Steve Johnson

Oh, how pension fund trustees must wish they could turn the clock back to the halcyon days of plump scheme surpluses, pension holidays (remember them?) and the promise that every worker could retire with a nice fat, index-linked income, guaranteed to the end of their days.

Barring the invention of the time machine, such delights are doomed to remain just a wistful memory (and in reality access to the nirvana of generous defined benefit occupational pension schemes was far from universal).

Steve Johnson

The Wolsley

The Wolseley, a favourite of London's financial powerbrokers

Signs of a slowdown are rarer than hen’s teeth at posh eaterie The Wolseley, a favourite of London’s financial powerbrokers, nestled next to The Ritz, where your humble correspondent had the pleasure of engaging in an enjoyable breakfast meeting.

The only downside was struggling to hear one’s dining companion over the hubbub of a myriad rival conversations; every table was taken by sober looking business people engaged in no doubt far less exciting discussions.

Come the end of one’s feast, many of the original cast had sidled off to do whatever important tasks it was that paid for their meal tickets.

In their stead came a coterie of what can only be described as Women Who Lunch, fortifying themselves with the finest espresso before a spot of light (or not so light) retail therapy in the nearby boutiques.

Once again not a spare table was to be had and, if anything, the hubbub had moved a notch higher.

If we are marooned in the depths of the worst recession since the 1930′s, one would not wish to be tasked with securing a table at said cafe when the good times roll once again.

Steve Johnson

If the high-powered hedge fund world is anything to go by, the worst appears to be over for the beleaguered investment industry.

Despite the fact that hedge funds were not to blame for the spectacular implosion of the global financial system, the sector copped more than its share of the fallout, with poor performance, widespread redemptions, gating, suspensions and Madoff combining to make a veritable toxic cocktail.

Steve Johnson

Colourful anecdotes included harrowing tales from Papua New Guinea

Anecdotes included harrowing tales from Papua New Guinea

M&G, that most venerable of fund houses, provided some fascinating insights into the changing nature of investment at a dinner this week.

M&G was celebrating the 40th anniversary of its £3bn Recovery fund and wheeled out all three past and present managers of said vehicle to reminisce in the convivial setting of its grandly titled Governor’s House.

The contrast between the trio’s tall tales was stark.

Steve Johnson

Vulture funds... face having their wings clipped

Vulture funds... face having their wings clipped

Flush with their success in shepherding the global economy in recent years, the planet’s munificent politicians are anxious to spread their wings and treat yet more arenas of human endeavour to their undoubted magnificence.

Hedge funds and private equity are both set to benefit from “improved” regulation, courtesy of the searing insights of our political masters, and now it appears politicians in both the US and UK are anxious to clip the wings of vulture funds.

For the uninitiated, these vehicles specialise in buying up the sovereign debt of impoverished or recalcitrant developing nations that have defaulted, or are perceived to be likely to do so, at a chunky discount to face value.

Steve Johnson

Hedge funds have spent most of the past nine months cowering behind the sofa as a horror show of mass redemptions dances across their TV screens.

Every so often they peer around the corner in the hope it is safe to come out from hiding and start the serious business of making money once again.

Fresh figures today from HFR, those diligent statisticians of all things hedgie, offer some insight into whether the closing credits of the horror flick are rolling, to be replaced by film of lambs gambolling in the spring sunshine. But only a little.

Steve Johnson

As a journalist, it is always gratifying to receive feedback on one’s stories. The response to my piece EU convergence strategy under threat on March 16, examining whether “value at risk” will continue to be an acceptable measure of risk for Ucits funds, was particularly voluminous and pleasing.

Pleasing yes but, in some cases, head-scratchingly puzzling as well. Readers were keen to tell me why Var was the best thing since sliced bread/the worst thing since marmite/somewhere nicely in between – providing the world uses their own unique variant of Var of course.

Steve Johnson

News that hedge fund managers are increasingly spreading their tentacles into the rigidly regulated world of the Ucits III fund throws up an interesting dilemma for industry participants, or at least those of a male persuasion.

The whacky free-wheeling mavericks of the hedge fund world have traditionally cocked a snook at the dusty old establishment by swanning about the streets of Mayfair and Stamford, Connecticut unashamedly tieless.

Such reckless informality remains near blasphemous in the buttoned-up world of traditional asset management. So how will reformed hedgies react to this thorny sartorial dilemma?

A recent visit to a hedge fund house in the midst of embracing the elixir of life that is Ucits offered a glimpse into the future.

One of your correspondent’s hosts was resplendent in a bright shiny necktie, while his colleague remained brazenly open-necked. But hedgies are nothing if not resourceful. On being challenged as to his dress standards, our tieless friend promptly unfurled a waiting tie from his inside jacket pocket with the flourish of a stage magician, declaring “I’m hedged”.

It’s good to know that at least one industry looks set to thrive amid the economic doom and gloom. It’s time to go long the tie retailers and short the purveyors of chinos.

About the blog

FTfm is no longer updated but it remains open as an archive.

FTfm's specialist writing team offer their insights into the global fund management industry.

About the authors

Pauline Skypala has been editor of FTfm for four years having previously been deputy personal finance editor. She joined the FT in 1999 and has been writing on savings and investment issues throughout her career.

Steve Johnson, FTfm deputy editor, has been a journalist for 17 years, 10 of which have been with the FT.


Sophia Grene, reporter on FTfm, has been a financial journalist in print and online for 12 years.

Ruth Sullivan has worked as a financial/business journalist and foreign correspondent and for the past 10 years has been at the FT.

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