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On good form

A couple of days at racecourses with upbeat investment managers and optimistic investors proves a welcome diversion to the Budget

By the time you read this, the details of the last Budget before the election will have been disclosed. It is difficult to get worked up over a set of measures that are unlikely to be too dramatic, lest they upset potential supporters at the polls, and which could well be overtaken by tax changes introduced by a new Government, probably during July. Of course, this assumes an overall majority for one or other of the leading parties.

Meanwhile, we can look forward to every little piece of economic news being subjected to intense scrutiny, with political spin added from both sides. Despite my partisanship, I am not looking forward to the next few weeks with much enthusiasm.

Better to look back at what was a busy week for me last week – one with a steady investment theme, even while I was out and about enjoying myself.

The high spot, if I am totally honest, was a return to Cheltenham. It was just one day out of the four but, given I have not been to this remarkable racing event for more years than I care to think about, the return was most welcome. And it was courtesy of a leading fund management group which, I am pleased to say, has maintained its presence there throughout the downturn. Otherwise, the investment presence felt slender.

The private client investment managers who made up the bulk of the party I joined all seemed pretty upbeat. Mind you, given that markets have rebounded compre – hensively since last year’s Cheltenham Festival, they had every right to be. And all seem to be gaining new clients – or so they claimed.

The biggest source of newbusiness seems to be the wealth departments of the major banks. Now, where have I heard that before?

Private investors themselves seem more confident, if my experience at the Association of Investment Companies roadshow in Yorkshire the following day was any indication.

Held at Wetherby racecourse, which felt quiet after a manic Cheltenham, the turn – out was impressive. As I have come to expect from these
events, the quality of the conversation between presentations and of the questions asked was high.

I felt as though last week’s column had returned to haunt me before it had even appeared in print. Sir John Templeton got a mention – twice. Admittedly, once was me quoting his description of a bull market that I used last week but the opinions offered on emerging markets by Baillie Gifford’s Edward Hocknell put me in mind of the concern I had expressed over current perceptions of where best to invest.

This was the first time I had met Edward and his brief discourse on how Baillie Gifford sees the investment world was interesting and informative.

He is clearly concerned at the level of indebtedness in the developed world and prefers an approach that will allow his funds to benefit from the transfer of economic power away from the West. He made a strong case but acknowledged it was not a risk-free ride.

These roadshows are supported by groups such as F&C and Aberdeen that offer open-ended funds, as well as the closed-ended variety as
represented by the Association of Investment Companies.

One question concerned the fact that investment trusts are seldom recommended by IFAs or banks and asked if the RDR will make a difference. Will it, I wonder?

Brian Tora (brian.tora@centaur.co.uk) is principal of the Tora Partnership

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