How to say goodbye to your portfolio

Paul Palmer, professor of voluntary sector management at Cass Business School, suggests six steps to stock market suicide

1. Sell low, buy high

Charities worried about their equities in a time of falling markets should sell now, then place all of their cash in a small overseas bank paying high interest rates.

That way, when the markets recover, they can buy back their equities for more than they sold them for, with funds raised from anxious supporters who helped them out with donations after the overseas bank collapsed.

2. Invest in a crazy venture, by personal recommendation

Always rely on the board's personal contacts. For example, when the treasurer receives a hot tip from an old friend who works in the City for a company that skins kangaroos and cans the meat for consumption, seize it with both hands. After all, this company will make a short-term healthy profit when kangaroo meat becomes a celebrity chef's hot tip as an interesting alternative to beef.

3. Take it to extremes

If the treasurer advises the charity to sack its investment manager and place the charity's entire funds with his friend's firm, go right ahead. Just remember to sell before anyone asks why the charity is investing in unethical business practices in the developing world, and before it's revealed that the chef was paid by the company to endorse kangaroo meat.

4. Invest everything in private equity

All of it -100 per cent - should be in a private equity fund; after all, those boys make a lot of dosh. After the annual standard return, however, the Charity Commission might write to ask if any funds are available for beneficiaries and charitable activities.

5. Be 'ethical' at any price

Blur the ethical views of the trustees with those of the charity, thereby excluding so many markets and sectors that the charity is exposed to one small sector. But don't worry, because the ethical investment consultant who has been paid to help you gives 10 per cent of his profits to charity - his own.

6. Change policy at the last minute ... especially if it was agreed two months ago, after you worked on strategic asset allocation, risk profiling and writing the investment policy. Announce that, in the trustees' view, the long-term strategy is to maintain the real value of the charity's assets by keeping them in cash and bonds.


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