Bargains You Could Not Pick Up

As I predicted might happen in an earlier blog this morning, there was a panic when the market opened as the pound was already down substantially. But if you tried to pick up some bargains, it was damn difficult. Retail service providers who provide electronic quotes to brokers seemed to stop providing them, and just logging into some retail platforms proved very difficult. Even if you managed to log in, the service was so slow that it was impossible to do much. Could you phone them instead? No because their lines were all clogged up. This affected The Share Centre, AJ Bell YouInvest and Hargreaves Lansdown and probably others. Only Charles Stanley Direct seemed to be operating near normally if somewhat slowly.

Surely this is simply not good enough in the modern age, and it is not the first time this has happened. IT systems should be built to cope with exceptional volumes and adequate stress testing should be done on a regular basis. Perhaps we should complain to the FCA who regulate such organisations because this shows either lack of investment or plain incompetence?

One key question I don’t immediately have the answer to: are private shareholders being prejudiced as against institutional investors? The latter may use different trading systems.

Anyway, there was an indiscriminate sell-off of shares early in the morning, although it has recovered somewhat at the time of writing. Property companies and housebuilders were badly affected which seems somewhat of an over-reaction to me. Even those companies with large international businesses were hit although Rolls-Royce was one of the few risers – the fall of the pound will have a positive impact there and presumably sales volumes are expected not to be. But for the reasons given above, it has been difficult to take advantage of the really great opportunities today in this writers experience.

Roger Lawson

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