Vol. II No. 1 Saturday 4 January - 10 January 2003
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Columns
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Family Money

Personal Directions

The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness

Agony Column

Camera Class by Snapshot

Recipes from Rattana

Family Money: The bear in perspective

By Leslie Wright,
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.

This time last year, financial industry commentators were predicting that equity markets would recover by the end of summer 2002. Like so many predictions during this bear market, it didn’t happen. Indeed, a similar sentiment prevailed during the rally in early 2001, which fizzled out in the second quarter.

From the start of 2002 to the end of Q3, the S&P 500 dropped by 31.8% while the FTSE All-Share dropped by 28.9%. Europe fared even worse, with the DAX 30 dropping by 41.1% and CAC 40 by 38.2%.

Since then, the sheer volume of short-term money sloshing around the global markets looking for a safe home - over $7 trillion by some estimates - has resulted in a roller coaster ride for all of us. The resultant nausea has exacerbated the whole issue, and even the savviest investors have let their fears and sentiment colour their investment decisions. The peaks and troughs were getting increasingly large throughout Q3 2002, as people bought and sold on fear and fancy.

Indeed, towards the end of last year, many private portfolio managers and their clients seemed to have lost patience in waiting for a stock market recovery. They turned away from equities and back towards money market funds, bonds, specialist non-market related funds (such as property and TEP funds) and structured products which carry a guarantee of some sort, to provide downside protection and some upside growth over time.

The negative aspect of these newly-popular structured products is that you’re effectively locked in by high redemption penalties for several years. And if the sharp recovery which some commentators and analysts are predicting comes to pass, you won’t be able to switch over into equity funds to take advantage of the upturn. Personally I prefer a more active and dynamic approach to portfolio management, even in a conservative growth portfolio.

As of late 2002, the Dow Jones Industrial Index had fallen for nearly three consecutive years - which in the past century it has done on very few occasions: first back in 1903, then in 1931, and again in 1941. In all three instances, the Dow continued lower in the subsequent year, but bottomed by the third quarter of that year, and rallied thereafter.

Studies of equity, bond and cash investments over time do show that while equities certainly are more volatile than lower-risk investments they have still outperformed over the longer term. For instance, it is somewhat sobering and in some ways heartening to realise that the annualised real return on US equities for the period 1900-2001 was 6.5%; for UK equities 5.6%. This compares with real annualised returns on US bonds of only 1.6% for the same period, and 1.3% for UK bonds.

Although it is not my function to make specific macro forecasts - especially when every financial commentator seems to take an opposing view - it is part of my function as a portfolio manager to try to identify trends objectively, and adjust my discretionary clients’ portfolios to a more aggressive or conservative stance accordingly.

For most clients my mandate is to create a flexible portfolio that for an income-orientated portfolio produces an acceptable rate of return within agreed risk parameters, or succeeds in protecting capital; or over the longer term, produces an attractive absolute return in terms of capital growth, despite short-term volatility.

Along these lines, even if I were to turn decidedly bullish towards equity markets at some point, I would never allow significant equity correlation to build up within a diversified portfolio: the portfolio would become unbalanced and tend towards speculation rather than being strategically structured to attain the client’s long-term financial objectives within agreed risk-aversion parameters.

Indeed, in all circumstances a portfolio manager must adopt prudent strategies that are likely to perform reasonably well under current and anticipated market conditions, but that taken as a whole will remain relatively unaffected by short-term market movements. I must therefore choose good funds from the bottom up while maintaining reasonable top-down common sense, and not lose my head or objectivity no matter what the markets do in the short term.

Portfolio management not only involves solid bottom-up due diligence on individual asset managers, but also involves at least an appreciation for the macro environment in which managers must operate. It also requires perspective and patience, and the willingness to make adroit changes as quickly as possible when indicated, with the objective of providing a robust allocation mix going forward, appropriate to each client’s individual needs and circumstances.


Personal Directions: Everything needs a plan

By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Incorp Trining Associates

Hi there! Now that we are in the year 2003 - what is on the agenda? Have you given it any thought? If not then it’s time - now - to look at what’s in store for the year and to get moving on it straight away! Of course, the better thing to have done would have been to think about this year - last year - and to have had some plans in place.

Nothing will happen - well nothing that bears fruit - if we don’t set some clear goals and targets and then draw up plans, put them in writing, log down the details and get cracking on them. Planning is crucial to the success of any business venture or any dream-home you fantasize about, or anything of meaning that you want to have or do in your life.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of waiting for things to happen or waiting for others to make things happen. It’s great to be able to set goals and to know what you want. But unless you get out there and start applying yourself to achieving those goals, you’ll end up with a big fat zero for results!

So take a large notebook with enormous amounts of paper or a huge whiteboard or sit down at the PC and begin to write some plans about your goals or the things you want to achieve this year. Don’t skimp on your tools and feel free to put down as many details and ideas as you can. Writing things down can be a great motivator in itself because you begin to see things more clearly as your thoughts take form and shape.

And don’t take the attitude that you have no time and that you’re too busy, or that you can remember everything and that there’s no real need for writing things down, or that you’ll do it later. If you do, then you’re courting failure!

What’s so difficult about making a plan and putting some definition to it? Perhaps you should ask yourself if your goal really is important. If you answer yes, then ask yourself another question: why aren’t you doing anything about it?

Time slips away so quickly; it disappears as fast as running water from a tap. Suddenly it’s gone and we are left wanting it back so we can attend to the things that we said we would do. Take some time to sit and think out your plans. If you do this right in the beginning - right from the start - then you’ve taken a step in the right direction.

Planning is essential for even the simplest of tasks. Take the weekly shopping for example. How many times have you spent hours doing the grocery shopping only to come back home and find that you forgot several items of importance and then you become annoyed because you have to go back to get them. I find that I have to write a thorough list of everything I need in order to avoid this. It works for me and many people do it. You might spend a bit of time going through the kitchen cupboards and the laundry shelves, but in the end you complete your task successfully.

Imagine running a restaurant without planning each day meticulously! Even the finest establishments with the most experienced of managers and chefs plan every detail down to the last sprig of rosemary. Imagine the automobile industry or aviation industry without plans! Indeed no industry could flourish without planning. What about your own particular job or position? If you are in marketing or sales, how do you function and perform your duties? You don’t just arrive at the office every morning and begin to wonder what it is that you will do for the day do you? It all comes down to planning.

In all walks of life, in all areas of industry plans are necessary to ensure results.

It’s also interesting to observe the way in which people actually prepare their plans. Some minds work very differently to others and we all have our own unique styles or ways of doing things. Some people can work in what seems to be chaos - but if it’s organized chaos - then that’s a plus! One thing that I have noticed whenever the subject of planning comes up, is that most people say that if they have everything written in a book, as opposed to lots of pieces of paper, then the possibility of getting results is far more likely. I couldn’t agree more and it is a fact that containment of information is a contributing factor towards completion of a task.

It’s fairly easy to understand why, but you would be surprised at just how many people don’t work or plan this way, despite how simple it is! They insist on using numerous pieces of paper with information scrawled on the back and so forth. If you work alone and perhaps live in a cave up in the mountains somewhere, then maybe this is what works for you. But if you are like most of us and work with other people, then having some order to your planning is absolutely essential.

One executive I spoke to recently finally kicked the habit of planning like this after many years. Whist he was still able to get his job done this way, he always knew that if he could operate in a more organized fashion that he would finish projects more quickly and just be generally more effective. His “pieces of paper” mentality held him back somewhat from the higher level of achievement that he is now able to provide. Since realizing the value of planning methods and preparation, he has instilled it even more so in the minds of his staff.

In training, planning is also paramount to the success of any program. Every program needs a plan. There has to be a plan for execution and delivery. The contents have to be defined and well set out. The techniques to be used require planning. The seating has to be planned. There’s no escaping any of this - that’s what success is all about!

Have a great week!

Should you wish to contact me to assist in your training needs please email me at [email protected]


The Doctor's Consultation by Dr. Iain Corness: What’s the world coming to?

Well, the World Health Organization (WHO) has got a good idea where we’re headed, and much of that depends upon where we are and what will most likely strike us down. The WHO has, for the first time, released data to show the major influences and risks to health all over the world.

The global picture is interesting, with the number 1 health risk being underweight. Here is the influence of the African continent, with malnutrition and outright starvation influencing millions. Again, it is the African continent that has dominated the second major health risk - unsafe sex. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in that region influencing the global statistics. After those two comes high blood pressure and tobacco and then alcohol at number five.

However, if you split the statistics up and examine the situation in developing countries (such as much of Asia) the picture is different. Number 1 health risk is alcohol, followed by high BP, tobacco and being underweight.

A close look at the risks for the developed societies (that covers the Europeans, Brits, Americans, Australians) gives yet another differing list of “most likelies”. Top spot is tobacco, followed by high BP, alcohol, cholesterol and being overweight.

The things that are waiting to get you are quite different. As the WHO report states, “As a country develops and more people buy processed food rather than growing and buying raw ingredients, an increasing proportion of calories tends to be drawn from sugars added to manufactured food and from relatively cheap oils. Alongside the change in diet, changes in food production and the technology of work and leisure lead to decreases in physical exercise. The consequent epidemic of diet-related non-communicable diseases (obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease) is projected to increase rapidly. For example, in India and China, a shift in diet towards higher fat and lower carbohydrate is resulting in rapid increases in overweight - among all adults in China and mainly among urban residents and high income rural residents in India.”

An interesting fact comes out of some developing nations, however, where countries have taken it upon themselves to promote a healthier way of life, despite the advent of the high living “western” style economy. Again, quoting WHO, “The Republic of Korea is an example of a country that has experienced rapid economic growth and the introduction of Western culture since the 1970s. There were large increases in the consumption of animal food products, and a fall in total cereal intake. Despite this, national efforts to retain elements of the traditional diet - very high in carbohydrates and vegetables - seem to have maintained low fat consumption and a low prevalence of obesity.

“The Republic of Korea has strong mass media campaigns, such as television programmes, promote local foods, emphasizing their higher quality and the need to support local farmers. A unique training programme is offered by the Rural Development Administration. Since the 1980s, the Rural Living Science Institute has trained thousands of extension workers to provide monthly demonstrations of cooking methods for traditional Korean foods such as rice, kimchi (pickled and fermented Chinese cabbage) and fermented soybean food. These sessions are open to the general public in most districts in the country, and the programme appears to reach a large audience.”

It’s not too late to look at your diet either! And put that cigarette out.


Agony Column

Dear Hillary,

I have lived here now on and off for 2 years. I have had many pleasant experiences both during the day and at night. However I feel I must ask your advice on one that happened to me just the other day. I was at my friends bar imbibing in a libation, one which “refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach”, when I decided to show the lovely ladies my party trick. This involved picking up the bottle between the cheeks of my bottom. Having achieved this goal to much amusement and applause I bowed and slipped over, sitting down forcibly on my nether regions. This caused much pain, bruising to my tailbone and when the bottle broke, lacerations to that area. Now my question to you Hillary is, do I look to sue Heineken as I am definitely NOT refreshed or should I start drinking beer from cans only? Choccies and champers in the post as we speak, for your kind help.

Sore and still standing Kenny

Dear Sore and still standing Kenny,

You are a silly lad, aren’t you, Petal. And as for your party trick, remind me never to come to any of your parties, despite any offers of chocolates and champagne. Hillary is not a lawyer, but I would not waste money trying to sue, I think it is better that you stick to “Heinecans”!

Dear Hillary,

I am unhappy with my medical insurance policy. I have been told that they will not insure me after I get to 70 years of age, even though I have been with them for the past three years. Do you think this is fair? I am now 60 and I have to start thinking about whatever the future has in store for me. Surely an insurance company is supposed to balance out high risk people with low risk clients? Is there an insurance council here that I can go to? Or what else should I do?

Disgusted

Dear Disgusted,

This is a lonely hearts column, my Petal, but I’ll tell you what I have found out - you never want to pay for insurance, until you need it, and by then it may be too late. Don’t let this happen to you. Why give them ten years more premiums if they are going to kick you overboard? Vote with your feet and shop around with a reputable insurance agent and find a company that will continue to insure you after 70. They do exist! Both reputable insurance agents and good insurance companies.

Dear Hillary,

I am thinking of buying a motorbike to ride around the city, even though it is many years since I last ‘threw my leg over’. I have a lot of worries about this as I have heard that a lot of bikes are stolen and end up crossing the border. What is your feeling about this?

Ago

Dear Ago,

Feelings about what, Ago? Whether you are still good enough to throw the leg over, or whether your motorcycle will take its destiny into its own handlebars and rush across the border? Really, motorcycle riding is something that Ms. Hillary does not do as I consider it far too dangerous. The majority of road accidents are with motorcycles, and that’s enough for me. I have no desire to become a statistic. Certainly I have heard that there is a brisk traffic in border-hopping bikes, so all you can do is to make sure that you chain the motorcycle up to something solid - or a mountain lion every time it is left unattended! (There’s a great photograph of a lion and a Harley Davidson in a pub in Bangkok, but I can’t remember which one! It must be the Alzheimer’s setting in!) I also know of a situation where a driver chained the front wheel of his sports car to a lamp post. He returned to find the front wheel still safely chained to the post, but the car was gone. All the felons had done was to jack the car up and change the wheel.

Dear Hillary,

How’s the choccies and champagne, darling? Are you getting a reasonable ration? My friends all worry about you and your diet. Some have gone as far to suggest you must be in training for the Miss Jumbo competitions, or perhaps you have sugar? Anyway, the lads were discussing you over a beer at our local and I just wanted to tell you to keep going as we enjoy your weekly advice, but look after the diet, it sounds a bit sus (sic).

Me and the lads

Dear Me and the lads,

Well aren’t you lovely boys! But if you really wanted to make Hillary’s day, you could have included a box of chocolates with the letter, which could have been attached to a bottle of bubbly. Thank you too for enquiring after my health, and my doctor says I haven’t got any traces of sugar, but my dentist tells me that I should cut down on the hard centres as they are pulling my fillings out. As far as the Miss Jumbo title is concerned, I’ll have you know that Ms. Hillary is a slim size 14. What about the lads, with all that beer? You take care, too!


Camera Class: Fungus and other such problems

by Snapshot

One of my lenses has been growing vegetables for me. A much loved 24 mm wide angle f2.8 Nikon began to get those tell-tale ‘spidery’ webs on the front element of the lens. I tried carefully polishing with a soft cloth, but to no avail. The fungus was on the inside of the lens not the exterior.

Like many photographers, you become adept at not seeing the gradual degradation of sharpness in your photographs, until one day it was no longer possible to ignore. Fortunately, my photographic friend Ernie Kuehnelt knew of a place in Bangkok that claimed it could clean lenses. He took the 24 mm there and it was ready the next day. Cost? 500 baht and that was all, and I have a sparkling clean lens again. It was even easier than they had thought initially, having quoted 800 baht as the estimate.

I am happy to reward good work, so here is the name of the shop. It is T.K. Camera Repair, 164/1 Sukhumvit Road, Soi 8, Bangkok, telephone 02 253 3827.

So how do you check for fungus? It is quite simple really. Take the lens off the camera (provided it is an SLR) and screw the aperture setting round to its maximum opening (this will be 2.8 or 1.4 generally). This allows you to scrutinize as much of the glass lens elements as possible. Look from both end towards a white background and see if you can spot the little trails or tendrils of the fungus. A little is acceptable around the edges, but it will continue to grow, so it will mean a trip to the camera doctor one day.

I have been asked in the past just how do you check a camera to make sure it works correctly. The simple answer is that you put film through it, but there are some items you should check first. Take a good look at the camera body, as well as the lenses as described above. Look for dents and scratches that would indicate that the camera has been dropped. Rule 1, don’t buy dropped cameras. They will always fail at the wrong time.

Now open up the back of the camera, where the film goes in. Look for wear and scratches. This can mean that the camera has had heavy use, and the previous owner (or you) has not been scrupulously clean in putting in the new film cassette. With the back open, fire off the camera and look at the shutters to see if they work smoothly and are not visually damaged.

Next item to check is the battery section. Open it up and peer inside after removing the battery. If there are signs of corrosion, this means that a battery has been left too long and has leaked. This is bad news, as the corrosion can get into the camera works and the electronics. Rule 2, don’t buy corroded cameras.

Now is the time to see just how well the camera does as far as taking pictures is concerned. Put it on Aperture Priority and take a series of shots, each one at the ascending aperture values. Now do the same with Shutter Priority, using the different shutter speed settings. Now take shots on Auto Mode of different scenes - some dark, some bright. Finally put the camera into Manual Mode and go through the different shutter speeds and aperture settings, adjusting for correct exposure each time.

Get the film developed and look at the results. You should have series of shots, all with the same density if the modes are working correctly. It is even best to check by looking at the negatives on a light box to check for consistent exposure density.

If the camera passes all the inspections and dynamic testing, then it is in good condition and with correct use and regular servicing should stand you in good stead for many years. Just look out for the fungus!


Recipes from Rattana: Japanese Gourmet Chicken

This is another lightly done dish which takes only a few minutes to cook, but there is the downside - a couple of hours in the marinade. The easiest way to accomplish this is by using the plastic bags with a zip top. Use large ones, so that the meat is not all stuck together in the bag - the concept is to let all sides of the chicken meat to come in contact with the marinade. The original recipe calls for Japanese rice wine (sake), but Thai rice wine (sato) can be used at a pinch.

Ingredients Serves 6-8

Chicken breast fillets 1 kg

Light Soya sauce 1/2 cup

Sake (or Sato) 1/3 cup

Butter

Vegetable oil

Green bell pepper sliced

Cooking Method

Place chicken breasts in a ziplok bag. In a bowl, mix the Soya sauce and sake to make the marinade and pour into bag, seal and place in refrigerator for two hours, turning once after one hour. Remove chicken from marinade bag. In a heavy based pan, heat the butter and vegetable oil and then quickly saut้ the chicken breasts for two minutes. Turn down the heat and pour in the marinade and simmer for four minutes, turning the chicken breasts frequently until they are cooked properly.

Place chicken breasts on a plate and garnish with sliced, saut้ed bell pepper. Serve with hot mustard as a dip.



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