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Robin Powell: Hello there. David Pitt-Watson is a fund industry insider. He’s worked in asset management for many years, and it’s made him question the point of using active fund managers at all. A Fellow at London Business School, he’s now campaigning for greater transparency around fees and charges. I’ve been to meet him and started by asking him for the single most important piece of advice he’d give to ordinary investors.
David Pitt-Watson: Just ask the question, keep asking the question, you know if someone’s asking about evidence-based investing, we know there are certain things which are likely to work, one is that you’ve got a low fee, and the other is that you’ve got good governance, both of your fund and in terms of your fund thinking about the governance of the things that it’s investing in.
Robin Powell: David Pitt-Watson is particularly distrustful of complexity. Generally speaking, the more complex a product or strategy is, the more expensive it is — and that usually means lower returns in the long term.
David Pitt-Watson: Keep it simple, keep it low cost, know what you're doing, think as well about, "What am I investing for?" So I run a chair endowment, it’s a permanent endowment of a charity, 350 million pounds, I’m thinking about "How is it that I can have a real stream of income, most of it in pounds, that’s going to go out into the infinite future?" Once I’ve decided that the rest is comparatively straightforward, it’s thinking about "What do you need that investment for?"
Robin Powell: One final piece of advice is to resist the temptation to adjust your portfolio ahead of an important event — a referendum or election for example. It’s usually counter-productive.
David Pitt-Watson: I don’t know more about the US election than anybody else knows. If I want a real stream of income that’s, you know, diversified for the long term, equities are quite a good thing to be invested in. You take a risk coming out you take a risk going in, that you know better than anybody else. For me, and I’m quite a successful investor, betting on the US election would absolutely be a dice throw, and throwing that dice will cost me several percent, of which I’ll only know about a very small part of it, all the rest will be in transaction costs, so again, start with fundamentals, stick with the fundamentals, and you’re likely to do an awful lot better than people that are trying to switch in and out all the time.
Robin Powell: Thank you to David Pitt-Watson — and to you for watching. Goodbye.