Is trust just a taxi ride away?

Taxis in Hong Kong

“Henry, the investor, wasn’t keen on accepting a stockbroker’s invitation to share a taxi – a sales pitch for a whole mile, he thought. He was wrong. The stockbroker neither mentioned his firm nor any stock. He merely unknotted his tie and stuffed it in his jacket pocket. “It’s not my favourite,” he said, “but my son chose it for my birthday, so, I have to wear it.” He continued: “My boy’s ten. That’s about the age when sons suddenly realise their fathers are not superhuman after all. Mine thinks I’m a loser.” One mile later, Henry had decided that he quite liked this stockbroker.” – The Trust Mandate: The behavioural science behind how asset managers REALLY win and keep clients. Brodie & Harnack, 2018)

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Explaining behavioural finance to a 14-year-old

Explaining behavioural finance to a 14-year-old“Can you explain behavioural finance to my 14-year-old daughter?”

As the girl’s father was a finance professor, I had the impression that he might already have tried it unsuccessfully himself. Undeterred, though, I turned to the unenthusiastic teen and asked her to imagine a prize draw with a £100 reward for the lucky person whose ticket number is randomly drawn from a basket.

There are only 100 tickets,” I explained, “so, arguably, each entry ticket is ‘worth’ £1.” She nodded in agreement. “Now suppose I offer you the chance to buy one of those tickets for 90p. Would you take it?” She nodded again, smiling. Was this going to be easier than she thought? Continue reading

The World Cup needn’t be the only gold they bring home

Despite being an Englishman, former soccer player and manager, Jack Charlton, is immensely popular in the Republic of Ireland. As manager of the national team, he led the soccer-mad nation to its first World Cup competition in 1990. He has been awarded one of the Republic’s highest honours, an honorary Irish citizenship. Cork airport even has a life-sized statue of him indulging his passion for fishing. When he goes on fishing trips to the Republic, he has been known to pay his expenses by cheque. The payees, so delighted to have the autograph of their sporting hero, sometimes never bank them. The value and, therefore, the demand for this asset can be greater than suggested by the face-value because of the signature on it. Continue reading

First Class Honours Bingo

Harvard_University_Academic_Hoods

I had the honour of attending a university graduation ceremony recently. It was a grand affair, full of pomp and tradition. But I have to admit it was little boring. Each one of almost 300 graduates was invited to go up on stage to receive their degree and to shake hands with the Chancellor and other senior members of the teaching staff. Yet, I was only interested in seeing one degree awarded. To pass the time, I decided to play a game of First-Class-Honours Bingo. Continue reading

Looking Forward to Looking Back

“Someday, we’ll look back at this and laugh.”

This expression is reserved for people who, because they are suffering some awful physical or social pain, can find no reason to laugh right now. They have either blundered into made a costly mistake, collided with an avoidable obstacle, or stumbled into a social faux-pas. Yet, they are convinced that in a foreseeable future, their recollection of the moment will allow them a comic interlude. Continue reading

With A View To A Killing

 

The Lakeview Resort is one of Kerala’s loftiest hotels, not only because it is situated some three thousand metres above sea level, but because it is one of the few resorts to have qualified for the coveted five-star rating. The residence is situated in the middle of endless acres of manicured Indian tea plantations and overlooks a picturesque valley and the famous lake that inspired its name. Since the days of English colonisation, when the station was established, visitors have flocked there simply to be able to gaze eastwards at dawn as the sun rises between the hill peaks that separate Kerala from the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu. The dawn mist acts as a prism, throwing the blaze of colours progressively from the sky, down onto the lush carpet of tea bushes and finally scintillating across the cool waters of the lake. The Lakeview is also a hotbed of behavioural economics. Continue reading

Do you LIKE it, or do you WANT it?

“And do what you like. Yeah, and doowutchyalike. Everybody doowutchyalike” Digital Underground

In their 90’s hedonic anthem, Digital Underground invited party revellers to ‘doowutchyalike’. Yeah. Doing just what we like is probably the purest form of satisfaction. So, if our goal is to maximise the collective satisfaction of a population, we ought to distribute the limited resources so that as many as people as possible get as much of the things they like as possible.

The problem is that it is difficult to discover what people like without asking them individually. What people want, in contrast, is immediately revealed in their purchases. Continue reading

The Twin Dimensions of Trust

To trust or not to trustYour ageing smartphone has just given up the ghost. Would you chance handing it over to a stranger for repairs?

First you would think about whether its memory holds any sensitive data, and wonder what the stranger might do with it. Once you’re satisfied there are no ill intentions, you would decide whether you believe the stranger has the ability to repair smartphones. Given the success of the entire transaction depends on the latter, it seems counter-intuitive that this judgment be made only as a second step, yet this precisely what we all do. Read more on TCAM’s website

Underselling, Knowingly

A half-hour delay in my flight from Heathrow recently offered me some unexpected time to browse the stores at Terminal 2. I had hoped that some Christmas gift ideas would reveal themselves to me. Somewhat selfishly, however, I ended up looking for something for myself in the men’s clothing department of John Lewis’s. I lifted a printed shirt from the rail and searched the underside for the garment label. A store assistant, recognising that I need good light to see anything these days, gestured for me to move towards him where the light was better. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation

six-degrees-of-separationA friend of mine contacted me to share news of what he considered to be a remarkable coincidence. In an e-mail (liberally dotted with exclamation marks) he informed me that his wife goes to church with the sister of the UBS rogue trader, Kweku Adoboli. Crikey.

He was flabbergasted to discover that he was linked to the until recently jailed trader by a chain involving just three links. It is quite surprising but, in reality, not that improbable. In fact, as Microsoft uncovered when it investigated the flow of some 30 billion e-mail messages, everyone on the planet is probably linked to everyone else by just six steps.[1] Indeed, I have just discovered that I am just four introductions away from the fraudster myself.

Although we are all rather closely connected to the famous and the infamous, we are usually unaware these connections exist. Even when we know they are there, we still do not know which of our friends, relatives or co-workers is the first crucial link. The person on your left could be signposted Adele; the one on yourright, Donald Trump.

[1] To be exact, 6.8 steps.