SAFE AS ... FUNDS?

As more European banking top brass do the decent thing and get lost – this morning it was Charles Milhaud and Nicolas Mérindol, respectively chairman and managing director of the French savings bank, Caisse d’Epargne – I’m reliably informed that sales of home safes are rising sharply.

It’s a sign of the times – as is the fact that The Economist felt the need to defend the very notion of capitalism in its leader this week.

“Capitalism is at bay, but those who believe in it must fight for it. For all its flaws, it is the best economic system man has invented yet,” the leader writer wrote in what for that sober paper amounts to a rabble-rousing call to arms.

Now, I have a soft spot for The Economist because its use of commas is impeccable, but this week I felt it was being rather mocked by the bank advertisements within its own pages.

A Passion to Perform, read one. Passion. Hmm. Not quite what I’m looking for at the moment actually. More of a balanced interest in performing provided that doesn’t involve taking too many weirdo risks. Markets are volatile, read another, financial outlooks change. But you can be sure that at [insert name], some things remain constant. Can you, by jingo?

In the midst of this meltdown, an old fund industry friend last week alerted me to an interesting point. No one is shouting from the rooftops about how safe funds are. Why not? Funds are looking very safe indeed at the moment. If you have a fund holding, it will no doubt be down in value right now, but it will never have been in danger of disappearing down the toilet entirely along with the sponsoring institution, as some bank deposits would have done had not governments stepped in.

The European fund industry perhaps needs to start making this point and making it loud and clear – particularly if it wants to salvage hard-won cross-border sales. For you can be sure that, unless otherwise prompted, the average European saver will conclude from, for example, the near-evaporation of monies placed in Icelandic banks accounts by UK savers that investing in vehicles which originate outside the home country is a spectacularly stupid and unsafe thing to do.

One thing though – any marketing campaign for brand ‘fund’ should eschew taxi advertising. I’m told that 30% of calls to the switchboard of one profit-hunter with a penchant for on-taxi display adverts are now from cab users who’ve left their umbrellas behind...

Fiona Rintoul, Editorial Director
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