If you are looking for something a little extra to help with your investments, joining the Money Makers membership circle and receiving our premium content for a small monthly outlay might be the answer.
Too much information
There is so much good information available online for the enquiring investor that you might ask what else a subscription service (even a modestly priced one such as this, less than £2 a week) can offer. My answer would be summed up in three words: convenience, experience and access. They are the three things which I was looking for when I was starting on my investment career many years ago and the Money Makers service is my way of trying to reproduce something of that for others.
If you read the financial media, you will find no shortage of recommendations about what to do with your investments. The problem is twofold: knowing which of the many options to act on and (frequently) the lack of accountability or experience of those suggesting them. As it happens I am great admirer of the financial media in this country, but one of the things that I have learnt over the years – being a former national newspaper journalist helps – is that barely five per cent of the prodigious output you can read is worth spending your time on.
Out with the old, in with the new
With the advent of the Internet, the proliferation of content has continued apace, to the point of massive information overload. Twenty five years ago I was a founding shareholder in The Week, the hugely successful weekly news magazine. Our idea back then was to help readers keep abreast of what the newspapers were saying by filtering out all but the very best articles and then summarising them in a single weekly publication that could absolve the reader from having to read all the others. At the time printed newspapers were still enjoying a boom after the breaking of the printworkers’ cartel, enabling money and investment to be ploughed into editorial content, and the newspapers expanded prodigiously, becoming heavier by the week.
Since then the Internet, free and available to everyone, has sent newspapers back into decline. The Telegraph, for example, part of a group I once worked for, has seen its circulation shrink from over a million to barely 200,000 copies a day. In its place we have social media and a torrent of commercially inspired content in which the distinction between editorial and advertorial has become increasingly blurred. All the social media companies, however well-intentioned their founders, are essentially now advertising companies, rewarded for their success in building a network of users that advertisers can exploit.
Conflicts of interest
For investors, the big platforms, Hargreaves Lansdown, A.J.Bell, Fidelity and Interactive Investor, now dominate the flow of information to individual investors. In my view, they mostly provide a valuable service, but when it comes to stock and fund selection, as the Woodford scandal showed, there are some inherent conflicts of interest between the platforms and their customers. It is not as blatant as it was in the bad old days (before 2013) when financial advisers, stockbrokers and platforms still received annually repeating commission from fund management companies for every fund they persuaded their clients to invest in.
But the tension is still there; what investors want more than anything, without always being happy to pay for them, are reliable recommendations about what to invest in. The fund lists that platforms produce (under a variety of titles) are no better than average in identifying the best funds to own, while stockbrokers are prevented by regulation from making recommendations to non-professional clients (and their tips are often not very good either), and the media is so busy making recommendations about every type of investment under the sun that it is virtually impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Meanwhile all around us is the evidence that more and more investors are looking to take responsibility for their own investments, doing their own research and aiming to acquire the necessary skills to look through the mass of advertising and advertorial to spot what is really of value and what is merely sales material dressed up as other kinds of content. Others are happy to pay for financial planning and investment advice from wealth managers and financial advisers, but sensibly wish to retain the ability to understand and challenge the advice that they are being given.
Looking for the best
If you are one of these people, then the Money Makers circle could help you. What it offers is somewhat akin to what The Week was set up to do, which is to apply a filter to the flow of financial information bombarding us every day. It seeks to take advantage of my good fortune in having built a reputation and a body of experience that enables me to reach out to a wide circle of professional contacts in search of useful information. My challenge, as founder and curator of Money Makers content, is to apply a simple quality filter to the mass of media and research material that is sitting out there and then communicate a small selection of it to you in a concise and readable format, along with some personal observations.
The content is still under development, but potentially will include some or all of the following:
Providing some useful data, mainly investment trust related, in a single convenient online location;
Highlighting a handful of articles or research reports that I believe may be worth reading;
Relaying the substance of my own conversations with leading professional investors and advisers;
Arranging forums about interesting and topical current investment issues;
Monitoring a number of share and fund selections (hopefully best in class);
Periodically writing some thoughts in diary format about the way the markets are behaving.
If you are among the hundreds of investors who are now listening to the free weekly Money Makers investment trust podcast, or have seen a copy of the annual Investment Trusts Handbook which I edit, you will have had a flavour of the kind of service that being a member of the circle will provide. The podcast is unique in summarising each week the main news and developments in the investment trust sector. The aim is not to make recommendations (although alert listeners may infer some distinct preferences), but to share the insights of a knowledgeable and intelligent analyst of the sector in what I hope is an accessible way. The Handbook likewise attempts to provide useful background information on what I like to call the connoisseur’s choice of investment fund.
A wider focus
Investment trusts will not be the only focus of the subscription service. I also hope to bring you some occasional insights into individual shares and open-ended funds, as well as occasional commentary on the global background (which in practice is intellectually interesting, but often of limited practical value). I should emphasise that it will make no attempt to be comprehensive – that would be impossible even it was desirable – but rather aims to complement your other reading with the perspective of one experienced, professionally qualified market-watcher. Convenience, experience and access are the qualities on offer and I hope you will be tempted to try them.
Although the weekly investment trust podcast will remain free, the Money Makers circle needs to charge an annual membership fee to help cover the costs of producing the service. I am not a charity, and it would be pointless to take on this project without the knowledge that it can be self-supporting, and so remain free from conflicts of interest. All my recent professional experience, as a commentator, wealth management adviser and investment trust director, has depended on my ability to offer independent, unconflicted judgments.
The membership service is structured in such a way that anyone who subscribes can cancel at any time if not satisfied. If it has any value at all, the value to you should far outweigh the cost of a subscription. That is for you to determine, of course, but I very much hope that you will not only join the circle, but participate in its development, by suggesting areas of particular interest to you. Needless to say, nothing you read should be regarded as constituting individual investment advice, which is impossible without knowing your personal circumstances and tolerance for risk, and in any event is beyond the scope of this offering.
All I can promise you is that everything you read will be based on honestly held opinions at the time of writing. It may be worth emphasising also that my personal investment philosophy – which derives from the many things I have read or learnt over the years – is that the key to investment success lies in making a few good decisions, not a lot of little ones, and therefore I try to avoid tinkering with what I own unless market conditions change abruptly (as they did for example in February-March this year).
Monthly membership costs £8 a month and annual membership £96. As a digital publication, delivered by email, no VAT is charged on a subscription. You can shortly sign up on this page to start your trial. The service begins in earnest in January, although there will be some limited content produced before then. If you have managed to read this far, I am very grateful and hope you will take the next logical step once the service is up and running.