OBSERVATIONS

Observations

A behind the scenes look at financial services

Breaking the sequence

22-Jun-2017

Observant participants in the financial services sector, and more specifically the self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) space, may have noticed a pattern in the appointment of the SMSF Association’s senior executives.

A walk through the association’s past and current chairs would suggest if you didn’t have the Christian name Peter or Andrew, you wouldn’t be eligible to take on the position.

The past roll call includes individuals such as Peter Fry, Peter Hogan, Peter Crump, Andrew Hamilton and, of course, current chair Andrew Gale.

Throw into the mix chief executive Andrea Slattery and you could easily argue a case that there is some sort of existing pattern.

However, before the conspiracy theorists can get too excited, the sequence has now officially been broken.

As readers of financialobserver’s sister publication, selfmanagedsuper, would know, Slattery’s reign as chief executive ended in May, with her replacement announced as John Maroney – officially bringing the reign of the Peters and Andrews to an end.

Distinction from The Donald

22-Jun-2017

Ever since he hosted reality TV show The Apprentice, and certainly since he was a presidential candidate and now United States President, Donald Trump’s hairstyle has attracted a lot of attention.

So much so that when he was interviewed on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, he actually allowed the host to mess his hair up just to prove it was real.

The interest in Trump’s hair seems to have spread to these shores as well, with AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver having to defend his hairdo at a recent ASX Investor Day because it had been likened to the Donald’s set of follicles.

According to Oliver, he can’t escape the comparison because his son is continually reminding him of the perceived similarity.

But the chief economist was quick to point out Trump’s part is in a significantly different place.

Oliver did admit though that he thought it proved Trump had a good a hairdresser.

They said it:

22-Jun-2017

“There’s a great Winston Churchill line which says: ‘No matter how beautiful the strategy, it pays to look at the results once in a while.’”

ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliot draws on a famous quote to better explain to delegates at the Australian Shareholders’ Association Conference how the bank arrived at its new approach to wealth management.

Taking a Swan dive

11-May-2017

Members of the financialobserver team were privileged enough to get an invite to the opening round match of the 2017 AFL season between the Sydney Swans and Port Adelaide courtesy of the Swan’s official education partner Kaplan.

And you could say there was a bit of a financial services, or at least finance sector, feel about the clash with David Koch also there in his capacity as Port Power president.

The day started with an address from Sydney chair Andrew Pridham and as expected he threw a few barbs at the Port Adelaide contingent to spice up proceedings.

This scribe thought he was a little harsh, especially when he quipped: “It’s always lonely in the middle of the ladder, but you’ve got to give credit to the Port fans for their passion and enthusiasm. The last time we saw such a large and passionate group of Adelaide locals all banding together was when they were getting arrested at New Year’s.”

This type of pre-game bravado can of course be fraught with danger and the inevitable serving of humble pie came two hours later when the Power chalked up its first win in 11 years at the SCG with a 28 point triumph over the home team.

In the final wash up we couldn’t help but think, given its high standing as a financial services educator, Kaplan might be able to give Pridham a few tips to help the chairman avoid having to wipe egg off his face again. Perhaps the lesson could centre on the age old financial services adage that past performance is no indication of future success.

Acronyms gone mad

11-May-2017

We all know every industry, not just financial services, has the bad habit of using numerous acronyms all the time in the assumption everyone knows what they stand for.

But it’s perhaps not until someone from outside the universe in which we operate is exposed to all of these acronyms that we begin to realise the extent of the phenomenon.

This was demonstrated by SMSF Association National Conference master of ceremonies Andrew Klein, who despite having performed this duty for the past four conferences, admitted he still had difficulty saying SMSF without verbally stumbling.

Klein continued on to confess that, as a non-superannuation or financial services practitioner, he had no idea what a TRIS, an LRBA, a CC, an NCC, BRP, SIS, ECPI, MTR, or NTLG meant but was hoping he would finally find out at what was his fourth conference.

We thought we might give him a bit of a hand by spelling out what each of the above meant in order and that is - a transition to retirement income stream, a limited recourse borrowing arrangement, business real property, a concessional contribution, a non-concessional contribution, the Superannuation (Industry) Supervision Act, exempt current pension income, marginal tax rate, and the National Tax Liaison Group.

We hope when the conference came to an end, and of course if he reads this piece, Andrew will no longer need to use the acronym WTF as he did originally when confronted with these terms.

They said it…

11-May-2017

“What is an investment briefing without a Warren Buffet quote?”

Remerga portfolio manager Craig Mercer recognises his own unoriginality when responding to a journalist’s query at the group’s recent media roundtable by referencing one of the world’s most successful investors.

Keeping us honest

10-Apr-2017

Members of the industry can be very coy in their conversations and actions once they know the media is present.

No doubt their concern stems from the fact they might inadvertently get caught out saying or doing something they shouldn’t.

But a recent experience showed this journalist the media themselves are being closely scrutinised by the people they write about.

At an end of year function attendees were given a test. They were asked how many animals of each kind Moses took on his ark.

This scribe fell for the trick and answered two. The correct answer of course is none because it was Noah who had the ark.

This writer thought nothing more of failing the test until one of his colleagues met up with an industry contact who had also attended the end of year lunch.

At the meeting the industry contact brought up the biblical reference and instructed the colleague to repeat the test to see how many animals this reporter thought went on the ark with Moses.

The trick wasn’t fallen for a second time but appropriate acknowledgement was given as to how closely the media themselves are being scrutinised.

Sentiment barometer

10-Apr-2017

The financial services industry is always monitoring client and most importantly investor sentiment as to how optimistic we can be about issues such as the economy.

Often this is done via surveys of various people to see how much individuals are spending and the type of items attracting that spend, be they retail purchases, shares or residential property.

But the experience of the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) at the recent SMSF Association National Conference suggests all of us looking to get a handle on investors’ attitudes may have been looking for the answer in the wrong place.

At the event in question the ASX had wooden bulls and bears as part of the promotion material present at its exhibitor’s stand.

By the end of the second day delegates had already snapped up all of the bulls on offer leaving only bears left for the latecomers.

We think this might be a sign of adviser optimism for the share market in the year ahead, hopefully driven by the many client conversations they may have had recently.

They said it:

10-Apr-2017

“Welcome to what appears to be the St Patrick’s Day version of the [SMSF Association] NSW chapter [breakfast].”

BT Financial Group senior technical consultant David O’Connell points out the uncanny timing of his presentation, including appropriate lilt, hot on the heels of the annual epic celebration by the Irish community.

We’ll drink to that

22-Mar-2017

In an invitation to a media briefing in Sydney on the future of active investing, a United States-based asset manager chose an interesting term to describe its investing approach, which left us rather puzzled, but intrigued.

The opening line of the media invitation read as follows: “For several years now, bottoms up fundamental research, the cornerstone of active investing, has been facing growing threats on multiple fronts.”

We were willing to dismiss this as an unfortunate typo, except the term came up again in the chief investment officer’s discussion on price distortion during the course of the briefing, seemingly appropriately held at Sydney’s swish Bentley Bar on a Friday afternoon.

“Markets don’t care about whether you’re top down or bottoms up, they care about efficient price discovery,” she said.

Maybe it’s a reflection of the manager’s success, the regular toasting of which has allowed the expression to creep into its vernacular.

Whatever the case may be, we sure hope the firm managed to get to the bottom of it before the next media briefing.