MyPrivateBanking Blog
Daily Comments on the World of Wealth Management

Archive for June, 2010

UBS Jumps On Gold Rush Bandwagon

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

In its latest “Investor’s Guide” (only in print)  UBS  pushes heavily the case for gold. In an interview Dirk Faltin, head thematic research at UBS, says:

“Compared to stocks or oil gold is according to our calculations somewhat cheap, at least not extremely expensive… Gold has maintained its value for over 750 years. Naturally the gold price fluctuates, even substantially… But gold offers some protection against inflation.”

As opposed to UBS we have no particular opinion on the future price of gold. But what we know is that, in real terms, gold has had almost no positive return for investors.

Here are the data (from: The Buy and Hold Bible (in German), Prof. Jeremy Siegel comes to the same conclusion):

Average Annual Return of Gold (after inflation)

1889-1908: -0.4%
19909-1928: -3.2%
1929-1948: 1.9%
1949-1968: -1.4%
1969-1988: 6.9%
1989-2008: 0.8%

Compared to other asset classes the picture for gold is bleak (source: J. Siegel):

Gold compared to other asset classes

Even short-term government bonds would have returned more than gold. What sense does it make to recommend gold as its price hase been increasing so much over the last few years? This has probably more to do with all those gold etfs, gold certificates and other structured gold products UBS and many other wealth managers want to push down their clients’ throats than with a sensible investment strategy. Please read also the excellent interview with Rick Bookstaber on The Gold Bubble.


Your Are Not So Smart

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Do you think you have based your investment decisions on years of cool rational analysis and experience? Well, you might be in for a surprise. Following up on our last blog post about behavioral finance, read this great post on confirmation bias.

“Half-a-century of research has placed confirmation bias among the most dependable of mental stumbling blocks.”


The Worst Enemy of Every Investor

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

As a private investor, should you hire a good shrink or a good financial adviser? According to behavioural finance research the psychologist is  more valuable.   Forbes just published a good overview article on the most important findings of behavioral finance:

“…the burgeoning field of behavioral finance, which, over the past three decades, has blended elements of neurology, psychology and economics. It has revealed that, contrary to the preachings of classical economics, individual investors tend to be anything but rational, self-interested profit maximizers. Their own worst enemies would be a more apt description.”


US $2,626,311.00

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

An anonymous person bid a record $2.6 million to have lunch with Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor who runs Berkshire Hathaway (BRKA). That is up from last year’s $1.7 million and the previous high water mark of $2.1 million, set in 2008.

I am not sure if this investment will bring a large enough return as Warren Buffett never hands out any stock market tipps. But the steaks should be excellent at Smith & Wollensky in Manhattan, where Buffett will host the bidder and seven of his friends. The proceeds of the auction go to the Glide foundation, a charity in San Francisco.


German High Court: Only Banks Must Disclose Kickbacks

Monday, June 14th, 2010

A few days ago the German high court (Bundesgerichtshof, the news is here but only in German) has made a landmark decision on transparency of commissions. The court came to the conclusion that only banks have an obligation to make all fees and commissions transparent to their clients. However, in the case of so-called independent advisers the court requires no mandatory disclosure.

In effect, this decision is a big step back for private clients in Germany. Financial product distributors like MLP or AWD have millions of clients in Germany but also in other countries like Switzerland. With this court decision they are encouraged to keep secret the kick backs they receive when they push certain products into the portfolios of their clients. The consequence of this decision is that the term “independent financial adviser” is probably as misleading as it gets.

The only good part is that the court has re-affirmed its older decisions that banks (as opposed to independent advisers) are required to be transparent to their clients. The financial industry is terrified about more transparency when it comes to investing their clients’ money. This explains the make-no-prisoners-resistance against any step of more transparency. But the industry should make no mistake. Clients become more and more aware of this conflict of interest and are increasingly ready to switch their providers. It is not too late yet for voluntary transparency yet.


Tax Authorities Go Shopping Again

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

After some dispute within the German federal government on the legality the German state Lower-Saxony finally bought another CD containing data from about 20.000 German holders of Swiss bank account. This time supposley Euro 185.000 were paid to an unidentified seller.

The new business model for private bank employees is still intact and banks and clients may like it or not: Offshore-banking has no future. Pressured by “data leaks”, tougher regulations for tax havens and stricter law enforcement at home less and less clients will take the risk of bringing untaxed money across borders.  Banks with a lot of offshore-clients better adopt their strategy now!


Long-Short Funds Spreading Like Wildfire

Monday, June 7th, 2010

Morningstar carries a report that long-short-funds are becoming a red hot product for fund companies as many have launched long-short products.  In simple words, a long-short-fund is a financial product that can bet on falling or increasing asset prices. Particularly during falling markets such products become popular as they can make a profit or limit the losses. Long-short-strategies used to be typical for unregulated hedgefunds but regular mutual funds are more and more using these strategies.

The success of long-short-funds rests largely on the right timing and stock-picking decisions of the fund manager (even more than for long-only funds). As markets increase the fund manager has to go long. When they fall the funds short positions must increase.

Yet, study after study has shown that about 80% of fund managers will not beat their market benchmark in any given year. Plus, those that beat the market are usually not the same fund managers over a period of several years.

So, why then are long-short-funds becoming so popular with fund sponsors?

“In 2009, long-short funds took in a record $10.3 billion last year and they are on track to break that record this year. Through April 2010, they took in $6.3 billion, which makes it the seventh most popular fund category in 2010.”

It seems to me that this flow of new money  is the real reason behind the boom of long-short. 10 years from now most of these funds will have gone to the same place where all the Internet and technology funds have gone a few years ago. Not to mention all the other fund fads that didn’t make money for investors (but a lot for the fund industry). In this sense the present wave of long-short funds should be seen by the rational investor as a contrarian indicator. Especially as these funds often carry higher fees compared to regular mutual funds (not to speak about index funds).


The Man Who Blew It All

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

He won GBP  9.7 m in the lottery, but

“eight years on, having blown all that money, Michael Carroll is practising for a return to his old job as a binman. The 26-year-old, who squandered his multi-million fortune on drugs, gambling and thousands of prostitutes, has since February claimed £42 a week in jobseeker’s allowance.”

Unfortunately, the article doesn’t mention the name his wealth manager. But it seems that even the best investment advice would have failed to save his wealth…