Written by Glyn Owen, Investment Director at MGIM
The vision of our first ‘Think-Tank’ twenty-two years ago was for a different type of investment conference; we had been to enough events over the years to know that most were driven by a sales pitch, presented by highly accomplished presenters, usually salespeople or portfolio specialists rather than those who ultimately ‘pull the trigger,’ the portfolio managers. We wanted to offer something different which would inform and educate rather than sell, recognising that IFAs look for unbiased, in-depth and high-quality thinking.
We have always strived to provide a truly global perspective, including a broad range of speakers – portfolio managers, strategists, asset allocators – from around the world and from a wide spread of firms, avoiding the ‘home bias’ of other events. Giving IFAs access to some of the best portfolio managers globally, who they otherwise would never be able to meet, became an invaluable contribution to the quest for well-informed views and ideas from independent experts. For us, it emphasised the critical importance of diversity of opinion and ideas, and illustrated the value that financial advisers attach to building a better understanding of optimal portfolio construction and providing enhanced substance to discussions with their clients.
This diversification of thought across strategies, asset classes, investment styles and managers is a key takeaway from our conference and applies equally in our own investment process and portfolio construction. Central to our annual line-up of speakers is a preparedness to challenge conventional thinking and to interrogate consensus; often leading to lively debate amongst our presenters. In a similar vein, we have avoided fashions in investments, ‘the next big thing’, the hot themes, the most exciting and exotic opportunities. Instead, our speakers focus on the big, investable, transparent, well-regulated, liquid asset classes and markets, where the vast majority, if not all, of retail investors’ assets should be invested, a message that we continue to deliver today in our engagement with IFAs.
Flexibility and quick-thinking are essential parts of our investment process – ‘stuff happens’ in the investment world, and sometimes speed of reaction is vital. Never was this better illustrated than during Think-Tank 2008, when the first presentation that year was on the morning that RBS was bailed out by HM Government. The speaker, a well-known strategist from one of the UK’s big banks, simply tore up his prepared presentation and produced, ad lib, an extraordinarily insightful examination of the consequences of that bail-out and its likely impact on the UK economy and financial markets. However long-term and strategic our thinking, sometimes the exogenous shocks that come along demand rapid responses!
Finally, networking, a valuable benefit of any conference, has been enhanced substantially over the years by having delegates from around the world, including a wide cross-section of advisers from many jurisdictions, all with similar challenges but each with their own unique experiences. Sharing those
experiences has contributed to a growing understanding of how best to meet our own challenges in servicing the needs of IFAs.
The highest quality thinking, best-in-class investment managers and strategists, a focus on what matters, not what sounds most exciting, and broad, well-constructed diversification of views, styles and approach, all form the foundation of our Think-Tank conference, not only benefiting delegates but also ultimately, investors in our own investment solutions.