Simon English: Tomorrow will not be the end of the world as we know it – try to feel fine


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The Independent Online

Outlook Does the end of the world start tomorrow? If you read too much of the wrong sort of publication (put that newspaper down sir, back away slowly) you could comfortably conclude that it does, even in face of the evidence that people who think so have been wrong every day so far.

An alternative view: markets go up, markets go down. Their daily movements should not be taken so seriously. Billions get wiped on more often than they get wiped off. Panic selling almost never occurs (trust me, it doesn't often work like that).

And there will still be fish fingers for tea.

Don't take my word for it. Ask Jamie Matheson. Mr Matheson is the cool-as-a-cucumber Scot who runs Brewin Dolphin, the stockbroker celebrating its 250th year in business.

You'd wish it would ignore this birthday as insignificant, but you can see why they make a meal of the fact that they are still here.

As a graduate of the seen-it-all-before school Mr Matheson urges calm and brings encouraging news. We'll be ok, he insists.

His evidence includes the strength of Brewin's results. Amidst the supposed turmoil, the crisis, the beginning of the end of the world, his cautious clients are still planning for the future, on the basis that there is bound to be one.

Brewin's funds under management and profits are up. The dividend to shareholders is solid. There has not been a flight to tinned food or bars of gold. People like shares in solid companies that pay a reliable dividend. Same as always.

Mr Matheson thinks his business, and his perspective, is aided by being a City firm that has offices across Britain. As such he is inside the bubble of bad news enough to know what's going on, and outside it enough to see that for many people life continues much as before.

On the euro crisis, he tells me: "The London market has been through many a storm. Those of us who are old enough can remember the 1970s. We musn't be complacent, but we get through these things."

His point, part of it, is that the City echo chamber may not be a helpful way of analysing how we are doing or are soon to be doing.

City economists and commentators read each other, lunch each other and sometimes, in the most tragic cases, marry each other. (That this saves two other people from misery is an upside not to be dismissed.)

But the effect of the chatter from the bubble-insiders is that on the down-times you get a reinforcing circle of doom and in the good times an unhealthy surfeit of optimism.

Meanwhile, out there, in the real world, well-paid professional folk keep on asking long-lasting firms such as Brewin Dolphin to prepare for the long term, to reject either City exuberance or City despair with equal force.

Mr Matheson, who is 57, doesn't expect to live forever. He figures he has a good few years left, though. And so have we all.