Monday 30th March, 2020

 

On the Friday before Black Monday in 1987 we were only stopped from selling the great bulk of our advisory client holdings because an unofficial Bank Holiday was declared – some of you will recall The Great Storm in southern England the night before, which brought down power lines and telecoms.  The US stock market fell 22% in one day in the following week.

Then in 1999 not one client had one holding in a technology fund – these funds fell around 80% in the following 2-3 years.

In Autumn 2008 clients were surprised their portfolios were not decimated as we seemed on the brink of Great Depression II, and by Autumn 2009 some queried how they appeared to have made so much money.

I say all of this not to pat myself and the team on the back, but because you need to understand the track record of the people to whom you are listening – and because a lot of what I have read in recent weeks is shockingly bad advice from people with no track record and no pedigree.

Complacency is still evident amongst both commentators and investors, and that is precisely why this downturn is not over – at the bottom there will be no complacency!  More on that in coming days from us.  That will include highlighting opportunities which are already coming into focus – it might feel to you right now that this will never end – but it most certainly will, and we are very positive about the potential for clients.

Unfolding events in the U.K. are understandably the greatest concern for us all.  Yet from a purely investment perspective it is the U.S. which is my major concern.  Donald Trump does not inhabit the same planet as the rest of us. 

Planet Trump is characterised by:

  • Chaotic and contradictory decision-making
  • Business before Life
  • Science is Fake

The U.S. is not going to be through this in 3 weeks as Trump has suggested – oh hang on, he changed his mind on that last night.  Wuhan has been locked down for two months – it worked.  Patience is a vital part of the solution.  Patience is what the US needs right now – but patients is what they will get with their present leadership.  That is very sad.  As a result the consequences will be felt for longer, and deeper, both in the US economy and US financial markets.

Because events are fast-moving our intention is now to send you an update by email each Friday.  In fact, this should have gone to you last Friday, but we were all settling in to remote working, which slowed us a little. We’ve got the hang of it now!

Some of you have kindly enquired after team members, and particularly their family members on the NHS frontline in London.

Last week I mentioned we have two family members of our office team working in ITU units in South East London.  One is now recovered and back on 13-hour shifts – in 11 of the last 12 days.  The other is nearly recovered.

The particularly tragic news was a young nurse, in her 20’s, who committed suicide at nearby Kings College Hospital early last week while on duty.  There was a similar case in Italy.  Of course, the gaps in the line must be filled – but by whom?  By general (non-ITU) nurses?  Imagine being a 20-something asked not just to get into the ITU trenches, but to “go over the top”?  The First World War analogy is wholly appropriate – if you don’t think so, go talk to an ITU nurse.

Expect NHS management to try and get more positive messaging out this week, around morale and preparedness.  Let’s hope that is matched by the facts on the ground in days to come – there are certainly a vast number working hard to try and make that happen.  Fingers crossed.

I hope all of this makes you all even more determined to do whatever you must to get you and your family through this, and, wherever possible, support those in the front line.