The chairman comes over all schizophrenic when discussing the 'its' campaign
'What's the group's view on investors?' I asked the chairman of the insignificantly-sized investment company SmallBlue Planet. 'On balance I suppose we're rather in favour of them,' he replied cautiously.
'I imagine you would be ' what with all those lovely fees they put your way,' I said. 'But I didn't quite mean it like that. I've been noticing some inconsistencies with regard to various investment houses and the way they deal with new and existing investors. Take Pep transfers, for example.'
'I'd rather we didn't,' said the chairman. 'Tough,' I said. 'Now, all the fund management groups were tripping over themselves to take those original Pep investments but now, as soon as anybody wants to take their cash elsewhere, problems arise.'
'Oh, I wouldn't go that far,' said the chairman. 'There are plenty of times when SmallBlue Planet is only too delighted to assist investors with their Pep transfers, though admittedly that tends only to be when they want to move their cash to us from somebody else.'
'But why can't it work both ways?' I asked. 'I know there are problems with administration systems being unable to cope with unbundling or whatever you call it, but it can't be that difficult to sort out. Rumour has it mankind actually managed to put somebody on the moon a few years back.'
'Yes,' I vaguely remember,' said the chairman. 'But you're quite wrong about that computer business. We've all had systems up and running for years that can slice up the most complicated Pep portfolios like a robotic sushi chef ' any way you want. But we couldn't possibly let that get out ' if investors found out how easy Pep transfers are, all hell would break loose.'
'But, as long as people are just switching between different investment houses, surely it must all even out in the end,' I said. 'Depends how good you are at this fund management thing,' sighed the chairman.
'I suppose it does,' I nodded. 'Well let's leave aside this rather sordid practice of shackling existing investors and move onto attracting new ones. What's your take on the demise of the 'its' campaign?'
'If I can just put on my AITC ambassador's hat, I'd say 'demise' is not quite the right word.' said the chairman. 'It's more a redefining of our ambitions and a redistribution of our finances.' 'You mean you've finally been forced by the AITC dissenters to completely change your campaign.'
'I don't think our edging from a multi-million pound consumer advertising campaign to a programme of education and information can really be described as a 'complete change,'' said the chairman. 'Although, if I might now remove my AITC ambassador's hat, I always thought the idea was doomed to failure.'
'I beg your pardon?' I said, somewhat taken aback. 'My AITC hat's back on again,' said the chairman.' So I'd just like to wholeheartedly echo the sentiments of a number of members who have mentioned their admiration for the work of Daniel Godfrey and his team in re-energising the industry, getting marketing on the agenda and raising the profile of investment trusts over the past few years.'
I began to wonder if someone had spiked the chairman's drink but ploughed on: 'I think the key thing there was that only a number of AITC players went in for all that admiring business.' 'And taking off my AITC hat again, who can blame the others?' asked the chairman. 'I mean, in very general terms the target market for investment trusts should not be the first-time investor. I knew this campaign was heading for trouble when the first poster I spotted was on the side of a chip shop in a back street in Blackpool.'
Quite what the chairman was doing in a back street in Blackpool was something on which I had little desire to dwell. 'Still, you have to admit the new target of £5,000 per £100m of assets is a pretty insignificant amount of cash,' I said. 'I can't believe some people are quibbling about it - surely even the most individualist of boards would be willing to stomp up at least twice that?'
'Would you like my AITC hat on or off for this one?' asked the chairman helpfully. 'Frankly I wish you'd take it back to wherever you got it,' I said. 'Your AITC hat is beginning to scare me.'
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