Tuesday 22 December 2020 11:09 am

Control or catastrophe? Farage, fortune, freedom and a £199 subscription

For the small price of £199 a year, promises Nigel Farage, you can “take back control” of your finances. 

Gold, real estate trusts, even a crypto revolution – all are tickets to an independent financial future, all stamped with the Brexit Party founder’s seal of approval. 

Or, at least, that’s the idea. But the jury is out on whether Nigel Farage’s new financial endeavour is a path to taking back control, or a recipe for disaster that should see regulators intervene.

Fortune & Freedom

Earlier this month Farage began promoting ‘Britain’s great wealth revival’, a culmination of what his free financial newsletter, Fortune & Freedom (F&F), had been leading up to. 

Farage has teamed up with a financial publisher to produce a paid-for subscription newsletter that discusses investing in the likes of REITs, gold and ‘best of Britain’ stocks – but the jury’s out on whether the product merits the price tag. 

The new, paid-for subscription will set readers back £199 for the year. 

In exchange they will have access to reports on investing in gold, REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) and stock picks, as well as a subscription to a newsletter containing Farage-approved investment tips. 

Farage’s new newsletter promises a ‘blueprint’ to help individuals “take back control” of their finances. But where does this blueprint come from?

The ideas outlined are based on the opinions of Rob Marstrand, an editor at Southbank Investment Research, the publisher behind Farage’s first free newsletter, and the new paid-for newsletter.

The tireless campaigner’s foray into finance has been criticised by those working in the sector. 

Chartered financial planner Martin Bamford has made Youtube videos warning interested customers to be mindful of the risky and speculative investments touted by Farage and co.

Speaking to City A.M., the financial planner suggested £199 was a hefty price tag for guidance on risky investment tips that could well see investors lose money.

“Information for DIY investors is freely available online, from sources without agenda,” he said. 

“The money would be better spent on buying a few decent books about investing, educating yourself, and making your own decisions based on logic and not fear.”

Unsuitable for the ‘vast majority’

Farage first stepped into personal finance a few months ago with Fortune & Freedom, (F&F) a daily newsletter published by Southbank Investment Research, which also publishes titles ‘Crypto Profits Extreme’, ‘New Drug Speculator’ and ‘Short the World’, to name a few. 

F&F, which now has around 50,000 subscribers, appears to cater to novice investors. On its website is a report titled: ‘How to take back control of your finances in 4 simple steps’, which contains basic budgeting guidance.

Away from budgeting, Farage’s F&F has pushed subscribers to “take back control of your money.” 

The UKIP founder makes multiple references to gold, and more recently urges subscribers to buy ‘Crypto Revolution’, a book by Sam Volkering, editor of Exponential Investor – another Southbank Investment Research publication.

Rather than targeting a more formal demographic of people, Farage appears to be targeting those who align with his political beliefs, regardless of their investment experience, age or wealth. 

According to F&F’s mission page on its website, the newsletter is for those who do not trust the government, financial institutions or the mainstream media.

According to Chartered financial planner Bamford, the sort of investments being promoted in the F&F newsletter are “not suitable for the vast majority of retail investors”, being that they are both “high risk and speculative”, and in the case of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies, “they have no tangible value.”

When asked if Bamford would ever advise a client to invest in this way, he said: “Not in a million years.”

Although some of the investments being promoted by Nigel Farage are considered risky, and in some cases are barely regulated – even the FCA’s website warns crypto investors: “if you invest in cryptoassets, you should be prepared to lose all your money” – Farage and Southbank Investment Research are playing by the book. 

Both newsletters are unregulated, and as such do not come under the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority. Financial promotions, however, have an obligation to be “fair, clear and not misleading”, and while much of the content is sales-led and biased in favour of the chosen investment strategies, there are disclaimers on the site, although it is unclear whether the warnings go far enough. 

Phil Young, managing partner at compliance firm Zero Support, described the rules as “vague”, particularly what it means for something to be ‘fair’. He also felt that Farage, because of his public persona and social following, would face higher scrutiny to ensure he was not positioning investments as appropriate, when it may not be the case.   

“[When it comes to financial promotions] there’s certain things that are obvious, there needs to be balance, for example, and you have to think about who the audience is,” said Young. 

“Farage needs to be mindful of who is going to be reading this, and if there are people reading it that shouldn’t be acting on what the recommendations are. Even if it’s not misleading, in terms of fairness, is it offering balance? Does it indicate risk as well as reward?”

Fortune for Farage

The website echoes all that feels familiar to Farage, commanding readers to “take back control of your money” and feels notably anti-financial services.

One of Farage’s blogs states: “The financial industry lulls you into believing that without them, you have no hope. That in the hands of the establishment, it will be happily ever after… and for those who manage their own affairs, a nightmare of poverty and deprivation.

“Project Fear exists in the financial world too. We’re made to feel like only the professionals can understand the markets or have any success. The reality is, your private pension will likely leave you short. The best opportunities and ideas to really grow your wealth – smartly, over time – are usually shared with you too late. And the threats you need to know about are completely absent from the mainstream financial media.”

Holly MacKay, founder and CEO of Boring Money, a website that helps demystify finance for everyday consumers, agreed the world of investing needed to become more accessible, but argued Farage was not helping matters.

“It is true that the world of investment is crying out for change. Fees are often inflated, things are pointlessly complicated and the advice gap remains a chasm,” she said, “however the world is full of people who have some Messiah-like complex about being able to spot the Next Big Thing.

“The reality is that most people need help to guide them into some low-cost well-diversified portfolio, and reassurance to stick with it when things get choppy. They need to use tax wrappers, build up a cash buffer, consider life insurance, pay off pricey debt, write a will, maximise contributions to workplace pensions – and avoid spivs pushing crypto, single stocks and timber funds.

“I’d suggest that the principal intended recipient of any fortune from this venture is Mr Farage – not the person in the street.”

City A.M. has made multiple attempts to contact Fortune & Freedom.