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Mick the Meme: 10 Things We Learned This Week


News of a double by-election defeat awaited the Conservatives this morning, after the Party received a drubbing in both Tiverton and Homerton, and, further north, Wakefield. To pile pain upon pain, Conservative Party chairman and former Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden promptly handed in his resignation after months of shouldering difficult questions about government policy and his boss’s conduct on the airways. That was by no means an over-reaction, though if you’re looking for lessons in slightly-too-triumphant parochialism Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey certainly delivered. He declared his party’s victory in Tiverton and Homerton – where the Lib Dems overturned a 24,000 majority with a 30% swing to the yellow team – “the biggest by-election victory our country has ever seen.” Calm down, Ed.

Like it or not, we do live in an age of unlikely heroes. Step forward transport union boss Mick Lynch, whose unf-lynch-ingly (excuse the pun) simple explanations of the rail strike this week cut through the noise and earned him immediate cult status on the internet. Memes have included a Chuck Norris-style list of things that are afraid of Mick Lynch, Thunderbirds comparisons (Google “Mick Lynch The Hood”) and at least one person declaring that “Mick Lynch has convinced me to go on strike and I work for myself.” It all appears to be in a well-paid day’s work for the trade unionist, who was born in 1962, back when London bus drivers earned around £17 a week for their troubles.

Investors Have Been Fleeing UK Funds

New fund flow analysis from Morningstar data journalist Sunniva Kolostyak this week showed dramatic outflows from UK-domiciled funds, making May the worst month for outflows since March 2020. According to Morningstar analysts Bhavik Parekh and Jack Fletcher-Price, funds can blame inflation, increasing interest rates and a worsening economic outlook for wreaking havoc on the markets and subsequently causing withdrawals. And just to give you a sense of the scale of the exodus, funds from every single asset classes experienced net redemptions for the first time since January 2019, back when assets were offshored prior to Brexit.

The Line Between Charity And Investing is Blurry

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February this year, commentators were quick to wonder whether ESG might play a role in protecting borders from military attack. But it also led to a new wave of pleas for physical donations of cash, clothing, and military materiel. For those wondering about how their money might best have impact, this begged the question: is investing or donating more effective? Part of the answer is that the difference between the two is not as stark as you might think. James Gard wrote this analysis on the topic, and it’s well worth your time.

ESG is Getting The Letters in the FT Treatment

The latest salvo on ESG has come from a French professor concerned the public has misunderstood how investing actually works. In a letter to the Financial Times, finance professor Theo Vermaelen pointed out money injected into stocks by well-meaning investors is not used directly in the projects they may very well want to support. Rather, it is simply used to buy shares in companies from other investors who are selling. “Some funds try to counter this by saying they ‘engage’ with the company and send emails to the chief executive. But what’s the point of engaging if the company is already a high ESG-rated firm?” he asked. We reckon Morningstar head of global sustainability research Jon Hale might have something to say about that. Oh wait, he did, right here!

Dom is Back

Normally regarded as something of a blogging recluse, former Number 10 chief adviser Dominic Cummings appears to be going through a rebrand. This week, the former Vote Leave mastermind appeared on a panel discussion at University College London. The topic of discussion? Cummings’ political hero Otto Von Bismarck, who, among many, many other things, is widely regarded as the father of the state pension. According to The Guardian, Cummings took another swipe at Boris Johnson in the process, declaring that the prime minister (who he’d nicknamed “the trolley” while in government) had been unable to decide his priorities while in office. Next stop the Cheltenham Literary Festival? Perhaps that would be a trip too far for Cummings, who’ll know full well how important the town’s annual horse-racing festival was in spreading Covid-19 in 2020. 

Deutsche Bank is Getting The Message

After years of what might generously be described as “compliance problems”, German financial giant Deutsche Bank is stepping up its efforts to keep an eye on staff behaviour. New systems installed at the company will give bosses an overview of emails, phone calls and internal messaging, in a bid to clamp down on unprofessional conduct. For those with one eye on the company’s culture, it may not have come at a more opportune moment. Earlier this month Deutsche-owned fund manager DWS was raided by police in a greenwashing crackdown that resulted in the resignation of its chief executive Asoka Wöhrmann. 

Consistency is Harder When You Run Companies Plural

A Tesla engineer I once met at a birthday party told me staff at the company were allowed to leave meetings they didn’t feel were worthwhile, and even email CEO Elon Musk personally if they wanted to talk about something. The result, my acquaintance said, was a more open culture. All this makes one wonder about the state of play at SpaceX, where last week two employees were sacked for (what must be presumed to be) their role in an open letter from workers criticising Musk’s “damaging” behaviour online. In the wake of the response, Musk has been accused of hypocrisy. After all, he announced his intention to buy (and improve) Twitter on the grounds he cared about free speech.

You Should Think Twice Before Lending Money

Seeing a friend or loved one suffer financially is never nice, but getting involved can also make you vulnerable. It’s laudable enough to want to help, but many a friendship or relationship has been scuppered on the rocks of an IOU. If you find yourself in the difficult position of having lent money with no sign of your friend returning it to you, you do have several options. Unfortunately, however, none of them is easy, as I explored in a good-money-gone-bad article this week. Mediation may yield a solution if you are absolutely desperate for the money back. If it doesn’t, a trip to court might be the only option – and that, as they say, is a whole different kettle of fish.

It’s Never Too Late to Learn

To end on a wholesome note, Derek Skipper appears to have become the oldest ever student to sit a GCSE exam at the tender age of 92. Skipper embarked on the course online, a process that forced him to use YouTube for the first time. There was no such assistance in the exam hall though; the pensioner exam candidate said he had to use a magnifying glass to read the paper, and that he eventually ran out of time. Uncowed, he “thoroughly enjoyed” the experience, and is now hoping for a level four or level five result, which, to us old fogies not familiar with the latest iteration of the exam grading system (thanks Michael Gove) would land him with a C or a B. Well played that man!



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