In his New Year message, Clarion Founder Ron Walker reflects on 2020 and the rays of light penetrating the gloom that should be taken as our guiding lights for the next 12 months.

Those venerable global organisations the United Nations and the World Health Organisation declared 2020 as, respectively, ‘year of plant health’ and ‘year of the nurse and midwife’.

Ironic then that the year began with massive bush fires in Australia destroying an estimated 46 million acres of land and as many as 500 million animals, followed soon after by the outbreak of Covid-19, a pandemic that has so far killed more than 1.8m people worldwide and created the largest economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. I can’t remember a period in my lifetime when the world and its inhabitants have needed looking after as much as they do today.

‘In other news’ as they say, 2020 saw Harry and Meghan quitting the Royal Family, the impeachment and subsequent acquittal of the then most powerful man in the world President Trump, a global movement for racial equality following the death of George Floyd and defeat in the US election for Donald Trump (or not, if you believe Mr Trump’s version of events). 

I’m not especially pro or anti-Trump by the way, I actually think the world’s politicians would do better to show us the real ‘them’ a bit more, as Donald Trump does (for better or for worse), although I’m not sure I’d want to leave him in charge of Clarion’s core values.

Clarion has five stated core values that guide us and create the foundation for everything we do; our number one core value is ‘look after people’ and I don’t think there has been a period in the 35-plus years I’ve been at the helm of Clarion when that guiding principle has been as important as it is now. Of course, ‘look after people’ doesn’t quite tie in with ‘year of plant health’ or Australian bush fires, however, I am seriously considering expanding our number one core value to read ‘look after people and planet’.

2020 has been a tough year for many, including those who have been affected by Covid-19. Notwithstanding that the greatest suffering caused by the pandemic has been endured by those whose health has been affected, many others have suffered financially and the ongoing effects of the overall damage to the economy cannot be ignored.

Whilst Clarion can’t control the economy, we can manage investments prudently within the prevailing financial landscape and it’s pleasing that despite our domestic market still being down 11.55% over the calendar year 2020 (as measured by the FTSE100), all of Clarion’s portfolios achieved positive returns during the year, with our medium risk Meridian fund rising by 5.86%. It goes without saying that we don’t possess any special prescience or market insights, just experienced people paying attention to detail and taking a long-term view of how best to look after people, or in this case, their money.

So, there are some rays of light in the gloom and indeed 2020, with all its trials, has also witnessed some lovely examples of how people rally together in a crisis; 100-year-old Captain Sir Tom Moore raising £39m for charity springs to mind, as does Joe Wicks keeping the nation’s children active and healthy with his online PE lessons.   

On the economic front too, there is reason to be optimistic, not least that a ‘Brexit’ deal has finally been agreed. Whatever one thinks about Brexit, the avoidance of a ‘no-deal’ scenario is likely to be good news for the economy and for investments as the one thing markets hate more than anything else is uncertainty. Further support for the markets is being provided by optimism on the Covid vaccine front, with both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/Astra Zeneca vaccines now approved and in the process of being rolled out across the UK.

So, I will close by saying, I hope that the title of Captain Tom’s autobiography is a sign of things to come – “Tomorrow will be a good day”

Here’s to 2021, Happy New Year to all.


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