Omar´s Outlook - May 2021

A New Chapter

ASTUTE ADVISORY SERVICES

When I wrote the very first article for this blog back in September 2013, I did not really anticipate that I would continue doing so every month, ever since.

Now here we are, almost 8 years later, at the 97th instalment, having covered topics as diverse as cycle touring in Central America, personal health and well-being, digital assets and all sorts of aspects, odds and ends, of markets & economics.

It now appears unlikely that the overall number of articles will get to 100, so this particular one is intended to deal with the ‘why’, rather than the ‘what’, as the previous ones did.

It will come as a surprise to exactly nobody that the last 12 months have been rather difficult on numerous fronts.

The unprecedented impositions on freedoms that were previously taken for granted, which came about thanks to the various countries’ governments’ reaction to the Chinese coronavirus, have meant that when my mother in law died in New Zealand a few weeks ago, my wife was not even able to attend her funeral.

It is a small comfort I suppose, that she at least has three sisters living over there, so they were able to take care of what had to be done.

My own mother, now 87 years old and living in the Czech Republic, has been subject to some of the most draconian lock-downs imposed anywhere; comparable to war-time martial law.

She lost her partner earlier this year and has since been living alone, with no close surviving relatives.

My intention to bring her to Australia, to live out the rest of her life with us, has been thwarted indefinitely by the blanket ban imposed on non-residents’ entry permits by the Federal government.

Furthermore, the government’s ban on leaving the country unless a permission is applied for and granted – unique among developed nations and comparable to totalitarian regimes like the one I escaped from when I was in my 20s – has meant that should my mother die, I am unsure who would even arrange her funeral, and how.

The above has caused an enormous amount of stress and forced a substantial reconsideration of just what is important in life. Is it working and earning money – which we may not even get to enjoy in this ‘new world‘ of rolling lock-downs and the Orwellian ‘vaccination passports’ - or is it spending at least some time with close relatives, who may not be around for all that much longer?

For Trish and me, the answer to that question is obvious.

As things stand now, for Australian citizens who, like me, do not hold dual citizenship, leaving the country without a permit is only possible if one is to stay away for more than 3 months.

It would be highly irresponsible, as well as unethical, for me to travel to Europe without any certainty of when I may be able to return, with no one here able to take my place with regards to fulfilling service obligations to our clients.

Should the various governments, despite all the accumulated evidence of just how harmful and useless such measures are, deem to close borders again, or lock down entirely, like Brisbane did just a few short weeks ago over a few ‘cases’ – not actually sick people, mind you – then it could well be many months or even years before a return could viably be contemplated.

It is for these reasons that a decision has been made for Astute Advisory Services Pty Ltd to merge with Oracle Group.

Oracle currently has its head office located in Newcastle, NSW, but the group also operates branches in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and regional NSW (Erina & Wagga Wagga).

Their investment approach is very similar to the one we have been utilising ourselves, namely the preference toward using direct equities and bonds, rather than managed funds.

Oracle operate their own managed portfolio service, across the same bond and stock brokers we use (FIIG Securities, BGC Fixed Income Solutions and Ord Minnett), which allows for much easier and comprehensive access to not only wholesale-level bonds, but also direct international shares, as they trade on overseas exchanges.

Oracle’s larger size means that it has substantially more resources at its disposal. The group has its internal research analyst team as well as its own investment platform, which allows for a much more efficient and speedy execution of asset transactions, as well as reliable delivery of investment reporting and access to a client portal, in comparison to what our own little organisation has been able to provide.

At the same time, Oracle is still small enough to retain the ‘personal touch’, where you as a client can be assured of continuous access to the same, reliable adviser, rather than what the case is with the big institutions, where clients are not much more than just names on a spreadsheet.

We will be rebranding before the end of this financial year and there will be some paperwork coming to our clients, associated with the change.

Overall, I believe that the merge is the right move and should result in an overall benefit to all stakeholders.

I intend to remain an Authorised Representative, able to advise clients, for the foreseeable future. This will allow me to assist if and where necessary, even if I am located overseas for a certain time period. We have all learned to love those Zoom, Skype and Google Meet meetings by now!

The Rockhampton office will remain open and operating along the same lines as before.

Our Sunshine Coast, Toowoomba and Roma clients will in the future be serviced from Oracle’s Brisbane location.

I will be meeting with as many of our clients as possible over the next 2-3 months, in order to introduce the individual advisers who will be helping them forthwith.

Thank you all for your support over the past 12 years. It has been a great journey.

Omar