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Sack the board

Nick Samouilhan, multi-asset manager at Aviva Investors, believes investment portfolios should be run like football clubs, with decisions made by individuals rather than committees.

As I write this I have my twitter feed open, 1 September being the last day of football’s latest ‘transfer window’ and with it the usual rumour mill on who is being bought and sold. For instance, Columbian striker Radamel Falcao appears to be going to Manchester United on loan. I always feel my club, Spurs, suffers the worst of this rumour mill. A simple result of the disconnect between interested fans and a football club where decisions seem to be made exclusively by a secretive club chairman. As such, all fans can do is wait and see what whim takes the chairman on everything from player transfers or club premises to coaches (of which he tends to be somewhat flighty with).

This disconnect between fans and their club led to one of the most interesting experiments in British football in 2008 when members of MyFootballClub, a group of football fans, pooled their money together and bought Conference club Ebbsfleet United. The intention was this would be a fan-led club. All the decisions normally taken by the chairperson or coach, such as team selection or player transfers, would be made by fans through a one member, one vote process.

The fan-led approach, while great in theory, suffers from one major problem: a large group of individuals is terrible at making decisions. As a general rule, decisions are easier made and responsibility more clearly assigned when they are made by one person rather than large groups. For instance, it is very rare to find successful investment funds run by large groups of fund managers rather than just one or two managers. There are two important reasons for this. Firstly, it tends to be easier to reach a speedy conclusion when only a few people need to debate the points and reach a consensus. By contrast, decisions by committee are often sub-optimal, fudged compromises.

Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, when only a few people are involved in making decisions, responsibility over the results of those decisions should be clearer. However, when many people make a decision everyone becomes responsible, which effectively means that no one really is. Indeed, many people like committees for their very ability to collectivise, and so remove, responsibility for decisions. For running money or a football club, where someone needs to be held to account for decisions and performance, committees are a bad way of running money.

That decisions are better made by an individual or a small group is clearly shown by the MyFootballClub example. MyFootballClub’s initial desire for large-scale, collective decision-making was quickly diluted with a vote being passed removing members’ ability to select teams. Instead, teams were solely selected by the head coach. Over time, the members voted to pass more and more decisions to smaller and smaller committees. However, after a steady move away from collective decision-making and a series of poor runs, in May 2013 the members voted to sell the club to Kuwaiti business KEH Sports. KEH Sports promptly reverted to the standard manner of running a football club. Subsequently, in 2013/14 Ebbsfleet United scored their highest number of league points in a season since introducing collective decision-making following the MyFootballClub takeover in 2006/7.
ENDS

For further information please contact our award winning Relationship Management Team on 0800 0154773* or email them on fundandsalessupport@avivainvestors.com, and can also be downloaded from our dedicated website www.missionportfolios.co.uk

*Telephone calls may be recorded for training and monitoring purposes. Calls are free from a BT landline. Call charges may vary from mobiles and other networks.

Important information

Except where stated as otherwise, the source of all information is Aviva Investors. Unless stated otherwise any opinions expressed are those of Aviva Investors. They should not be viewed as indicating any guarantee of return from an investment managed by Aviva Investors nor as advice of any nature.

Throughout the document Aviva Investors refers to Aviva Investors Global Services Limited, the Investment Manager. The Investment Manager manages the funds on a daily basis making and implementing all portfolio decisions. Investment in the Mission Portfolios range of funds is provided by Aviva Investors UK Fund Services Limited, the Authorised Fund Manager. The value of an investment in the funds and any income from them may go down as well as up and the investor may not get back the original amount invested.

For further information please read the latest Key Investor Information Document and Supplementary Information Document. The Prospectus and the annual and interim reports are also available on request. Copies can be obtained from Aviva Investors UK Fund Services Limited, No. 1 Poultry, London EC2R 8EJ, by contacting our Relationship Management Team on 0800 0154773* or email them on fundandsalessupport@avivainvestors.co.uk, and can also be downloaded from our dedicated website www.missionportfolios.co.uk

*Telephone calls may be recorded for training and monitoring purposes. Calls are free from a BT landline. Call charges may vary from mobiles and other networks.

Issued by Aviva Investors UK Funds Limited, Registered in England No. 2503054. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference No. 147088. Registered address: No. 1 Poultry, London EC2R 8EJ. An Aviva company. www.avivainvestors.co.uk

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