Alpesh Patel’s Political Sketchbook: Financial Education

Alpesh Patel Tuesday 21st January 2020 04:30 EST

For many years I’ve lobbied for more financial and entrepreneurship education in our schools. Our places of learning have to be places to learn earning – not just French. Our curricula is set in the 18th century by purists and irrelevance by left wing radicals. I write to you before heading to India where I will talk about investing into companies in the UK. 

I am a trader. My life as a trader meant I could take up an offer from the head of TV at Bloomberg TV to present shows, which I did for three years. I cross-examined CEOs from around the world, analysts of the biggest banks and fund managers. I am a columnist for the Financial Times. My columns are read around the world. All this put me at the centre of market events. I saw the rise and fall of the dot-com boom and the day-trader craze into saner times where the internet, TV and print influence millions of private investor decisions.

As a trader I have won stock-picking competitions held by Bloomberg and the Financial Times. Clients of my company have included Goldman Sachs, American Express, Charles Schwab, Barclays and many other financial firms who have asked me to talk about investing to their clients.

Pick the right stock tomorrow and you could be a multimillionaire next year. That is the lure for many of the markets. They may not state it so crassly, but they treat it like a lottery. 

When I won the Financial Times competition to predict the FTSE 100 over a 12-month period. I came within 0.5% of the final value. The person who came last was 50% out, had a first class degree from Cambridge University and was a market's commentator for the newspaper. So I had to write this book; where the media meets the markets.

I was also the best performing stock picker on Bloomberg TV as analyzed by them over a six-month period; beating every single one of their other pickers. I also won a competition to pick the best performing stock – beating 45 other analysts on Channel 4. That is also why I had to write this book.

Consider that you have more information today about the markets, more quickly available than at any point in history. You have more computing power trying to solve the problem of where a price will go next. Surely if supercomputers can absorb all the information about the environment to tell us that it will rain tomorrow afternoon, then they can tell us that next week the price of Microsoft will be higher than it is today?

And so the seduction of the markets continues. Within this alluring dance financial journalism plays a pivotal role. 

Private investors relate to financial TV; it’s accessible, hundreds of thousands watch it. But they fail to become great investors no matter how much financial news they digest. We on the financial TV side can’t tell you what will make you money: that would be dull TV.

Having received thousands of viewer and investor emails over the years, I have an idea of what investors don’t know that costs them money.

My constant contact with the entire financial services industry (brokers, journalists, fund managers, traders, analysts, CEOs, academics) through Bloomberg and the Financial Times and as a professional trader myself, revealed the “secret” of distinguishing great from good investments and why private investors never get to hear about them.

We certainly cannot wait until adulthood to learn about finance and investing given the pensions crisis. Our schools need to be teaching us, because god knows we all need it. 

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