Last year was a tough one for private investors no doubt about it. Like many investors I was feeling pretty pleased with myself in September and entertained thoughts of perhaps making 20% by Christmas. In retrospect I was clearly being complacent and perhaps a bit lazy with my investment decisions. Then came the big winter freeze, which seemed to hit smaller shares particularly hard, and an unpleasant end to 2018.
However immediately before that, on 10th October, Patisserie Holdings put out a surprise announcement that their shares were to be temporarily suspended. Good joke considering that they're about to fall into administration. Anyway with this wiping out a few percent of my portfolio my interest in detecting fraud was immediately rekindled. I have a few books on the subject but my wanderings took me to this excellent report from Hardman & Co where they discuss the coming explosion in accounting fraud. Wish I'd seen this in August!
Anyway when I realised that the author, Steve Clapham, would be running a forensic accounting course for private investors I got in touch with his office. Seemed like a great opportunity to learn and pretty cheap if it helped me avoid another Patisserie Holdings. Yet even with the very thorough course brochure in front of me I found myself somewhat distracted by the markets (oddly enough) and didn't follow up. Fortunately lightning struck twice when I found out that Steve would be presenting at Mello London. What a chance to meet him in person.
Now let me say this: when the panel were discussing Patisserie Holdings, and whether there were any warning signs, Steve was right there with graphs which (at the very least) raised a number of red-flags. The video of this discussion is available on vimeo and it's certainly worth £3.99 of anyone's money. Later on Steve gave his own presentation on forensic accounting and this was equally fascinating (if a little superficial given the time constraints). All of this only served to whet my appetite for a full-day course.
As it turns out Steve runs three different courses and all of them look very interesting. It's worth going to this page to check out the training in detail but my summary of the courses is this:
Introduction to Equity Analysis
- 4-hour course that will equip you with a checklist to help you pick winning stocks
- helps attendees approach new investments with more confidence
- teaches you the key factors to look for in an equity investment
- next course is on the morning of February 22 and can be booked here
Introduction to Accounting for Investment Analysis
- 4-hour course that helps you understand the way companies present financial information
- covers all aspects of the accounts from balance sheet to cash flow statement
- teaches you how to identify the key factors which underpin a quality investment
- next course is on the afternoon of February 22 and can be booked here
Forensic Accounting Course
- full-day course designed to help investors detect earnings manipulation
- has over 100 real life examples of accounting chicanery and 6 in-depth case studies
- covers accounting tricks, expense capitalisation, cash-flow manipulation and more
- next course is on February 8th with full details here or just book here
Personally I'm particularly interested in the creative accounting course, either in February or March, as I already know my way around a set of accounts. However I have no professional training and am well aware that there's a lot more to be learnt - so I'm leaning towards attending both introductory course as well.
Now for the full disclosure! I've been in contact with Steve regarding these courses and he's keen to drum up support and attendees. So he's mentioned that he has a few spaces left on the February courses and would be able to offer me a discount if I'm able to attract a few friends and colleagues. As a skinflint investor this is a very attractive arrangement but the fact is that I'm looking to attend his course with or without a discount! The fact is that I think that they'll be very educational and I believe that we private investors need all the help that we can get when it comes to protecting our investment pot.
That's it for the spiel - I hope to see some of you on one of Steve's courses!