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Correspondent’s week

This week by freelance personal finance journalist Dido Sandler

It has been one of those essay crisis kind of weeks. I do like working for Money Marketing’s sister publication Fund Strategy. Editor Dan Ben-Ami produces interesting mags and 3,000-word features mean that you can really grasp the topic. They also make you feel like you are back at university.

The subject? The industry is trying to convince itself about the revival of that partially extinct beast called the Isa season. I suppose the phenomenon is most likely fully to recover just before the market has its next crash.

I embark on a major phone-bashing exercise to try to find out what is going on. I call the usual investment adviser suspects – Mark Dampier, Justin Modray, Patrick Connolly, Juliet Schooling, Paul Ilott, Anna Bowes, Mick Gilligan at Killik & Co, Mark Peters at Sesame and Graeme Currie at Alan Steel Asset Management. All are as charming as ever. I wish I could spread the net more widely but there is only a handful of companies where you know you will be able to speak to someone and that what they will tell you will be a: lucid and b: to varying degrees, insightful.

Dampier is great with the patter, even spotting opportunities for me reshaping his comments into story ideas for the national newspapers. I do stuff for Rob Budden at the FT weekend money section, among others.

I contact Carey Shakespeare at Berkeley Berry Birch, who says his staff are unable to speak that day as the company is too busy with internal changes. Uh oh.

Sometimes you have got to admit defeat, even with the big corporates. Step forward HSBC’s multi-tie operation. They call the concept “best of breed”. Perhaps not best of breeding.

The Cofunds and FundsNetwork spokespeople seem happy with life, having wrested massive chunks of fund business over the past couple of years. The New Star PR is also pretty chipper. I wonder if it is anything to do with the recent float, when some of the staff creamed it.

Like many women freelancers, I work from home for family reasons – three very noisy ones aged three, five and seven.

Homeworking has its benefits – no suits, no Tube, no grief when called away on a child emergency. I do toil late into the night to compensate, alas.

Mornings, before getting down to work, I have a sprint round two or three school gates. Not a fruitless activity this – the school gate is a great source of story ideas although I am not sure that property investment in the Cape Verde Islands that one mum is punting is such a good wheeze.

Would the dad who has jacked in the fund management job and is making a living putting his own cash to work, using his personal investment model make a good case study? What about the poor woman who lost her job months ago and is being screwed around by the mortgage protection insurance company? I chat with another parent who is considering joining a hedge fund start-up. Oh for God’s sake, don’t you realise you have got mouths to feed?

But there are pitfalls working from home, such as dodging the rants from Mr Angry next door, Jehovah’s Witnesses and assorted utility salespeople. Perhaps the toughest challenge of all is my mother, a freelance interpreter, who insists that I am fair game for lunch or shopping expeditions but only when she has not got a job on herself. It is enough to drive you back into employment.

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Paul McMillan, email: or telephone: 020 7970 4776


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