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The name game

The reason that I prefer the wonderful world of investment ahead of any other area of personal finance is that it is the place where, after a punter has shelled out on their mortgage, pension and whatever elements of protection float their and their adviser’s respective boats, they can go and try and make some money rather than spend it. I am aware that this may be a minority view at present.

This has tended to be more of a theoretical than practical exercise anyway for me because, cue violins and thank you for feeling my pain, financial journalism is not known for its giant salaries. However, one time in early 2000, I was paid the princely sum of £1,000 for spending a weekend doing some corporate freelance and I resolved this was going nowhere but into a fund.

Since it was only the lack of a hangover that distinguished those two days from a few other lost weekends around that time, I resolved that my money was going to be spent on the sort of investment that St Mark of Dampier used to class as “sex and violence” rather than “bread and butter”. This was not an investment, it was a bet – and I knew just the horse.

For only the other week, I had interviewed the manager of Aberdeen European technology and, after transcribing the tape, it seemed there was a 10-minute portion of which I had no recollection at all. As it happens, it had been this very magazine’s own awards dinner the previous night and I had apparently chosen to catch up on some lost sleep during the interview.

Turning a blind eye to that breach of etiquette – much as, at the time, I did to the fact that I had only recently interviewed Bill Mott, who had made a convincing case for the return of the “old economy” – technology was as sex and violence as it got and here was a tech manager who was so into his fund that he had managed to put me to sleep.

I know this episode does not paint me in the most flattering light but I mention it in order to dwell upon one aspect. Not that Bill Mott is a very clever man, which we all know, nor that a scarily in-depth knowledge of companies’ expertise in technology, biotech or whatever is not the same as a thorough grasp of their investment potential – which is perhaps less well understood.

Nor do I worry too much that, nine years on, my grand is now worth considerably less. I still maintain I knew what I was doing – it is just this particular horse race is going to last every one of the 20 years I said I was prepared to wait at the start (but hoped I would not have to). No, this column – and with 200 words to go we finally reach my point – is about my fund’s various changes of identity.

Aberdeen European technology was merged into Aberdeen technology, which became New Star technology and, presumably – all things being equal with New Star’s sale – now stands a chance of becoming Henderson global technology. Hey, at this rate, I could have owned the two great tech funds of the 1980s and 1990s – and absolutely none of that outperformance.

But I should imagine three going on four identities is not terribly unusual for the retail fund industry and that the record is considerably north of that. Indeed, it was at this point I planned to ask readers to write in with the most number of names that a fund has gone through while owned by one of their clients – until I realised that could show them being as professional as me in the above anecdote.

As I say, it has been a conscious, albeit masochistic, decision to stick with New Star (née Aberdeen European) technology through the bad times and the even worse times – I promise – but how many advisers can, hand on heart, say that about every one of their clients’ funds through all their various guises?

Still, while I look into launching my new fund group Inertia Asset Management, perhaps someone really could let me know the most fund names that the same investment has gone through. Purely theoretically, of course.

Julian Marr is editorial director of marketing-hub.co.uk

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