Tag

Long Term Investments

Key Questions for the Long-Term Investor

By | Investments, News & Views | No Comments

Key Questions for the Long-Term Investor

Focusing on what you can control can lead to a better investment experience.

Whether you’ve been investing for decades or are just getting started, at some point it is likely you will ask yourself some of the questions below.  Trying to answer these questions may be intimidating, but please be assured you’re not alone.  Your financial planner or advisor should be there to help.  While this is not intended to be an exhaustive list, it will hopefully shed light on a few key principles, using data and reasoning, that might help improve investors’ odds of investment success over the long term.

  1. What sort of competition do I face as an investor?

The market is an effective information-processing machine.  Millions of market participants buy and sell securities every day and the real-time information they bring helps set prices.  This means competition is stiff and trying to outguess market prices is difficult for anyone, even professional money managers (see question 2 for more on this).  This is good news for investors though as rather than basing an investment strategy on trying to find securities that are priced “incorrectly,” investors can instead rely on the information in market prices to help build their portfolios (see question 5 for more on this).Picture1

* Year-end WM/Reuter’s London Close FX rates used to convert original US dollars data to British pound sterling.  Source: World Federation of Exchanges members, affiliates, correspondents, and non-members. Trade data from the global electronic order book. Daily averages were computed using year-to-date totals as of December 31, 2016, divided by 250 as an approximate number of annual trading days.

  1. What are my chances of picking an investment fund that survives and outperforms?

Flip a coin and your odds of getting heads or tails are 50/50.  Historically, the odds of selecting an investment fund that was still around 15 years later are about the same.  Regarding outperformance, the odds are worse. The market’s pricing power works against fund managers who try to outperform through stock picking or market timing and one needn’t look further than real-world results to see this.  Based on research, only 17% of US equity mutual funds and 18% of US fixed income mutual funds have survived and outperformed their benchmarks over the past 15 years.

Picture2

Source: Mutual Fund Landscape 2017, Dimensional Fund Advisors. See Appendix for important details on the study.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

  1. If I choose a fund because of strong past performance, does that mean it will do well in the future?

Some investors select mutual funds based on past returns however research shows that most funds in the top quartile (25%) of previous five-year returns did not maintain a top-quartile ranking in the following year. In other words, past performance offers little insight into a fund’s future returns.

Picture8

Source: Mutual Fund Landscape 2017, Dimensional Fund Advisors. See Appendix for important details on the study.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

  1. Do I have to outsmart the market to be a successful investor?

Financial markets have rewarded long-term investors. People expect a positive return on the capital they invest and historically, the lower-risk bond markets and higher-risk equity markets have provided growth of wealth that has more than offset inflation.  Instead of fighting markets, let them work for you.

Picture3

In British pound sterling. UK Small Cap is the Dimensional UK Small Cap Index. UK Marketwide Value is the Dimensional UK Marketwide Value Index. UK Market is the Dimensional UK Market Index. UK Treasury Bills are UK One-Month Treasury Bills. UK Inflation is the UK Retail Price Index. Indices are not available for direct investment. Index performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio. See appendix for index descriptions.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results. The graph is for illustrative purposes only, figures presented are hypothetical and not indicative of any investment.

  1. Is there a better way to build a portfolio?

Academic research has identified these equity and fixed income dimensions, which point to differences in expected returns among securities. Instead of attempting to outguess market prices, investors can instead pursue higher expected returns by structuring their portfolio around these dimensions.

Picture4

Relative price is measured by the price-to-book ratio; value stocks are those with lower price-to-book ratios. Profitability is measured as operating income before depreciation and amortisation minus interest expense scaled by book.

  1. Is international investing for me?

Diversification helps reduce risks that have no expected return, but diversifying only within your home market may not be enough. Instead, global diversification can broaden your investment opportunity set. By holding a globally diversified portfolio, investors are well positioned to seek returns wherever they occur.

Picture5Number of holdings and countries for MSCI United Kingdom Investable Market Index (IMI) and MSCI ACWI (All Country World Index) Investable Market Index (IMI) as at 31 December 2016. MSCI data © MSCI 2017, all rights reserved. Indices are not available for direct investment.  International investing involves special risks such as currency fluctuation and political instability. Investing in emerging markets may accentuate these risks. Diversification neither assures a profit nor guarantees against loss in a declining market.

  1. Will making frequent changes to my portfolio help me achieve investment success?

It’s tough, if not impossible, to know which market segments will outperform from period to period. Accordingly, it’s better to avoid market timing calls and other unnecessary changes that can be costly. Allowing emotions or opinions about short-term market conditions to impact long-term investment decisions can lead to disappointing results.

Picture6In British pound sterling. UK Large and Mid-Cap is the MSCI United Kingdom Index (gross dividends). UK Total Market is the MSCI United Kingdom IMI Index (gross dividends). Developed Markets ex UK is the MSCI World ex UK Index (gross dividends). Emerging Markets is the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (gross dividends). Global Real Estate is the S&P Global REIT Index (gross dividends). UK Treasury Bills are UK One-Month Treasury Bills. WGBI 30-Year UK Hedged is the Citi World Government Bond Index UK 1–30+ years (hedged to GBP). WGBI Five-Year Hedged is Citi World Government Bond Index 1–5 Years (hedged to GBP). Global Fixed Income Hedged is Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index (hedged to GBP). MSCI data © MSCI 2017, all rights reserved. S&P data provided by Standard & Poor’s Index Services Group. Prior to 1975: UK Three-Month Treasury Bills provided by the London Share Price Database; 1975–present: UK One-Month Treasury Bills provided by the Financial Times. Citi fixed income indices © 2017 by Citigroup. Data provided by Bloomberg. Indices are not available for direct investment. Index performance does not reflect the expenses associated with the management of an actual portfolio.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

  1. Should I make changes to my portfolio based on what I’m hearing in the news?

Daily market news and commentary can challenge your investment discipline. Some messages stir anxiety about the future, while others tempt you to chase the latest investment fad. If headlines are unsettling, consider the source and try to maintain a long-term perspective. Picture7

  1. So, what should I be doing?

Work closely with a financial adviser who can offer expertise and guidance to help you focus on actions that add value. Focusing on what you can control can lead to a better investment experience.

  • Create an investment plan to fit your needs and risk tolerance.
  • Structure a portfolio along the dimensions of expected returns.
  • Diversify globally.
  • Manage expenses, turnover, and taxes.
  • Stay disciplined through market dips and swings.

APPENDIX

Question 2: The sample includes US mutual funds at the beginning of the 15-year period ending December 31, 2016. Each fund is evaluated relative to the Morningstar benchmark assigned to the fund’s category at the start of the evaluation period. Surviving funds are those with return observations for every month of the sample period. Winner funds are those that survived and whose cumulative net return over the period exceeded that of their respective Morningstar category benchmark.

Question 3: At the end of each year, US mutual funds are sorted within their category based on their five-year total return. US mutual funds in the top quartile (25%) of returns are evaluated again in the following year based on one-year performance in order to determine the percentage of funds that maintained a top-quartile ranking. The analysis is repeated each year from 2007– 2016. The chart shows average persistence of top-quartile funds during the 10-year period.

Questions 2 and 3: US-domiciled open-end mutual fund data is from Morningstar and Center for Research in Security Prices (CRSP) from the University of Chicago. Index funds and fund-of-funds are excluded from the sample. Equity fund sample includes the Morningstar historical categories: Diversified Emerging Markets, Europe Stock, Foreign Large Blend, Foreign Large Growth, Foreign Large Value, Foreign Small/Mid Blend, Foreign Small/Mid Growth, Foreign Small/Mid Value, Japan Stock, Large Blend, Large Growth, Large Value, Mid-Cap Blend, Mid-Cap Value, Miscellaneous Region, Pacific/Asia ex-Japan Stock, Small Blend, Small Growth, Small Value and World Stock. Fixed income fund sample includes the Morningstar historical categories: Corporate Bond, Inflation-Protected Bond, Intermediate Government, Intermediate-Term Bond, Muni California Intermediate, Muni National Intermediate, Muni National Short, Muni New York Intermediate, Muni Single State Short, Short Government, Short-Term Bond, Ultrashort Bond and World Bond. See Dimensional’s “Mutual Fund Landscape 2017” for more detail. Benchmark data provided by Bloomberg Barclays, MSCI, Russell, Citigroup and S&P. Bloomberg Barclays data provided by Bloomberg. MSCI data © MSCI 2017, all rights reserved. Frank Russell Company is the source and owner of the trademarks, service marks and copyrights related to the Russell Indexes. Citi fixed income indices © 2017 by Citigroup. The S&P data is provided by Standard & Poor’s Index Services Group.

Question 4: DIMENSIONAL UK SMALL CAP INDEX: January 1994–present: Compiled from Bloomberg securities data. Market capitalisation-weighted index of small company securities in the eligible markets excluding those with the lowest profitability and highest relative price within the small cap universe. Profitability is measured as operating income before depreciation and amortisation minus interest expense scaled by book. Exclusions: REITs and investment companies. The index has been retroactively calculated by Dimensional Fund Advisors and did not exist prior to April 2008. The calculation methodology for the Dimensional UK Small Cap Index was amended in January 2014 to include direct profitability as a factor in selecting securities for inclusion in the index. July 1981–December 1993: Includes securities in the bottom 10% of market capitalisation, excluding the bottom 1%. Rebalanced semiannually. Prior to July 1981: Elroy Dimson and Paul Marsh, Hoare Govett Smaller Companies Index 2009, ABN-AMRO/Royal Bank of Scotland, January 2009.

DIMENSIONAL UK MARKETWIDE VALUE INDEX: January 1994–present: Compiled from Bloomberg securities data. The index consists of companies whose relative price is in the bottom 33% of their country’s companies after the exclusion of utilities and companies with either negative or missing relative price data. The index emphasises companies with smaller capitalisation, lower relative price and higher profitability. The index also excludes those companies with the lowest profitability and highest relative price within their country’s value universe. Profitability is measured as operating income before depreciation and amortization minus interest expense scaled by book. Exclusions: REITs and investment companies. The index has been retroactively calculated by Dimensional Fund Advisors and did not exist prior to April 2008. The calculation methodology for the Dimensional UK Value Index was amended in January 2014 to include direct profitability as a factor in selecting securities for inclusion in the index. Prior to January 1994: Source: Dimson, Elroy, Stevan Nagel and Garrett Quigley. 2003. “Capturing the value premium in the UK”, Financial Analysts Journal 2003, 59(6): 35–45. Created Returns, converted from GBP to USD using the WM/Reuters at 4 pm EST (closing spot), from PFPC exchange rate.

DIMENSIONAL UK MARKET INDEX: Compiled by Dimensional from Bloomberg securities data. Market capitalisation-weighted index of all securities in the United Kingdom. Exclusions: REITs and investment companies. The index has been retroactively calculated by Dimensional and did not exist prior to April 2008.

UK ONE-MONTH TREASURY BILLS: Provided by the Financial Times Limited. Prior to 1975: UK Three-Month Treasury Bills provided by the London Share Price Database.

UK RETAIL PRICE INDEX: Provided by the Office for National Statistics; Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO.

Not All US Shares have Gone Up in 2020

By | Investments, News & Views | No Comments

“If the history of bubbles teaches us anything, it’s to be humble… Fama doesn’t think we can predict bubbles. Shiller thinks we can but doesn’t think we can ever know when they’ll collapse. What we need, but I know we’ll never get, is more of this type of thinking. I’m holding out for a humility bubble.”

[Fama and Shiller both received Nobel Prizes for economics for their diametrically opposed views on markets! – Ed.]
Morgan Housel – Author[1]

Well, 2020 has been a strange year so far for equity investors; the early gains of global equity markets in the first couple of months turned into material – and rapid falls – in all equity markets.  Yet, as we sit here in the early days of Autumn, global markets are more or less back where they were at the start of the year, although the UK is a laggard.  Thank goodness for diversification.  Across the pond, the US market has rebounded strongly and the tech shares such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and the electric vehicle firm Tesla have appeared to defy gravity.  Hands up all who wishes they owned more US tech shares.

Sometimes the disconnect between what is happening in the economy and what is happening on Wall Street is hard to reconcile in one’s mind.  However, we need to remember that the market looks beyond well beyond our current challenges and discounts all future earnings into prices.  To those who believe markets work, this represents the best guess of the value of a company today, given the information we have available to us.  To others it may feel like bubble territory and a big momentum play into a few companies getting lots of media attention and investor dollars.

We also need to remember that trading in the markets – buying Apple – is not as simple as saying that Apple is a good company, so the price should go up – but a process of estimating whether the market has over – or underpriced just how good Apple is.  Did Apple’s market value double from US $1 trillion in August 2018 to $2 trillion in August 2020 because the discounted earnings were expected to be far larger than the market thought, or are we in bubble territory?  If you are hoping for an answer, then you will be disappointed; no-one really knows.

If we look beyond these gravity-defying shares, we see that the returns from the vast majority of US companies is less than stellar, perhaps reflecting more closely how many feel about the current economic environment; in fact 335 shares in the S&P 500 sit below the market average for the year of around 12%.  Half of all shares have actually lost money, yet maybe some of them will be future winners. 

Fortunately, as systematic, long-term investors, clients of Wells Gibson have avoided the full brunt of the UK’s woes and picked up some of the benefits of owning US tech shares.  Could we have predicted this outcome?  Do we know what happens next with any certainty?  Let’s be honest, we don’t know, you don’t know and nor do any professional fund managers.

All we can really do is to remain well diversified, try to avoid the feelings of wishing we had more in the US tech shares, and be patient. Investing using the rear-view mirror is never advisable. If history tells us anything, it is that today’s winners are rarely tomorrow’s winners.

With a longer-term perspective and a disciplined approach, we can sit back confident in the fact that we will participate in tomorrow’s winners as we own them today, somewhere in our richly diversified portfolios.

[1] The Psychology of Money (to be published on 9th September 2020). Review: ‘Morgan Housel’s new book clarifies – with razor sharp and accessible insight – that building wealth is a mindset problem, not an investment problem. This is the first book any investor should read; in conjunction with a good index fund, becoming wealthy lies within everyone’s grasp.’ Tim Hale, MD at Albion Strategic Consulting, and author of Smarter Investing: Simpler Decisions for Better Results
Risk warnings
This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product.  Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.
Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.
Header image by Dan Smedley on Unsplash

10 Tips for Surviving Inevitable Market Falls

By | Investments, News & Views | No Comments

Just as turbulence is a characteristic of flying, volatility is a characteristic of capital markets!

As investors we have all experienced turbulence in 2020, yet if you stayed seated and fastened your seatbelt, as a client of Wells Gibson, you will have noticed the value of their portfolio has more or less recovered the falls you experienced in the first few months of the year.

Market falls are inevitable when investing and often these falls can be alarming and at an unexpected degree.  Although, we should expect falls at some point, we need to remember these declines are always temporary.  No one knows when and at what magnitude these falls will occur so here’s top 10 tips for your portfolio’s survival:

 

  1. Embrace the uncertainty of markets – that’s what delivers you with strong, long-term returns.

 

  1. Don’t look at your portfolio too often. Once a year is more than enough.

 

  1. Accept that you cannot time when to be in and out of markets – it is simply not possible. Resign yourself to the fact.  Hindsight prophecies – ‘I knew the market was going to crash’ – are not allowed.

 

  1. If markets have fallen, remember that you still own everything you did before (the same, lower-risk, bond holdings and the same higher-risk shares in the same companies).

 

  1. A fall does not turn into a loss unless you sell your investments at the wrong time. If you don’t need the money, why would you sell?

 

  1. Falls in the markets and recoveries to previous highs are likely to sit well inside your long-term investment horizon, in other words, when you need your money.

 

  1. The balance between your lower-risk, defensive assets (high quality bonds) and higher-risk, growth assets (equities / shares) was established by Wells Gibson to make sure that you can withstand temporary falls in the value of your portfolio, both emotionally and financially, and that your portfolio has sufficient growth assets to deliver the returns needed to fund your lifestyle.

 

  1. Be confident that your (boring) defensive assets will come into their own, protecting your portfolio from some of equity market falls. Be confident that you have many investment eggs held in several different baskets.

 

  1. If you are taking an income from your portfolio, remember that if equities have fallen in value, you will be taking your income from your bonds, not selling equities when they are lower value.

 

  1. Last and by no means least, we are available to talk to you at any time and as your lifetime wealth partner, we will urge you to stay the course and be a source of fortitude, patience and discipline. In all likelihood we will advise you to sell bonds and buy equities, just when you feel like doing the opposite.

 

Risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product.  Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

Header image by Photo by Ewan Harvey on Unsplash

Cash Dividends – Don’t Bank on Them

By | News & Views | No Comments

‘Do you know the only thing that gives me pleasure? It’s to see my dividends coming in.’

John D. Rockefeller

To this day we can still relate to the words of American industrialist John D. Rockefeller, despite their utterance over a century ago.   Be it a privately-owned business or publicly listed equities / shares, dividends come part and parcel with owning a portion of a business. Cash dividends have long been an effective tool used to attract investors to a company’s shares.  ‘A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’.

Dividends have historically been a way to disseminate information.  A change in a company’s dividend could hint at financial health.  In a world becoming increasingly dominated by information, mostly available at our fingertips, the power of the dividend, from this perspective at least, has diminished.  Also, corporate finance departments have tools at their disposal, such as share buybacks, that have become increasingly popular.

Such phenomena, in addition to perhaps a shift in investor sentiment, have resulted in a reduction in the number of firms paying regular cash dividends to shareholders.  The volume of dividends, however, has not necessarily decreased meaning that dividends are concentrated in a smaller number of companies.  Dividend-targeting strategies, therefore, tend to be less diverse [1].

‘Do lower dividends mean lower returns?’

Not necessarily.  Once a company’s share goes ex-dividend, it’s price decreases by the amount of the dividend, ceteris paribus.  Not issuing a dividend would mean the cash remains in the company and thus is still part of the shareholder’s claim on assets.

Figure 1: Illustration of the impact of a dividend on stock price
‘Does it matter to me what my portfolio yields from dividends?’

Not really.  At Wells Gibson, we adopt what is called a ‘total return’ approach to investing [2].  We are agnostic to companies’ dividend policy and instead structure diversified portfolios with a focus on risk exposures.  Your portfolio will usually generate some income from dividends each year, and sometimes some capital appreciation too.  However, as figure 1 above illustrates, it doesn’t matter where that return comes from.  One does not draw out cash, stare at two £20 notes and wonder: ‘which of these came from dividends and which from capital appreciation?’. Return, after all, is return, is return.

Risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product.  Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

Header image by Martin Sepion on Unsplash; Yorkshire, UK.
[1] Fatemi, A. & Bildik, R., (2012). “Yes, dividends are disappearing: Worldwide evidence,”
[2] For investors not requiring a ‘natural yield’ from the portfolio.

Good things come…

By | Investments, News & Views | No Comments

… to those who wait

‘Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet’
Aristotle

Good things come to those who wait.  This was the strapline once used by Guinness to refer to the 119.5 seconds it takes to pour a ‘perfect’ pint of their iconic stout[1]. With investing, the time periods we are concerned about are measured in years, rather than seconds.  Looking at your investment portfolio too often only increases the chance that you will be disappointed.  This of course can be challenging at times, particularly during tumultuous markets.

We know that monitoring markets on a monthly basis looks rather stressful, as they yoyo through time whereby there are times during which the market is growing its purchasing power (i.e. beating inflation) and there are times when it is contracting.

The evident day-on-day and month-on-month yoyo is a consequence of new information being factored into prices on an ongoing basis.  Investors around the world digest this information, decide whether it will cause a change in a company’s cashflows (or the risks to them occurring), and hold or trade the company’s share accordingly.  These are the concerns of active investors casting judgements on an individual company’s prospects.

Over longer holding periods, the day-to-day worries of more actively managed portfolios are erased, as equity / share markets generate wealth over the longer term.  For instance, between January 1988 and June 2020, monthly rolling 20-year holding periods never resulted in a destruction of purchasing power.  A longer-term view to investing enables individuals to spend more time focusing on what matters most to them and to avoid the anxiety of watching one’s portfolio movements.

This is not to say that investing is a set-and-forget process, however.  Wells Gibson’s Investment Committee meets regularly on your behalf to kick the tyres of the portfolio, after reviewing any new evidence.  Over time there may be incremental changes to your investments (or there might not be) as a result, but the Investment Committee shares the outlook illustrated in the figure above – we have structured your portfolio for the long term, and it is built to weather all storms.

Delving deeper

If we look at longer term market data in the US back to 1927, the result is the same.  Furthermore, we can cherry-pick a 20-year period which is fresh in many investors’ minds: the bottom of the Financial Crisis. In this (extreme) 20-year period, to Feb-09, equity markets had barely recovered from the crash of technology shares in the early 00s, before falling over 50% in 2008/9, in real terms.  These were unsettling times to say the least.

Despite the headwinds, investors had been rewarded substantially for participating in the growth of capital markets over the longer term.  An equity investor viewing their portfolio for the first time in 20 years would have seen their wealth more than double, whilst at the same time the media was reporting headlines such as ‘Worst Crisis Since ‘30s, with No End Yet in Sight’[2].

Have faith in wealth-creation through capitalism and try not to look at your portfolio too often. As the adage goes: ‘look at your cash daily if you need to, your bonds once per year, and stocks every ten’.

Header image by Sarah Mitchell-Baker on Unsplash; York, UK, Looking over the River Ouse in York from Lendal Bridge.
[1] https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/guinness-academy
[2] Wall Street Journal, September 18, 2008