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OPINION

Dipping a toe in the black arts

Pension fund trustees can find equity derivatives confusing. At the NAPF conference in Edinburgh last month a baffled but brave trustee stood up to ask how he could cut through the "black art and mumbo jumbo" of these instruments.

The question was a blow for Trevor Robinson, founder and CEO of his eponymous investment management firm TRIM, which specializes in derivatives. He had just wrapped up his presentation on equity derivatives with that very aim - the enlightenment of trustees.

He persistently stated that he did not care whether pensions invested in derivatives or not. "You could think they're the best thing since the steam engine or the devil's own work - I don't care," says Robinson.

Robinson declares that his aim is to help trustees understand the potential risk and reward of equity derivatives and how to use them sensibly so as to avoid such disasters as Long-Term Capital Management and Barings.

His suggestion for trustees looking to better understand these instruments was to "speak to other trustees you know are using derivatives... and dip a toe in the water."

How surprising that someone with a vested interest in increased investment in equity derivatives should suggest such a move.

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