Simoney Kyriakou  

How to keep your head

Simoney Kyriakou

Simoney Kyriakou

A little calm, please.

What does it take to be calm amid a second lockdown, the Bank of England warning of a double-dip recession, the rise of quantitative easing, the worst possible of Brexit scenarios becoming a reality and the most disruptive of US elections in most people's living memory?

What does it take to be calm amid the noise and the nonsense, of strange accusations of blame and illogical arguments? 

This has been a difficult week to take stock and consider what these events mean for individuals, if anything; the distractions are almost overwhelming. 

Amid all this, the same message is being told by advisers to their clients across the UK: "Stay calm, and focus on the long term."

Have your client's goals changed? Have their circumstances demonstrably altered? Or are they merely reacting out of fear, the way people did in March when they stockpiled toilet roll and disinfectant?

Some investment decisions will go wrong. Some may be disastrous. But in a well-balanced, carefully constructed and risk-assessed portfolio, this should not be a cause to press that red panic button. If the goals haven't changed, it is unlikely that the investment strategy needs to have more than a tweak.

The hedge funds and high-frequency traders have been having a field day on leading stock exchanges around the world. Their profits are based on people's fears; their revenues boosted by the uncertainty and intra-day fluctuations in stock and share prices.

It's worth ignoring daily index movements when nobody really knows what's going on; or at least remaining level-headed when assessing what the wobbles might indicate.

'If you can, keep your head when others around you are losing theirs and blaming you' – this is a good message for these times. 

Of course, it's dangerous to take quotes such as this one out of context; the Kipling poem was written largely in defence of the man who caused one of Britain's biggest military losses in the Boer War.

As with the Charge of the Light Brigade and The Convergence of the Twain, the British have a unique ability to turn a whopping great disaster, caused by human hubris and error, into a tragi-heroic narrative. We even turned 1066 into a victory. It's uncanny.

Whether there will be any celebratory poems written about the year 2020 is anybody's guess, but it seems unlikely. 

What is more likely is that a calmly worded email or letter sent to clients by advisers across the UK will be very warmly received at this time.

Your balanced, level-headed communication right now is what is needed, at a time when conflicting information is screaming at the investor from all sides.

simoney.kyriakou@ft.com