A Message From Matt – 12th June 2020

I had planned to write a somewhat jubilant update today as stock markets around the world have recovered, in many cases to now show positive gains during 2020. Some markets have set new all time highs in the past few days! When you consider what the world has been through over the past few months, that really is quite extraordinary.

As hard as it is to believe, the ‘crash’ only really lasted 3 weeks – most markets started falling on around the 20th of February and hit their low points in the middle of March. Since then, the general trend has been one of recovery and I was all set to write about the old investment rules (time in the market, not timing the market) proving their worth once again.

I was even tempted to add in a sprinkle of ‘told you so’ pointed towards the media who were prophesising Armageddon during that 3 week period of market crashes, but who have barely mentioned a word about the spectacular recovery since then. Even in the height of the crisis, our advice to investment clients was to ‘keep calm and carry on’ and I am delighted that in every single case where I have had one of those conversations with clients, they have heeded our advice and remained invested.

Sadly, my bubble was burst yesterday as the US market took a circa 6% hit due to concerns about a second spike in cases and a less-than-positive update from the Federal Reserve. This morning, we have had some sobering news a little closer to home, with the ONS reporting that the UK economy shrank a record 20.4%.

However, I still have reasons to be cheerful. First of all, despite yesterday’s events, most global markets are still substantially better off than they were just 3 short months ago. If you had told me on 20th March (around when most markets hit their low point) that we would be in a position where the FTSE 100 and the S&P had recovered 22% and our own Balanced Portfolios would be up around 13-14%, I would have taken that!

Second, the fall in GDP was “only” 20.4% (Please note – despite my well-known love of inverted commas, I don’t think I have ever used them so seriously – I know that 20% is a huge number). While this is a big blow, it could have been much worse given the extent to which the economy has been shut down over the month of April. The fact that we managed to maintain 80% of economic activity is a big achievement, I think. The fact that the FTSE 100 rose this morning on the back of the news suggests that the market was expecting worse.

Finally, the recovery has been one driven very much by certain sectors – technology and pharmaceuticals in particular. This means that there are other sectors (airlines, travel, hospitality, car sales etc) where there is still room for a significant recovery to take place, potentially taking markets higher as economies are re-opened.

Please don’t get me wrong – I know there is a still a long way to go before anything gets back to anywhere approaching normal, however I still believe that this crisis is nowhere near as bad as other events that the human race has lived through and ultimately prospered after.

We have better science, better technology and more information and knowledge today than at any point in human history and surely all of this combined progress will get us through this crisis (second spike or not).

When markets are in free-fall, our emotions can sometimes get the better of us and lead us to take irrational investment decisions. However, there is also a second point where our emotions can lead us astray – that time is now – that time is when previous losses have been recovered. I would strongly encourage you to read this article by 7IM to learn more:

 

This post shall not constitute or be deemed to constitute an invitation or inducement to any person to engage in investment activity and is not a recommendation to buy or sell any funds of individual stocks that are mentioned in this post. Past performance is not a guide to future returns and the value of capital invested and any income generated from it may fluctuate in value.

Coronavirus Update – 5th March 2020

We wanted to provide a further update on the Coronavirus and how this is impacting on portfolios.

The global stock markets have been incredibly volatile over the past few weeks as investors digest the minute-by-minute updates on the virus and how it is impacting on companies.

In the past 5 working days, we have seen some of the largest ever falls on some stock markets, followed almost immediately by some record breaking gains – volatility reins supreme.

At times like these it is important to remind ourselves of two of the timeless lessons of stock-market investing.

1. You can’t predict the market – trying to do so in the current climate seems even more futile than usual. The virus presents a new and uncharted challenge and it’s path is near impossible to predict. Markets are moving strongly in reaction to each new data point released.

2. If you miss the best few days in the markets, you often permanently damage your long-term returns. Fidelity wrote last year about the impact of missing just the best 10 days in the market out of the past 15 years. You can download and read their previous article on this here.

Given the extreme moves we have seen over the past week, there is a very high chance that at least one (perhaps two or three) day(s) will feature in the ‘best days’ table when we look back 10 years from now and thus, despite the media storm, this period could be one of the most important for your long-term financial success.

We took the opportunity on Monday to re balance portfolios given the significant divergence we have seen between bond and equity markets. Although an over-simplification, in essence this means that we sold bonds which had increased in price (and thus were making up a larger than desired part of the portfolio) and bought equities which had fallen in price.

Given the fairly sizeable recovery in equity markets over the past few days, this move seems to have been well timed and has assisted in the recovery of the portfolios this week.

We will of course continue to monitor the situation carefully over the coming weeks and months and we will write again with any significant updates to the portfolios.

As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Buckingham Gate team.

 

Coronavirus Update – 28th February 2020

We write again following our update on Wednesday. You will no doubt have seen in the media reports of further stock market falls over the past few days and many markets are now in so called ‘correction’ territory (usually defined as a fall of 10% from a recent high point).

To say that we are delighted with how the portfolios have been coping in this environment would be an understatement. We have been very conservatively positioned for some time now in readiness for just this kind of event and our cautious stance is now proving to be well placed. As of the close of play yesterday, the FTSE 100 was down around 7.8% for the week with the S&P 500 down around 10%. By contrast, the Buckingham Gate Balanced Active Portfolio was down by around 3.6%, demonstrating the benefits of diversification.

It is worth mentioning that the media attention will focus almost exclusively on the stock market and tends not to cover the bond markets. In the past week while stock markets have been falling, many bond markets have seen record low yields, which means record high capital values in many cases. As this process has unfolded, the fixed interest portion of our portfolios have been seeing healthy gains.

Although periods like these are unsettling, they are an inevitable part of investing. Although we can’t say when the Coronavirus threat will subside, when markets recover they tend to do so quite quickly.

Jason Broome, the Investment Director at Square Mile has also provided the below update to give some context on events:


The expansion of the coronavirus outbreak is frightening but needs to be placed into perspective. So far, there have been 3,000 cases out of a population of 6,000,000,000 if we exclude China. There will be further cases, but the disease appears to be containable.  Some nations, including poor ones, have been quick to isolate those infected and nip their outbreak in the bud. Even China, with nearly 80,000 recorded cases, appears to be winning its battle as the number of new infections fall. For the moment, we have confidence that other nations such as South Korea and Italy will take the steps necessary to isolate the disease. Sadly, we are less sure about Iran where the authorities have been in denial. The country’s links to Afghanistan and Syria seem to leave a high probability that the virus will find a base in the Middle East (though the arrival of summer could stem the rate of infection). If established in the Middle East, outbreaks will continue to pop up around the world as a consequence.
 
The human tragedy aside, the economic implications of controlling the outbreak are severe. Supply chains will be disrupted as factories close, popular events are being cancelled and health services will come under increasing strain. Markets are falling and approaching a level that we believe provide a reasonable reflection of the economic costs of the outbreak. We have been running a cautious positioning in portfolios for some time and last year we took steps to add positions that should act as insurance policies if markets fell as they have now done. Our portfolios are suffering as the market falls, but our earlier action has helped moderate the damage.
 
Today, we formally convened to discuss whether we should take further action to protect the portfolios. Sadly, we lack a crystal ball to tell us exactly what will occur. We considered various options and concluded that markets will remain volatile but broadly reflect the economic costs of the outbreak as it now stands. The situation is very fluid. We agreed to make changes to some portfolios, but these are minor in impact and we will advise clients as normal once the details are worked out. We also need to be very alert to the possibility that markets will panic and overreact to the outbreak. This may present opportunities for us to redeploy some safe assets into higher yielding opportunities.

As always, we continue to monitor the situation constantly and will look to act in your best financial interests.


The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate Estate Planning, Tax Planning, Will Writing, Trust Advice, or some elements of Automatic Enrolment.
This communication is for general information only and is not intended to be individual advice. It represents our understanding of Law and HM Revenue & Customs’ practice. You are recommended to seek competent professional advice before taking any action.

Please note that investments can fall as well as rise and any income generated by an investment can fluctuate over time.

Market Update – 26th February 2020

You may have seen in the news that the stock market has suffered some fairly notable falls over the course of Monday and Tuesday. This is mainly in response to the increase in the number of Coronavirus cases across the world and in several new countries over the past week or so.

First and foremost, it is important to put things into perspective. Although the major stock market indices have fallen over the past couple of days, they have fallen from near record highs and so some element of correction is understandable in this kind of situation.

The second thing to bear in mind is the cause of the markets concern – mainly that consumers will be spending less in economies that are impacted by the virus and this is broadly true. However, the kind of spending that gets impacted tends to be consumer discretionary spending (new cars, holidays etc). Typically, this kind of expenditure gets deferred and not cancelled in situations like these, so most economists agree that the markets should get a boost later in the year when the virus has passed and people then make some of these deferred purchases.

Finally, we can look to history for some guidance in these situations (although keeping in mind the old adage that the past is not always a useful guide to the future). The graph below shows how markets have reacted to several previous epidemics. As you can see, the impact tends to be felt only in the short term, often with strong recovery only a few months later.


We are pleased to report that the Buckingham Gate Portfolios have held up very well in this environment. Over the course of Monday and Tuesday, the FTSE 100 fell by around 5.2% and the S&P 500 fell by nearly 6.7%. In contrast, the Buckingham Gate Balanced Active Portfolio fell by only 2.2%. This is as a result of the diverse nature of the portfolios, but is also a reflection of the fact that we have been very conservatively positioned for some time now in readiness for just this type of event.

We will continue to keep portfolios under review and may even use this period as an opportunity to take advantage of falling prices if valuations look attractive.

 

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate Estate Planning, Tax Planning, Will Writing, Trust Advice, or some elements of Automatic Enrolment.
This communication is for general information only and is not intended to be individual advice. It represents our understanding of Law and HM Revenue & Customs’ practice. You are recommended to seek competent professional advice before taking any action.

Please note that investments can fall as well as rise and any income generated by an investment can fluctuate over time.

Top Rated Adviser’s 2020

This month two Buckingham Gate Chartered Financial Planners have made it into VouchedFor’s Top Rated Adviser Guide for 2020.

The guide is distributed nationally in The Times and digitally through the Telegraph’s website and so this is a great achievement that Buckingham Gate are tremendously proud of.

Congratulations Matthew Smith and Peter Ditchburn for receiving such well-deserved recognition for the fantastic advice you provide to your clients.

What makes their inclusion in the guide so much more special, is knowing that it was thanks to their lovely clients for leaving such powerful reviews on VouchedFor.

VouchedFor is a leading review site for Financial Advisers and helps those looking for advice, find the right adviser for them.

Our unique combination of expertise, makes us a one stop shop for your retirement, investment and estate planning needs.

Matthew and Peter would like to say a huge thank you to their clients for taking the time to leave a review, it really means a lot to them.

If you’re looking for financial advice, you would definitely be in good hands with these two!

Because We Needed Something To Worry About

As I sat down to my Christmas Dinner this year, I recall being quite surprised at how settled things seemed to be. Not just in my own little home on Christmas day, but across the country.

The decisive Conservative victory in the election gives us a more certain path for the future and regardless of your views on Brexit or politics in general, I have always argued that uncertainty is almost always worse than the outcome, even if you disagree with the outcome.

As we went into the Christmas holidays, it seemed nearly certain that we would officially leave the EU on 31st January 2020. Of course, this is merely the beginning, and the end of January will signal the beginning of (supposedly) 11 months of trade talks which are designed to culminate in a trade deal by the end of the year.

So, despite the slight uncertainty hanging over the future trade relationship between the UK and the EU, all seemed to be sorted. We had a stable government, Brexit was going to happen and even the US and China seemed to be getting to the bottom of their trade dispute.

It was as if the world knew we didn’t have anything to worry about…

Of course, what followed is the US strike on Iran and the subsequent retaliation, giving us a whole new geo-political issue to ponder over.

Now, my feelings about this issue are just the same as with any issue (from an investment standpoint anyway) – keep calm and carry on will always be the motto.

What this just goes to show though is that there will never, ever be a ‘good time’ to invest. All those people who were waiting until Brexit and the election sorted themselves out will still be waiting to see how the US / Iran situation pans out, all the while missing out on what has been one of the best periods in market history.

The old adage that time in the market is more important than timing the market could not be more important, especially given that this uncertain world seems to be the ‘new normal’ as I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Portfolio Update – Post Election December 2019

Following last week’s General Election result, we have taken the decision to increase exposure to the UK equity market for the majority of our portfolios. For the first time in over a decade, we have a government that has a free hand politically and provides much greater certainty that the UK’s exit from the EU will happen sooner rather than later.
Stock markets and sterling both rose at the end of last week following the election results, but the last couple of days have shown that there is still a long way to go before Brexit is delivered. The introduction of a legal provision by the Government barring an extension to trade deal negotiations has increased the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, and this has seen the FTSE 250 and sterling lose momentum from their gains last week.
The increase in the allocation to UK equities comes at the expense of US equity holdings which appear quite expensive when compared to other markets, and with an impeachment trial and Presidential election due in 2020, the US will be entering its own period of political uncertainty.

Buckingham Gate Portfolio Review – December 2019

Lindsell Train UK Equity : The importance of liquidity

The demise of the Woodford Equity Income fund has shown just how important it is for a fund to be able to manage it’s outflows. For those who need reminding, the fund had suffered from a run of redemption’s over a period of time and was suspended in early June when it was unable to meet the request from Kent County Council to withdraw its investment of circa £250 million in the fund.

The reputational damage incurred has since led to the decision to remove Neil Woodford as manager of the fund in October and an announcement that the process of winding up the fund would begin in January 2020. This leaves the reputation of Neil Woodford, once considered as one of the most successful fund managers during his tenure with Invesco Perpetual, in tatters and seems very unlikely that he will ever recover from this and return to a position where he is trusted to manage other people’s money.

The fallout from the implosion of this fund has seen analysts much more focused on liquidity risk than ever before, and one of the casualties of this enhanced inspection has been the Lindsell Train UK Equity fund. Following our latest portfolio review in early November, Square Mile have taken the decision to downgrade the fund over liquidity concerns and it was removed from all of the Buckingham Gate portfolios on the 18th November 2019 and replaced with the Liontrust Special Situations fund.

The Lindell Train UK Equity fund has long been considered one of the most successful UK Equity funds, and under the management of Nick Train since it’s inception in July 2006, has generated a return of 377% compared to 119% from the FTSE All Share over the same period. However, performance over the last six months has been poor, and the fund has seen significant withdrawals over recent months with September seeing its largest ever monthly outflow of £374 million. While these withdrawals can be explained by a lack of appetite of investors for UK equity markets as a whole due to Brexit etc, the level of withdrawals and the structure of the Lindsell Train fund are causes of concern.

While there are a great deal of differences in the investment approaches adopted by Neil Woodford and Nick Train, there are similarities in that they both have the courage of their convictions in choosing the companies that they invest in. Nick Train’s investment process has been characterised by a low turnover approach and the ability to invest heavily in companies that he believes in. This highly concentrated portfolio approach has been one of the main reasons for his success, but also has the potential to be his downfall.

Square Mile’s analysts are very concerned that the large concentration of assets in the fund’s top 10 holdings could see the fund struggle to sell these at a cost effective price should significant outflows persist.

It is important to reiterate that Square Mile have no immediate concerns about the ongoing viability of the fund, and it has consistently met its performance objectives and redemption requests. However, the fall from grace of the Woodford Equity Income fund has made analysts very mindful of history repeating itself and are keen to look at other investment strategies that may work better in current market conditions.

There is absolutely no way of telling if this will be a good or bad decision for the portfolios in the future, but it is clear that Square Mile are very conscious of avoiding the trap that what has worked in the past will continue to work in the future.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us by calling 020 3478 2160 or emailing [email protected]

Quick Market Review – November 2019

October seems to have been a month of mixed messages. After four interest rate rises in 2018, the US Federal Reserve announced an interest rate cut to 1.50% (the third cut this year) citing a slowdown in the US economy, and concerns over trade wars and a global recession.

However, markets have generally been positive last month with risk assets generally outperforming perceived safe havens. The S&P 500 posted another all time high last month, and emerging market equities posted a return of 4.20% during October. Much of this was due to market confidence that trade war concerns were receding with the announcement of a Phase One trade deal between the US and China.

Political uncertainty in the UK has reduced as well with the prospect of a non deal Brexit now looking unlikely, and sterling has rallied against the dollar and euro, but as 70% of revenue from FTSE 100 companies is earned overseas, the improvement in the value of sterling has coincided with a fall in the FTSE 100 last month.

Boris Johnson finally got his wish of another General Election, and the prospect in 2020 of maybe a stable government and perhaps an orderly Brexit would go a long way to establish market confidence after years of political turmoil.

Investment Portfolio Update – October 2019

I am writing today to keep you up to date on how we are positioning portfolios in the run up to the potential Brexit deadline of 31st October (although keeping in mind this is not the first Brexit deadline we have seen, and may not be the last) and in light of some weakening economic data.

The slowdown in the global economy continues and the chances of a recession developing are increasing. Some countries such as Germany are probably already in recession, that is have a shrinking economy. However, even if recessionary conditions spread to other nations, we expect the extent of the economic contraction to be shallow and well short of what occurred in 2008/9. Nonetheless, the knock to companies’ profits would be felt by the stock market and equity prices would fall. 

Against this backdrop, equity yields are generous when compared to virtually every other financial asset. We are by no means certain that a recession will develop in the US and if that pivotal economy can continue to grow, equity markets have the potential to make further modest gains over the next couple of years. Therefore, rather than reducing equity exposure, we are making changes to the portfolio to limit the damage that a recession might bring.

Yields on government bonds around the world are at tiny levels. UK gilt yields are now virtually non-existent and the government is able to borrow at long term interest rates of well below 1%. 

On such yields, any capital gain potential if a recession does strike will be small. US bonds yields are more generous at a little below 2%. This means that if the US falls into recession, US Treasury bonds can potentially deliver a worthwhile capital gain. Thus, US government bonds appear to be a better option for the portfolio. 

As we have no wish to take any currency risk on this position, we are buying the sterling hedged Vanguard US Government Bond Index fund. If global growth rebounds, the price of this fund is likely to fall, however, the equity positions held in the portfolio should gain to a far greater extent.

We will of course be watching events closely over the coming weeks and I shall write again if we feel that any further changes are required in the portfolios.

If you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Kind regards
The Buckingham Gate Investment Committee