James Coney  

Property prices must drop to save market

James Coney

James Coney

These high-level conversations have to stop now. The answer to unaffordable homes is not to let people borrow ever greater sums, nor to allow savers to spend their retirement funds on them.

If we care about helping people buy a home, we are all going to have to accept that a fall in prices is the best medicine.

Channel blocked

Goodness me, Neil Woodford keeps getting himself in a right old pickle at the moment. Just a few weeks ago he was busy shuffling three unlisted stocks from his portfolio onto the Channel Islands Stock Exchange.

The idea was that his holdings in each of these firms would be then counted as listed. This is not the first time someone has done this – but it is highly unorthodox. Of course, the stocks are not really proper listed stocks, no one is buying and selling, so they are not being traded.

And then, what is this? It turns out that the Channel Islands Stock Exchange was not quite so happy with that arrangement after all.

What a mess. All because guidelines say he must not have more than 10 per cent of his fund counted as listed. The reason this proportion has grown so much is because of the vast redemptions on his equity fund.

What is more, the sentiment seems to be that Mr Woodford is well positioned for Brexit. But with Brexit looking further away every day, the day people think his portfolio will be suddenly transformed gets pushed back. He really cannot catch a break.

Clear advantage

What do plumbers and financial advisers have in common?

One of my favourite businesses is Pimlico Plumbers. Their staff are polite, honest, completely upfront. Their fees are utterly transparent, though not cheap.

Their service is brilliant. Despite the fact the firm’s boss Charlie Mullins is a bit annoying, they are rather wonderful.

There is a lesson here for all businesses. Transparency over charges and brilliant service mean customers feel happy paying higher fees. Sadly all too often in financial services, the transparency and the service are all too lacking, while the high fees remain.

James Coney is money editor of the Sunday Times