Investing for Brexit

The Ermine has two retirement resources. One is my DB pension, which is easily enough to live on at the moment – it is deferred for only a couple more years, because the Ermine is grizzled of fur and will reach normal retirement age for most of that pension accrual, some time after Brexit, sadly. But it’s denominated in pounds, and there’s an inflation cap on it. Neither of these had been a particular concern until June 2016.

The other is my stock market holdings, which are in two ISAs for platform diversification. I hold equities and ETFs with TD Direct, which by a quirk of fate don’t incur platform fees because TD make its money on the buy and sell commission. The ermine is not a source of rich pickings here, as my aim is to never sell in the case of the HYP or a world index ETF. Sadly TD Direct have been bought by iii, and I fell out with them a while ago for stupidly hiking fees in an attempt to make us all churn our portfolios. That good fees fortune may not stand.

I also hold funds with Charles Stanley, or rather a single fund, the excitingly named B2Q6HW6, which tracks the FTSE World (ex UK) Index. The original aim of this was to lean against the home bias of my HYP.

Brexit changes the risk balance

The classic view is a DB pension is steady as she goes, as close to gold as you can get, whereas equities are an exciting but unreliable floozy on the side. Brexit changes that because it is likely to hammer the value of the DB pension in real terms by devaluing the pound. It’s a massive risk to the UK. The rest of the world will probably tootle along just fine. Now it’s entirely possible that the Brexiteers are right and nothing of note will happen, or having flung off the yoke of the EU we will do well. Trouble is, I am very heavily exposed to the UK – the ISA is worth only about half the notional value of the DB pension, so even if it was all in foreign assets I’m more than half exposed to the UK. And what I’ve experienced so far of Brexit is inflation, and we ain’t even left yet. Now on a contrarian basis there’s an argument for buying the UK, but I felt a bit bad writing that last time, and @hosimpson and @Neverland  weren’t sold. No, I can’t really convince myself either. There might be a case to do that if I weren’t in the eye of the storm – a Frenchman could consider a small contrarian punt on the UK, but the trouble is if the  UK goes titsup so does my main pension. I don’t need any increase in UK exposure.

There are some things I could do with the pension – I could draw it a couple of years early, shovel those years into my ISA. But then I get to pay tax on my SIPP that I haven’t cleared out yet. I could take a pension commencement lump sum, which commutes some of it to cash, and invest that, but the rate isn’t terrific.

Doing nothing is iffy, I am sitting on half a house worth of cash much of it borrowed from my ISA and a Brexit steamroller coming to pummel the value of that into the ground.

The Ermine takes a sneak peek behind enemy lines

Most of what I hear of Brexit boosters comes from the Brextremist wing of the Tory party, for the simple reason that they seem to be doing most of the running these days. I obviously hear the endless barrage of whiny Remoaning, to which I am adding here, but it’s always good to hear other voices. I thought I’d look wider, and in amidst a lot of Googling, I came across these guysI confess that I quite like the cut of their jib on a lot of things, since it appears that I share some of the sovereignty issues[ref]I haven’t searched all the Leave Alliance, but I note they don’t really say much about immigration[/ref], though I am nowhere near as worked up about them as they are, and weight the economic hit much greater which explains why I am still a pusillanimous Remoaner.  I also kinda like North’s descripton of blogging as a way to learn 😉

In the search I came across all sorts fo flotsam and jetsam, I was tickled by this piece by an anti-fangirl of Jacob Rees-Mogg, as a cheerful interlude before we get on to what Peter North thinks Brexit will mean, as led on by the no deal wingnuts. In some ways people who voted Brexit seem almost more pissed off by the mess May and her crew is making than Remainers. At least the latter know they lost the fight.

The phoenix must burn to emerge

Bloody hell, and I thought it would be bad, and North is still a fan of the process.

all JIT export manufacturing will fold inside a year… Across the board we will see prices rising… Britain is about to become a much more expensive pace to live. It will cause a spike in crime…  lot of engineering jobs to be axed since a lot of them are dependent on defence spending. It will kill off a number of parasitic resourcing firms and public sector suppliers. it will wipe out the cosseted lower middle class and remind them that they are just as dispensable as the rest of us. 

major rationalisation of the NHS and what functions it will perform. It will be more of a skeleton service than ever… a lot of zombie projects will be culled and the things that survive on very slender justifications will fall. We can also expect banks to pull the plug in under-performing businesses. Unemployment will be back to where it was in the 80’s…. Anyone who considers themselves “Just about managing” right now will look upon this time as carefree prosperity. There are going to be a lot of very pissed off people.

young people actually start doing surprising and reckless things again rather than […] tedious hipsters drinking energy drinks in pop-up cereal bar book shops or whatever it is they do these days. We’ll be back to the days when students had to be frugal and from their resourcefulness manage to produce interesting things and events.

A few years in and we will then have started to rebuild EU relations […] we are looking at a ten year recession. Nothing ever experienced by those under 50.

I really recommend you read the whole thing, I like his style, but I think he graduated at the Nietzschean school of dialectic, perhaps with coaching from Tim Gurner regarding da feckless yoof, who seem to have dropped some smashed avocado into his beer at some stage.

That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.

Mind you, I need to be careful what I say, I was/am part of the cosseted lower middle class and an engineer to boot, so already up against the wall in his world. He’s saying that the economic fallout from Brexit will blight a third of the amount of life I have left, statistically speaking. The bear case always sounds smarter. [ref]It seems to be a more general case in more than investing[/ref]It’s poles apart from keep calm and carry on, and it’s a more dramatic story. But this narrative of woe comes from a fan of Brexit. Leave alliance has the most cogent takedown of the no-deal it’ll all be OK with WTO rules stance of the wingnuts – it’s not all about the tariffs guys. But in the end it’s for the Brexiteers to sort out what Brexit means, beyond the gnomic tautology of Brexit means Brexit.

In the time we have left, is there a brace position?

Foreign assets, basically. That FTSE World (ex UK) Index. There’s not enough time and I don’t have smarts enough to do anything better. It’s the world according to Lars  Kroijer but I get to atone for my seven years of nonchalance in not anticipating that my fellow countrymen would suddenly perform an act of economic hara-kiri with the ex-UK slant.

I did have a look to see if I could buy that in a L&G ISA to get rid of Charles Stanley’s platform fee but sadly the L&G ISA index funds list doesn’t include the L&G fund I want. Go figure.

It won’t be enough to compensate, but it may slow the fall a little bit. I will probably have to pay health insurance to make up for the fact the NHS will be eviscerated and life will be a bit more shit in many ways, but we will have taken back control. The same sort of control of the pilot taking a hammer to the autopilot and getting in a flat spin, but goddamn it, it’s his own flat spin till the crunch comes.

OTOH it may well go all swimmingly, bluebirds will be tweeting and there will be the fine sound of leather against willow on a thousand village greens in the joyful sunlit summers that will come when the foul yoke of the EU superstate is thrown off.

Fair enough – so what’s the worst that will happen out of my attempt to brace for Brexit if it all goes swimmingly? I will end up with a ISA that is more or less balanced according to the advice of Monevator’s tame ex-hedge fund manager, albeit oddly with the old HYP core. I guess there are worse things that could happen.

Plus I increase my risk of devaluation due to a stock market crash, since valuations are high, but then I am almost guaranteed another value of cash sort of crash with Brexit, so I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. A market crash usually comes good in a few years, whereas Brexit looks like it will hammer the pound for a decade – and that’s according to parts of the Brexit camp, they have so little faith in the competence of Her Majesty’s Government to know their arse from their elbow. I need to pay back my ISA from the cash from the house sale, pay this year’s 20k in and get me some Brexit ballsup insurance in the form of foreign assets while the pound is still worth more than a bucket of spit.

There aren’t any good answers here. Unlike Rees-Mogg and his band of happy Brextremists I am not rich enough to come out of Brexit unscathed. I will go down with it, it’s a question of how much. I need some light relief. Let’s hear some Moggmentum from Madeleina Kay, JRM No 1 fan – not.


31 thoughts on “Investing for Brexit”

  1. You can get that fund in an iWeb ISA practically for free (£25 opening fee and £5 trade).
    I don’t understand Pete North et al. I mean what did they want from leaving the EU, apart from some kind of totally naive let’s-imagine-a-blank-sheet-of-paper kind of approach to designing a perfect world that should have been left behind with student politics…
    Slightly more frightening was last nights Newsnight focus group where a bunch of ‘ordinary folks’ seem to think that plucky ol’ Britain will be just fine on its own…to a man and woman they declared themselves ‘excited’ about Brexit….


    1. Thanks for that tip – they sound just up my street. It’s the no cost of carry that I’m after, and iWeb do just that. They seem to charge £5 for buying funds, so it looks like CS is the way to do regular investing and then xfer lumps to iWeb annually.

      Excited about Brexit eh, well, you know the old Chinese say about “may you live in interesting times”. Nesnight should’ve invited the Leave Alliance on just to stir ’em up a bit!


      1. That sounds a bit like hard work, transfers are usually a hassle…I just buy once a year. But even 4 times a year is only £20 and gets you a bit of £ cost averaging…


  2. If you move money from anything Sterling denominated into non-UK equities, the result will be to crystallise a hypothetical currency loss by exchanging a lot of cash at a time when the Pound is historically weak.

    Also, perhaps due to Brexit fears, small-cap UK equities – typically domestically-focused firms that don’t generate a lot of foreign earnings and thus didn’t receive a boost from those currency woes – have underperformed the FTSE100 and most international indices since the vote. So I’d be tempted to move money there, rather than abroad. In effect, I’d take the contrarian route, rather than the momentum one.

    Research seems to suggest that while momentum investing is profitable in the short run, in the long run it is trumped by the value approach.

    I accept there’s an element of doubling down to this, were you for instance to trade some of your ex-UK funds for a basket of UK small-cap ITs such as HSL, BRSC, SEC and RIII. But assuming you’re planning to continue a simple ermine existence in Suffolk rather than overseas – the latter option having been made somewhat more difficult by last summer’s plebiscite – your costs will also be predominately in Sterling, so if the decade-long recession North predicts comes to pass, your money will go a lot further during that time.


    1. Taken in isolation that’s the case, and to my shame I jumped out of Aberforth ASL while it just in profit for me after the referendum, which was a dumbass error. Trouble is I am too heavy GBP – I sold world index funds to give myself a bridging loan for the house move, but I didn’t sell any of the HYP because my TD ISA is not a flexible ISA. So a lot of the GBP cash I have has already had a decent win from Brexit, and arguably wants to be shovelled back out of the country again, ASAP.

      I have asymmetric goals here, too. I care a lot less about losing a decent lump if Brexit is either neutral or a fantastic win, because I won’t have to buy health insurance and will generally have a much better time. I am more exercised by preserving more capital across the intercession should it go titsup


  3. “pound is historically weak”.
    Perhaps, but as the old adage goes “past performance is no guarantee of future”.
    It’s the uncertainty that has and will continue to hammer sterling rates. Only when we can clearly articulate the vision of those bright sunny uplands, and have given the odd Brusselcrat a bloody nose or two in our plucky punch up / negotiations, will those market fools see how wonderful sterling is and why they should be grateful for the ability to buy it and pump up its value.

    Excuse me whilst I continue to shovel everything outside of GBP and wait (without bated breath) for that hallowed day.
    ‘Cos I is a stripling at 48, and I’m not sure I’ll see anything other than a persistent slide for the next few decades.

    I’m well aware as both engineer and finance person that I will be both first-up-against-the-wall and as a future warning to scare small children, and exactly how precarious my smug middle class job, income, lifestyle, spending etc all are.
    Mrs XPS and I could always escape abroad (unless they slam the door shut on EU migration and access to Irish passports) – at least we have language skills, unlike 95% of our UK peers. Even that might be at threat, depending on health and care issues for ageing parents.

    It’s not yet time to investigate gun licences and interesting recipes for human flesh or tree bark, is it? Fast forward 5 to 10 years, and it might.


    1. Not just seven lean years to come after the fat ones, come to think of that I don’t recall the last seven as fat either. Oh well, long pig to assuage the hunger and extract of willow bark to dull the pain, eh 😦 Better start looking after my apple and pear trees more… Still, we have acquired a greenhouse, we only need to rebuild the damn thing now.


  4. Your strange obsession with Brexit is irrelevant to your position. You are over-exposed to the UK whether we Brexit or not, whether Brexit is successful or not. Your DB pension is in pounds. Your state pension is in pounds. Your house is in pounds. Therefore diversify.

    (A conclusion I came to long before the People’s Plebiscite.)


    1. Well, you know what they say about an ill wind and all that, if it concentrates the mind…

      In mitigation , I was only able to borrow from the global index fund part of the ISA for the bridging loan. TD Direct where I hold shares and ETFs isn’t a flexible ISA at the mo


  5. I must admit I’m quite positive re. Brexit, although I don’t expect much to come of it. Things need shaking up, I’m happy to lose 50% or more of my capital to see it happen. Young people are angry. They should be. When you take away a person’s hope for the future what do they have to lose? I expect that loon Corbyn to be PM very soon. The NHS is unaffordable so will go. DB pensions were unaffordable so have gone. 60(F)/65(M) state pensions were unaffordable so have gone. 8 billion people on the planet is unsustainable. AI is already here. Capital is King for the foreseeable future. My point? I don’t have one. I’m just happy I don’t have children.


    1. I’m still looking for the upside that is worth taking that sort of hit. I guess if you still have a lot of working life ahead it may look different. But Peter North is probably of a similar view, so clearly the whole sovereignty and arresting the descent into Spenglerian decadence angle weighs differently for different people


  6. Peter North is just a headbanger in style of Andrew Mellon, US secretary to the treasury at the onset of the great depression. His solution to the great depression was:

    “liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate farmers, liquidate real estate… it will purge the rottenness out of the system. High costs of living and high living will come down. People will work harder, live a more moral life. Values will be adjusted, and enterprising people will pick up from less competent people.”

    Needless to say its called the great depression because that didn’t work…

    Not long after the brexit suicide note I moved all our remaining UK equity holdings into ex-UK funds. Its the gift that keeps giving…


    1. It is weird that after fairly analysing the problems with the Brexit pathway we are on, he always seems to conclude by saying “burn it all down anyway – it will shake things up”.

      Like many on the Leave side he seems to be positioning himself to say “it would all have gone swimmingly if we had followed the Brexit path I wanted, rather than the one the Tory party is focused on”.

      Such distancing is morally unacceptable. The path we are now on could have been easily foreseen from the attitudes of Brexiteers, and his vision never got any traction in the campaign. We are getting something he pushed for and he can’t duck the responsibility.


  7. “it may well go all swimmingly, bluebirds will be tweeting”

    If that happens, there will be none happier than me. Sadly, at present, the only tweeting I can hear from the Brexit camp is that of great tits.
    Last year, after the referendum, when I said that lunatics had overtaken the asylum, I didn’t mean it literally. Now, having seen the so-called progress our so-called government is making on the so-called negotiations with the EU, I think that perhaps I should have. Christ. There really is no fucking plan.
    What worries me the most though is that even having realised (as they surely must’ve by now) this is not going to be the walk in the park they had hoped for, senior Brexiters in the government, instead of trying to limit the damage, are just doubling up on their bullshit about the unicorns.
    Like this ridiculous notion that we’ll easily replace any EU trade we lose because “we used to rule a third of the world”. What, do they really expect all those countries – supposedly for some sentimental reasons having to do with ‘shared history’ – to line up for the rekindling of the ties that once bound them to the sceptred isle? And the terms will be in our favour because they’ll want to throw in some deal sweeteners to induce us to expedite the process?
    Britain has some shared history with France, but I don’t see that many Britishers sat on the Brighton pier, feet dangling down, gazing longingly towards Normandy, reminiscing about the good old days when the Plantagenets came here to work on enriching English language and culture. Nor do I hear many calls for a special relationship with Italy on account of Britannia having once been part of the Roman Empire, even through some of the stuff the Romans built in Bath is actually quite nice. And in spite of my ancestors’ significant contribution to this island’s gene pool, I don’t believe the British public’s fondness for Scandinavia extends much further than a monthly trip to Ikea.
    Yet BoJo et al seem to believe than a few straight lines drawn on a map by some chino-clad buffoon, several instances of genocide, and the game of cricket should be enough to make Britain the preferred trading partner with the third of the world that it once ruled. That’s a delusion if I’ve ever seen one.
    I expect Brexit will delay my FI plans; I never counted on receiving state pension, but I did count on the NHS. If that goes, I’ll have to add the cost of private healthcare to my expenses. Without the NHS the cost of private health insurance will increase, plus, inflation, and I’ll be older, and gods know what pre-existing conditions I’ll have by then…. According to my P11D, it costs my employer just over £1,000 p.a. to insure my health and an additional £500 p.a. for private dental. Assuming a 50% increase in the cost of private health insurance by the time I FIRE, that’s £2.25k p.a., which at a 3% withdrawal rate comes to £75k additional capital.


    1. We have obligatory healthcare insurance here in CH.
      Costs (2 persons): £6000 per year.
      Expected yearly cost when I am 85 : £23000 ( if the past 15 years of price increases in the same trend)
      There will be much wailing when you lot lose the NHS……


  8. I’m currently in a similar position to you re. TDDirect. I’ve been very happy with them but I don’t trust II to be as cheap and I’m concerned that they will introduce exit fees. TDDirect don’t charge for transferring out.

    I’m deciding between IG (c. £100 gift for transferring in, cheap trades, no account fees, no ongoing fees, no exit fees, but no OEICs) and iWeb (c. £25 fee cheap trades, no account fees, no ongoing fees, OEICs, but exit fees).

    It would be a no-brainer but I already have a normal trading account and a spread betting account with IG (my gambling pot) and I’m a little hesitant to have all my holdings with one provider.


    P.S. I haven’t commented for ages for various reasons – usually because I’m more busy and by the time I’ve read your articles I don’t have anything new to add to the conversation – but I’ve read everything. 🙂


  9. The question is what fraction should be abroad. Including my DB pension, but excluding state pension, I’m explicitly 31% abroad, plus 36% abroad assuming that the FTSE 100 is a 80% revenue abroad index. I’m trickling money back into FTSE 250, but is a weak rebalancing.


    1. Well you know what they say, hope for the best but prepare for the worst… I’d be more than happy about finding out in due course that Brexit isn’t an act of economic self-immolation but I don’t want to count on it.


  10. There is a plan – run off the cliff edge & flap arms really hard – they’ve been practicing building up their arm muscles for ages in the gym secretly since the referendum & know it works because they saw it in a wildlife documentary on TV about coyotes.

    Honestly, some people seem to think they know better than our Eton-educated ruling elite …..Ours is not to wonder why, ours is but to dunce & die.


  11. Well it seems Interactive Investor have brought the £15 per line of stock in anyway (Though they have “£0 for up to 10 lines of stock – for customers who have been with us for less than a year” which still isn’t great as I have more than 10 holdings.)

    I accept the charges are “clear and transparent”, just not that low.

    I’m hoping IG will be able to keep charges very low as I suspect they are using it as a gateway to get people spread betting.

    Along with Monevator’s efforts, Citywire have compared brokers:


    1. It’s the quarterly fee that’s the killer with III and the reason I fell out with them in the first place. Yes they do offset trades against that but there are many months where I don’t trade.

      I’m going to stick with my zero cost of carry all shares and ETFs at TD until iii actually kick me off. Citywire’s table is wrong in at least one respect IMO – at TD direct CW indicate a £100k investment trust portfolio would cost £50 (0.05%). I have never been charged by TD to hold shares or ITs (since the latter are shares), so unless my account is grandfathered to previous Ts and Cs that is a mistake, and I can’t see in their charges why this should be different for anyone else.

      RDR was a right pain for me, before then the various fees and kickbacks on funds meant other people who held OEICs paid for the cost of running my ISA which was all shares and ETFs before RDR 😉

      I’d agree IG definitely cross-push their product lines – they were always tryign to get me to open a share account from my spreadbetting account before they canned it for inactivity. So hopefully you will get a subsidy from the spreadbetters in terms of low fees


  12. I can only comment as a tourist. When I first visited London in 1981 it was British to the core. It was a grim sort of place though. They hadn’t cleaned up the monuments at that point. And there was still the threat of terrorism – but from a different angle. They shut down the Tube because of a football fixture between England and Scotland. I doubt that would happen now.
    When I was there in 2013 London was bright and shiny – though I missed the old Routemasters. But it was as multicultural as Toronto. A walk through Knightsbridge – aside from the architecture – could have been like a walk down Yonge Street or in Dubai for that matter. Toronto used to be a British oriented city – no longer. Nor is your capital all that British now.
    My point is if the Brexiteers want to try turning the clock back to 1914 and reincarnating the Empire they will swiftly find out that the genie won’t go back in the bottle all that easily
    I reaiized this one day in Edinburgh when we had English tea with Scottish scones in a shop where we were served by a French speaking waitress and the background soundtrack was “Sweet Home Alabama.” it’s a mixed-up world as the Davies brothers would say.


    1. You can still ride a Routemaster on 15H between Tower Hill and Trafalgar Square.

      I see your point. I don’t particularly care for London that much nowadays, Samuel Johnson notwithstanding. The place positively reeks of money, and it’s easy to feel poor there. But hey, there are enough other places to live 😉

      I am coming to see from the time I spent behind enemy lines (and even talking to people I know who are of that persuasion 😉 ) that for many Brexiters, the non-economic issues seem to loom far greater than they do for me. Some of the more vocal ones in the press seem to be the people hearkening back to days of glory. It’s possible that this loss is still felt in the corridors of power or is part of the public school culture, I have no personal experience of either. And yet Dean Acheson’s 1962 speech at West Point still seems to pierce the soft bosom of our Establishment’s heart

      Great Britain has lost an empire and has not yet found a role. The attempt to play a separate power role — that is, a role apart from Europe, a role based on a ‘special relationship’ with the United States, a role based on being head of a ‘commonwealth’ which has no political structure, or unity, or strength — this role is about played out. Great Britain, attempting to be a broker between the United States and Russia, has seemed to conduct policy as weak as its military power.

      In the second sentence is Brexit foretold, across 55 long years, and I’d say Acheson’s words still pain the headbangers. As the Spectator put it “Acheson’s other words were also near the knuckle, an attack on our sustaining myths”

      Non-establishment Brexiters have some good points, there is a serious sovereignty problem with the post Maastricht EU that wasn’t so much there with the EEC. James Goldsmith made this case in 1997 the the people running his posthumous website drew out the proof with Greece here.

      I suspect the sustaining myths of power and Empire lost in the governing classes meant Britain never particularly fought against the ever closer union issues but simply secured a derogation from the Euro and from ever closer union. The UK was always an outrider in some ways, in the EU but not of it… I kinda like the summary “Britain has lost a role, and failed to find an empire”


      1. Well I grew up in the 50s only about 20 years removed from the Treaty of Westminster – in a province whose motto is “Loyal She Began, Loyal She Remains.” My DNA is about 60% UK according to the tests. I know lots of UK immigrants and had a number of them as bosses over the years in my career. In my early years at school we studied tons of British history. I was acquainted with a number of WW1 vets.
        Although my family is very much Canadian my first visit to the UK put me in touch with my roots in a way that is difficult for modern Brits to understand. Just getting a really good cup of tea in a hotel restaurant was a simple pleasure. So I have sympathy with those who would like to recreate the past.
        There are parts of the UK I’ve visited (Liverpool for one) where I got the old 1981 feeling again in 2013. However most of this Brexit debate does not center on those places as far as I can see. Maybe I am wrong.


  13. @Ray MacDonald. I think you’re absolutely right . The debate is still centred around what the London centric economy will lose. More traditional industries like engineering and manufacturing are seen as lost causes. An interesting article in the Times yesterday that manufacturing and particularly engineering have been under invested in since the 80s,one reason but important because fund managers based in London don’t understand it.
    Hmmm. I voted remain but live in the north , I understand what most leavers were trying to do. Its no good telling them it will get worse , its already bad.


  14. Interesting thread, life will go on despite the idiots in command, things adapt and if nothing changed then disaster looms, but in time we get clarity and we adapt.

    I remember the real gloom of the mid seventies through the early eighties, we did seem to be going to hell in a handcart but it worked out !

    I can only imagine the gloom of my parents generation, the depression of the late 20’s and thirties, world war 2, it didn’t exactly start well for the UK …yet 20 years later we had the swinging sixties and all seemed positive.

    Things happen and life adapts, remember the glass is half full.


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