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More than 6,000 players took part in the latest season of The Telegraph’s Fantasy Fund Manager game but only one has taken home the grand £10,000 prize.
The closing bell rang on Friday February 19 after three months of intense competition and Peter Cowell topped the leaderboard. He turned £100,000 into £139,000, a 39pc return while the FTSE 350 rose by just 5pc.
The 41-year- old showed remarkable consistency throughout the contest, having also been the best weekly fund twice. However, he was preoccupied with family matters in the opening weeks.
“My third child Matthew was born as the competition started, so I was in a rush to get my portfolio in before I went to the hospital,” he said. This also explained the rather unimaginative fund name “Peter Cowell”, he said.
His initial portfolio did well, with Cineworld a big winner. “The competition started just after the vaccine news so the market had had a reasonable boost. I bought things like Cineworld, which was down something like 90pc from its peak and split my fund across five companies, all playing on the recovery theme,” he said.
However, his fortunes changed in January, as he began putting more effort into the competition. At the time, his portfolio was among the top 150 funds playing, and he believed he could get to the top.
Mr Cowell decided he had squeezed the most out of his holdings and set about a new strategy of owning insurance. This switch paid off, netting the novice investor a £100 weekly prize in late January as Just Group, one of his holdings, rose 20pc.
“That launched me into the top 20 and then I paid even more attention,” he said. At the time he was a proponent of making big bets but moved away from this strategy – to his detriment – in the following weeks.
His portfolio had lost £10,000 as he went into a trading frenzy, “chasing gains that had already happened”.
After some soul searching Mr Cowell returned to his plan and struck gold with an investment in silver. He added Hochschild Mining, which he thought would do well as he had read that the army of Reddit investors had begun to buy the precious metal.
“I have had a lot of early mornings with the little one, so it gave me a chance to review the portfolio before the markets opened. I saw in the paper that silver was up, so I bought Hochschild Mining and it went up 10pc in a day,” he said. This netted him a second weekly win and propelled him into the top spot.
In the final weeks of the contest, Mr
Cowell went from playing the markets to playing the game, switching to a more diversified portfolio including investment trusts, which he thought would keep their value.
“I went from holding five shares to 10 and would look at what my competitors in the top five were holding to make sure that they weren’t too different from my portfolio,” he said.
Mr Cowell said he would return to defend his crown in the next iteration of the contest later this year, adding that it had been a
“great distraction from the lockdown”. For now, he has yet to decide on how to spend his £10,000 prize, but said he was “definitely going to treat the family”.
“We’re not investing it, that’s for sure. Maybe it’ll be on a holiday, but we’ll have to have a think,” he said.
Unlike the consistent trading of Mr Cowell, incredibly, second- place DolphinLegs, who wished to keep their identity secret, made a 37pc return without making any changes to their fund.
Moreover, they picked stocks at random, rather than carefully devising a five-stock strategy that would weather all market conditions, making a mockery of fund managers trading every day to outwit the competition.
Their fund held Evraz, Marshalls, Scottish Mortgage, Signature Aviation and Ferrexpo. In real life, the player sticks to small companies.
“I spent literally no time assessing the merits of the listed stocks, using my preferred ‘golden dart’ technique. This involves the throwing of a virtual dart at a virtual dartboard and, bingo, five stocks had been selected within a matter of seconds,” they said.
The game was a chance to try different investment styles for third- place David Price, who managed to turn £100,000 into £135,000 by the end of the contest.
The 41-year- old from Surrey applied an investment strategy that he had read about, filtering the FTSE 350 for companies that showed “quality” characteristics, such as consistent earnings, as well as “growth” characteristics, such as big increases in sales.
“I didn’t make many changes during the game as my stocks kept performing really well,” he said. At the end of the game his fund included Evraz, the steel company, as well as stockbroker CMC Markets and estate agent Savills.
“The game was really fun to take part in. The best thing about it is you can use it to experiment with different strategies without any loss to your own savings.
“It’s one thing having a good idea for how you’d like to invest your money, but when you see the stock’s performance going up and down, that tests your thinking,” he said.
‘I made my portfolio in a rush before heading to the hospital for the birth of my third child’