Happy New Year!
I almost never watch the television, but on Christmas Eve I watched the original film of Jason and the Argonauts from 1963. As a child the special effects were convincing and frightening. It was certainly not a classic and the ending was a total letdown, but nevertheless I enjoyed it.
The film ended as Jason set off for home, complete with the Golden Fleece, with Zeus proclaiming he would let him live for now as he had more plans for Jason. Unfortunately for Jason, by the time the film was released the world had changed. There was never the sequel because Yuri Gagarin had been launched into space by the Russians and the US were in shock. America became focussed on the quest to reach the moon and so gladiator films and greek mythology was replaced with a robot called Robbie and Captain James T. Kirk.
The end of the year is always a good time for reflection. I was reminded by watching the film with it’s perilous journey and the challenges which needed to be overcome, that as investors we have all been on a perilous journey ourselves. Not just this year with the pandemic, but over the last 4 years with the Trump administration in the US and of course with the UK choosing not be be engulfed by a Federal State to be run from Brussels. The journey has far from ended, in many ways we are just at the start of the next journey. I’m sure the devil will be in the detail.
On his 4 year journey back home, Jason had to pass the Sirens, as did Odysseus before him. Jason played loud music to avoid being lured to his death on the rocks, but a better parallel for us is how Odysseus survived the passage.
“The Sirens were something else: half-woman, half-bird, their song was so alluring that it would draw men to their deaths. Desperate to hear them, men rowed or sailed on to the rocks and drowned.
On Circe’s advice, Odysseus gave small blocks of beeswax to his men to stop up their ears. But he – the great adventuring hero – wanted to be the only mortal who heard the Siren song and lived to tell the tale. He was lashed to the mast so that he could hear the Sirens but not hurl himself into the ocean to drown. He shouted, begged his men to free him, but the beeswax kept his words from their ears. The Sirens knew the secrets of a man’s heart: it is no accident that they sang to Odysseus of his unrivalled fame, the thing he desired more than anything.”
So I’m not suggesting we need to be lashed to a mast to stop us self-harming, but as investors, many weak-willed folk without discipline sold all of their risk assets in March. Many are regretting their decision, but also they lack the confidence to return, now the markets have bounced back.
I don’t believe in just buying and holding, irrespective of what is happening in the world, but I do know what I mustn’t do and when. I was lashed to the mast like Odysseus, I had planned for times like these, I maybe didn’t know exactly what to do, but more importantly I didn’t at any point say – Now what do I do?
I’m happy to say that for many clients this wasn’t your first voyage. You did all you were asked and the results we are seeing currently are due to the course we steered in April and May.
One or two clients needed a hand to hold and words of encouragement, but we were always there. That is why you partner with us rather than with a machine or an algorithm.
2021 and the future
As I said in my last blog, many of the obstacles that were preventing investments from growing were starting to be cleared. I’ve used my beach ball analogy before at moments like this-
You can hold a beachball underwater for so long, but when you let it go, it pops up and out.
I’m hoping that markets continue to strengthen this quarter. Once again, I wish you all a happy and prosperous new year!