Congratulations Angus and Richard

In one of my interesting adventures in the markets, over ten years ago, I discovered a little fund being run out of Crows Nest in Sydney. It was called Grinham Managed Futures.  I was looking to invest a bit of money in alternative investments that didn’t correlate with other markets.  These guys – Angus and Richard Grinham – seemed honest smart people and I had some long enjoyable phone calls with them talking about their philosophy and how their business ran.

As an economist I was naturally skeptical of the idea of making money by ‘charting’, but these guys did nothing but that in a range of markets and consistently made good money. What’s more, they made more money when markets were volatile.  Since volatility is quite heavily correlated with market falls, this all looked good from a risk management perspective.  I used to wonder why more ‘investment advisors’ didn’t recommend alternative investments like this.  They said they were too risky.  (The Grinhams have been making money all through the crisis.)

Grinham mainly managed money for those offshore – the regulations for doing so for Australians were generally prohibitive – involving prospectuses that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to tell people the obvious about a business (ie list all the risks being taken and pay a firm of lawyers to cross the ‘t’s and dot the ‘i’s.  But they were putting together a small fund of less than 15 unit holders for their friends and relatives and asked if I’d like to buy in.  Whereever possible I deploy what I’ve since called my eighteenth century philosophy of investment which is basically to toss money at pretty much anyone whom I trust and who seems passably smart, focused on what they’re doing and doing things that look like they make sense. So long as I’m well diversified if I never see the money I’ve given them again, I’ve had some fun, it won’t kill me and chances are this method will generate some good investments. Generally the approach has never failed, has often produced reasonable returns and once or twice great returns. 

Anyway, this fund generated returns between 9 and 40 percent per annum (mostly at the lower end!) for about five or six years while I was invested, during which time I let the investment compound so it had grown quite nicely.  Then I got a letter from them.

Financial Services Reform was requiring them to shut down the little trust they had as the little exeption it had was being removed. I could become a ‘sophisticated investor’ in the eyes of the regulation by punting $500,000 in the trust – which was more than I wanted to punt. So I had to redeem my holding.  

Anway, I read in BRW today [paywall] that Angus and Richard have joined the rich list. The very rich list actually – BRW reckons they’re worth $386 million.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer couple of guys.  Congratulations on your success guys!  Pity the government chucked me off the cart.  Pity it stopped Australians investing in your fund. But it was only the slow lane.  I always would have liked to have had a punt on some of the equity in the business – but you were too smart to offer me any!

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Chris Lloyd
13 years ago

If all they are doing is charting, then this is a rather trivial way to make a living – not something I would especially celebrate – and, as a consequence of 1+1=2, not widely sustainable.

OK, I know you need arbitragers to pick up the dimes on the sidewalk for the system to work. But the net public benefit is about 0% of the total activity and is made up of the losses of other investors. It is a pity they could not actually do something productive with their lives, regardless of how much fun they are on the phone.

The whole story reminds me a little of this guy.