Gina Miller investigates the links between Saint Valentine and transparency in investing
According to the wise font of all knowledge, which can be extremely accurate or extremely inaccurate, Wikipedia, Saint Valentine (in Latin, Valentinus) is a widely recognised third century Roman saint commemorated on February 14th and associated since the High Middle Ages with a tradition of courtly love. Nothing is reliably known of Saint Valentine except his name and the fact that he died on February 14th.
But many of the current legends that characterise Saint Valentine were invented in the fourteenth century in England, notably by Geoffrey Chaucer and his circle, when the feast day of February 14th first became associated with romantic love.
Whatever the truth is, most people today associate Valentine’s Day with romance. When one thinks of romance it is normally in the old fashioned Mills and Boon books or the more modern 50 Shades of Grey with some dashing man seducing his future conquest but once the charming good looks are pierced, below the surface they are often found to be pretty shallow and unedifying and after a while, maybe the real cardinal sin, boring. I say this as someone who once dated a famous model who was known across the UK for taking his jeans off in the laundrette revealing a great body but sadly not a lot of substance beneath.
Where is the connection with the world I work in, investments? Well a surprising amount when you consider it. The world of investment relies on seduction but the seduction is used for all the wrong reasons and normally with all the wrong results. There is a fine line between seduction and deception. Every day countless savings and investment managers cross this line.
When you meet your wonderfully charming or slick fund manager they try to seduce you with flowery words and jargon with no meaning or deliberately assembled to impress you with its complexity; but designed to prevent you from understanding how your money is really invested or how much your money is really costing. The smoke and mirrors are crafted to beguile and reassure that by being so complex, they must be amazing to do what they do and charge what they charge. Of course more often than not investing does not really need to be so complex or expensive to get sold returns.
If you think of most great inventors or inventions they are often based on a simple design or a simple concept. In investment the living Saint of investment is widely held to be Saint Buffet of Omaha, Nebraska. He has an annual convention where thousands flock to his temple to hear and learn from every word he says since he has probably the longest and best known and maybe most successful track records of anyone. He does not make things complicated or flowery he talks of common sense and old fashioned virtues that have stood the test of time and which people can understand. He simply tries to buy companies which he trusts, thinks are great franchises that can stand the test of time; and which for whatever reason are available at the right price. He does not hide from his investors how he invests, what he invests in or his charges for the services he provides. He works alongside his clients because he is managing his own money in the same way.
When you meet your fund manager or wealth adviser or whatever other name they call themselves, don’t be seduced by the initial lavish language or entertaining or lavish date because normally this does not last and it is you who ultimately is paying for it anyway. Often the more lavish the entertaining, the more likely that they are ‘after’ something and that something is to erode more of your returns in fees.
In economics there is a term called giffen goods. These are goods by which the more that is charged the more that it is demanded, these are luxury goods. If your XXX handbag was available for £10 rather than £1,000 it would quickly lose its panache or lustre. Investment managers try and make their services desirable through charging more in the knowledge that most clients wrongly think: “If I pay more I must be getting a better product or a better performance”. However the research shows the precise opposite and that if you pay more, it simply means more money has been deducted from your savings and in turn they are then worth less.
We have been working extremely hard via a True and Fair Campaign to force by law, the investment industry to stop this deception and reveal to customers exactly how much, in total, investments are really costing and how they are really invested. The scale of this deception is truly shocking.
Maybe, just like a good relationship, there needs to be substance and openness and trust or the relationship is not a real relationship but just an empty dalliance, fun at the time but not particularly rewarding thereafter. I implore you to trust your instincts, keep to your principles and do not be seduced by the flannel. Instead, do plan today for your tomorrows and the life you dream of as you grow older and go off into the sunset of retirement.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
For more information about the True and Fair Campaign, go to: http://www.trueandfaircampaign.com