2018 National Investors Conference
Our annual conference was held from 31st July to 1st August and this year continued the pattern of the last twenty years of great AIA investment conferences.
The theme of the conference – ‘Synchronicity’ – referred to the fact that the 45 countries tracked by the OECD are all experiencing growth this year. We arranged various sessions to explore the effects of this synchronized growth on our own investment strategies.
Stephen Koukoulas opened the Monday morning and told us that the China economy may be softer than official figures show. There were tentative hints that 2019 growth will be less. He also said that the Australian economy was underperforming marginally, with growth now 2.75% against a forecast of 3.25% which was looking unlikely. He went on to speak about housing construction, capital investment, infrastructure spending, unemployment and interest rates. We were given a very clear picture of the factors currently affecting our investment landscape.
I wanted to avoid singling-out individual speakers, but I have to comment on Saul Eslake. Saul spoke after lunch on the final day, and very effectively provided a summary and a reminder of the current scene. He mentioned that our potential growth rate is less and that growth in the workforce is about to turn negative.
We also heard from Peter Switzer who suggested that the bull market can go on and interest rates are not currently a threat.
Other speakers of course covered the range of portfolio construction, asset allocation, estate planning, fixed income, etc. Roger Montgomery spoke in the final session and told us that mortgage delinquencies are increasing and we have record household debt to GDP and record household debt to incomes. Roger said,
‘"be cautious and discerning",
and to expect more volatility.
In a new innovation this year, we had a live Skype interview with fund manager Paul Black, who is Co-CEO and portfolio manager at WCM Investment Management based in Laguna Beach USA. This opened our minds to the ideas and strategies of a successful fund manager from the other side of the world, and shook us out of our tunnel-vision and gave us some insight into how the majors do things. I think that the committee may well use this technology again in the future. We often think of inviting top overseas experts to speak at our conference, but the tyranny of distance (and time) makes this impossible. With this technology, we can enjoy these speakers without them being physically present.
For the second year, we held “the Great Debate”, this time the topic was “That men make better investors than women”. Henry Jennings and Rudi Filapek-Vandyke were the affirmative team, and Felicity Cooper and Holly Gorski were the negative team, all ably chaired by Marcus Padley with Alan Hull as timekeeper. The women won (again) and it was a very amusing and entertaining performance by all. Lots of light-hearted fun to finish the day.
On the social front, the conference dinner was a complete change of pace, as all 380 of us just enjoyed the time to chat without any structured entertainment. Although, Marcus Padley (Mr Jellybean) amused us at length by announcing the winner of his Marcus Today, guess the number of jellybeans in the jar competition, in a way that only Marcus could. It was most entertaining!
We were once again supported by our sponsors and their feedback was very positive. Thanks to all – the committee, staff, volunteers, speakers, sponsors and all the members who attended. You all made it a huge success.
Graeme Bottrill, AIA President