My finances, my projects, my life
May 18, 2021

Clearing up some misconceptions about discretionary management

  Compiled by myLIFE team myINVEST April 16, 2021 7

If you want to invest but cannot decide on a strategy or which asset class to focus on, the best thing would be to entrust the management of your investments to a professional to act in your name in accordance with a pre-defined strategy based on your investor profile. Such a solution already exists, and is called discretionary management.

If your goal is to increase your financial security (e.g. to maintain your quality of life when you retire) and you are sufficiently well off to be able to set aside a portion of your financial assets for the medium to long-term, you may wish to consider investing.

There are a number of different ways to invest: order execution services, whereby you place your instructions with your financial intermediary for execution; an advisory agreement, which offers the option of assistance with selecting investments, but leaves the final decision up to you; and lastly, discretionary management. Let’s take a closer look at this last option, and more specifically, at some of the misconceptions that surround it.

Discretionary management, a woolly concept?

Discretionary management means that you sign an agreement giving your bank a mandate to manage your assets in your name and on your behalf. Of course, this is a clearly defined mandate that incorporates your investor profile and defines an investment strategy based on your input. This strategy will then be scrupulously followed by your trusted advisor working in conjunction with a team of experts. So while no assurances are provided for the performance of your investments, you can be confident that adequate resources will be committed to pursuing your chosen strategy.

When you set up a discretionary management mandate, discussions will focus on your risk tolerance, financial situation and investment horizon.

Is this difficult to set up?

Opting for a discretionary management solution is relatively simple in practice. Initially, all you have to do is to choose your preferred bank and portfolio fund manager. During your first meeting, you will define your investor profile (risk tolerance, financial situation and investment horizon) so that you can jointly decide on a strategy. From there, you will discuss your expectations, your background and your investment goals in order to define this strategy. Do you want to focus on certain asset classes? Are there any investment categories that you wish to avoid at all costs? Provide as much information as possible to help your portfolio manager adapt the investment policy in line with these criteria.

Once you have signed an agreement, your portfolio manager takes charge of managing your investments in line with the agreed strategy. In order to help you achieve your goals, portfolio managers use their knowledge and skills to analyse the market to identify investment opportunities and take the decisions that best suit your interests.

Your portfolio manager will provide you with regular reports allowing you to closely monitor your investments. The specialists working alongside your manager select the best products available in the market based on your goals, while respecting your risk appetite and the defined strategy.

Remember that your portfolio manager will do everything possible to help you achieve your goals. This requires your input, just as you depend on your manager’s expertise.

Choosing a portfolio manager is not a trivial matter

You will work together with your portfolio manager for many months and hopefully years to come. It is therefore extremely important to choose the right partner and establish a relationship based on mutual trust. Discretionary management really is a long-term project that requires regular contact. It is therefore crucial that you are able to talk to your manager. If you have any questions about the decisions taken and investments made, your portfolio manager must be available and willing to listen to you. Similarly, you should ensure that you are available when your input is required. Remember that your portfolio manager is doing everything possible to help you achieve your goals. Opting for a discretionary management mandate is not a decision to be taken lightly, and choosing the right partner is key.

Do I really need someone else to manage my assets?

Calling on a professional to manage your investments is particularly beneficial if you don’t have the time, skills or self-discipline to handle this yourself. The investment world is complex. Choosing the right moment to invest and, more importantly, the right type of assets is tricky and generally requires some relevant financial knowledge. If you manage your portfolio yourself, a lack of experience may result in you acting impulsively or making irrational decisions.

The markets are constantly changing. You can easily miss out on opportunities due to time constraints. An expert with the right know-how can react more quickly. The benefits are twofold – you gain access to your manager’s expertise, and you save time on the daily monitoring of your investments.

The right solution for all investors?

Portfolio managers are well-qualified to manage your investments on a daily basis and will work hard at this, but they are not magicians – they can neither predict the future nor guarantee high returns. They work on a best effort basis, and not on results. However, with a calm approach they can manage and anticipate risk, and deal with periods of turbulence as effectively as possible.

Of course there is a price to pay for this bespoke service, and this is more noticeable in times of limited returns.

Of course there is a price to pay for this bespoke service, and this is more noticeable in times of limited returns. While not the sole preserve of the seriously wealthy, discretionary management does need a certain level of investment to cover these costs and take full advantage of the expertise deployed on your behalf.

It also requires a long-term approach, which may put off those who do not have the patience required. It can often take years to reap the rewards from your investments. A long-term approach, trust and communication are therefore the key to successful discretionary management.

A discretionary management mandate is particularly appropriate for investors who prefer to entrust the management of their assets to an expert. For such investors, it offers a long-term solution based on trust that is easy to set up and provides a bespoke service in line with a defined strategy.