"So where's your 'triggering of Article 50' press release?" I asked the chairman of the improbably-sized investment company Prandeamus Asset Management when I visited his office on Wednesday.
"Why would you automatically assume we would issue one?" he replied. "Because pretty much every other fund house in the country has," I shrugged. "It seems unlikely Prando's would be the exception."
"I feel I should be more insulted by that comment than I actually am," said the chairman. "But, as it happens, I hold in my hand a piece of paper …" "Unfortunate choice of words," I observed. "As it happens," repeated the chairman, giving me a dirty look, "I hold in my hand a piece of paper, which contains our carefully considered views on the economic and investment implications of the triggering of Article 50."
"And I am holding my breath in anticipation," I nodded. "Not least to see in what way your carefully considered views differ from the dozens of others on the subject I have received from your competitors this morning." "I know you think it makes you sound clever but cynicism is such an unattractive quality," chided the chairman. "I promise you it's nothing worse than scepticism," I replied. "But please … do continue."
"The triggering of Article 50 has been well flagged and as such should have a fairly limited impact on financial markets in the short term," the chairman began to read. "Subtitles: ‘We know this is a historic moment and feel we have to say something but the truth is that even today's skittish markets should have had enough notice to price this one in'," I offered helpfully.
"However, volatility is likely to increase in response from both camps as negotiations progress," the chairman continued. "Um … ‘When something does happen, markets will react'," I suggested. "With a potentially confrontational approach taken on both sides, some of the complacency over the economic impact of Brexit may be shaken out of markets," the chairman pressed on gamely.
"‘There are two sides here and they don't seem to agree on very much but, as we said, when something does happen, markets will react'," I ‘translated', trying not to be too unnerved by the chairman's glare. "‘However, when any firm agreements are announced then it is likely markets will react positively," he continued through gritted teeth.
"‘There, we told you - when something does happen, markets will react - and, if it is something good, it will be a good reaction'," I said. "Such a momentous event will undoubtedly have consequences for the UK economy and we expect to see some volatility in financial markets as events unfold," the chairman ploughed on, adopting his most Churchillian expression.
"‘In other news, the sun rises in the East and sets in the West'," I sighed. "And a bear was spotted heading into the woods to …" "This will create opportunities to buy and build long-term positions in what we see as attractive investments, as and when they arise," said the chairman hurriedly. "So pretty much Prando's entire reason for existing then," I observed, giving up on my game.
"I'm guessing you don't want to hear our thoughts on specific assets and sectors then?" the chairman sulked. "To judge from what you've already said, I think I'll already have heard them," I shrugged. "I do think you are being overly critical," the chairman complained. "As you just said, this is a historic day and Prando's really ought to say something.
"And, that being so, what else would you have us say? That clearly the triggering of Article 50 is something any fund management house worth its salt will have addressed in its portfolios many months ago? That since neither side has any idea at all how the Brexit negotiations are going to pan out, why on earth would we be expected to have a view?
"And finally, even if we knew with perfect foresight how it will all work out, given how markets reacted both to the referendum result and to young Donald's elevation, there's a pretty decent chance we would be massively wrongly positioned anyway?" "Why not?" I replied. "It would at least have the curious quality of actually being true."
The chairman isn’t answering his email
Reforms not enough
An economic cocktail
To encourage consumers to shop around
Will report to Pat Shea