Topic: Our views and beliefs

10 considerations before going into cash over Brexit

I know you are probably fed up with reading about Brexit, but I read an interesting article earlier this week written by Robin Powell¹ which mirrored my own views and I thought was worth sharing with you.

The article related to an approach taken by an investor who felt that the best strategy was to ‘sit out the Brexit negotiations on cash’ on the basis that “There is a significant chance of them going badly and markets taking a tumble. If, on the other hand, an agreement is reached, that will be a signal to invest. We should know which way things are pointing within a couple of months.”

This is what Robin had to say: –

I dare say there are many investors who are taking a similar approach, and their point of view is to be fully respected. Investing is a hugely personal matter. Nobody should take more risk than they’re comfortable taking, they can afford to take and need to take. If investors honestly feel that it’s time to reduce their exposure to stocks, then that is what they should do.

It is, however, a decision that should not be taken lightly, without serious thought or without seeking the opinion of a competent financial adviser.

Regardless of Brexit, there’s a very strong case for keeping your portfolio exactly as it is.  So, if you’re thinking of sitting in cash while events unfold in Brussels, here are ten things you need to bear in mind.

1. Timing the market is notoriously difficult. The evidence shows that it’s almost impossible to do it accurately with any long-term consistency, and the professionals are little better at it than the rest of us. And remember, you have to be right twice; you might get out at the “right” time and then spoil it all by mis-timing your re-entry.

2. All known information is incorporated into market prices. Current valuations reflect everything we know about Brexit and the likelihood of all the different outcomes. Do you honestly know something that the rest of the market doesn’t?

3. It’s new information that causes prices to rise or fall, and that by its nature, is unknowable. True, government ministers and officials involved in the negotiations may be privy to vital information, but they’re bound by insider trading regulations so can’t act on it anyway.

4. New information is incorporated into prices within seconds, even milliseconds. If there is a significant development over the coming months, it will be absorbed so quickly by the markets that by the time you get to act on it, prices will either have risen or fallen already.

5. Correctly predicting the outcome of the Brexit negotiations won’t, in itself, be of help — unless of course you bet on it. To profit on the financial markets, what you need to do is predict how those markets will respond to the outcome you’re expecting, which is extremely hard to do.

6. Markets often react to big political events in unexpected ways. When an event is widely considered to be negative, markets often wobble initially but then recover and resume the course that they were already on. That’s exactly what happened after the Brexit referendum in 2016 and Donald Trump’s election later that year.

7. Investors typically allow their own political views to influence their investment decisions. Because most of us are prone to confirmation bias and to negativity bias to some extent, our expectations of what will happen if things either go our way or don’t go our way tend to be exaggerated. (I myself have very strong views on Brexit and its likely implications!)

8. The idea that there will soon be clarity over Brexit and markets will “return to normal” is unrealistic. It may well be that a deal is reached soon that takes Britain out of the European Union. But, as everyone knows by now, the divorce will be hugely complicated, and it may take many years, decades even, before the lasting effects of Brexit are clear.

9. Important though it is, Brexit isn’t the only show in town. There’s uncertainty everywhere you look, whether it’s the future of President Trump, the prospect of a global trade war or rising tensions between Russia and the West. And those are just the obvious risks. Regardless of whether the UK strikes a win-win deal with the EU that pleases everyone, or there’s a painful, disorderly exit, markets could still fall or rise sharply for a completely different reason.

10. There will always be reasons to bail out of equities. Throughout the long bull run that began in 2009, there’ve been scores of plausible arguments for getting out while the going’s good. If you had heeded any of them, you would have missed out on gains. Will it be Brexit that finally brings the bull market crashing to a halt? The bottom line is that nobody knows.

Again, you have to do what you think is right, and only time will tell what the “right” decision proves to be.

Whatever you do, though, beware of acting on emotions. Assuming that you are comfortable with the risk you’re taking, and that your portfolio is thoroughly diversified and has relatively recently been rebalanced, the rational response is to sit tight and watch the political drama unfold. It’s certainly getting interesting.

 

¹  The Evidence Based Investor and an award-winning journalist, blogger and content marketing consultant, based in the UK, with specialist expertise in the investing industry.

What do we do about Bonds…

 

‘You don’t need bonds, until you need them!’

Anon

Challenging times

I sat in our Investment Committee meeting for most of yesterday morning and amongst many things we discussed the current thoughts on Bonds (these include Government Gilts and Corporate bonds). You may feel I am a glutton for punishment on a Monday morning but really …. it was quite interesting!

In response to the very low yield on fixed interest investments (bonds), some investors have been tempted to chase higher yielding bonds, in an attempt to squeeze some return out of what feels like an unproductive portfolio allocation.  This is, unfortunately, an accident waiting to happen.  The phrase ‘picking up pennies in front of a steamroller’ comes to mind.

Others are asking whether they should be holding cash as bond yields are ‘inevitably’ going to rise, denting bond returns, at least in the short term.  Neither, approach according to the research conducted by Albion Consulting who provide the research which helps build our investment portfolios for clients, makes much sense.

We should be looking forward to yield rises

At some point in the future, yields (income) are likely to rise back to higher levels.  The problem is that no-one knows when, how quickly and with what magnitude it will happen.  Investors should be looking forward to yield rises, because in the future their bonds will be delivering them with a higher income, hopefully above the rate of inflation.

When income yields do rise, bond prices will fall, creating temporary losses.  At that point bonds now earn an investor more than they did before the rate rise and they reach a breakeven point where the new higher yield has fully compensated them for the temporary capital losses suffered.  The time to break even is equivalent to the duration (similar to maturity) of an investor’s bond holdings.  Short-dated bonds with a three year duration will breakeven after three years.  Below is a hypothetical example.  Follow it through.

Table 1‑1: The impact of a 2% rise in yields on a 3 year duration bond portfolio

Year end Today Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5
Yield-to-maturity 1.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5%
Immediate yield rise % 2.0%
Capital loss* -6.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
Yield during year 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5%
Total return for the year -2.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5% 3.5%
Cumulative total return -2.5% 0.9% 4.4% 8.1% 11.9%
Annualised total return -2.5% 0.5% 1.5% 2.0% 2.3%

Note: * We have assumed that the capital loss is approximated by the rise in yields times the duration.  In reality due to convexity – capital losses would not be quite so great.

The bonds within our portfolios are generally within a 3-5 year duration period.

 Holding cash deposits is not the solution

Imagine that an investor felt that rate rises were likely to occur, with a detrimental – albeit temporary – impact on bond returns in the near future.   They decide to place a deposit for three years, receiving interest of 1.5% p.a., comparable to the current yield on three-year bonds.  In three years’ time when their deposit matures, they end up with the same return as the bond portfolio (green-coloured cell in the table above).  Why bother?

Our view is that long-term investors should stick with their bond holdings.  At some point they will need them to protect against turmoil in the equity markets and that is what they are there for. Remember ‘You don’t need bonds until you need them!’.

Warning – The above information is based upon the views  of Carpenter Rees Limited.  It is not intended as a personal recommendation and should not be relied upon as such.  The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you can get back less than you originally invested.

Why Simple Beats Complex

One of Carpenter Rees’ guiding principles of investment is ‘keep things simple’.  Ben Carlson, a very well respected Financial Adviser in the USA, wrote a whole book on the topic aptly named ‘A Wealth of Common Sense: Why Simplicity Trumps Complexity in Any Investment Plan’.

Ben’s view is that a simplicity-based framework can lead to better investment decisions and whilst he couldn’t prove that as an 100% fact, below are what he believes are the main reasons why simple beats complex in the investment world –  and being a fan of simple, who are we to argue:

Intelligent people are drawn to complex solutions. There are plenty of intelligent people in the world of finance, but that intelligence often comes at a cost because smart people can more easily fool themselves into believing they have all the answers. Simple is not stimulating enough for some people, therefore intelligent people tend to overthink things and that can get them into trouble.

Complexity is about tactics; simplicity is about systems. Tactics come and go but an overarching philosophy around the way the world works can help you make better decisions in multiple scenarios. Simple doesn’t go out of style but complex does.

Simple is harder. To keep things simple, you have to fight harder because our human nature makes us susceptible to stories and narratives. Simplicity is more of a psychological exercise while complexity is more about trying to be cleverer than anyone else.

Trying harder does not guarantee better results. Outsmarting the competition is easier said than done because putting in more

10 Tips for surviving inevitable market falls

It is an inevitable part of investing that at some point markets will fall by an alarming, if not unexpected, degree.  We haven’t seen large market falls for a decade but should expect that at some point we will.  When, and in what magnitude, no-one knows, but remembering the following can help:

  1. Embrace the uncertainty of markets – that’s what delivers you with strong, long-term returns.
  2. Don’t look at your portfolio too often. Once a year is more than enough.
  3. Accept that you cannot time when to be in and out of markets – it is simply not possible. Resign yourself to the fact. Hindsight prophecies – ‘I knew the market was going to crash’ – are not allowed.
  4. If markets have fallen, remember that you still own everything you did before (the same number of shares in the same companies, and the same bonds holdings).
  5. A fall does not turn into a loss unless you sell your investments at the wrong time. If you don’t need the money, why would you sell?
  6. Falls in the markets and recoveries to previous highs are likely to sit well inside your long-term investment horizon i.e. when you need your money.
  7. The balance between your growth (equity) assets and defensive (high quality bond) assets was established by your adviser to make sure that you can withstand temporary falls in the value of your portfolio, both emotionally and financially, and that your portfolio has sufficient growth assets to deliver the returns needed to fund your longer-term financial goals.
  8. Be confident that your (boring) defensive assets will come into their own, protecting your portfolio from some of equity market falls. Be confident that you have many investment eggs held in several different baskets.
  9. If you are taking an income from your portfolio, remember that if equities have fallen in value, it is likely that your adviser has set up your portfolio so that you will be taking proportionately more of your income from the cash held within your portfolio or your bonds; not selling equities when they are down.
  10. Your adviser is there – at any time – to talk to you. He or she can act as your behavioural coach to urge you to stay the course.  They are a source of fortitude, patience and discipline.  Be strong and heed their advice.

Warning – The above information is provided for information only. It does not constitute investment advice, a recommendation or an offer of any services and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make an investment decision.  The value of investments may go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount invested.

What is Normal?

The sketch above from Carl Richards reminds us of the fact that the calm serene rise of markets year on year does not exist.

Carl explains his sketch as follows: –

“Imagine being in a boat in the ocean on a very still day. No wind. No swell. The water is as flat as a mirror. The calm goes on for a just long enough for you start to feel like it’s normal. Then when a small wave comes, it feels huge, and regular waves feel enormous. As scary as it might feel…remember waves are normal. Occasional storms are normal. And the last thing you want to do when you get into one is abandon ship.”

I know I am probably going over similar ground to last weeks blog but it is important to remember Volatility is the price you pay for participation in equity markets and for the potential for higher returns than cash.

As always, we are bound to see the media and industry commentators put forward lots of very plausible reasons for this sudden spike in market volatility.  No doubt many will point to fears of rising interest rates due to Trump’s tax cuts ‘turbo-charging’ the economy…however, we should regard this purely as white noise and ‘sit tight’

Market corrections are a normal part of the market cycle and happen from time to time.  It’s nothing to fear, just a part of how equity markets operate.

Our clients with money exposed to global equity markets all share many important attributes:

  1. They are long-term investors.  This attribute makes short-term market volatility less important.  Rather than looking at how an equity market performs during the course of an hour, day, week, month or even year, we’re interested in multi-year investment returns.
  2. We ensure that our clients remain suitably diversified.  This means that equities are not the only element within their investment portfolios.    This diversification is important because different investment types tend to behave differently at different times.    Having a well-diversified portfolio softens the blow of any short-term volatility in equity markets, as you are never fully exposed to UK, US or global stock price movements.
  3. We take careful steps to assess attitude towards investment risk, your risk capacity and your need to take investment risk in order to achieve your financial goals…including determining the degree of short-term falls that can be tolerated in pursuit of longer term gains.

This deep understanding of investment risks means that the volatility we are witnessing should be tolerable in terms of your emotional response to the event and your financial ability to withstand falls within your portfolio.

Despite these three very important attributes, it’s only natural that market volatility prompts some nervousness.

If you’re feeling at all unsettled, we want you to call us and chat about it…. that’s what we are here for.

In fact, as we have said on many occasions, our job as Financial Planners is less challenging during periods of rising markets, it is when markets experience falls that we work harder and really earn our fees by promoting investment discipline, explaining what is happening, and demonstrating how this fits into your overall financial planning.

 

The above information is provided for information only. It does not constitute investment advice, recommendation or an offer of any services and is not intended to provide a sufficient basis on which to make an investment decision.

 

Testing Time in the Markets and Testing Market Timing

The falls in Global markets overnight and this morning emphasise the fact that equity markets do have periods of volatility. Positive periods are followed by negative periods, which are then followed by positive periods. Because of this, it is common when markets are falling to ask whether it is possible to time investment decisions to sell at the peaks and buy back at the troughs.

One way to do this might be to analyse forward-looking information such as economic and corporate data and make predictions about the direction of the markets. But it is hard to make predictions, especially about the future.

Another approach might be to look back at data from previous cycles and identify patterns that could be repeated going forward. Researchers at Dimensional Fund Advisors did exactly this, running almost 800 tests on data from 15 world equity markets to identify signals that might point to a change of market cycle and simulating the trading activity that might improve investment returns.

Most of the 800 tests failed and resulted in worse performance than would have been achieved by just going with the flow of the market. But some of the tests worked and produced positive performance results.

You might think this is good news for investors—that they can replicate the trading patterns suggested by the positive tests. Unfortunately, the number of positive results was no greater than one might expect with such a large number of tests.

As the researchers explain, the odds of one-person coin flipping 10 heads in a row are small. But if you asked 100 people to try, you would expect around five of them to be successful. The same proportion of the 800 market tests were positive and the research was unable to determine if any of them were more than just a sequence of lucky coin tosses.

The conclusion of the research is that, on average, investors are better off sticking to their long-term investment goals and riding out short-term market volatility, rather than trying to time their trading to coincide with the peaks and troughs of the market. This is also the approach we advocate at volatile times such as these.

The main defensive assets within our portfolios are short term, high quality bonds, these bonds are less volatile than long term bonds and their prices will be less effected by any rise in interest rates. High quality bonds tend to be where money flows to at times of equity market trauma and this has indeed been reflected today.

It is easy to become concerned about the present and life as an investor will involve many of these days making life less comfortable unless you view them in context so remember:

  • The value of your portfolio simply tells you how much money you would have if you liquidated everything immediately which you do not intend to do. Losses are only made if you sell assets but if you don’t do this they remain in your portfolio to generate future returns.
  • Your portfolio has a well thought out structure and is designed to provide you with the best chance of a long term favourable return.
  • Some assets will be doing well at times and others not so well and nobody can predict which assets will be doing what at any given time.
  • Your adviser cannot control what markets do and neither can fund managers.

In a nutshell, try not to worry about the short-term impact on your portfolio and instead, focus on your longer term financial plan.

Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile…

This week I thought I would share with you a blog written by Tim Hale of Albion Strategic Consulting.  Tim is engaged by Carpenter Rees as a consultant and has helped design and develop the investment strategies we put in place for our clients. Tim is well known  for his investment knowledge and is author of the book Smarter Investing. 

Modern life provides us – some would say swamps us – with so much news, information and punditry, which focuses on the here-and-now, that it is easy to be overwhelmed with the feeling of doom and gloom. The list of things to concern us is long and worrisome; Donald Trump leading the free world, a nuclear-armed North Korea; an increasingly fractious Brexit process and looming cliff-edge, to name a few.

The natural extension of this is to worry about what the impact of all this uncertainty will have on your portfolio and in turn, on your future wealth and expenditure goals. The first mistake is to believe that the world is falling apart around our ears.  It most certainly is not.  The second mistake is to think that the portfolio needs to be repositioned to mitigate these events. There are six key reasons why portfolio tinkering is unlikely to be a sensible course of action.

Reason 1: today’s ‘unprecedented’ turmoil is no different to how it’s always been

Today’s worries dominate our thinking; but can you remember what you were worrying about a year ago, or two years ago? Probably not. It has ever been thus.  Take a look at the chart below. The overwhelming take-away is to acknowledge the relentless upward trajectory of purchasing power for those patient enough, and disciplined enough, to stay the course.

Figure 1: The relentless growth of purchasing power, despite World events

Source: Albion Strategic Consulting[1]

Reason 2: bad news sells – so don’t ignore the underreported good news

We are all aware that bad news sells. For example, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) delivered a ‘gloomy’ forecast for growth of ‘only’ 1.4% for 2018.  Yet, the UK economy is still growing; remember too that this slow down comes after a period of growth that has outstripped much of the developed world – particularly the rest of the EU – for the past few years.  It is not all bad news.

Reason 3: the danger of conflation of ‘what ifs’

The human mind likes stories and in themselves these stories may lead to what appear to be rational outcomes on which some action, or another, could or should be taken. What we often fail to realise is that the seemingly logical outcome is highly unlikely; we have failed to multiply the probabilities of each sequential outcome together.  Think hard about the stories you read and hear.

Reason 4: the futility of futurology

Futurology is the financial markets’ version of astrology. There is a huge industry out there from the IMF and the UK’s Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) to investment banks, academics and BBC reporters all peddling their own view of the future.  These futurologists have one thing in common; they are nearly always wrong in their predictions, and are rarely held to account for their poor forecasts. Take forecasts with a pinch of salt.

Reason 5: the framing of data

As we all know, data is used to score points in support of the data-user’s viewpoint. Be aware that simple statements of fact can be both very influential and misleading.

Reason 6: the news is already in market prices

It is normal to be worried about the potential impact of what is going on in the world and how this will affect markets. The reality is that you are not alone; in fact, all active investors have some view on how Trump, Brexit, Merkel’s problems in Germany, or the Federal Reserve in the US – to name a few – will impact bond and equity prices.  These global, diversified view-points are already reflected in the equilibrium price of securities, agreed freely between buyers and sellers.

Your portfolio is already structured to manage uncertainty

Today’s concerns such as Brexit, Sterling’s weakness, potential tax rises in the event of a Labour government, and Donald Trump in general, are endlessly recycled through the 24/7 media soundbite process, alarming some who are invested in the markets. Well-structured investment portfolios seek to ensure that any market conditions can be weathered in the future, whatever drives these storms.  Your highly diversified portfolio, balancing global equity assets with high-quality shorter-dated bonds, is well positioned to do so.  Try not to worry.  Start by watching the news less.

If you are feeling concerned, please feel free to get in touch to talk further.

 

Other notes and risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any product for sale. This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but is not guaranteed. 

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

[1]     Global balanced portfolio: 36% MSCI World Index (net div.), 26% Dimensional Global Targeted Value Index, 40% Citi World Government Bond Index 1-5 Years (hedged to GBP) – no costs deducted, for illustrative purposes only. Data source: Morningstar Direct © All rights reserved, Dimensional Fund Advisers.

Your financial adviser will now take you through the safety procedures

Whilst listening to the safety procedures on a recent flight with friends on our annual Barons golf trip (Incidentally, I won the Barons trophy for the second year running!) it reminded me of the importance of planning clients investments.

Fasten your seat belts

As we hover around market highs for world equity markets and the 10-year anniversary of the crisis at Northern Rock, the media is again stoking up concerns about current market levels. We have had several conversations on this subject recently with clients.

The truth is that at some point the markets will fall. So, if the markets do fall what do you do?

Adopt the brace position

If you have planned your investments correctly, absolutely nothing is the answer. This may not be your natural reaction as you may feel an urge to take control; but what do you do? Do you sell?  if you do decide to sell, what do you sell, when do you sell and where do you invest the proceeds?   You then need to decide when to go back into the market. Getting these decisions right is practically impossible and even the so-called experts can make the wrong calls.

There is no doubt it can be scary, and at such times there is no comfort in reading the newspapers or listening to the news.

The emergency lights will direct you to your closet exit

So, what do you do? Well you stick to the plan that we have worked on with you, which will have built in the possibility of market falls; the scale of which is dependent upon the risk you wish to take with your investments.

When we design your plan, we ensure that you have a level of cash that you feel comfortable to hold and in addition, we ensure that you have cash within your portfolio to cover normally 12 month’s requirements. There will also be a certain amount of short term fixed interest stock within your portfolio, the level of which is again dependent upon the level of risk you wish to take. Most of our clients have 30% or more in these safer investments, so it is important to remember that if the stock market fell by 30% and you have 60% of your investment portfolio invested in equities, then your portfolio value will reduce by around 18%.

Sit back and enjoy the flight

These lower risk investments enable you to leave your long-term portfolio untouched when markets fall enabling you to sit back relax and wait for your portfolio to recover and fall comfortable in the knowledge that you need not stress about making the right calls.

Ongoing governance of the investment process

At Carpenter Rees, our investment philosophy adopts a systematic buy-hold-rebalance approach to investing.  This approach could prompt some of our clients to question why their portfolio seems to be largely unchanged from one period to the next and what the firm is doing for its fee. That would be unfair.

Wear a risk manager’s hat, not a performance manager’s hat

A good place to start is to look at the investment process, not from a performance perspective – as most stock brokers and investment managers tend to do – but from a risk perspective. Performance-focused managers inevitably look busy as they regularly change portfolio allocations and fund holdings; yet more activity does not equate to better outcomes.  Plenty of evidence exists to back this up.  Those who focus on chasing returns are at susceptible to taking unknown or poorly understood risks and getting it wrong.  They also incur higher costs. On the other hand, focusing on taking risks that are fully understood and adequately rewarded offers an investor every chance of a successful outcome.

Your portfolio, as it stands today, should provide you with the comfort that it is robust under the wide range of testing scenarios that could be thrown at it by the markets. Let’s consider some of the key risk decisions that have been made when establishing it.

  • Key decision 1: own a highly diversified pool of global companies to avoid concentration risks and capture the broad returns of capitalism.
  • Key decision 2: tilt the portfolio toward higher risks, such as value (less financially healthy) and smaller companies to pick up incrementally higher returns
  • Key decision 3: own shorter-dated, higher quality bonds to balance equity downside risk. Chasing higher yields in bonds simply dilutes their defensive qualities. The lower the credit quality the more these bonds act like equities.
  • Key decision 4: use systematic rather than judgemental fund managers. Although picking a manager who promises to beat the market sounds appealing, the stark reality is that true skill is hard to discern from luck, it is extremely rare, and it is almost impossible to identify in advance. Employing managers who capture the returns delivered by taking on specific market risks makes good sense.
  • Key decision 5: avoid owning an increasingly risky portfolio by rebalancing. Over time, the riskier assets (equities) in a portfolio tend to rise in value and begin to overpower the more defensive assets (bonds) in the portfolio. Periodically realigning – or rebalancing – a portfolios back to its original structure avoids this risk.

The role of the Investment Committee

The firm’s Investment Committee is responsible for the oversight of these risks in client portfolios and the wider investment process. Meetings are held regularly and minutes are taken, which include all action points to be followed up on.  Third-party inputs and guest members provide valuable independent insight, where necessary.  Its responsibilities include:

  • Responsibility 1: ongoing challenge to the process. If new evidence suggests that doing things differently would be in clients’ best interests, then the firm will revise its approach. The investment process is evolutionary, but change is most likely to be rare and incremental.
  • Responsibility 2: review of the best-in-class funds recommended. Each fund has a role to play in a portfolio and its ability to deliver against this objective is regularly reviewed. Any fund-related issues are raised and resolved, although this is pretty rare.
  • Responsibility 3: review the portfolio structure. Risks (asset class exposures) and their allocations within a portfolio are evaluated and from time to time these may change as the firm’s thinking evolves, given the latest evidence.
  • Responsibility 4: screen for new funds. New, potential best-in-class funds face detailed due diligence and approval, before they are recommended to clients. It would take a material improvement to knock an incumbent fund off its perch, but it can and does happen from time to time.
  • Responsibility 5: reaffirm or revise the investment process. Risk (asset) allocations and fund changes are approved by the Investment Committee. Any actions arising from portfolio revisions will be undertaken, after discussion with, and agreement by, clients.

Conclusion

It is entirely possible, and likely, that your portfolio will look much the same between one time period and the next with little activity, except for rebalancing. That most definitely does not mean that nothing is happening.  In fact, it takes quite a lot of work to keep our portfolios the same!

Planning a business exit: Eight ways to maximise value and attract buyers

As a business owner, you will have a passion for what you do but when it comes down to it, the reason most people go into business is to make money. They focus on maximising the value of the business for the point when they come to sell it. Despite this, we come across many examples where business owners fail to either maximise or extract their business’ value, because they simply don’t have the strategy to do so.

Your business may be your pride and joy but when it comes to the time that you want to exit from it, you need to be able to convince someone else of its value too.

So we thought it would be helpful to draw up this handy checklist:

  1. ‘Size does matter’ – you need to have developed your business to a level of turnover that will maximise value.
  2. Your business model needs to be reflected in the day to day business operations – is it delivering consistently, in terms of customer service; online presence; the workforce; pricing strategy; materials and suppliers?.
  3. Repeat business is crucial – do you have clients on long-term retainers, extended contracts or some type of residual income trail? We all know it’s easier to keep an existing client than to find a new one.
  4. Is your business able to generate new business leads, enquiries and sales without relying entirely on you or one key person’s skills and sales ability?
  5. Businesses that are centred around systems are simpler to run, less stressful and generally less risky. This makes them more attractive to a potential buyer and, usually, more valuable.
  6. How are your employees incentivised? How is their performance measured and rewarded? If you have a profit share-based plan or an employee share ownership plan, this substantially reduces one of the key risks for buyers – that your employees will exit when you do.
  7. Effective corporate governance and compliance can also add considerable exit value because they are seen as reducing risk.
  8. The business must be able to operate independently of your personal involvement. To put it simply, will your business survive when you’re no longer a part of it?
planning a business exit