It was not the usual way to end a client meeting. Having run through the numbers after what had been a turbulent time in the markets, a friend was startled to be embraced, vigorously, by a grateful investor. For once the distance that can exist between asset manager and client had been closed. On this occasion it was closed completely, and with feeling.
This expression of gratitude and affection was not simply about the preservation of wealth and the temporary avoidance of painful losses. There was also a recognition, in this hug, that a family’s long term interests and well-being had been protected, in a harsh climate. The recognition was deep, heart-felt – and mutual. It was, in a way, a display of compassion.
Compassion is a surprising (and perhaps provocative) word to introduce in the supposedly impersonal world of finance. But a sense of compassion – “fellow feeling”? – could be useful at a time when a lot of heat is being generated about labels, buzzwords and seeming fads in investment. It might help us bypass futile rows about what “ESG” is or isn’t, and reveal how we might work together to achieve mutual benefit and sustainable outcomes through investment.