Outlook: Slow Finance is the antidote to dizzying markets

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The Independent Online

After the Slow Food movement, which says no to fast-food chains such as McDonald's and advocates buying local, here comes the Slow Finance movement. Okay, it's a bit early to call it a movement. The book Slow Finance, written by the veteran City of London fund manager Gervais Williams, ex of Gartmore, has only just landed, but is appealing amid these dizzying markets and a challenge to the tenets of the globalised finance industry.

You don't have to swallow all of Mr Williams' views about the ill-effects of globalisation on food production, or his claims that China is a "bubble market", to buy his central argument, which is that we could be better served looking for local, organic growth than chasing quick fortunes halfway around the world.

At core, Mr Williams is arguing for a return to time-honoured value investing. You know, the kind where you do a lot of research, demand proper dividends, engage with the companies you own and take a patient approach.

Slow Finance is the antivenom to years of poisonous developments in the industry, where private investors have been encouraged to lever up and to churn their speculative portfolios on an obsessive basis – all the kinds of activities that line the pockets of the lenders and brokers and do nothing to allocate capital in the real economy.

I hope the Slow Finance movement catches on, and fast.



How much?! The price of a second-class stamp could soar by about a half, to 55p, under rules proposed by the Royal Mail's nice new regulator, Ofcom.

As for a first-class stamp, don't even ask. There will be no limit to what the Mail can charge.

This is the price of dragging the Royal Mail into the 21st century, fulfulling the exacting mandates of this year's Postal Services Act, including the commitment to a six-day delivery, while at the same time fattening itself up for privatisation.

That the Mail should be in such a parlous financial state, after four consecutive years of negative cashflow, is testimony to underinvestment, bad management, poor regulation and cowardice when it comes to the need to make the place more efficient. But you cannot ignore the onerous nature of its public service functions. There is no mystery in the decline in postal volumes: the internet has rendered traditional mail a snail. The Royal Mail is in financial difficulty, first and foremost, because we use it less, and we use it less because we need it less.

Think about it. How much time-sensitive mail do you really get? Is there anything on the mat on a Saturday that cannot wait until Monday?

The Postal Services Act enshrines the six-day delivery into law; stamp buyers may come to rue that it does.

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