Friday, 14 March 2008

Timing is all

Keynes said "In the long run we are all dead." He also observed " wordly wisdom teaches it is better to fail conventionally than it is to succeed unconventionally."

It is that second quote that is mentioned in today's Telegraph obituary of Tony Dye , the Phillips and Drew Fund Manager. Dye was a contrarian who in 1996 considered the FTSE 100 overvalued at 4000 and took a sizeable part of his clients' money out of the market. In March 2000 when the index stood at 6400 he was fired , yet within a month of his leaving the stock market turned. Many of those fund managers who had followed the herd kept their jobs.

Dye's story indicates the importance of timing in risk management. If he had made the switch out of equities in January 2000 he would have been hailed as one of the greatest fund managers of all time. He was right that the market would fall, but completely out on his timing, partly because he underestimated the power of Alan Greenspan to support irrational exuberance whilst at the same time fulminating against it.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with going with the herd although it is always worth remembering that the Gadarene swine thought the going was good for the first part of the way . Warren Buffett always reckons it is best to fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful and as for timing, Bernard Baruch said "I have made my fortune by buying too late and selling too early".

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