By Casterbridge Wealth

Investing is often made to appear more complicated than it needs to be, and sometimes conventional wisdom isn’t really wisdom at all.

Nothing proves this more than the damage wrought by bonds during 2022. The so-called ‘risk-free’ asset proved anything but, and bond market falls in the region of 30% would have made for some difficult conversations with unsuspecting investors who thought their bond allocation gave them some protection.

The battering bond markets took last year is a great example of ‘group think’ within investing – where warning signs are ignored and it feels safer to travel with the herd. Unfortunately though, when it comes to Managed Portfolio Service (MPS) offerings, independent thinking is not part of the proposition. Instead, most choose to ‘play it safe’ and hug their benchmarks.

That’s all well and good if you believe in safety in numbers. But advisers may want to ask whether MPS portfolios are being managed to a benchmark for the sake of the client, or the sake of the provider. Because the simple truth is that clients don’t care about the benchmark; they just don’t like losing money.

We recognise the feeling, which is why one of the defining principles at Casterbridge is that we manage client money as if it were our own. In fact, when you don’t believe in benchmarks determining your asset allocation, it gives you the freedom to play to your strengths and act on your own insights.

So, when in 2021 central banks and the big investment banks were describing post-pandemic inflation as merely ‘transitory’, we were more sceptical. Our research, our experience of managing investment portfolios across numerous market cycles, and our belief in challenging conventional thinking told us that pent-up consumer demand and broken supply chains would lead to surging – and far stickier – inflation. Being benchmark-agnostic meant we could act on this view.

We therefore changed our portfolios to a maximum underweight in bonds, while holding shorter duration bonds capable of proving more resilient in a rising rate environment. As a result of this inflation hedging and bond underweight, the Hardy MPS range outperformed most of its peers by between 5% and 8% over 2022, meaning those advisers who recommend our Hardy range could have much more positive conversations with their clients.

Our agnostic approach also applies to choosing between active and passive investments for our portfolios. We don’t believe in restricting our investment universe, and think passive funds should be used as a building block of active asset allocation, not as the driver. We doubt that passive investments have the capability to outperform in the current environment, so we apply a blended approach that stays conscious of costs, while still giving portfolios the potential to outperform based on value judgements.

We’re always ready to share our thoughts on portfolio positioning or the future direction of markets. So, to have a frank and fearless discussion with us, get in touch on 0800 644 4848.

For more information about the Hardy Managed Portfolios, visit