The Blog

Playing the long game

So less than a season after being appointed, David Moyes is RIP at Manchester United. As a Chelsea supporter all too familiar with the managerial merry-go-round, I find it hard to believe that United have made a decision so swiftly - did he get a fair crack of the whip or was he doomed from the start?

During the 2013/14 Premiership season nine out of 22 teams have sacked their manager. In the world of fund management s the average tenure of a manager isn't much better. Morningstar research (2004) showed that only 40% of funds were managed by the same person for only two to four years, too short a time considering investors are advised to invest for a minimum of five years, but you'd still be very unlikely to get the boot after less than 10 months.

Short termism puts unrealistic pressure on all managers to perform. Being afforded the opportunity to manage for the long term is key. In the early years, Alex Ferguson was given time to build a team and develop his legendary style of management, but today's money dominated footballing world demands instant success .

Investors are advised when selecting a fund or stock to think long term, as many managers do when considering their portfolio composition. Planning for an individual's future wealth requires in-depth research and in most cases external financial advice, as the path to accumulate wealth to fund their future lifestyle can be hard to navigate. Constant changing and tinkering is likely to prove expensive and unproductive.

Late last year the 'Investor Forum' was launched by the Collective Engagement Working Group, chaired by James Anderson, Partner at Baillie Gifford, and supported by the ABI, IMA and NAPF. Formed in response to the Kay Review, its objective is to work with listed companies to improve sustainable, long term company performance. By seeking a cultural change in stewardship and engagement, it is hoped to develop a sense of partnership to support long term strategies of companies where management is often similarly pressed to produce in the short term.

Professor Birgit Schyns, expert in organisational behaviour at Durham University Business School, says, "Management literature shows that success is more likely with longer manager tenures and Manchester United have listened to this advice when initially hiring Moyes for six years. This would have given Moyes the time to build a team - on the field and off the field - that would show his own personal mark, rather than working with Ferguson's legacy. Had Manchester United given him the time they promised - and the time he deserves - we would likely look at success picking up again in the long run. All the signs of big money and the attraction to work for a big club like Manchester United would point in this direction. As it is, the poison chalice will be passed on to the next manager. Whoever it is, he can only hope for more patience from fans and board."

These words are relevant to fund managers nervously looking over their shoulders rather than being given the vote of confidence to genuinely plan for the long term. And I guess this is the difference with the successful managers, be it Woodford, Buxton, Anderson, or footballs' Ferguson and Mourinho, they don't pay attention to the crowd, aren't influenced by the herd, and seek to achieve results through a sound process.

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