Pension Funds

Barclays Bank wants £5.8 billion to act as a 3% buffer against risk. Not their idea, it is being forced upon them by the Bank of England. Will they raise the money? Probably but it is a poor investment as the shares are worth less than they were ten years ago, and profits (just announced) are down 17%. Is this the beginning of the end? How many companies do you know of that are over 300 years old? Perhaps the time has come for Barclays to decline.

Who will invest? Unfortunately pension funds are likely candidates. They have a traditional approach that supposedly reduces risk. That’s now unlikely, as we are surrounded by risk, and the bankers have become gamblers. Pensioners will lose out in the end, mark my words.

There is an alternative. Digital systems give us much more control. Instead of handing our pension fund cash over to a bunch of managers to invest why can’t we control some of it ourselves, perhaps our own contributions for a start. The fund managers job will be to present us a range of companies from which we can choose, adding advice to their selections. Ethical investments – certainly; here’s a selection from which to choose. You want to invest in military hardware? We have another list just for you. All very egalitarian, and it will allow fund managers to spread the investments – and we can benefit (or not) from our own decisions. Why should we hand over our cash to a bunch of twerps, most of whom have no experience of the real world.

Let’s make our own mistakes. It’s democracy at work.

Just back

I stepped out of this world last week by attending a Zen Buddhist retreat (Sesshin). It was held in a lovely Victorian house, complete with peacock calling, night and day, in the heart of Suffolk.

Incidentally the house, Ringsfield Hall, is near Beccles, and that prompted me to regard that area as the heart of Suffolk. So, where was the head of this mythical creature called Suffolk? Well, Lowestoft as the most easterly point of the British Isles must be the top of the head. Surrounded by lots of water (on the brain) that seemed to make sense. At the other extreme of this county, which is 100 miles long, is Newmarket. It’s only just part of Suffolk but it does have a great reputation for running, at least the horses living there are great racers. That gave me the head and the foot. Halfway down the body is a peninsular, a long finger (perhaps) of land separating two rivers, Deben and the Orwell. My idle mind immediately suggested that this should be part of the genitalia of the county.

That’s what happens when the mind is free to wander. I’ll write more about the effects of Zen Buddhism upon me. Suffice it to say that I return to my world slightly bemused, still in a rather dreamlike state, bewildered by the rush and energy all around me. My brain is not helped by a workman with a saw who is cutting up the pavement close to my house. Horrible job for him, and a trigger to set off my tinnitus after a week free from sound.

Retreat was organised by Reverend Koan of No Hand Zen