"Do you often come across advisers declaring their love for fund managers?" I asked the chairman of the improbably-sized investment company Prandeamus Asset Management as we studied the poignant words in front of us.
"Over the years, a surprising number of my managers have attracted some element of stalker," said the chairman thoughtfully. "But I couldn't swear they were advisers and I'm not sure love was ever involved."
We had just completed the Manchester leg of Professional Adviser's - so far - gratifyingly well-attended Multi-Asset Roadshow and the chairman had been offering his own brand of moral support as I cleared up the assorted debris left behind by the delegates. This time, among the discarded programmes, notes and other papers was one of the complimentary conference magazines - its cover bearing a heartfelt inscription.
"‘I think I'm in love'," the chairman read out again before giggling. Again. "Do you think you might have a secret admirer?" "Ha," I snorted. "My natural modesty aside - and with due respect to David Jane and the other men on the programme - I would argue the basic demographics of these sorts of events would suggest the object of this delegate's affections is one of the ladies who was up on stage this morning.
"That would narrow it down to a coin toss but I'm not sure I am prepared to speculate much further than that." "I'd love to know who wrote it," sighed the chairman. "That feels a bit prurient," I said. "Why are you bothered?" "Oh, it's not prurience," the chairman protested. "I just want to investigate a little bit further whether I should be thinking harder about just who I send out on the road."
"Steady on," I said. "You're not seriously suggesting you'd start hiring good-lucking people - of either gender - to present on your products in the hope Prando's might be able to shift a few more units?" "Why not?" shrugged the chairman. "Every little helps and I'm pretty sure that approach isn't covered by any of the FCA's rules on inducements."
"That might very well depend on the presentation," I pointed out. "Still, I'm pretty sure the main barrier to this weird little plan of yours is not regulation but common sense. These days, most investors are looking for ways to take the emotion out of their investment process - not actively add more in. And while there is still an excess of emotion around in the market it tends to come under the classics of ‘fear' and ‘greed' rather than ‘lust'.
"Furthermore, frankly anyone who invests solely on the basis of the appearance of a fund manager deserves all they get - or don't get." Unfortunately, the chairman appeared not to be listening. "It would be great to get this chap's input as a case study," he said. "Are you sure you can't think who it might be? Did you not notice anything out of the ordinary when you were at the lectern?"
"Like what?" I asked exasperatedly. "Someone with love hearts in their eyes or their heart beating comically out of their chest?" "Of course not," grumped the chairman. "Life isn't a cartoon." "You know, I'm genuinely relieved to hear you recognise that's the ca …" I almost replied. "CCTV," the chairman interrupted. "Do you think this hotel has CCTV?"
"I suppose you might be onto something if our mystery Romeo had been scribbling on his magazine in the carpark," I said. "But look around - do you see any cameras in this room?" "Fair point," the chairman nodded. "Hey, what if we used your journalistic skills?" "I wouldn't recommend it," I warned. "And if you are about to suggest I interview everyone who attended today to help you out, you are serious deluded."
"What a shame we will never know the identity of the love-struck adviser," the chairman sighed. "Perhaps that is best for everyone," I shrugged. "Hang on a moment," said the chairman, excitedly grabbing my arm. "Couldn't we work our way through all the feedback forms until we find one where the handwriting matches?" "I suppose we could," I agreed.
"Or we could just look at the name at the top of the CPD certificate I've just noticed tucked inside the magazine."
The chairman isn’t answering his email
Reforms not enough
An economic cocktail
To encourage consumers to shop around
Will report to Pat Shea