Weekly Thoughts

Weekly Thoughts 29 January 2021

I haven’t written for a very long time… Christmas has passed, New Year is now old, and I’d just had a pacemaker fitted. That seems to be all fine. I feel what is probably called ‘normal’. My Dread Disease claim with the one company is approved and pending. I still wait on the second company. One must remember that for an insurance claim to be awarded, something was a bit wrong with us. It’s not necessarily a celebration.

I learnt this month from some people I often bring in to be executors on estates for me, that in these loaded times of Covid-19 deaths, Home Affairs is struggling just to get out death certificates and therefore it’s taking up to six months just for the Master’s Office to issue Letters of Executorship. This means that nothing gets started in term of simply beginning to wind up an estate. Which in turn means that cash does not come out from estates very quickly, even in the case of a life insurance policy with a nominated beneficiary – because this requires the death certificate.

Here is something that you never heard from me… If there is someone who is financially dependent on you, they, or someone, needs to know your banking login details and passwords. For someone to sweep money out of your bank account ASAP if you go down before the Bank freezes the account. The executor will come and moan later to have it back, but by then other things might have come through.

Let’s hope things will ease.

Then I listened to six hours of fund manager zoom presentations this week. A variety of managers and content over two days. Information overload.

Weekly Thought 11 December 2020

Today’s story is just about me. I write to you this morning from Johannesburg, before flying back to Pietermaritzburg later today.

I think it can be good to let my clients know that I might go through the same events in life that many of you might do too. On Wednesday this week, I had a Pacemaker fitted in a hospital up here. For various reasons, it was preferential to come here to do it than in Durban.

My story is that for a few years now, my heart rate has been very low. At rest, I have usually been around 32 to 35. A high level of fitness is partly the cause of such a low rate in many a middle-aged man. But my low rate has been compounded by my body’s own, natural, primary pacemaker not always waking up, resulting in a longer pause before our body’s natural, secondary pacemaker wakes up and kicks the heart into action. This has resulted in my heart rate sometimes dropping into the high twenties, especially at night, with regular 4 to 6 or 7 seconds between some beats.

The various cardiologists that have helped me, have explained the electrical conduction problems I have. Can’t blame this on Eskom or anyone – just my own chambers not sending their allotted voltage to wherever they should be sending it to. So now I have my own battery pack to keep me at a minimum resting rate, while still being able to exercise as much as I wish to.

It was a simple, 40 minute under local anaesthetic procedure. With the Cardiologist tugging and pulling and prodding at me, as he put the stuff into me. And then for the first night in many years, I slept without feeling this irregular marimba band going on inside me!

I will now experience what many of you have, or one day might have to when I deal with claiming on my dread disease insurance. If I understand the technical jargon, I think I have a valid claim: “Half broken heart needs permanent help”.

Weekly Thoughts 28 November 2020

Yesterday, and these past days, was Black Friday time again. The winners are the banks and the stores. They’ll win again in December with the Christmas over-spending.

Another coffee shop closed a short while ago: Pietermaritzburg airport no longer has one. Tables and chairs and everything cleared away. Sad. Not just because I can no longer get coffee before flying, but because a bunch of people have yet again lost their jobs.

Weekly Thoughts 16 October 2020

For those of you who keep a watch for my Weekly Thoughts, you will know that there has not been an issue out on the shelves for a very long time. I have really battled with what to write over the past few weeks.

I cannot bring myself to use much humour – there are still too many folks reading this who are battling with the times we have found ourselves in. Then, I don’t want to just re-write the economic news I get or listen to via the many on-line presentations I attend. For those that really want this, you get it by default through what you read, your work-related issues, articles you subscribe to… and so on. These things might be around how the markets are responding to US elections, vaccine trials and the reversal of businesses opening due to higher Covid-19 figures again.

Should I talk about the handful of companies dominating the SA stock market and skewing the figures we see about the good companies, or maybe I talk about the year that has been: The year of the incorrect memories, the lessons we have not yet finished learning about what we actually only need in life.

I remain however, acutely aware that this family is still very fortunate.

Weekly Thoughts 3 July 2020

Over the past weeks, there have been many conversations about how to restart the economy again. It has been on my mind as to how I, and many of us, can help where we can. Since restaurants have been able to do deliveries or collections, we have supported one or other of our preferred eating spots every week, even though we would never usually go out or buy take-a-ways every week. I have also made a point of passing good coffee spots and buying a take-a-way cappuccino. Not just to get my regular coffee fix again in the morning, but to support, because I can.

I went for a haircut this week. Again, not just because I needed one, but also to get back to support my local little hairdresser as soon as I could. (I did manage to have one illegal haircut during lockdown!) I have thought that maybe another way to help re-start small business is to go away for a night or a weekend to stay in a small BnB or something. When permitted that is. Just to get out and help people get going again.

A bit of extra effort from many of us could make a big difference to many small businesses. We’re far from seeing the end of businesses and shops closing. This week alone in my town, it has been two coffee shops, one pet shop and one motorbike shop. And that’s only what I know of.

As I ponder this bizarre and sad time we’re in right now, I wonder if one day there’ll be a documentary on the History Channel, about when Man used to gather in large groups, shaking hands, kissing and hugging, dipping hands into communal bowls of biltong and chips and blowing birthday candles out. Quite a thought for right now.

Weekly Thoughts 26 June 2020

I have a few investment thoughts to share following listening to the clever people from Ninety One and FIM Capital (Isle of Man investment guys) during the week.

There seems to be some positivity held for global growth in 2021. For good, dividend-paying global companies, both in 2021 and going into 2022. FIM mentioned companies like Coca-Cola. It will always survive and be strong. The world has not stopped and will continue to drink their products. Then Unilever – they said we’ll all be brushing our teeth and feel a need to wash our hair when social distancing is over. Visa: Online buying has been up 30% around the world in the past few months. Visa will carry so many of those transactions.

From the point of good international properties being held by FIM, they pointed out that the distribution warehouses they own are well-positioned for the online buying segment. Products all land in a distribution warehouse before being couriered out to buyers, making these warehouses even busier. Solid income to the tenant. Solid rent to the landlord.

Weekly Thoughts 29 May 2020

In the last couple of weeks, via live internet presentations and discussions, I have listened to Ninety One (Investec) twice, Allan Gray, Bridge Fund Managers, Sarasin from London and had personal one-on-one’s with my Coronation consultant and one of the fund managers from Marriott.

I think I have mentioned before, that Bridge Fund Managers are the first group that have come along doing the same thing that Marriott does: investing with the same approach and offering an income-focused outcome. I have been listening and watching and also been visited by them. However, just because there’s a new kid on the block doesn’t mean one goes to play at their house. If they have no new or different toys for me to play with, there is no reason for me to use them. But it’s my job to watch and see, and if and when they offer anything better, then I should be ready to use.

My one-on-one with the Marriott Fund Manager was to discuss and thrash out different fund mixes I have been researching and testing to optimize income. Mixing and matching four of their funds in the different products I can use them in, in order to get the best, or most appropriate, outcome to use for you.

Monday we ‘progress’ to a new number. And queues at every bottle store around the country. Tito will be happy with the increased revenue.

Weekly Thoughts 08 May 2020

One of my live asset manager presentations I dialled into this week, was to listen to a Director from Ninety One (ex-Investec). This particular guy is always entertaining and informative, always talking from a global economic and political point of view. An indication of his popularity is that there were somewhere around 3000 of us dialled in from around the country.

I thought to list a few points he made. These were all in context when he was talking at the time.

From his global round the world tour:

  • Consumers will drive growth
  • Spending will be cautious, savings will increase
  • Companies will hire less, become more efficient
  • Recovery in the 2nd half of 2020, going through 2021
  • This is not a global financial crisis, like in 2008. That was a banking collapse. This is a consumer problem.

His South African comments:

  • SA has some significant economic policy mandates in place
  • Opposition to supporting failing SOE’s is now gone
  • We’re in good hands
  • Business and govt are working well together
  • The sentiment is that the lockdown will cause more deaths than the virus will
  • Consumers will be more selective in future
  • Fast food will trigger up quickly
  • Pleasure industry will kick up quickly – hair, nails, spas
  • Many good companies have very strong balance sheets and will last through a crisis
  • Markets are telling us that we will be fine

Weekly Thoughts 24 April 2020

So today week we get to transfer from the maximum security holding to the medium-security facility. At least it’s a move. I think we’ll be able to go to the shops without having to prove that we’re going to shop. On Tuesday this week, I did said weekly shopping run, to shop for office supplies. Office food that is. I also filled my car with petrol, all 13 litres of it. That was for the past three and a half weeks of travel. I guess this time that we find ourselves in will bring with it a lot of forced savings for most of us. No sitting and working in that coffee shop. No restaurant or pub visits. No spending money on going to your mate’s house for a braai, or on that pointless shopping excursions to the Mall. Or on that five-day motorbike trip through Lesotho I was supposed to be doing with friends next week.

I continue to dial in too many live internet conversations and presentations. They’re all doing it. Investec, now called Ninety One – for those of you looking for snippets of uninteresting information to get you through these days – has held two per week. Their one yesterday was not investment orientated at all. They had a speaker who dealt with motivation for us Financial Advisors. You know, the usual motivational stuff: keep our heads up, create positivity in our minds and in our days and therefore in our business and our clients. There is probably a lot of this currently needed as a theme for corporate conversations. The asset managers are all either talking about the obvious economic issues around the world, or how they feel their own funds will hold up in the end. I suppose what else can they say.

Weekly Thoughts 3 April 2020

We’re 8 days in. I’m washing dishes and sweeping the house more than I used to. The Murray House is doing puzzles, reading, finding a movie to watch most nights, playing cards, doing normal family stuff like being in each’s space for too long…. My son is doing his rugby coach’s gym program and uploading it onto the website for Coach to check on – through seeing heart rate effort. When you and I went to school it would have been; ‘Sir, I promise you, I did it’.

I’ve been allowing myself an extra hour’s sleep in the morning, after discovering that there seems to be more time in life what with no planning of travel required in the day. So the clock has been set for 6 am instead of the usual 5 am. However, I haven’t always been getting to six, what with the local resident herd of Hadidas and gang of Vervet Monkeys not having seen the recent memo that the world is in lock-down. The noise in the trees and on the roof providing a valid reason for going to work at the usual 5.30 am. At this time not only do I miss these creatures, but I usually gain the lovely sound of our resident owls saying goodnight. Or do owls say good-day when they go to bed?

What do I say about the picture of the world? So many constantly changing conversations. I am bombarded daily – four today alone – with various communications. Already this week I have listened, in various ways: videos and this new Zoom-Zoom internet communication thing, to three different fund manager talks around market and/or economic COVID-19 consequences. On Monday I have another, where quite a varied group of people have been put together for us to patch into. Us being a restriction on the first 100 to put our hands up and register.

The guys at Orbis, an offshore investment company I use for some of you, made the comment that they don’t have enough money to invest in the opportunities they see in the cheap markets right now. Implying they need investors to give them more money to put into the markets because many companies are very cheap right now. Too many sellers, not enough buyers.

On Tuesday the Marriott guys showed us how good many bond yields have become to invest in, due to governments around the world looking to raise funds. Periodically, while talking live to a group of us, he would get distracted by watching the bond traders, via another screen while sitting in his lounge, for the price he wanted to buy at, with a few hundred million Rand waiting to be used.

While there are many very, very serious consequences to many clients and many people – I learn of these daily – which are going to be here for months or years to come, markets are providing opportunities. However, we have not yet seen what will happen if the world locks down for three or four or five or six months. That will be another picture. I personally don’t think that can be done. We will have to continue and let the consequences be the consequences. Life or death or economic.

Interestingly, insurance companies have also come out with plans to help clients from either a premium paying point of view or an underwriting point of view. But this is as recent as the last two days.

There are changes daily, from what the various financial services companies, Banks included, are putting out there. A bank doesn’t want to own your property or business. It would rather help you hang in there so that you can run it for them again one day. There is already much being said about what the world will be like after all this, what we’ll have learnt. But what’s the point of looking at that when the problem is not over. When survival is not over. When people are still struggling. There is no point and it’s not fair.