Malcolm is a key writer at ShareProphets and author of Share Attack but is widely known as “The Grandfather of share blogging”. He is also the compere of The Global Group UK Investor Show. Here are his 22 Questions, with answers!
1. Unlike most internet share commentators, you did actually work as a journalist before getting into the world of shares, what was your exact career path?
Freelance, Fleet Street reporter. Film Critic, Yorkshire Evening Press. Chief Reporter, Northern Echo, York. News producer, Radio Leeds. Reporter, Today Programme, Radio Four. BBC TV Documentary Presenter and BBC TV News Reporter.
2. When did you first gain an interest in shares, how and why?
At the time of the Big Bang in 1987, I found I was making more than my salary by trading a few shares. I borrowed money to buy more and never looked back.
3. How did you start writing about shares and what prompted you to do that?
I began my first book on shares in 2000 because I’d been asking captains of industry, whom I met in my work, for their favourite investment strategies. I thought their brilliant hints deserved a wider audience. The result was Armchair Tycoon.
4. Would you say that you were a trader or an investor and why?
I buy and sell shares in a fairly quick turn-around way and so I’m a share trader. Though I do hold some big dividend stocks forever.
5. What percent of your portfolio is in blue chips and other yield stocks and what percent is in smaller company shares?
Half in blue chips for safety and half in penny shares for fun. I have very few mid-cap plays as they are usually boring.
6. As you get older, do you feel you should be taking a more cautious approach and just investing in safe yield plays?
No. I live simply and have built up enough capital to have more than I’ll ever need.
7. What was your biggest ever winner, in percentage terms, and what made you invest in it in the first place?
A company called Overnet Data, which produced some kind of early software. I forget the details but it was taken over by an outfit which improved seeds and which wanted cheap entry into the stock market. The shares became a 200 bagger, though sadly I did not get in quite at the bottom and only invested a few hundred pounds.
8. And what was your most costly stock market mistake?
Foolishly believing that an increased dividend by British Energy was a sign of financial health. I doubled my holding when I should have sold it. Shortly afterwards, British Energy almost went bust.
9. In terms of how you look at shares, which other investment writers do you rate most highly?
I read very carefully whatever a bear writes on Shareprophets. Then I usually sell the stock, as they’re nearly always right. It’s the losing shares which make the difference, not the winners.
10. You are open about being a keen Christian, surely you cannot serve both God and Mammon?
I only invest in shares which fit in with my idea of Christianity. So I don’t buy stock in arms companies, tobacco, betting shops, animal testers and so on. I see no point in investing in shares which don’t do the world a lot of good.
11. Do you sometime despair at the dishonesty of many involved in small cap shares? How do you establish which CEOs and PR people tell you the truth?
Shareprophets has shown me how dishonest some directors can be. It’s been an eye-opener. Now I never assume there’s truth behind what CEO’s and PR’s say, though there will be some of the time.
12. If someone has misled you once over a particular share do you ever trust them again?
13. If you could introduce any one law to make the stock market a cleaner place what would it be?
That all directors hold a large number of shares in their own company.
14. Are you still hopping mad about the Beaufort scandal and has it prompted you to make any changes in how you hold shares?
The revelation that administrators can legally raid the assets of ring-fenced clients of bust stockbrokers has shocked me to the core. I’ve now taken on more brokers, so that I have fewer assets with each. Though I fully expect this disgusting loophole to be closed soon.
15. Do you understand bitcoin and or blockchain and have you invested in any plays in this sector?
This craze has all the hallmarks of a bubble. In any case, I don’t understand it and I can’t invest in something I don’t understand.
16. Which is the biggest threat to the stock market: Brexit or Jeremy Corbyn? And why?
It’s impossible to tell if Brexit will affect shares or not. Though a few sectors, like travel and car making will almost certainly suffer. Jeremy will never be prime minister, so it’s no threat.
17. Some of your colleagues at ShareProphets tease you about being far too bullish about the stock market? Do you not fear a big correction and what is your 12-month target for the FTSE 100?
If I’d heeded those correction stories three years ago when they started I would only have half the assets I hold today. The financial world is becoming more sophisticated and investors keep finding new ways of putting off a bear market. A crash has to come around eventually, but not for another few years. But I could be horribly wrong, so my finger is always nervously poised on the sell button.
18. If you had to invest all your money in one share right now what would it be and why?
Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA). It’s the seventh biggest company in the world, which gives it a strong ‘safety’ factor, the divi is huge and the developing world will keep using more oil and gas.
19. Do you have any exposure to gold in any way?
I hold shares in several gold mines, purely as a hedge in case of a share crash.
20. If you had to give one piece of advice to anyone starting in the stock market what would it be?
Dump losers fast.
21. Do you feel that as you get older you become a better investor?
I had a great deal of beginner’s luck. Now, having made all the classic mistakes, I am too cautious. Currently I’ll be lucky to make 20% a year.
22. If you were not compering The Global Group UK Investor Show on March 30th 2019 would you go to the show and why?
Of course. Where else can you get such gold standard advice from the most successful traders of all time for just a few quid? There are people who pay hundreds to attend so-called educational seminars on shares. Not me.