More details will follow in an explanatory letter to all clients and a follow-up article in the summer edition of Prospects.
I mention this because one of the areas that the industry is struggling to cope with is the provision and payment of investment research, about much has been written in the press of late. One particular article caught my eye. It quoted a survey conducted by Capital Access Group, in which 85% of the survey participants said physical meetings or telephone contact with company management is critical or important when making investment decisions. Of course, this is not something that anyone at JM Finn & Co would be surprised to read. One of the fundamental aspects of our success is our belief that first-hand information gleaned from meeting a chief executive or a finance director fosters a better level of understanding of the company and assists our investment managers in managing client portfolios. One aspect of the findings did surprise me: 43% of professional investors met fewer than 25 companies in 2016, despite the above-mentioned 85% stating a meeting was important.
Each year, our investment managers are given the opportunity to meet an extensive range of well-established UK PLCs – last year we met with 42 FTSE 100 companies and the same number again from the FTSE 250 and others. This allows our investment managers to take informed investment decisions, not only getting information about that particular stock, but also providing valuable insight into the industry, sector and wider economic picture. And these numbers are in addition to the fund management companies that we meet about their specific investment funds.
The eight stocks that we review in each edition of Prospects are but a small sample of the stocks that we have seen in the last quarter and although we don’t offer specific advice in these pages, we feel it is important to provide some insight into these events that feature highly in our investment managers’ decision making process.
On a cautionary note about the markets, investors should be aware that the UK stock market as expressed by the FTSE 100 index is flirting with an all-time high at the time of writing, but I think it’s worth remembering we were nearly at these levels in 2006/7 and 1999. The index is made up of the mainly large capitalised, overseas currency-dependent companies, particularly the oil and gas giants. On the other hand, the next 250 companies below the top 100 are very much more domestically focussed and have been less dominant of late, so we may well find more value with these more domestically oriented companies. If and when the pound eventually rallies, the tide could well turn in favour of these more lowly valued, domestic companies, but as ever, the question is if and when.