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One more for the road

MARR’S MARKETS – Julian Marr

The way I see it, two columns straight on Barclays Capital’s Equity Gilt Study 2010 buys me enough credit for one more shot at the even more recently finished Unique Boutiques Roadshow 2010 although obviously if you are now looking at a blank half-page, the sainted editor may be operating a different rate of exchange.

If I am completely honest, the roadshow experience was not everything I was expecting – somebody obviously forgot to book the enormous tour bus and I am still waiting to receive my Sterling-Harrogate-Knutsford-Birmingham-Bristol-London commemorative T-shirt but, on the whole and from my vantage point as chairman, it all seemed to go pretty well.

Certainly, the audience numbers were healthy enough, which – given the number of groups sending their managers the length and/or breadth of the country in the run-up to the end of the tax year – was a minor cause for wonderment in itself. Seriously, are there any advisers out there who
have not received at least three or four different roadshow invitations?

In fact, are there any hotels within 10 miles of the Ms 4, 5 and 6 that have not had at least three or four different fund groups staying a night?

Oh, the hotels I have seen in the last fortnight. Some would have had Alan Partridge purring with joy while others were quite nice.

But this is allegedly an investment column, not the AA Guide, so what of the content? Well, of course I am biased but while some might suggest the organisers may be a little hazy on what precisely constitutes a boutique, there is no denying that they can put together a programme.

SVM on managing risk in an unconstrained UK portfolio, Liontrust on identifying UK companies on the basis of intangible competitive strengths, Baillie Gifford on going global for income, Cavendish on focusing on value in emerging markets and Pictet on the investment cases for clean energy, timber and agriculture – that is enough to keep anyone interested.

Except maybe that chap in the front row at Bristol but the less said about him the better. Still, the front row? If you were feeling a little drowsy, wouldn’t you aim for somewhere discreet in the middle? And what exactly is the correct chairman’s etiquette for such a situation? Unfortunately I had left my cattle prod at home.

Even more impressive than the programme – yes, I am bigging it up but did you see some of the competition? – was the way all the organisers
got along. Much of the credit for this must go to me for holding fire on my patented “Which one of the other managers’ funds would you buy and which one would you short?’ panel question in case that caused roadshow friction.

But there were no cliques, no groups eyeing each other suspiciously from opposite ends of the bar, no sabotaging of opposition stands and no fights in the car park – well, none I was aware of anyway. No, everyone was lovely to each other and even to me – except when it came to the Q&A sessions.

Come on chaps, what was up with that? Generally you were pretty polite on the occasions I managed to extract a question from the audiences, who seemed to grow progressively more tightlipped the further south we travelled. But when I filled in with a few gems of my own – interest rates, China, the general election – you looked at me as if I had just asked: “If your fund was an animal, what animal would it be?” And I only ever use that one in an emergency.

Still, showing a fine lack of correlation with your audiences, you did warm up as the gigs moved south so thank you for that and also for holding back on using every answer to plug your funds. That is, with the exception of Pictet. I swear, you could ask its managers a question on anything – basketball, Harry Potter, soup – and they would find a way to bring it back to why you should buy their fund.

I sensed one or two others were starting to pick up on that trick by London so it is probably just as well it all ended there. Southampton may have been a roadshow too far.

Julian Marr is editorial director of


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