Personal investing

PART 6: Where can I invest my money?

There are so many investment managers to choose from, how do I figure out where I can invest my money?

Finding the right investment manager to partner with requires research:  your objectives and expectations need to align, value systems should resonate and trust is critical.  If you make the right choice, you could be on the path to a fruitful relationship. 

Here are some pointers to help you.

Alignment: Understand the investment philosophy

Every investment manager has an investment philosophy, which describes the way that they invest. Choosing a manager whose investment philosophy you understand and that resonates with you is the first part, but your manager needs to stick to their philosophy too. Changing tack to chase returns, or trying to time the market, is fraught with issues.

It is equally important that your manager has people with the right experience to apply their philosophy and processes. Ultimately these factors determine whether the unit trust delivers over the long term.

A good initial question to ask is whether the manager is a passive or active investor.

Passive managers don’t make active choices about what to include in their clients’ portfolios. They buy a small amount of all the shares in the relevant stock market index, which represents the overall market, normally in proportion to the market price of the company that the share represents. For passive managers, the current price of each share is the best indicator of its long-term value.

Active managers, on the other hand, actively pick the investments they want in their portfolio based on their assessment of the opportunities available. They can do better or worse than the market depending on which investments they choose to own for their clients, and which they choose not to own. Not owning a share can have a positive outcome relative to the market, if that share loses value and drags down the overall market. Active managers have different methods of assessing long-term value.

Competence: Look for a long-term track record

The fine-print readers amongst you may notice a phrase that appears on investment literature:

Past performance is not an indicator of future performance.

Investors tend to focus primarily on recent performance. But past performance is exactly that – in the past; there is no guarantee that it will be replicated over the long term. You can get a holistic view by looking at performance over time and, as important, looking at the risk the manager took on to achieve those returns. A risk taking manager can be tough to stay with as their returns go up and down sharply.

Hopes: Set realistic expectations

While you must hold your investment manager accountable, you should also have realistic expectations. If you understand the manager’s philosophy, then you should also understand their investment choices and any reasonable short-term swings in performance.

The prices of shares move when they are bought and sold. On each share trade there is a buyer and a seller, and looking back, one of these will be right and one wrong because valuations are never certain.

You need to be aware that sometimes, regardless of which manager you choose, the lucky manager will be right. However, over the long term, more often than not, managers with better skills come out on top.

Active managers often invest in ways that are contrary to the popular opinions of the time and so at times their portfolios will perform quite differently from the market, which can cause anxiety for some investors. On the other hand, a passive investor can be certain to do just a little worse than the market index they are following (the difference being the passive manager’s fee).

If active managers are skilled enough over the long term to get more than half of their decisions right, and if they put a bit more money in the winners than in the losers in their portfolios, they grow the savings of their clients by more than the index.

Experience: Don’t underestimate the power of great service

In looking for an investment manager don’t overlook the quality of client service you may receive. Frustrating client service can push you to exit an investment too soon and make losses. A good partnership should not be a chore to you and you should do some research into an investment manager’s reputation.

It is important to manage your emotions and remain focused on your objectives. Try to be confident in your decisions. This will make it easier to stick with your choice during periods of underperformance so that you can enjoy the returns when they come.

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