Friday, 22 January 2016

They go down, they go up

Spotted in a telegraph comment on the fractious stock market this week. 

News from a week on the stock market. 
Helium was up, but feathers were down. Paper was stationary, but pencils lost a few points. Lifts rose but escalators continued their slow decline. Switches were off and mining equipment hit rock bottom. The raisin market has dried up. Pampers remained unchanged while Sun peaked at mid-day. Andrex tissues touched a new bottom.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Awful Management, Horrible People

The longer you invest in companies, the more you realise that management are the key to everything the business does. You don't have to look hard to see companies behaving badly in this world. From oil companies, banks, utilities, and retailers - it seems everyone is putting their hands in the till, robbing their customers, destroying the environment or mistreating their staff. Bad management has been mentioned before on the blog and its a theme that needs continuing.

What continues to surprise though is that at the top of companies and in management positions everywhere are PEOPLE. People just like you and me who wouldn't want to be treated poorly, paid badly, or provided an inferior service. As a shareholder, I want the staff in those companies to feel valued, paid fairly, and therefore be productive at work and in their communities. As a shareholder, I want the customers to get great service, buy more products / services and recommend the company to friends and families creating a growing business. As a shareholder I don't want either of the next two examples happening to me.

Just this week (and it's Christmas remember), we've got another couple of examples of terrible management making bad decisions for staff and customers.

First, there's Mike Ashley and his team of thugs who run Sports Direct. The Guardian have produced an expose on working conditions there and detailed how poorly staff are paid and treated. The share price of SPD.L has dropped to 570p after averaging around 700p during the last 6 months. Poor treatment of staff has not just affected Mike's workers but also the millions of people who have shares in Sports Direct in their pensions. This poor attitude to people has cost everyone money.

Secondly, NPower's customer service has been so bad they've been fined £26M. Mental! Had they bothered answering their phone, treating customers with dignity, and sorting out the problems they would have avoided having to pay this fine. As it is, behaving like a normal company would almost certainly have cost them less than the fine - spending a few million more on a customer service centre would have solved most of the issues. NPower is run by German company RWE and routinely loses money in the UK. It's a basket case that should probably be closed or be absorbed by someone who knows what they're doing.

I'm reminded of Seth Godin's writings here. Whatever you feel about Seth, his common sense posts may just be spouting the obvious a lot of the time, at least he's putting these observations into print. A recent post suggested the pursuit of perfection in companies was impossible, the resources required to make small incremental increases in service levels were unaffordable. He called it 'Understanding the Doublings'.
One approach, which some organizations use, is to redefine your usual systems so you are able to please most people without your team going through a Herculean sprint every day, and then (this is a key element as well), eagerly and regularly apologizing and giving refunds to the one in 150 where it just can't be done.
Common-sense stuff. Nobody's perfect. Trying to get there is impossible, but having a system in place to compensate when you can't meet impossible expectations is good business. Your customer isn't put out and your reputation stays intact. This just isn't happening in the UK at the moment. Everybody has given up on perfection - that's fine. But they've also given up on Good, OK, Average and Mediocre. I can think of only one place in the country that has any standards whatsoever in customer service and that's John Lewis.

No wonder people are beginning to seek local over national. Reputation is easier to to ascertain with a local company or person - a few phone calls and you've got the recommendations that you require. Locally a Facebook group helps with recommendations on companies that provide great service and products. A quick post to find out the best plumber, electrician, etc. gets plenty of replies in our community. How are the Sports Directs / NPowers of the world going to compete against that? Answer: They're not. They're dinosaurs that are going to die.

Bad management doesn't seem to be going away in the UK, despite numerous fines and general contempt now commonplace for industries that perennially offend (eg. Banks, Utility companies). Why do leaders behave this way? Would they want to be treated this way themselves? Are they so removed from society they no longer understand how the world works?

For more information on how to behave properly as a manager in an organisation see any of Tom Peter's books or his blog. Putting People First is basically his entire manifesto and would be a great place to start for any manager / leader of a bank, shitty retailer, or utility company.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Fundsmith - still delivering

Wrote about Fundsmith a few years ago and popped a few pounds into Terry's fund at the time. It's done ok....

Fundsmith at five: 'I naively supposed the financial crisis had taught investors a lesson'

The highlights:

17.2% annual returns over 5 years
121% up

Not bad.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Save Dat Money

Something a bit different this time but with the same ethos behind Investimouse's approach to life. This is a video by rapper Lil Dicky. Not being a mega celebrity superstar, Lil Dicky has no money to make his video so approaches those much wealthier for assistance to make his new video, $ave Dat Money.

I may not have sold it that well, but it's very funny. Watch as Lil Dicky goes door knocking in wealthy LA suburbs asking to use their swimming pool, gets rejected by multiple big name car brands, and is forced to beg to get into a swanky nightclub for filming.

Remember kids, Save that Money.

Lil Dicky - $ave Dat Money feat. Fetty Wap and Rich Homie Quan

Friday, 1 May 2015

What does Insider Trading look like?

This!

 

This is Creighton's share price for the last few months this year. You may remember I tipped them as my small cap guesstimate for this year in the year-end review post.  See them plodding along doing nothing until April 19th this year. Then a steady week of increasing share price. For no reason whatsoever. Until an RNS on the 30th April about them selling their Real Shaving business.

How is it possible for the world to know of these events before they are released to the share market?

Sunday, 4 January 2015

2014 Year End Review

“I don’t like piggy banks – I’m afraid of change!”

That time again to tie it all up and see if it was worth having my money in equities, rather than sticking it in the bank.

Here's what happened:

FTSE100 fell 2.7%
FTSE100 up 1.3% (total return, GBP)
FTSE-All World up 12.69% (total return, GBP)

Investimouse's fund which is a holding of investment trusts, tracker funds, bonds, fixed interest, and individual company shares is called The Team Dave Fund of Fun-ness. The individual company shares are generally high yielding quarterly paying shares (income is everything) but occasionally I do have a punt on something little. It is compared to the FTSE All-World each year rather than the UK only indices.

The Team Dave Fund of Fun-ness is up 14.76% this year (total return, GBP).

So slightly ahead of its comparative index. Still feel it needs more international exposure, but very pleased to do so well when everyone else is having a bad year.

Slightly annoyed last year about:

- Tesco - Clarke should probably be in prison, along with many of his cohorts.
- Bankers - I hate them all. Crowdfunding and individual finance can't come along soon enough and kill off their corrupt industry.
- The US justice system which continues to pick on BP despite their having made all of Florida an infinitely better place to live. Quite how BP are continually blamed for something American companies and employees caused is beyond me.
- Russia and Putin - madness
- Crawshaw - on the day I had researched it, Crawshaws price was 6p. At the last second I bought Tangent instead as my punt stuck for the year. Tangent earned me 25%, however Crawshaw would have ten-bagged my money. Sleepless nights.

Things I'm looking at this year:

- When exactly to go big on oil again. How long will Putin be happy with just fighting the Ukraine?More than likely his best option is to either rile the Iranians into attacking Israel (big risk) or start supporting ISIL and helping them create a larger conflict in the middle east, specifically by riling them up in Saudi Arabia. More unrest = higher oil price.
- Finger poised on the buy BHP button. Big divs, exposure to energy and all commodities.
- Creightons is my punt stock
- B&M European in retail looks good (I think...)
- Others which have me intrigued for 2015 are CityFibre, Telecity, Shell, Tungsten, Porta, Accumuli

Here's some share tips from round the media for 2014:

Daily Mail - This is Money tips
Guardian
Stockopedia - Top Naps
Independent - Top Ten to Follow in 2015
Telegraph - Questor share tips for 2015 (plus here's last year's results)
iii - Aim share tips for 2015

Some of the other blogger 2014 'year in review' style posts:

DIY Investor
Retirement Investing Today
Investing Sidekick
DIY Income Investor
Wexboy
Adventures in Equities
UK Value Investor


Good luck for the coming year!

And to end a superb cartoon from XKCD:


Monday, 29 December 2014

Poor share performance this year? It's all about bad management

It's been a year to forget for many big FTSE companies (Tesco, BP, Morrisons, Co-op, Barclays, etc.) Diving share prices for previous darlings of the sharemarket have made everyone a bit twitchy. Most of it can be blamed on bad management. The bastion of journalism that is the Daily Mail (hahahahahaha, ROFL) has gathered together a list of the retards and scum that control some of the UK's biggest companies.



It's not good reading and the biggest reason why the UK continues to flounder along. Bad management is endemic in the country. I can only guess why complete scumbags end up at the top of public companies. Here's a few reasons though:

- Clearly, almost none of management have 'skin in the game', you know real money invested in their companies so they all operate with a short term, scam-as-much-in-bonuses-as-I-can attitude. Fred the Shred Goodwin was the ultimate example of this.
- The Old Boys Network, nepotism, cronyism, etc. You name it the old pat on the back, you scratch me, I'll scratch you approach is rife in the UK. There's no meritocracy here and so the people who are least suited to leading are rewarded for their guile, cunning and poor behaviour.
- Bribery and Corruption - even companies which should be miles removed from bribery are well involved in it (GSK). You'd think the health and wellbeing of people would make you think twice about bribing people to use your products. Oh no, you thought wrong.
- The Class System - it still exists. It results in in-bred, backward idiots leaping ahead of the pack and gaining senior management positions.
- An inability of middle management to tell CEOs and corrupt boards to change their ways. Not sure why this exists but things are invariably too late when a 'whistle-blower' tells all.

I haven't even touched on the King of All Management Bastards, Bob Diamond, head of Barclays Bank who once paid himself £63M a year, decided that banks didn't need to apologise for their poor behaviours, and his bank while he was in charge was accused of rate rigging, money laundering, and tax avoidance.



These aren't just a few bad apples. They're everywhere. These are just the famous ones the media can be bothered to have a pot shot at. Every day you can check investegate and see the RNS of the public companies in the UK. I can't be bothered calculating it, but you can guarantee that about 10% of them each day are management awarding themselves additional share options, warrants, bonuses and other schemes to feather their nests.



I'm not sure why the UK tolerates it all and why workers don't demand better leadership.


Instead of whistle-blowing, rioting on the streets or burning down their offices they appear to be giving up and starting new decent companies. It's heartening to hear someone who actually might be a decent leader commenting on the growth of new companies. (it's in the last couple of paragraphs).

He adds: 'Last year there was a record number of new companies created. This year that record will be beaten. A recent survey by a quite serious authority rated Britain fourth best country in the world to start a business.'
'We've created more jobs in the private sector in this country over the last four years than the whole of the rest of the EU put together, which is an utterly remarkable statistic. It just shows that having a flexible economy with a culture that embraces entrepreneurship is a good thing.'
When Branson called 2014, the year of the Entrepreneur back in Dec 2013, it appears he may have been right.

Maybe we're heading in the right direction and these last seven years have been about getting rid of the blight that has infected the UK.

In the US, one company (Abbott Laboratories) seems to have the right idea and is training management not just on the job but in simulations too. You have to applaud the balls to try new things in management, you never know you just might find someone good. Besides they can't be as bad as the current batch.