Good morning – it’s been a while since my last newsletter but I having spending time in California trying to get a grasp on the American financial scene, as well as celebrating the 75th birthday of fund manager Don Gimbel. Gimbel, a senior executive with Chicago-based fund managers Geneva Advisors, has spent more than 50 years managing money for high net worth individuals and is a regular visitor to Australia.
The forthcoming Presidential elections are a hot topic here, and I made a point of asking everybody I met what they thought of the candidates. Most people had serious reservations about both candidates, but most thought that Hillary Clinton was probably a slightly better option than Donald Trump. The general reaction was “he’s a dunce, and she’s a crook!”
The problem is that Trump has no knowledge of global business, international relations, or the way government is run; Clinton on the other hand wants governments to step up and be involved in every decision people make in their lives. It will be an interesting time for fund managers, because if Trump is elected a lot of trade treaties will have to be renegotiated, which will cause confusion and uncertainty for many globally oriented companies. If Clinton gets in, pharmaceutical and hospital companies will probably end up doing it tough.
But when you walk in the busy shopping malls in Los Angeles, or drive on the packed freeways, it’s obvious that life here goes on as normal. America is still the world’s biggest economy and a major tourist destination, and there is still an awful lot of money changing hands. Of course, there are continual changes, and one of the biggest ones in Los Angeles is the almost total replacement of taxis by Uber.
Given that Uber has become almost the sole source of transport available, it’s now vital that your phone has internet connection when you need it. We all know the horrendous cost of global roaming but I was very happy with my Telstra Travel Pass, which for $15 a day gave me loads of internet and free phone calls 24/7.
Our strong dollar lowered the cost of our trip, but tipping in America is as rampant as ever and most restaurants are now expecting a tip of at least 20%. This can add up to quite a large bill when state taxes are added as well, but it’s simply the way the system works. A waiter told us that he is required to share his 20% tip with a wide range of other employees, and if a customer doesn’t tip, or tips lower, he still has to pay the other employees what they would have got if the tip were normal. And remember, his basic rate is just nine dollars an hour.
Yet, as always, we can be optimistic. Most world markets have done well in the financial year to date, and despite all the scares the world did not collapse after Brexit. Gimbel points out that Britain may have shot itself in the foot, but certainly not in the head or the heart. Renegotiating trade deals may take years, which will cause uncertainty for a number of countries and companies, but in the long term the good ones should continue to perform.
Gimbel believes that, despite the uncertainty, there are many well-run companies in the world and owning shares in them will pay off in the long term. As always, the trick is to choose a fund manager who can find them and then hang in when the going gets tough.