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Correspondent&#39s week

After seven educational years of investment research at Misys IFA Services watching tumbleweed, compliance directives and broker consultants blow across the flat, treeless fields of Oxfordshire, it is time to pack my trunk, say goodbye to the circus and park my hide in a corner of Jupiter World HQ.

Arriving at the London office, I clear Customs, pass through numerous security checks and am delighted to get a desk, a phone, a PC and, best of all, a cheery welcome. The last time I found myself in a room with so many bright and interesting people I was either researching neurotransmitters at University College, London or at one of Jon Maguire&#39s karaoke sessions. Can&#39t quite remember but it was whichever one had those big bottles of industrial-strength alcohol.

I am shown the kitchen and am impressed to see one cupboard chock-a-block with biscuits thoughtfully provided for staff. Then I open another cupboard and find it stashed full of breakfast cereal boxes. Hmmm – they start early here.

Morning prayers commence daily at 9am sharp. For 10 minutes, managers gather to reel off breaking financial news backed with pithy opinion. Breakfast telly could learn a thing or two. I scribble with the ferocity of a tartrazine-fuelled tyke, concerned to represent the managers&#39 views correctly. Incredibly, I am still starting my sentences with adverbs; the result, I fear, of not having written anything longer than a shopping list for the past five weeks.

The Jupiter green team asks me to look over an interesting report on climate control which will be going out to hundreds of companies as part of their process of dialogue and engagement. I risk a jest that there are only three types of fund – dark green, light green and soylent green – but the reference to the cult sci-fi movie passes unnoticed.

Tuesday brings a Jupiter roadshow. Turnout is excellent. IFAs get the chance to meet and question some of the UK&#39s best fund managers. What a privilege. They get fed too.

As always, Edward Bonham Carter gives a clear, honest talk reminding us that investment is about changes from trends in the past. He concludes: “I am still relatively new to this game. I&#39ve just completed my apprenticeship of 20 years.”

Alex Darwall (Jupiter European trust) explains how his team looks for “winning business models from companies which just happen to be based in Europe but are not necessarily European”.

Tony Nutt concludes a thoughtful presentation by pointing out that 40 per cent of UK shares trade on free cashflow yields above 11 per cent – the level where leveraged buyouts and private equity firms become buyers.

Shares are down, yet inv-estors seem fearful of bargains. It was ever thus. No sooner have pundits finished wondering whether the market could go down for a fourth year than the Footsie falls consecutively for a record-breaking 11 days. I am reminded of Tom Stoppard&#39s play, where Rozencrantz and Guildenstern are betting on the toss of a coin and Rozencrantz correctly calls heads 85 times on the run.

Guildenstern, irate at his own improbable run of losses, asks Rozencrantz what he would have done had the result gone the other way. Rozencrantz smiles and says he would carefully examine the coin. I feel reassured that Jupiter is a house where fund managers not only refuse to bet on market direction but also carefully examine the coins.

Night comes in, bringing sprinkles of adventitious snow. I watch the flakes, silver and dark, fall obliquely – scattering the city&#39s lamplight. The Tyndall effect. How apt. Shame that one inch of the same snow brings much of London and the Tube to a halt. Wrong type of congestion, according to Ken Livingstone. So, less smooth than Victor Sylvestor, I slip-slide and dance my way over black ice to Victoria.

Snow snow thick-thick snow. Still, such beauty is worth the price of my cloistered commute back to Chis-wick on the Pack&#39emsilly and Constrict lines. Wonder what will happen next week?

•”Do you think snails take off their shells to breed?” – L&G director (housing marketing) Stephen Smith musing over lunch in Soho restaurant L&#39Escargot.


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