structure needs to be based on evidence and provide a good chance – although never the certainty – to improve the risk and return characteristics of this portfolio.  That is a bit trickier and requires a reasonable degree of investment knowledge.  Occam’s razor suggests that the simplest answer to a complex problem is often the most effective.  It certainly is in investing. Start with market capitalisation.

The final step is picking funds to implement the strategy.  Yet for many DIY investors, this is one of the first steps they take, heading to the ‘best buy’ fund lists in the Sunday papers or some investment website.  Here is where the fun and danger start.

Some funds – usually measured over short time frames such as three years – can have great looking track records.  At this point many investors’ decisions are driven by common behavioural biases.  Hindsight bias is the most obvious – it’s easy to identify a fund that has done well in the past, but difficult to pick one that will do well in the years ahead.  Extrapolating the past into the future is rarely a successful strategy.  The fear of missing out is strong but needs to be resisted.  Overconfidence in the ability to pick a ‘market-beating’ fund manager goes against the grain of the bulk of the evidence we have to hand. Over the past 20 years, for example, over 85% of all US equity funds failed to beat the market index and only around one third actually survived the whole period![1]

Different parts of the market do well at different times, but no-one really knows who the future winners are, not even the professionals.  Naïve investors take good short-term performance as a sign of skill.  Yet the reality is that much of the seemingly ‘good’ performance may be down to the part of the market that has performed well that happens to gel with the style of a specific fund.   There is an old industry saying that markets pick managers, not the other way around.  ‘Good’ performance may also simply be luck.  You need at least 16 years of performance data to be 95% certain that skill rather than luck is the driver of outperformance, even for highly skilled managers[2]. Three- or five-year performance records are largely worthless in identifying good funds.  Yet that is where best-buy lists and many IFAs tend to focus.

Spot the ‘dog’

One example of the noise investors face is the ‘Spot the dog’ report published by Bestinvest (owned by Tilney) every six months – and often highlighted in the Sunday papers – naming and shaming a list of funds, coined ‘dogs’, that have performed poorly relative to a broad market benchmark over three years[3]. Simultaneously, ‘pedigree’ funds are celebrated based on strong recent outperformance. By and large the ‘dogs’ were value funds (made up of cheaper stocks relative to some fundamental company metric, like book value or earnings), and the ‘pedigree’ funds were growth-oriented[4] (more expensive companies) in their latest report.  Over the three years, growth stocks in general outperformed value stocks.  Without this context, investors risk making decisions based on hindsight, picking investment styles that have done well and potentially lucky managers within those styles. So far this year, many of the UK ‘dogs’ have outperformed the ‘pedigree’ funds, as value stocks have performed better than growth stocks[5].

‘Expert’ picks

Investors Chronicle also tends to provide an annual Top 100 Funds list by broad investment category.  Its 2012 global growth list identified nine funds and investment trusts[6].  Over the past ten years, only two out of the nine selected funds beat the market index, but did so handsomely.  They are both highly concentrated, high conviction funds holding just a handful of companies.  One of the funds suffered a fund-specific 50% fall within the period, which would have taken a strong stomach to live with.  The other has experienced a couple of years of explosive growth, driven by a handful of companies and one electric car manufacturer in particular!  Will they continue to do so well in the future?  No-one knows, not even the managers of these funds and certainly not the pundits creating best buy lists.  And that is the point.  Basing an investment strategy on ‘I don’t really know’ seems a bit like gambling.

Capturing the market return with a well-diversified, low cost, systematic fund makes good sense and allows investors to ignore the best-buy and fund tips tables noise. Thank goodness for Occam and his razor!

Risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product.  Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

 

[1]     S&P Dow Jones Indices – US SPIVA Report Year end 2020. http://us.spindices.com/resource-center/thought-leadership/spiva/

[2]    An information ratio measures how much skill-based return a manager delivers relative to a representative benchmark and how much relative risk they took to achieve this.  A ratio of 0.5 (i.e. half a unit of return for each unit of additional risk taken on) is deemed to be outstanding.

[3]    Bestinvest (2021) Spot the Dog. https://www.bestinvest.co.uk/research/spot-the-dog

[4]    Albion Strategic Consulting April 2021, Governance Update 21.

[5]    Refer to footnote 4.

[6]    https://www.investorschronicle.co.uk/2012/07/03/funds-and-etfs/ic-top-funds-2tJw2RT28T6GH04lkFVcEL/article.html

David 1, Goliath 0

It may have passed you by, but last week a little-known hedge fund called Engine No.1 (David) scored a direct hit with its shareholder slingshot to the forehead of one of the world’s mighty oil companies ExxonMobil (Goliath), stunning its adversary.  Despite only owning 0.02% of ExxonMobil, it put forward a motion at the latter’s AGM to put nominees on the board of directors. It gained two of twelve seats.  Quite a coup.  Its simple rationale was straightforward:

‘We believe that for ExxonMobil to avoid the fate of other once-iconic American companies, it must better position itself for long-term, sustainable value creation’.
Engine No.1 website

In 2010, ExxonMobil was the largest public company in the World, with a value of around US$370 billion, but in 2020 it ignominiously dropped out of the Dow Jones Industrial Average index and today has a value of around US$250 billion.  That is an awful lot of shareholder value destroyed, given how strongly the broad US market has performed. Last year the company made a loss of around US$25 billion, but the CEO still got a pay rise! ‘Go figure’ as our American friends would say.

So how did such a small investor have such a large impact on this behemoth?  Simple. It co-opted major pension investors, such as the California State Retirement System, and the giant fund managers Blackrock and Vanguard – representing the investors in their funds – to vote in its favour.  Ironically perhaps, the Norwegian ‘oil’ fund, which was funded from profits from oil extraction, voted with Engine No.1. It is now one of the world’s leading investors focused on sustainability.

And why would they do that?  In large part because of the growing focus on the climate crisis – and sustainability more broadly – by investors in their funds, who want their voices to be heard. It also comes down to hard-nosed capitalism.  Companies such as Exxon, who appear blind to the train-wreck they face when no-one wants or needs to buy oil, potentially risk losing further value, in some investors’ eyes.  They believe that they can help these oil-tankers to change direction more quickly towards a more sustainable harbour and reap the financial rewards of doing so.  Engine No. 1 was pretty honest about it[1]:

‘Our idea was that this was going to have a positive impact on the share price…What we’re saying is: plan for a world where maybe the world doesn’t need your [oil] barrels.’
Chris James, Engine No.1 Founder (from FT)

Perhaps the key message of Engine No.1’s move is that, even though our individual impact may be small, collectively we can make a difference, through the consumer choices we make and the power of the markets to penalise companies that are out of sync with the values of the day and to reward those who adapt.  From an investment perspective, that means remaining invested in companies in order to have our say, via the fund managers who manage our money.

It may be David 1, Goliath 0, but this game has a long way to go.

Risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product.  Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

[1]    FT.com, Hedge fund that beat ExxonMobil says it will have to cut oil output, May 27, 2021

Crypto Craziness

We humans are never lacking in our enthusiasm for crazy ‘investment’ ideas.  Around four hundred years ago the Dutch managed to work themselves into a frenzy over tulip bulbs.  At the height of the hysteria one bulb of Semper Augustus apparently changed hands in exchange for 12 acres of land[1].  In the 1700s the South Sea Company Bubble ruined many as the stock price rose almost ten-fold in 1720, largely on the back of false rumours, and then crashed precipitously. Even Sir Isaac Newton himself got burnt, losing almost all of his savings.

‘I can predict the movement of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of crowds.’

By all accounts the madness surrounding equity investments was widespread at the time, with one company supposedly coming to market with the greatest marketing spin ever, describing itself as ‘a company for carrying out an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is’ [2].

Today investors face similar sentiment in certain corners of the investment world, from the rise of Tesla’s stock price (now down -36% from high), to GameStop’s ‘to the moon’ rally (now down -51% from high).   Shell companies – known as SPACs – raising cash from investors to buy, as yet unidentified companies (sound familiar?) have multiplied in the past 18 months.  Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and the spoof Dogecoin now have ‘market capitalisations[3] of US$741 billion and US$47 billion, respectively.  Unfortunately, humans seem programmed to suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), which might have been an advantage in the days of being a hunter gatherer but can be especially dangerous when it comes to investing and ‘hot’ markets.

Just because something has gone up spectacularly, does not mean that it is a good investment, or even an investment at all.  A material risk always exists that latecomers to any speculative game get left holding the hot potato. Knowing what you are getting yourself into is a good place to start.

‘When you have difficulty in finding out what the real fundamentals of an investment are, then what you are doing is not a “real investment”’.

ECB Vice President De Guido, 2021 on cryptocurrencies

In attempting to understand cryptocurrencies, a good starting point is defining what money actually is.  In simple terms it represents three things [4]: a store of value; a unit of account; and a medium of exchange.  So, do cryptocurrencies – using Bitcoin as an example – have these characteristics?  An asset that can rise or fall on any one day, say by +36% or -27% – being Bitcoins largest daily price movements since 2013 – is hardly a store of value.  The cost of a round in a pub priced in Bitcoin could change materially by the time you reach the bar.  One could concede that Bitcoin is a unit of account, but it is not a common one.  In terms of being a medium of exchange, it fails dismally.  Virtually nobody – not even Elon Musk’s firm Tesla – accepts Bitcoins and few people trust it enough to use in daily transactions.

As an aside, there is an amusing (for us at least) unverified story of the Bitcoin programmer who traded 10,000 bitcoins for two Papa John’s pizzas on May 22, 2010, costing him £280 million in today’s money.  Tomorrow it may be significantly more or less!

There are also some other less savoury aspects of cryptocurrencies.  The first is that the ‘mining’ of many cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin, has an extremely poor carbon footprint.  Bitcoin miners alone have a carbon footprint equivalent to the Czech Republic[5], as much of it is mined in China where a significant proportion of electricity produced is from coal.

The second is that it has become the favoured unit of exchange for ransomware (blackmail) attacks on governments and companies, such as the recent Colonial Pipeline attack in the US, which was settled, apparently, for 75 Bitcoins or around $4.4 million.

‘Its price volatility makes Bitcoin risky and speculative, while its exorbitant carbon footprint and potential use for illicit purposes are grounds for concern.’

ECB Financial Stability Report (2021)

Putting money into cryptocurrencies is not investing, but pure gambling.  Combined with the possibility of losing your entire capital invested, either through the failure of the cryptocurrency in question, or your crypto wallet (where your ‘coins’ are stored) being hacked, the moral hazards of dabbling in it make such actions unpalatable.  Going crazy and chucking a fiver at it that you are prepared to lose – as you might on a horse in the Grand National – is up to you, but don’t call it investing.  Caveat emptor!

If you have any questions, thoughts or actions relating to the content of this article please get in touch with us by calling us on 028 9099 6948 or by emailing info@pacem-advisory.com

Risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product.  Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

 

[1]    Charles Mackay (1841), Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds Wordsworth Editions; New edition (5 Jun. 1995)

[2]    A good short read can be found here – http://www.dtc.umn.edu/~odlyzko/doc/mania17.pdf

[3]    We dislike this term as it implies some form of solid value, such as that built by Amazon or Apple, for example.

[4]    https://www.stlouisfed.org/education/economic-lowdown-podcast-series/episode-9-functions-of-money

[5] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-021-22256-3

April 2021 Tax News

New Personal Service Company Rules Start This Month
The “off-payroll” working rules that apply to certain workers supplying their services to clients via their own personal service companies start from 6 April 2021. Under this new regime end user businesses will be required to determine whether that individual would have been treated as an employee or not if directly engaged. This will be a significant additional administrative burden on the large and medium-sized businesses to whom the new rules apply. This is a complex area based on different decisions by the courts and HMRC suggest that end user organisations use the CEST (Check Employment Status for Tax) online tool on their website to help with the determination. The end user business is then required to issue the worker with a Status Determination Statement setting out the reasoning for their decision, a copy of which is also given to any agency supplying the worker if relevant.

The New Super-Deduction for Equipment
In the Budget on 3rd March the Chancellor announced a new 130% tax relief for expenditure on new plant and machinery incurred between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2023. It turns out that this new tax relief is only available to limited companies and the latest Finance Bill reveals a nasty sting in the tail when the equipment is sold, as the claw back on disposal is potentially at the same 130% rate. So, if a new item of plant cost £100,000 the company would be able to deduct £130,000 in arriving at taxable profits thus saving £24,700 in corporation tax at 19%. However, if the plant was sold for £80,000 on 1 April 2023 130% of the proceeds would be clawed back and £104,000 added to taxable profit which could result in up to £26,000 corporation tax payable at the new 25% rate. The claw-back rate reduces on a time basis from 1 April 2023 onwards so it would be advisable to retain the asset long term.

New Enhanced Loss Relief Rules May Result in Extra Tax Refunds
In the March Budget it was announced that the normal one year carry back for trading losses would be extended to three years. This means that many businesses that have made losses during the COVID-19 pandemic may be able to obtain a repayment of tax paid in that three-year period. This enhanced carry back applies to unincorporated businesses as well as limited companies and the details are set out in the latest Finance Bill.

Review of Business Rates
Among the documents published was an interim report on the government’s Fundamental Review of Business Rates, which sets out a summary of responses to last year’s call for evidence. The final report will be published in the Autumn. The government will also legislate to tighten tax rules for second homeowners meaning they can only register for business rates (and business rates relief) if their properties are genuine holiday lets. This will close a loophole that allowed some second homeowners to avoid paying council tax on that property, and some were even claiming coronavirus support grants for their “business”.

Consultations Issued on “Tax Day” by Treasury
The Treasury normally issue a bundle of tax consultation documents on Budget Day. This year however they chose to delay the publication until 3 weeks after the Budget. We were expecting the consultation documents to include major changes to CGT and IHT, but these have yet again been delayed. The Treasury have accepted several recommendations by the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) on simplifying IHT reporting. From 1 January 2022 over 90 per cent of non-taxpaying estates each year will no longer have to complete IHT forms for deaths when probate is required. The government will also consider introducing a new digital system for IHT and probate reporting.

Another consultation is seeking views on modernising the tax administration system including changes to the payment dates for those outside PAYE. It would appear that HMRC are reconsidering a possible Pay as You Go system for the self-employed that was originally consulted on in 2016.

If you have any questions, thoughts or actions relating to the content of this article please get in touch with us by calling us on 028 9099 6948 or by emailing info@pacem-advisory.com

Coconuts versus sharks

If you have ever been fortunate enough to swim in the azure tropical waters of the Caribbean, or on Bondi Beach amongst the surfers, or in the chilly waters of Cape May (where the film ‘Jaws’ that scared the 1970s generation out of the water was filmed) in the back of your mind may have lurked the thought that a large shark might just be out there looking for lunch. What was that shadow? Yet most of us don’t think twice about the risks of sitting under a coconut tree, which urban myth suggests is far more likely to kill you from a falling coconut than a shark attack, as is the malaria-carrying mosquito that lands on bare flesh as the sun sets in paradise.  Nor did we consider the risk of a deep vein thrombosis from the long-haul flight to get there.  We fixate on the shark.

Humans are irrational and find it hard to place risks in perspective, in part because they involve numbers (which many people hate), are influenced by fear or recent news and often depend on the way in which they are framed, to name just a few of the challenges.  We have a very clear recent example of our confusion with the extremely rare possible side effects of some of the Covid-19 vaccinations.  Latest estimates, suggest that the risk of dying from the vaccine due to blood clots is 1 in 1 million, which is similar to the chance of being murdered next month (nasty) or dying in a road accident on a 250-mile road trip[1] (bring it on!).   And that, is the point.  Life is full of risks and those that we deem to be everyday consequences of modern life, we take, usually without batting an eyelid, such as: driving, using ladders, drinking alcohol, climbing mountains, and walking through fields of cows (nearly 100 people were killed by cows between 2000 to 2020)[2].  Yet other exceptionally low risks we deem ‘too big’ to take.

It is similar with investing.  Investors tend to worry about equity market crashes, perhaps not surprisingly, as equity markets can and have fallen by more than 50% in the past. Yet owners of equities should not be looking to sell them in the next few years but relying on fixed income assets to meet liquidity needs.  In most cases, markets recover relatively quickly over say 3-5 years, sometimes more slowly.  With horizons well beyond these falls and recoveries, investors who stay the course should be rewarded – as they have been in the past – with strong returns above inflation.  The latter is the real (excuse the pun) risk to long-term investors.  Avoiding equity market risk and putting money on deposit is actually the risky strategy.  Over the past 10-years, those holding cash have lost around 1/5, or 20%, or £20 in every £100 of purchasing power[3], however you want to describe it.  That is risky.  Managing risk in our lives is summed up well by Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell who wrote a book titled The Psychology of Risk[4].

‘Risk surrounds and envelops us.  Without understanding it, we risk everything and without capitalising on it, we gain nothing.’

Go on, get the vaccine, take that long haul flight (once you can) back to the azure waters, brave the sharks and stick with your equities.  The risks will be worth it.

If you have any questions, thoughts or actions relating to the content of this article please get in touch with us by calling us on 028 9099 6948 or by emailing info@pacem-advisory.com

Risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product.  Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

 [1]    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-56665396

[2]    UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) https://www.hse.gov.uk/

[3]    Bank of England – 1 month Treasury bills

[4]    This is not for the faint-hearted – it is an academic tome.  If you are interested in how to use and understand statistics in a statistics-laden world, an enjoyable and accessible read is Tim Harford’s new book ‘How To Make The World Add Up’

Pacem featured in ‘East Belfast – Our Story 2020’

Pacem is delighted to be featured in the film ‘East Belfast – Our Story 2020’, created by Eastside Awards. The Awards, in association with George Best Belfast City Airport has built a reputation for recognising all that is good about East Belfast and although the awards ceremony could not take place in its usual format, this year, more than any other, the organisers wanted to showcase uplifting stories of how the community pulled together and how businesses innovated, pivoted and diversified to survive.

Pacem, a proud recipient of the Eastside Award for ‘Employer of the Year’ in  2020, is delighted have played its part by helping to create 10 new businesses during the pandemic alongside East Belfast Enterprise though the Expedite programme.

This unique film is a story of the spirit of the people who came together to help those in need during the dark days of the first lockdown, of innovation from those who pivoted businesses to survive in 2020 and of hope, with stories from people who have a vision for the future beyond the present time. You can watch the full film below.

Leverage: not without risk

Leverage, often referred to in investing as a ‘double-edged sword’, is another word for borrowing money to own more of an asset. Much like a mortgage on a house, it enables individuals to own a higher value of an asset they would otherwise be unable to own, but it does run the risk that the value falls such that one ends up owing more than one owns (coined ‘negative equity’ in the housing world). This is never a good place to be.

Our systematic approach is ‘long only’ (as opposed to taking an element of short positions, which requires borrowing) and unlevered. This means that the investments are owned without inherent borrowing within the funds themselves. Of course, we do believe debt is a powerful tool that corporate finance departments and governments can use to raise capital to fund future growth and we recognise the importance of borrowing in capital markets, but we don’t generally believe that this is a risk worth taking at the fund or portfolio-level. Markets can be scary enough at times like Q1 2020, without magnifying the downside further through leverage.

The potential upside of highly leveraged strategies is magnified returns which can leave investors drooling. The downside could be 100%, or more. As you might have spotted in the press, the family office Archegos Capital Management has been made all too aware of this[1] with the recent unwinding of their leveraged bets which has left some banks, which provided the capital to Archegos, nursing heavy multi-billion pound losses[2].

The reader will be well-aware that borrowing is commonplace in the housing market, with interest rates now at historically low levels. For example, 2-year fixed-rate mortgages are now at around 1.6%[3]. Some will remember times in the 1970s and early 1990s when rates were 10 times this. Although mortgage rates are cheap, few are able to borrow ‘on margin’ on such favourable terms and for most the potential downside of such an approach outweighs the potential benefit.

Although curtailed slightly of late, the rise of retail investors over the past 12 months has been significant and has come with cheaper access to leverage through the trading of financial derivatives. With one of the common questions asked by those ‘YOLO-ing their stimmies’ (i.e. investing their US stimulus cheques) into such investments being “what is the stock market?”[4] one is led to believe these investors are not pursing a ‘risk-comes-first’ approach. Unfortunately, many will learn a painful and costly lesson.

Our default approach is to invest in unlevered long-only strategies. Our risk-focused approach to portfolio construction means that our Investment Committee regularly reviews the risk exposures of your portfolio and seeks to mitigate or avoid those that are unwanted or typically go unrewarded. In general, leverage is one of those.

If you have any questions, thoughts or actions relating to the content of this article please get in touch with us by calling us on 028 9099 6948 or by emailing info@pacem-advisory.com

Risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product.  Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

 [1] Economist, April 3rd 2021. “Margin call of the wild: Archegos, a family office, brings Nomura and Credit Suisse big losses”. Also, for a good insight into the backstory: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2021-04-08/how-bill-hwang-of-archegos-capital-lost-20-billion-in-two-days

[2] Succinctly summed up in this meme

[3] Average at 75% LTV. UK Parliament: House of Commons Library, 10th March 2021. “Household Debt: Key Economic Indicators”

[4] Ft.com, 9th March 2021. “Rise of the retail army: the amateur traders transforming markets”