GREED and fear are said to drive the stock market, which means widows and orphans should give it a wide berth, according to some sceptics.
At the very least, some would claim that share-dealing isn’t for those who lack the appetite for the cut and thrust of day trading.This is a gross-oversimplification, according to Georgina Mitchell, the head of investment services at Redmayne Bentley, an independent stockbroker which has been part of Yorkshire’s business landscape for more than a century.
“Our clients are not pin-stripe suited, blazer-wearing loud boys,” said Ms Mitchell. “We are looking after people’s wealth. Grandparents are relying on this money to pay for their grandchildren’s school fees.
“A lot of people don’t understand that, while you might not have direct stock market exposure, you quite possibly have stock market exposure somewhere, especially if you have a pension because that will be invested in the stock market. It’s always good to learn that little bit more, so you understand exactly what is happening to your money.”
Ms Mitchell is passionate about financial education. Without it, millions of people can’t make informed choices about their future. For example, the credit crunch was triggered, at least in part, by consumers getting up to their eyeballs in debt. If they had been better advised, we would have all been spared the pain of the last four years.
“We run a series of seminars in October every year on investor education,’’ she said. “It’s important to understand the impact of compounding interest and how much that can affect your finances, year on year and month on month, and the rates of interest that are charged.
“It is possible to borrow money, regardless of your income and, to a certain extent, your ability to pay it back. But you need to understand how much you’re going to have to pay back and what the rate of interest is going to be. It’s not widely understood.
“On the flip-side, I don’t think the opportunities for investment and longer term savings are fully understood either.”
An economics graduate who has been with Redmayne Bentley since 1999, she assumed overall responsibility for both the investment support and portfolio services teams in 2006, which are collectively known as investment services. Ms Mitchell splits her time between her management responsibilities and media work. In recent years, she has appeared on BBC News 24, Sky, Bloomberg, and Channel 4.
At a time of turmoil, there’s something reassuring about the deep, rustic roosts of Redmayne Bentley. It can trace its heritage back to John Redmayne, who was born in 1845 in rural Riddesdale.
He was an expert in railway stocks and eager to expand his knowledge about global investment, so he travelled to America in 1887 to forge links with Boston stockbrokers.
The stockbroking firm he established grew steadily in Yorkshire, and, in 1923, Gavin Loudon joined the firm. He was joined in 1956 by his son, Keith, who is now senior partner.
At the time, the firm had just four staff and was based on the corner of Bond Street and Albion Place, in the shadow of the old Yorkshire Post building.
Following a series of acquisitions and mergers, the firm now has 300 staff across its 35-branch network in the UK and Ireland.
In 2007, it bought the SP Angel Private Client retail business and Teathers Private Client Stockbroking business. It also moved into the international market by opening a branch in Cork, Ireland. In 2010 the firm acquired the stock exchange investment business of Tunbridge Wells-based private client firm Rockwells Investment Management. It also recently snapped up the client book from Leeds-based Park Square Stockbrokers.
Earlier this year, the firm moved its head office operations from Butts Court, Albion Place and Merton House to a new office and share shop at Bond Court, in Leeds.
Ms Mitchell has had plenty of scope to develop her management skills, because Redmayne Bentley has grown rapidly at a time when many of its rivals are cutting back or disappearing.
But Redmayne Bentley isn’t hunting further acquisition targets in a predatory fashion.
“We are always aiming for further growth,’’ she said. “ If opportunities arise, we would certainly look at them. It’s not a case of us going out and hunting down other companies and making unsolicited offers. Other than that, it is building on the strength of what we already have and trying to service the local business community more.
“We’re a partnership – we have never overstretched ourselves, so we have been able to weather all the storms due to that conservatism. It also comes down to our personal service. We treat each of our clients as an individual. We will happily go and visit them. We’re not a faceless computer and you can get an explanation before you do anything.
“We’ve taken the opportunity to buy a couple of firms in recent years. It’s good that we have the financial strength to be able to do that. That has given us new offices in places like Exeter and Liverpool among others.”
The FTSE 100 has been close to the 6,000 mark over the last week, and cataclysmic falls in share prices have become less common. But how do you react when the market is in a tail-spin, like that experienced during the height of the Greek debt crisis?
“We don’t panic, and that stops the clients from panicking,” said Ms Mitchell. “If they want to liquidate the portfolio, they can. If somebody is having sleepless nights because of the stock market, we would recommend that they exit it.
“However, they have to bear in mind what they’re trying to achieve with that money and where else they will be able to achieve it, because if they put it in the bank they are not going to get much of a return at all.
“It’s not just your (appetite for) risk, it’s what we call your capacity for loss. The stock market does go down so it’s vital that you understand that that might happen. It’s the risk-reward trade-off. Are you willing to take that risk in order to achieve the return that you’re looking for? If you’re looking for something specific, then you might need to.
“Don’t chase it (the market) and don’t worry about a short-term movement. If you are a day-trader then you have to, but even a day-trader can say, ‘I don’t have to bother today’.
“If you are investing for the longer term, then volatile movements from day to day won’t affect you. As a general rule, you are looking at a three to five-year view to build a long-term portfolio.”
The sort of soothing words that grandparents looking to support their grandchild’s education would welcome.
Georgina Mitchell Factfile
Name: Georgina Mitchell
Title: Head of Investment Services, Redmayne Bentley
Date of birth: July 25, 1975
Education: Leeds Girls High School from 1979-1993, then degree in Economics at University College London (UCL) followed by the Securities Institute Diploma while training as an investment manager.
First job: Behind the counter at The Oven Door in Wetherby
Favourite song: Where Do I Begin by Shirley Bassey.
Car driven: BMW Z3
Favourite film: Die Hard II
Favourite holiday destination: Majorca
Last book read: Sex and the Kitty by Nancy the Cat, a friend wrote it. I’m so proud of her.
Most proud of: Our house