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Life's Turning Points

Posted by Paul Jourdan on 05/Oct/2015

Last Monday evening I had the pleasure of speaking at an event called Markets Now, hosted by David Fuller of Fuller Treacy Money and Iain Little of European Wealth. David, now in his seventies, is one of the longest-serving, wisest and most gracious of London's global investment strategists. He has always been completely independent, offering his analysis to subscribers from his own company, which over the last decade or so he has run with a younger colleague, Eoin Treacy. He combines the kind of sophisticated analysis of global market-moving events which is borne of long experience, with his own brand of chart analysis which is centred on how crowds of investors tend to behave. He is always cool headed in a crisis, and quick to see through melodramatic headlines and lazy assumptions.

The event was important to me for a personal reason. I had first come across David 23 years earlier when I was a violinist in the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. This was a job which I loved, but one which left a significant part of me feeling unused. Like many members of the orchestra I looked for other things to fill this gap. I became interested in financial markets in order to figure out how to manage an insurance-type savings bond that I had which allowed clients to switch between different underlying funds. I came across David's firm, which was then called Chart Analysis, through the pages of the FT, becoming a subscriber to his monthly publication called Fuller Money. I was fascinated by David's global perspective, and by the ideas he put forwards about reading a market by understanding what the price movements are indicating about the crowd behaviour going on within it.

Each year David put on a busy teaching schedule across many countries through a format he called the Chart Seminar (still going, but now run by Eoin). I read about this, but realising that it was really aimed at market professionals and serious private investors, I wrote to David asking whether he had written down his ideas in a book.

A few times in life you get something through the post that you realise might change you. David wrote such a letter to me in reply. What I didn't know was that David's life-long passion is orchestral music, and has been a long-term supporter of more than one orchestra in London. He wrote to me saying that it would be great to have a musician at the Chart Seminar, and sending me an invitation to attend at no cost. It was a hugely generous gesture. Luckily for me, the next available course was during a week that I could take off from the orchestra. I immediately made the arrangements.

It felt like the course provided me with a window on a world that I hardly knew existed beforehand. I met many investment professionals, and caught a glimpse of the investment industry. I came away spinning with ideas, which I proceeded to test in a series of investment experiments, with varying degrees of success. I left the orchestra to study for a PhD in Cambridge, and as this was finishing I realised that my curiosity which had been sparked by the Chart Seminar would only ever really be satisfied if I could manage to find an opening to train as a fund manager. Luckily I was offered such a job in Edinburgh with Stewart Ivory, who liked to take on PhD graduates as trainees. That was around 6 years after attending the Chart Seminar.

David has now turned the monthly publication of Fuller Money into a superb website (www.fullertreacymoney.com), and I am still a subscriber all these years later. Instead of a monthly commentary, he provides daily comments on markets and events, which is an extra-ordinary and unrelenting discipline. The website also offers a library of charts covering almost everything that can be bought and sold on exchanges. In developing a digital strategy to take his business online, David has set out to harness the power of the collective wisdom of the subscribers to the site, and in doing so he has created an extra dimension. He encourages the readers to send in articles and research of interest, and this forms the basis for much of the daily commentaries. Users are not swamped, as all of the content is carefully chosen. Some of the documents sent in have proven to be of great value to us at Amati. A memorable example is a paper posted on the site by David in 2012 by Leonardo Maugeri. It was called "Oil: The Next Revolution - The Unprecedented Upsurge of Oil Production Capacity and What it Means for the World". I read this in some detail and discussed it with every oil executive I met over the following two years. Almost all of them dismissed it, saying they were very confident about the oil price holding up. As it turns out, its analysis was eerily correct, and allowed us to be fairly well prepared for the downturn in the oil industry over the last year.

So for these reasons it was a particular pleasure to be able to appear as a speaker at David's event on Monday evening. I have a lot to thank him for. I also commend his outstanding website to any of you who have a serious interest in financial markets.