Why news and politics are investor distractions

-- | 16/07/2018

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Glenn Freeman: Paul, thanks very much for joining us today.

Paul Moore: Thank you.

Freeman: Paul, can you talk us through the standout points about your investment approach? Is the fact that you are unrestricted, you are not constrained and also, you can hold, have unlimited holdings in cash, you can have unlimited holdings in various sectors, can you just talk us through how you arrive at that? Is that an advantage that you've got over some of the other competitors?

Moore: We certainly think it's a point of differentiation. Unfortunately, most investing today has become very process driven and so, they do have all these constraints. And if you think about as a true investor, you really never know what's going to be thrown up in front of you over time. But if you find a really good risk-reward opportunity, you want to be able to take advantage of it. You don't want to have any artificial constraints that are preventing you from making that investment.

Now, we have certain restrictions in terms of – we do have sector limits, et cetera, to prevent us from becoming to exposed to one stock or one sector, et cetera. But relative to other managers we are definitely much more high conviction. And to be honest, I think that over the longer run that's the only way you can really make a difference versus, say, a passive investment in an index.

Freeman: And presumably, that probably means you spend a fair bit of time offshore, not just you but other portfolio managers within your company. But what are some of the places you are spending the most time at the moment? So, what countries are you liking right now?

Moore: Good question. I mean, at the moment, there's nothing that really stands out from a geographic point of view. And to be honest, we don't pay any attention to geography. It's a global world. What you find each day is bank stocks around the world go up and down, technology stocks go up and down. So, we can get by with just a global exchange. Having said that, one of my portfolio managers is just about to head off to Europe for two months in terms of, one, doing the maintenance work on stocks we own; secondly, trying to get a better understanding of how Europe will play out, because if Europe can find sustainable growth, it will create some really interesting opportunities, and then looking for new ideas. Later in the year, I will probably in the US looking at a number of different investments. So, any point of time, we are all over the place visiting companies.

But to be honest, today, with the internet and the access to information, information has become readily available. It's really a commodity. So, a lot of the background work that I used to do 20 or 30 years ago, which you had to do by going overseas, you no longer have to do. You can do most of it here in Australia. And it's really the last part of the equation where you are really debating the key issues, that's when you go and talk to the respective company on their home turf. So, yeah, sometimes we are travelling a lot, sometimes we are not.

Freeman: And just in the context of, you mentioned there Europe, and it just makes me think how much do macro market events, say, political movements, elections, political shifts within different countries, for instance, in the U.K. with Brexit and now quite a big change that just occurred in the personnel within the cabinet, how do those sorts of things play into your process?

Moore: Look, they – I mean, there's always political and macro events going on. It will never change. They tend to impact the short term and they tend to create exaggerated movements short term, which actually creates the opportunities for a true long-term investor. And then Brexit and Trump are classic examples. I mean, Brexit, the market sold off. Two days later, they were going up again. And you look back now, it was a great opportunity to invest. Then came along Trump. And Trump won the election and it was like – everyone thought this is going to be disaster, particularly after Brexit. In fact, the Asian and European investors knew the result of the election before the US market opened. All the so-called smart money laid their bets thinking the markets would collapse. They came back at the end US trading and they had all gone up. So, even when they knew the answer in advance, they made the wrong investment decision and that highlights that when it comes to macro and political, it's often just like playing black or red. It's 50-50 proposition. Don't pay too much attention to it.

If there's one bit of advice I could give to self-directed investors, it is, don't waste time on current headlines, macro, political in particular. I have rarely paid attention to politics in 30 years. The real issue is, when that creates volatility and throws up opportunities, have a look at the underlying business and work out whether this is something you want to invest in over the longer term. When I say longer term, we would argue that you will need between 5 and 10 years for a decent investment to play out. So, that's why we have a 7-year investment horizon. And I would argue that you don't want to be invested in equities if you have less than a 5 to 10-year investment horizon.

This report appeared on www.morningstar.com.au 2022 Morningstar Australasia Pty Limited

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