The Archers - we take financial advice to Ambridge
FT Money Show presenter Claer Barrett and guests on the financial advice we would love to give the characters on the Archers, the latest Rich People's Problems column on losing a drone, and which small-cap share should be the hero of your portfolio.
Presented by Claer Barrett. Produced by Lucy Warwick-Ching. Edited by Paolo Pascual.
The financial advice we'd love to give to characters on The Archers. We had to ambush to speak Huw Kennair-Jones, the editor of a long running radio drama. Help, he's lost his drone! "Rich People's Problems" columnist, James Max drops by to tell us what happened when his new gadget ended up in the drink. And which small cap share is the hero of your portfolio?
We meet the stock picker, David Stretta, who's been queuing up to tell us about his story. Welcome to the money show, the FT's weekly podcast about personal finance and investing. I'm Claire Barrett, FT Money editor, bringing you this week's money news.
Firstly, I have a confession to make. I may be a city girl, but I am a huge fan of The Archers, Radio 4's long running agricultural drama series, and I happen to know that many FT Money readers are also Ambridge addicts. It's not just about the farming, it's the big financial story lines that have got us hooked.
Recently, we've had property trusts, wills, inheritance, the lack of affordable housing in the village, and now money lending. The Archers truly has it all. So perhaps it's time, I thought, to introduce a new character in the form of a financial advisor who could help the various villages manage their money.
This week, I've been speaking to real life financial advisers, asking what they would do if the fictional characters on the show were really their clients. Joining me on the line now is Huw Kennair-Jones, editor of The Archers. Welcome, Huw.
So am I imagining it, or all there really more financial story lines in The Archers these days?
Well, we don't set out to-- I mean, we didn't with the story lines that we're running. They did mostly come from relationships, really, because that's where they all live, the characters, and so the characters will sort of take us in those directions.
But I think it's either Mark Twain or George Bernard Shaw who said the lack of money is the root of all evil. Can't quite work out which one it was, as in they both apparently said it. And so it does suggest a rich vein when it comes down to it, but it's certainly not something we're conscious of doing as we sit down, and talk the stories through.
For instance, Justin and Lillian, it was about those two characters getting together, and what did that mean, and the implications of that. And of course, they both come with certain baggage, and some of that is financial, both good and bad for them. So that was always going to be an element of that story, if that makes sense.
And I think that it was Mark Twain who famously said, "By land, they don't make it any more." Because of course, farmers are typically asset rich. They've got the land and the farm house, but cash poor because their income fluctuates, which as the editor, gives you great dramatic potential.
The financial advisers that I've spoken to for the article tell me that farmers are generally terrible at making long-term financial plans, and even more, hate paying for advice. With Brexit looming, I feel a sense that the farming finances of Ambridge are about to get worse.
Do you know, I don't know. And I say that, that sounds like kind of a swerve, but in a way, I think with the situation that we're in at the moment, in the whole country, I don't think anybody really knows because it's an unfolding situation.
So it's kind of happening as it happens. So we're just sort of watching the farming community both here, and in Europe, and thinking well, what is going to happen? We have, obviously, a brilliant agricultural adviser, Graham Harvey.
He's talking to everybody all the time. So we're constantly reevaluating that situation. One of the things that people have said to me is that the last thing that a farmer will-- which probably goes back to your quote from Mark Twain-- is the last thing they want to do is sell any land.
It's the most important thing. It's their legacy. It's everything to them, which always puts us in quite an interesting position because some of our farmers have hundreds of acres. And you think, well, sell some. Which is the story we've been recently running about Bridge Farm selling some land for a housing development.
That was a huge deal for them because it feels like quite a small amount of acreage, but actually, every single, I think, tuft of grass is important if you're a farmer because that is what you've spent your life building. So it's interesting looking at it from that kind of perspective, I think.
Yeah, certainly generations of the same family owning that land, and the emotion is conveyed wonderfully by the actor who plays Tony. The artist performs an important public service though as well. As the financial problems affecting people in Ambridge are listened to and experienced by millions of people all over the UK and beyond.
So raising awareness of some of the really big topics that you've tackled like rural poverty, gambling addiction, and more recently, coercive control. The Robin Helen story line that really broke over into the mainstream media. What impact do you think tackling stories like this has in real life?
Again, it's important, I think, that if you look at the Robin Helen story, particularly, the instances of phone calls to helplines rose whilst that story was on, and I think that's brilliant, and kind of how it should be.
It's not where we start the stories from because I think, and I know my predecessors as well, if you go out to tell a story about an issue in whatever format is, it inevitably becomes issue-led, and not actually the story. In the story, we know the Robin Helen, the gambling addiction, and all the stories that we've told that have kind of touched the nation's consciousness have always been about putting characters into that situation, and seeing how they react to it.
When it does break through, that's a benefit, I think. It's a byproduct, but it's a healthy one, and we're very aware of the responsibility we have when me tell stories like that because we have to get them right. That's the most important thing, is that you want to-- if you're going to go down that route, you've got to make sure that it's watertight as far as the reality of it.
That brings up a really interesting question. How do you research these financial story lines? Certainly people have been debasing Lilian's property trust furiously on Twitter. Do you have any special advisers on agri-finance or personal finance that you turn to?
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Oh, gosh, yes. I would be the last person you would want to ask for advice about anything financial. I can tell you that for nothing So yes, we make sure we go and talk to-- well, we have a network of researchers right across the board.
And of course, Graham Harvey, who as I mentioned before, our agricultural advisor, he's very involved in that as well. So we find people who will talk to us, and usually give them a scenario, and say, this is not the whole story, but we want to take it into that direction. What do you think? And what's brilliant about them is that they usually will say well, it might not work if you do that.
However, if you do this, and send us in a different direction, which inevitably makes for a better story because we won't have thought of-- certainly with things financial, we are kind of reliant on the people we talk to, and they're brilliant, and we're very, very lucky that they're happy to talk to us, and tell us which way to move it.
It's kind of like the choose your own adventure story. They come up with scenarios.
So in this article, I've imagined that this character-- a new character was introduced to Ambridge. It was a financial adviser to get the finances of the villages in shape. I mean, come on Huw, you're the editor. Could this ever happen?
Anything is possible, and everything is possible. That's what's brilliant about working on a show like this is that you can generally do anything, and that's what's great. As I say, it has to be based on reality, and it has to come from the character. That's the most important thing.
You need to know that there are these people on Twitter called [? Felpishim ?] accountants, and they actually tweet out real letters. They're four accountants doing it, and they write letters to people like Emma.
Oh, do they?
Oh, I'm going to check them out, definitely.
I've mentioned them in the piece. So they'll probably--
Great. I will go and have a look at those. What we're so lucky about with our fans is that they're so engaged. We know whether they like something or whether they don't. So that keeps us very honest, but it's always usually done with an incredible weight, and it is a joy when you have people who take it seriously enough that they're making proper points. So we're very lucky.
Well, thanks ever so much there to Huw Kennair-Jones, the editor of The Archers. You can tune into the daily goings on in Ambridge on BBC Radio 4 just after 7:00 PM most days, or catch up on the i-player, and do look out for FT Money's cover feature this weekend, "The Archers, solving the financial problems of a fictional English village," which is available online from Friday on FT.com/money.
Our new columnist, James Max, has made a splash with the latest instalments of his column, "Rich People's Problems." Eager to get his hands on the latest must have gadget, he was lucky enough to receive a drone, costing GB 600 for his birthday. But sadly, it ended up in the North Sea. James is here now to discuss his latest escapade with me in the FT studio. Welcome James.
So tell us, what were the circumstances that led up to you losing said drone?
So it had gone up, and it was flying, and it was doing its thing, and connecting to the satellites, and la la la, and all these things, and flying around. And I'd learned how to fly, and it was brilliant. And it was taking pictures, and all that stuff, and I had taken it on holiday, and it had folded up. And everything was amazing, but then one day I came back, and I thought right, now I'm going to learn how to do some more advanced stuff, and it just started to ignore me.
Now, I don't know whether it was cross with me, whether it had a personality that had suddenly decided that I don't like this guy anymore, he's really annoying, he barks at me, whatever. I don't know, I don't like the dog, whatever. Anyway, so I press the thing to go down, it went up. I pressed the thing to go right, it went up further, and it was just disappear, and then suddenly--
And it disappeared over the top of the house. And then I heard all this squawking of birds, and then silence. You know that eerie silence you get after something terrible has happened?
And then it just-- gone.
So you thought, hm, have to get my money back. But there was a bit of an issue because it was a gift.
Yeah, so this, I think, raises two things. First of all, the awkwardness of the conversation that you have to have with a person to say, look, I'm really sorry, but your gift has flown away. Because I tried to speak to Amazon myself, and they're just not interested if you haven't made the purchase.
So you know how, say for example, you go to a big department store with a gift receipt, then immediately you're on the same terms as the person who bought it. There's no discussion. There's no anything else. And I know that I talk about marching in because I think if you're going to go and get customer service, you've got to be in a mindset.
You've got to say right, I know what I want to get, and I'm not leaving till I get it. But you can't do that with an online retailer. So not only did I have the awkward conversation about, OK, I've got to try and get them to deal with it, but then also you've got to deal with not an intransigent company, but a company that has rules, and they're not going to do anything special or different for you.
And least of all for you.
Which must have grated. So we should say that Amazon eventually did give you a full refund for the drone, which you claimed was faulty. Obviously it was quite hard to prove because you couldn't send it back.
Well, they kept wanting to send the whole thing back, and I said well, look, it's in the North Sea. I can't get it. I don't know where it is. But we did agree that if I sent all the other bits back, then obviously that renders it useless, so why would I possibly be lying if that's the case.
But then after the refund had been given, they then took money out of the gift purchases account, and said, you haven't sent your drone back, which we had.
Well, I hope you kept the postage receipt.
Well, I kept the receipt, and here's the thing, I think. If you ever send anything back via one of those-- I sent it via my local convenience store. So they give you a receipt that I stacked in my wallet somewhere. Keep it. Keep it, keep it, keep it because that is your proof that you sent it. As soon as you've got that receipt, then the onus is on them, not you.
So the moral of the story is that while customer service is possible to get online, even though you can't physically march in, personal service is a much harder commodity to find.
Yeah, I think there's two lessons, actually. In addition to the customer service, think very carefully about who you're going to go back to if something goes wrong, and particularly if you're buying something technical or technological. Can you or are you going to be able to get the service that you want?
And the second thing is, and it was a pretty harsh lesson to learn, I think, is getting the right thing in the first place. It's not just about price. It's about doing your research and finding out which of the best manufacturers, particularly for new tech where, of course, there are loads of people. There are loads of drones out there. There are lots of different people making all different kinds of product.
Lots of different price points, as well.
And different price points, as well. And of course, we all want to spend as little money as possible, and get the best thing. And the mantra that you get what you pay for isn't always right, but it is often right.
Well, thanks very much there to James Max. You can read his column, "Help, I've Lost My Drone," online now at FT.com/money. And if you have a problem for James to look into, you can get in touch with him confidentially. His email address is email@example.com.
And it's still not too late to come and see him at the FT weekend festival this Saturday, 2nd of September at Kenwood House in North London. For tickets and full details, visit FTweekendfestival.com. Who knows, he might even bring his drone.
He might. Alternatively, he might bring his wit, spontaneity, and personality.
Finally, small is beautiful for many private investors who have a penchant for shares in small cap companies. In recognition of this fact, I've tasked the FT my portfolio columnist, John Lee, to come up with a new feature in FT Money.
So from time to time, he will interview fellow small cap enthusiasts about the most heroic share in their portfolio. This week, we're kicking things off with David Stretta, the well-known small cap investor who joins me now on the line. Welcome, David.
Very pleased to be here. Thank you, Claire.
Well, without further ado, the most highly prized small cap share in your portfolio is--
Wow, that has to be Accesso Technology, really. It's a company that I've had many years. I think I've had this for about 16 years now.
OK, that's a long time. Presuming their list on aim, because most of the companies--
They are. They're on aim. [INAUDIBLE] which is a CSO.
And what do they do?
Well, they started really very early on with queuing technology, and a very simple initially, where the founder had been to a theme park, and decided that his day out with his grand children wasn't very good because he'd been in ques all day.
Queuing up to get on a roller coaster.
Exactly. And I think most of the time he felt that the whole day and a part was spent really probably 2/3 in a queue.
So what did he do?
So he decided he'd do something about it, and he created, initially, some queue measurement equipment so that he could translate that into providing time so that people would be in a queue, and then went to the theme parks to say, would you like me to do something about you queuing?
And they created a premium gadget that you would rent for the day that allowed you to key in the rides you wanted to go on, and allowed you to virtually queue instead of physically being in a queue.
And presumably, that's fantastic for the theme park operators because if you're not standing in a queue, you'll spend loads of money.
Yes. I think the biggest problem for most theme parks with people are queuing is to actually service that queue because the revenues don't come while you're stood in a queue. They come while you're active, and going around the park, buying things, and playing things, and doing things that are associated with spending money.
So it's ideal to pull people away from the queue, and get them to go in the restaurants, and things. It's something that's a win for the theme park, but also a win for those who want to spend a good day in the theme park, and enjoy it, and go again. So if you feel that you've done more, you tend to want to go back.
Well, people always ask successful investors where they get their ideas from. So tell me how you spotted this one 16 years ago?
Well, funny enough, I'm not the typical person that doesn't enjoy a queue. I actually quite like chatting with people. I'm a Northerner, so I love finding out what people stood next to me do, and where they've come from. So they didn't worry me, but I must admit, when I heard this, I didn't know. I did understand the reasoning behind it because I know how much-- I've got a lot of children, and I know how much they don't want to be in queues, and they want to be doing things.
So it did seem like a very good idea to me, and it was just a question of how they would be able to roll it out because going from having nothing out there to having a system that went into so many theme parks around the world, it was a question of having good management that would be able to do this.
So I went to meet the management, and saw that they had a chance of being well ahead of the game. I put the initial investment in. It was a very low share price. It was, I think, only seven p at the time. And of course, nowadays, it's gone up to about what nearly GB 20.
It's been a very good investment, but it was one of those where I got to meet the management very early, and got a very good feel for what they were doing, and then appreciated the problem, as it were, that they were going to overcome.
Now, the shares have obviously been on a roller coaster ride, mostly upwards. They've come off a little bit recently. Have you ever been tempted to sell down and take profits?
I'll be honest here, I had, at one point, a very, very big holding in Accesso, as in a percentage of the company. Even so I never feel comfortable if I have too much of my portfolio in one company. I like to spread my portfolio across quite a number of companies. So it hit my 8% level that I don't like any company to have 8% or more of my portfolio. So I've had to sell, I think, on at least 25 occasions over the years.
The way I tend to look at it is, so long as I'm doing my research, and spotting other companies that are hopefully going to equally grow, and possibly some of them faster than Accesso can actually grow now because Accesso has become a much more mature company, and actually, it's branched out into ticketing, and all sorts of other things that the theme parks would need. So it's good to really spread your risk.
As far as looking at it Accesso right now, it's still a very, very good company, and very well-run, and good management, but it's gone well past its early days. And of course, it's nice to keep meeting new management, and finding out what's at the forefront in new industries.
Well, thanks very much there to David Stretta. You can read John Lee's interview with David in this week's edition of FT Money. Or better still, come to the FT weekend festival this Saturday, where you can meet and put questions to both John and David. For tickets and full details, see FtWeekendFestival.com.
That's it from the FT Money show. To get in touch with our team of financial experts, email firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet us @ftmoney, or comment on email@example.com/money. The content in this podcast is for sophisticated investors only, and does not constitute investment advice. We'll be back next week around the usual time. Goodbye.