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Life in the Fast Lane: Smart advisers debate beta

by Natalie Fast on Dec 14, 2012 at 11:18

Life in the Fast Lane: Smart advisers debate beta

I’m back in London after my brief stay in the lavish Four Seasons hotel in Hampshire for Citywire’s first-ever Smart Beta Retreat.

The argument over active versus passive investment seems to be evolving, with an increasing number of advisers refusing to side solely with one or the other. Instead, they try to get the best out of both. Julian Sunley, director of Hampshire-based Sunley Financial, is one of those. ‘It’s about balancing and diversification,’ he said.

Passive charges

Unsurprisingly for an event focused on passive investing, the debate over costs reared its head.

Phil Melville, director of Hertfordshire-based Argyle Financial Group, said passive investments remained a ‘niche’ option for many clients but their lower costs often added to their attractiveness.

Bob Bassi, director of Surrey-based Finance for Life, was keen to unpick all the details of some of the fund manager presenters’ charging structures.

Sunley has been monitoring costs as part of a revamp of his investment proposition. He has signed up to network Best Practice’s platform, powered by SEI, which offers access to institutional share classes. He said he was in the process of bedding in and documenting his approach.

David Salmon, director of Whiting & Partners Wealth Management based in Cambridgeshire, said clients often needed the skills of an adviser to convey how passive investments could serve their needs.

‘The way some managers speak about their funds, [our] clients would never understand’ he said. ‘We look after a large historic farming community and they have to be able to comprehend what their investments are.’

Speakers at the event included investment strategist Russell Napier of research group CSLA, The Independent associate editor Hamish McRae, and political commentator and former Conservative MP Michael Portillo. A host of fund managers offering passive strategies also presented workshops.

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