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Swayed by the winds of change

The IFA investment industry gathered in an unusually gloomy Madrid last week for the second annual Sway investment conference.

Over 100 of the UK&#39s leading investment advisers arrived on Wednesday afternoon in what is billed as Europe&#39s sunniest capital only to be disappointed to find it had been sunnier at home.

Not that the weather mattered, as there was no be time for sunbathing or sightseeing with a packed schedule of speeches and networking.

The Sway Senate programme is the rising star in the conference circuit and is seen by many delegates as the premier event, overtaking established rival Pims.

Sway aims to put some of the biggest fund management names in front of the biggest- business-producing IFAs. This year, 25 fund managers were ready to tell them their view of the world and why to invest with them.

Delegates heard of defensive attitudes to Europe, why the thematic approach will conquer all, how the market had bottomed out and even, according to Royal & Sun Alliance Investments, how equities were dead to be replaced by high-yield corporate bonds.

Many firms tilted back to technology and the US, with more bulls in those sectors than Spain&#39s best matadors could handle.

The conference started

on Wednesday, promising a marathon of 26 main platform speeches, 10 boardroom sessions, three dinners and two lunches – all this to fit into just 60 hours. Unfortunately, for some delegates, the itinerary proved to be something of an data deluge as many struggled to take everything on board.

The short straw of the first speech fell to Schroders Andy Brough who boldly went where no man has gone before with a Star Trek-themed talk on the benefits of investing outside of the FTSE 100. He claimed TMT funds were the greatest corporate mugging ever and extolled the benefits of private finance initiatives as the investment opportunities of the future.

Investec&#39s Jamie MacLeod followed with, Fund Manage-ment -Whatever Next? He attacked the inappropriateness of many fund firms&#39 marketing material, saying: “Sex in the City should remain on Channel Four” and have no part in spicing up investment ads.

Newton predicted the return of stockpickers over the top-down approach, claiming fund managers who look for anomalies in the market will win over those that jump on the bandwagon.

M&G, to the theme of The Great Storm, forecast last year&#39s TMT aberration was a one-off not to be repeated.

The highlight of Thursday&#39s heavy schedule was SG Asset Management&#39s Nicola Horlick slamming index funds and passive management.

We also heard from Winterthur&#39s Mike Kellard who pointed to the importance of investment advice on income drawdown and why investment IFAs should forge closer links with their pension counterparts to tackle this market.

Standard Life Investments head of strategy Andrew Mill-igan explained why he bel-ieves we are coming to the end of the worst bear market since 1973.

But Britannic Asset Management predicted that volatile markets are here to stay as a result of hedge fund launches and higher levels of sophistication among retail investors.

One of the best speeches came on Friday as ABN Amro&#39s Dick Turpin explained why geography was a thing of the past to be replaced by global investing.

The majority of delegates left the conference believing it was worthwhile.

Many said that they would attend again next year although some voiced concerns over the amount of information that they were expected to take in over the three days.


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