With protectionism and Brexit-talk ruling the waves we now need more certainty than ever
Summer is over. Did you feel the temperature drop? And while the atmosphere starts to cool, Theresa May does whatever she can to try and warm up Brussels. But let’s face it, there doesn’t seem to be much she can achieve where that’s concerned. If she took up smoking and persuaded everybody to huddle around a cigar it would be a marked improvement on where things are at right now.
In fact, it would be no surprise to discover that Donald Tusk had got Noel Edmonds on speed dial. Yep, while ‘Deal or no Deal’ hangs over our unprotected heads like the quavering sword of Damocles, the only question left is: when will this uncertainty end?
The fact that we have had to endure this soul-sucking scenario for so long is living proof of just how dumb politicians can really be. Okay, so like the rest of us they’re human, I get it, but I often find myself wondering if, given the benefit of hindsight, David Cameron would have gone ahead with his ‘illuminated’ idea of holding a referendum a little over a couple of years ago.
Perhaps he doesn’t care that much. Perhaps he’s sunning himself in some salubrious five star resort chuckling at how much chaos he’s caused. Perhaps all of this chaos is the result of a five-pound bet laid down by members of the Bullingdon Club in an evening of mischief, for which the former PM has now been dutifully paid. Perhaps…perhaps…perhaps. But as a nation of shopkeepers, as a collective of investors, as people for goodness sakes, we deserve more than this.
Reckless choices. Rubbish decisions. Hopeless causes and cases. Politicians seem to have an enduring knack for trashing the place so that they have a job to do afterwards. It’s hardly any great secret that droves of City lawyers are thanking their stars for the truckload of meaningful work Brexit, overnight, tipped into their laps.
But what about those of us who thrive on certainty; who don’t like to live in a world in which ‘perhaps’ rules; who instead prefer to dine out on a firm handshake and something far more definite? The smart investors I know shun indecision. And while indecision is at play, they look for the next opportunity. Always watchful, ever ready, ears to the ground, eyes on the road, anticipating which hairpin turn the the politicians we have apparently entrusted our futures to are going to take next. For those investors—and I’m with them all the way on this—timing is key. Timing is the difference between a good deal and a bad deal, and hitting the moment square on the head, like those jumping frogs at fairground shows, is the very thing that keeps our money safe and assets intact. And with so many capricious, gunslinging captains steering the ‘world ship’ we have to be more vigilant than ever.
Because any notion that we live in an untempered free market is a misapprehension verging on delusion. Trade tariffs, data breach vote swinging, arbitrary taxes that fly in the face of all business rationale—and in case you were wondering, I’m talking about the impositions placed on the shoulders of buy-to-let landlords here—the list is endless! And that’s just the obvious stuff we get to read about in the papers.
Investors anywhere and everywhere would be forgiven for thinking that politicians had it in for them. But that’s almost as ridiculous as knee-jerk referendums. At the end of the day, there’s really no point in taking any of it personally. These are simply the things that happen when politicians—most of whom have scant commercial sense—start meddling, and try to fix things that aren’t necessarily broken. Some of the worst outcomes are the result of terrible strategies built on foundations of good intentions. Our job as investors is to read narratives, root out the doublespeak, anticipate the changes, and plan our next moves.
Over the last 25 years of property investing, I’ve had to do a fair bit of navigating of regulatory changes myself. It’s always a headache. You wish things were easier, and then you realise that it’s all part of the job. Other property investors I know have told me that they sometimes feel like they’re living in the middle of a Tom & Jerry cartoon. With the Chancellor gleefully playing Tom, chasing them here there and everywhere, while they frantically look for safer places to hunker down and avoid another blow of the hammer.
Speaking of hammers (and investors trying to avoid them), just up on the horizon, of course, we have the next budget laying in wait. And who knows what tools of torture are concealed in Philip ‘The Hammer’ Hammond’s little red box. Perhaps none. Perhaps there’s an olive branch hiding under a tax drill. Perhaps…perhaps…perhaps.
Whatever’s in that box, though, once the contents are unveiled in November, I’ll certainly be talking all about it in your December newsletter. So stay tuned.
Until then, if you need a little investment succour, get in touch with me at Shepherd Cox, and I’ll tell you all you need to know about why you should make your money far safer than houses by investing in hotels instead.