We all know how bullies work, it starts in the playground and hangs out wherever there is injustice to be done. You see it on the river all the time. Some of the hire boat companies at Henley have it down to a tee.
There’s a little consortium that decided to push Lady Lucy out of the way at Hambledon lock last night. The lock-keepers seemed more interested in keeping friends with the captains of Fringilla, Dragonfly and co. Try to stand up to the bullies and you’ll get not just the crew but their paying customers shouting at you. The lock-keeper at Hambledon seemed to get some fun out of it. Bullying is a spectator sport!
I mention this because behind a bully is a vested interest. These private hire boats have plenty to lose.
If you want a day on the water with the bullies, here’s what you’ll pay this Henley
Fringilla (max. 10 people) – £2250 + £200 VAT
Sula (max. 12 people) – £2700 + £240 VAT
Dragonfly (max. 8 people) – £2550 + £160 VAT
If you want a day on the water with Lady Lucy , here’s what you’ll pay this Henley
“The cost of your picnic!”.
It is small wonder that these hire boats don’t want Lady Lucy on the river!
Why the bullies always lose!
Thankfully, Lady Lucy has had three great days and thanks to the 34 good people we’ve had on the boat who’ll testify to that. After the Hambledon Lock incident last night, we motored down to the Complete Angler to drop off Mik and Shell.
In stark contrast to the appalling behaviour we’d just had, we met there with the two great coal fired steamboats, Nuneham and Streatley. Nuneham was there to give us safe passage into the hotel while Streatley was at Hurley lock operating an al-fresco rave for its very jolly passengers. By the time we got back from the hotel, Streatley’s crew were wearily making their way back to Hurley – having moored at Harleyford.
We gave them a ride home and they gave us what was left of their cream teas and we’ll meet again on the river today. The bullies will always lose, because they make no friends!
Bullies with our money
I was thinking this morning after reading Merryn Somerset Webb’s brilliant article in the FT where she lambasts the FCA for watering down the draft of the Asset Management Market Study – giving in to the bullies.
Merryn not only stands up to the bullies, she faces them down. Robin Powell brought Merryn’s article to my attention . Both Robin and Merryn are right. Merryn laughs at the FCA’s failure to take decisive action , Robin tells us
“I still think, on balance, that this is a watershed moment in UK investing”.
Then he goes on to praise Merryn with typical generosity…
Merryn Somerset Webb, on the other hand, who’s been writing about pitiful fund performance, extortionate fees and conflicts of interest in asset management for longer than I have, is furious.
In a brilliant piece for the FT, she mocks the regulator for giving in to seven months of “doubt-spreading” by the fund industry lobby:
“What do we want?
Fund managers to, you know, think a bit about their customers a bit. That kind of thing.
When do we want it?
Soon. Well soonish. After a bit more consultation. Can’t ever have enough consultation.”
Not exactly a day of rage, is it?
If it weren’t for Merryn and Robin and Norma and Jo and the other great people who write about the injustice of an asset management industry with 36% margins. Nothing much would change.
Standing up to bullies
For the next few days, I expect a lot more bullying from Sula and Dragonfly and Fringilla and Larus. Their captains wear those blue jumpers with stripes on the shoulders and they think that being professional boat people gives them rights to behave as they like.
Their situation is akin to the fund managers who have behaved as they liked for as long as most of us can remember.
It’s not good enough allowing the cosy cartel between lock-keeper and boat-bully to persist, the river has rules and they are based on fair behaviour. Other crews, Streatley and Nuneham’s for instance, follow those rules. So long as they do and there are boats like Lady Lucy that won’t be pushed around, we can keep the river a nice place to be.
As for the fund managers and their lobbyists, they too have their good guys (Merryn cites Martin Gilbert of Aberdeen, I could quote many others). Their voices are the stronger for Merryn and Robin’s articles. The TTF and Andy Agethangelou have mobilised other voices. That is why the FCA are seeing this one through.
Bullies can win in the short-term, but in the long term they are losers. It will take time to see the remedies of the FCA’s paper through, but it now seems inevitable that change will come.