Monthly update: Business challenges and the sneaky super-rich

Oct 30, 2021 9:06 am

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Here's what had my attention in October...

πŸ“ˆ This month in the economy

In doing research for a new book, I recently spent a Sunday reading obscure Bank of England reports and presentations from the early 2010s – a highly recommended activity if you don’t want any follow-up questions when someone asks β€œwhat have you been up to today?”

In doing so, I discovered something that shocked me relating to one of my pet subjects – Quantitative Easing – and its role in stoking inequality.

I've written it up in a new article here.

πŸ€‘ This month in investments

I completed on a new property this month. I talk about the purchase process, and why I chose that particular property, on a recent episode of The Property Podcast.

What I didn't mention is that while I was excited to acquire the property, I was actually more excited to acquire the mortgage against the property. I think this confirms that I have no soul, but I'm also secretly pleased with how far I've swung from the "debt is bad" mindset most of us have drummed into us (if we're lucky enough to have anything about personal finance drummed into us at all).

What's so great about this debt? Well, it's fixed for five years at a rate of interest lower even than inflation is supposed to be, let alone what inflation actually is, and secured against an asset that should at least hold its value in real terms. If you think about it, taking out debt on these terms is a bit like shorting the pound: you're borrowing pounds, with the intention of paying them back in the future with pounds that are worth less.

Oh, and the apartment has integrated smart-home technology which is nice too I guess.

πŸ’Ό This month in business

This month, Rob Bence and I were finally able to reveal the new venture we've been working on for the last 18+ months. It's called Portfolio, and this video will bring you up to speed on the basics.

Although we're not quite at the point of launching it yet (not far away now!), getting it this far is by far the hardest thing I've ever done in business. Why so difficult?

  • Nobody has ever done something exactly like it before, so there's no template to follow and no single person who can say "ah yes, this is how you do it – let me help you".
  • It involves overcoming challenges in a vast array of different areas simultaneously – legal, regulatory, technology, financial, operational – many of which are in conflict with the others.
  • It involves relying on countless third parties – all of whom have their own, often archaic, way of working. (What they have in common is a fondness for charging chunky fees).

Have I enjoyed it? Frankly no, for large parts of the process: it's been immensely stressful, and the tasks I'm actually good at need to be squeezed in before 9am and at weekends because working days are just non-stop calls and meetings.

But that's OK – even when a particular day or week hasn't been much fun, there's a deeper satisfaction in doing something you believe is important and will make a real difference. When Portfolio is live, I'm sure all the hard work will be worth it – and maybe I can start having fewer calls with lawyers and accountants.

🍿 This month in media

🎀 I find most interview podcasts to be lazy and boring – and the few good ones are enjoyable because they have a host who's done their research and is excellent at asking the right questions. 

Andrew Warner is the host of the Mixergy podcast (one of the good ones), and has written up what he's learnt about interviewing into a short and highly readable book called Stop Asking Questions. Even if you never plan to interview anyone, almost all the lessons can be applied in everyday life to improve the quality of your conversations. I've made extensive notes and will be trying them out.

πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘©β€πŸ‘§β€πŸ‘¦ The TV show Succession is back! It's as intense and uncomfortable and ever, and continues to do more for innovation in the field of swearwords and insults than any show since The Thick Of It. I've always hated it when people are like "oh the first 20 hours are a bit slow but honestly you'll be gripped when it gets going", but...honestly, if you haven't watched it yet, persevere with the first half of season one because when it hits its stride, it's spectacular.

🏝 The Pandora Papers – a set of leaked documents showing how the super-rich avoid tax – were released last month, to a general reaction of "well yes, we kind of assumed they were doing that". A happy consequence was that they led me to this explanation by Patrick Boyle – and discovered that his whole YouTube channel is excellent at explaining business and financial topics. He can also drop a deadpan joke like few others.

πŸ‘‹That’s it for October! Could you do me a favour? If you can think of one person who might enjoy receiving these emails, please forward this on to them. They can then use this link if they want to sign up to receive more.