#30 – The Japanophile

Grant Williams is a former hedge fund manager turned financial publisher and influencer.

SUMMARY

Grant Williams is a former hedge fund manager who now publishes the monthly newsletter Things that Make You Go Hmmm and a subscription only investing podcast channel that incredibly is one of the top 0.5% of all podcasts globally. We cover Japan, T-bills, gold as well as Grant’s financial media empire.

GETTING INTO INVESTING

Grant started with Robert Fleming in the back office and by sheer will managed to get a job on the trading desk as Japan headed towards its peak in 1989. As a young trader he experienced the 1987 crash as well as the heady days of the frothy Japanese market, great grounding for his subsequent career. With over 35 years in markets, and stints in London, Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong, Sydney and Singapore, Grant has accumulated a wealth of experience and a Rolodex to die for which has set him up well for his podasting venture which started as a relief from boredon when holed up in the Cayman Islands during Covid lockdown.

Some takeaways

Grant started out trading Japan and went to Tokyo as a young 22 year old when Tokyo was a very unfamiliar place. He has had a long attraction to Japan and has survived a number of false dawns for the Japanese market. But this time he believes it’s for real. And he thinks (as does Steve) that this looks like a long term structural trend which could see Japanese savers (institutional and retail) withdraw overseas savings to repatriate them. Meanwhile foreigners are also likely to be drawn to Japan. The structural change is that the third biggest economy in the world, whose currency ahs been a source of carry for decades, may now be a recipient of significant inflows.

That change will affect not only Japan but the availability of capital in the rest of the world. Vulnerable could be US treasures and the US stockmarket which are both resting places for large slugs of Japanese capital. The Japanese are the largest foreign owners of T-bills and if they start to withdraw funds, that could create pressure in this market as there is a significant maturity bulge.

Grant is also a fan of gold and has owned it for 20 years as a place to hold liquidity and maintain its purchasing power. He explains this in a memorable way in the interview.

We also discuss his podcast and his favourite interview. Grant further explains how he started his newsletter Things That Make You Go Hmm… and how it became so popular.

 

Source: Grant Williams Things that Make You Go Hmmm…

Favourite INterview

Grant’s favourite interview of the hundreds he has completed is with Tony Deden, Chairman of Edelweiss Holdings. It has been viewed a remarkable 1.7m times on YouTube!

ABOUT Grant WIlliams

Grant Williams is widely respected as a visionary in the financial industry with a career spanning 35 years as an investor, advisor, writer and interviewer.

Grant’s network allows him rare access to the deepest recesses of expertise, and his resulting work has inspired investors of all stripes to see the complex world through a more focused lens. His current portfolio of work is available to subscribers at www.grant-williams.com and by private engagement.

The Grant Williams Podcast

In 2020, Grant stoked the fire of his passion for interviewing brilliant people by launching The Grant Williams Podcast in various forms, including The End Game,The Super Terrific Happy Hour, and The Narrative Game.

The response has been overwhelming. In only 5 months, these interviews have garnered well over 1 million downloads, placing this content squarely in the top 0.1% of podcasts offered in the marketplace.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

From humble beginnings in 2009, Things That Make You Go Hmmm… has grown into one of the most popular and widely-read financial publications in the world.

Blending history, humour and keen financial insight, Grant dissects the financial landscape with thought-provoking commentary – taking readers in unexpected directions and opening up investment avenues away from the beaten path which stimulate the kind of original thinking so lacking in today’s financial media.

Drawing on Grant’s extraordinary network of experts around the world, Things That Make You Go Hmmm… weaves together a tapestry of insight and information, folding in a series of under-the-radar stories and perspectives, to give subscribers an important edge in a fast-changing world.

WHERE TO FIND GRANT

You can find Grant on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ttmygh and at https://www.grant-williams.com/

I have no hesitation in recommending Grant’s podcast and newsletter. We have no affiliation, and I happily pay for a Silver membership which gets me access to all the podcasts and Grant’s monthly newsletter. I could be paying this for the next 100 years without getting a single idea and I would still be in profit!

BOOK RECOMMENDATION

Grant recommended six books!

Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed is a Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It’s an easy to read macroeconomic history of the run-up to the Great Depression as seen through the eyes of the West’s central bankers. Their decisions precipitated the depression.

 

The Fourth Turning by Neil Howe and William Strauss is and its more recent sequel The Fourth Turning Is Here: What the Seasons of History Tell Us about How and When This Crisis Will End by Neil Howe are two favourites of Grant’s.

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy – What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny. This explains a theory of the cycles of history and what past generations can teach us about living through times of upheaval and predicted a financial crash in the cycle beginning in 2008.

The Fourth Turning Is Here: What the Seasons of History Tell Us about How and When This Crisis Will End by Neil Howe follows up on the original with an extraordinary new prediction. What we see around us—the polarisation, the growing threat of civil conflict and global war—will culminate by the early 2030s in a climax that poses great danger.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is an out of print novel with lessons for today.

LIV and Let Die: The Inside Story of the War Between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf by Alan Shipnuck is a fun book for amusement per Grant.

The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman recreates the first month of World War I. Those epic 30 days in the summer of 1914 which determined the course of the conflict.

HOW STEVE KNOWS THE GUEST

Grant and Steve were introduced by good friend Jonathan Tepper.  Grant arranged for Steve to be interviewed on Real Vision which led to his doing several shows for them and discovering how much fun it was to interview people. Grant also had steve on his podcast and that immediately generated significant business for the Behind the Balance Sheet online school. Steve even contributed to Grant’s newsletter TTMYGH last year.

Chapters 

00:03 – Introduction to this Behind the Balance Sheet podcast 
07:53 – Grant’s journey at Robert Fleming
19:27 – Japan’s reawakening and influence
27:54 – Bank of Japan and the yen
35:43 – Bond market turmoil and risks
54:39 – The value of gold ownership
01:09:31 – The power of conversations
01:25:14 – Gratitude for Grant’s impact

TRANSCRIPT

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Hi, welcome to the Behind the balance Sheet podcast where we meet leading investors and commentators and educate ourselves about the world of investing and the world. Our mission is to remove some of the mystique around investing and improve our understanding of what makes a successful investment or indeed an unsuccessful one. Our goal is to inform, educate and entertain. We hope you enjoy this and every episode.

Behind the balance sheet and affiliates and podcast guests may own shares or have an economic interest in securities discussed in this podcast which is aired for your education and entertainment. Only nothing in this podcast should be construed as investment advice or relied upon for investment decisions. Always do your own research.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: This podcast is sponsored by Stream by Alphasense. I’m still getting used to the platform, but so far I’m impressed with how easy it is to use before stream.

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STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Looks like a great addition to any analytical tool kit, visit stream rg.com for more details, regular listeners will know that our new supported charity is Duchenne UK. It’s an awful disease which affects kids.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Duchenne UK have held an annual cycle ride from London to Paris in 24 hours which has raised £7.3 million since it was set up in 2011. Apparently, it’s an amazing experience where people make new friends and wonderful memories, but most importantly, a real difference in helping to end Duchenne.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: I don’t look great in LYCRA and no way, am I attempting that? Especially in 24 hours? I thought it was a misprint but the next one is 17th to 18th of May 2024. And you can register for a place at Duchenne UK. Org/dash Duchenne UK. Org/dash Grant.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Williams is a former hedge fund manager, a co-founder of financial streaming channel, real vision. And today is one of the world’s most successful financial influencers.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: If I were to choose only one investing podcast to listen to, it would be the Grant Williams podcast that crossed 1 million downloads in its first five months. And Grant’s paid only podcast is the only financial podcast in the UK, top 100 chart. His newsletter, things that make you go.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Is one of a handful of publications that I spend my own money on. And as I explained at the end, that has directly made me more money than any other piece of research of the thousands or probably tens of thousands. I’ve read in this conversation, we discuss Japan at some length.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: We talk about the potential risks in the US Treasury market where a raft of supply could meet a dearth of buyers. And Grant explains why he finds Gold so attractive. Of course, we also discuss his podcast and newsletter and Grant’s approach to content which is similar to my own.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: I like the saying, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime Grant is the nicest person in finance and it’s wonderful to hear him answering the questions and being on the other side of the mic for a change, I think you’ll come away from this with some actionable ideas, even though we don’t mention a single stop.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So Grant, welcome to the show. I’m so excited to do this. I’ve been looking forward to it for some time and you started at Robert Fleming and over 35 maybe nearly 40 years later, you become one of the world’s financial influencers, but you’ve suffered quite a few setbacks along the way.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And I, I thought younger members of our audience in particular can probably learn quite a lot from your journey. So I wonder, can you maybe start by telling us about how you got that job in the front office at Robert Fleming because that was interesting.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Well, it’s good to see you, my friend. Happy New Year to you. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. That’s a, that’s an overly generous introduction, but to answer your question, I, I kind of bullied my way into the job to be honest with you. There’s no other way to put it.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I, I had a job in the, in the settlements department of the, what was the Japanese Warrant Trading room at, at, at Robert Fleming in London. And I desperately, desperately wanted a job in the trading room. And so I would, I would get up every morning and come to work and be sitting in the office at five o’clock in the morning waiting for John Galvan. Only the head dealer to come in.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Proceeded by a big puff of cigar smoke cos he came out and the lift cos you could smoke in the office in those days. And there he was at, you know, 5 45 6 o’clock in the morning with a cigar going his hair all over the place.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And he would breeze past me and, you know, I’d say morning John and he would just totally ignore me. And I did that for months. I forget how many, but probably six months of getting up and going in every day. And, and I had that kind of five second interaction with him. And then I had to kind of sit around in my, in my chair for three hours before anybody else came in that I could talk to him.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And eventually, you know, I think he realized that I wasn’t going away and and a and a spot came up, back in the old days, you probably may remember this. Our, our entire team at Flemings was poached by Barings as used to happen in those days.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, entire teams were taken by competitors to, to, you know, either set up or beef up operations and Flemings lost their entire trading team to Barings. And so slots opened up and I think it was just familiarity, you know, it’s right. We need we’ve got seats that need filling. I reckon I was that kid who keeps bugging me for a job.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So let’s, let’s throw him in the deep end and, and it was really just persistence and, and, and being a pain in the arse that got me, got me a chance. And what happened next? Not long afterwards? It wasn’t exactly next. I kind of ii, I was an assistant trader on the, on the, on the J GB book originally when back when JG BS had yields and used to trade, that was, you know, that was my introduction.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I was just like an assistant trader and then, you know, more slots opened up and I got given the, the Deutschmark Japanese warrant book and look, see if I had, I had very little clue what I was doing, right? I was, I was a young kid, incredibly naive. I learned from watching people around me.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I learned from studying people’s reactions and trying to understand why they reacted the way they did. And, and I really was learning on the fly, you know, II, I had given up the chance to go to university to take this job because it was right next to the seat that I really wanted. And so I learned everything on the job.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And and so what happened not long after I was given my, my own trading book was the 87 crash. You know, I, I was a, I was a neophyte trader and you know, this was the days of the of the great Japanese bull market. So, I was fortunate that I was learning about how to do this when the market was trending in in one direction, it was going up just about every day.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so that kind of took away the uncertainty about, OK, what am I gonna come into the next morning for the most part, obviously still went up just to have down days and stuff. But there was a clear trend in.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So you could kind of sit back and learn and watch and learn how to trade a market that was, that was moving in a direction without worrying about the direction it was, that was pretty much set. So the 87 crash came along, you know, October 19th, 1987. And I don’t know if you remember, you probably remember we in the UK, we had a, we had, we had a hurricane hit the UK, I think the day before.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Thursday night was the hurricane Friday morning. We came in.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So that’s right. Thursday night, we had the hurricane Friday morning was a big down day on Wall Street. And then of course, the following Monday was the big crash.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so that those two days, particularly waking up on the Monday morning or the Tuesday morning, I guess it was in the UK of the 87 crash. I was a deer in headlights, make no bones about it. I had no clue what had gone on a, a as, as nobody did really. But I just was so inexperienced.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, I went into the office terrified. Frankly, I didn’t know what was gonna happen. I didn’t know, you know, I knew I was gonna lose more money than I’d ever lost in, in the job. I didn’t know what kind of number it was gonna be, but I knew it was gonna be horrific.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Because obviously back then you were just long cos the market was going up every day. So you didn’t, you didn’t need to have shorts really apart from a few scattered ones here and there.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so, you know, again, II, I was very fortunate. I, I had a lot of guys around me who, had been doing it long enough that they had steadier nerves than I did, even though they’d never experienced anything quite as catastrophic as that day.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But I realized that even in the midst of that, there was, there were opportunities to make the money back during the day. You know, the, the, that trading day was wild swings and people dumped everything in the morning and then tried to pick the bottom and brought it back. So we had, we had some wild swings in that day.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so I just, I just watched, you know, I, I watched, what people did and I tried to understand why and I tried to, replicate their behavior if I could figure out the triggers for it.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And a, and I’ve said this many, many times, but what that did for me was, it made me realize that markets don’t always go up, and that they can go down a long way in a hurry. Now, circuit breakers and stuff have, have ruled out the chance of that 25% drop in a day or 22% drop in a day happening again.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But still, you know, it’s 2008, 2000, the Asian crisis in the late nineties, we’ve seen plenty of volatility in markets since and I think, you know, that’s one of the big problems for people who’ve now built entire careers post 2008 is that they don’t have this feeling apart from the pandemic when markets can go down and be really, really volatile, you know, has been such a such a decreasing factor on markets that I think, you know, the lessons that you learn in periods of adverse market conditions and heightened volatility are incredibly useful.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So I was just delighted that that with hindsight, at least on the day that I had that experience so early in my career.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Ii, I remember it vividly because like you, I just, I I not long started. And the, you know, it was quite shocking because, you know, I looked at this and so I looked around, I assumed that this must have happened before and you could see the fear on everybody else’s face. And of course, it was just after Big Bang.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So we’d acquired a market maker. So we’ve never had a book before. So, you know, it had been great. The 87 below market. Oh, we’re geniuses. We’ve got a market maker now making loads of money. And I remember the, the head of the market making the guy that owned the business and sold it to the company I work for, he used to cover my stocks and I remember being with him one day he had results or something.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And, you know, when you had results, the stocks went down. Oh, I haven’t told that, you know, it’s a classic, it’s a bear market. So when you have results, it doesn’t matter how good they are, the stock goes on.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And, they had this bright idea that they would turn the market around. So they got some horrendously large sum of money which would be pitiful in today’s money, but something like $10 million and the market makers, they, they all co-ordinated that they would come in and buy the market and bid for stock at the same time.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And they lit a whole panel of the FTSE 100 screen up blue. And, of course, for about an hour or so, it turned the market because they thought, oh, there’s some big institutional bar come in and things gonna turn around until eventually all caved in again. But no, it was a very, very, very, very scary time.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And, although even then I remember there were fantastic opportunities. I remember buying the handsome convertible, offering a 15% yield the week of the crash. I mean, it is astonishing. So, you, I mean, you’ve lived everywhere, haven’t you? You’ve lived in London and then you moved to New York?

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Well, tell us a bit about living in different places, different financial centers and how that colors your perspective in the world because you do have a different perspective if you’re in Hong Kong, if you’re in London, if you’re in New York because of, because of the time zones. How did you handle that? And what were your takeaways from that?

GRANT WILLIAMS: Well, I got, I got offered the opportunity to go to Japan very young. I was 22 and, just jumped at the chance. I mean, II, I had no idea what I was going to get paid. I know where I was going to live. I just felt like an opportunity to me. So II, I said yes and I, and I even then I was, I was young but I figured no, if it doesn’t work out, I just come home.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, I, if you wanna work abroad, finding a job abroad is very difficult for visa reasons. And all kinds of reasons. If you wanna come home, it’s easy buy a ticket and get on a plane and leave everything behind you and be home. So it never felt daunting to me to, to go to Japan, even though back then it was a very foreign place. You know, it, it, it, it, it was a very different world.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, I’d been a couple of times on business and, and, and, you know, the first time I went there, I was probably, I don’t know, 20 years old, I don’t think I’ve been further than Spain.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And here I am rocking up in Tokyo to this completely unfamiliar landscape. Everything was so different but just wildly interesting, you know, just really, really interesting and this was Japan at its peak so everything was going, was going gangbusters.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So it was a very easy decision to go and I’m so pleased I did because you know, it, it, it lit a fire in me for, for traveling and other cultures and other countries, the jobs, the jobs very similar, you know, wherever you go, the job’s the same, you know, buy low and sell high if you, if you want to distill it down to its to its basics.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But but the cultural differences are enormous and the things that affect different markets that you, you know, that you got used to affecting in Japan that didn’t affect them in Hong Kong, you know, certain headlines, certain behavior on the part of other markets. It, it, you just have to learn the same game with a whole set of slightly tweaked rules.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But it, it was, it was fantastic and I, you know, and I’ve, I’ve, anybody that’s ever come to me even in those days because I was so young when I went out and there were a whole, group of guys that came onto the desk behind me once I was older and had been to Japan and, and, and been to New York and stuff who would come to me as, as a, you know, a, a kind of peer of theirs.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I was the youngest guy on the train there. So I was much more of a peer. And I would always say to me, I’ve been offered the chance to go to Frankfurt, watch it. And I said, let me stop you. There just go take the job and go and if you hate it, come home.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Yeah, even Frankfurt, right? But you can come home. I said if you don’t like it, come home. And, and so, you know, that, that, that, that opportunity to, to go and live in all these places and, and, and immerse myself in these different cultures and different markets was just such a gift.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I’ve been grateful for it the entire time and it, and it’s, it’s a, a, as much as you learn about the cultures, you learn about the, the markets and these kind of idiosyncrasies of the countries and the way that the financial systems in each one works.

GRANT WILLIAMS: It’s helped me build a group of friends and network if you want to use the kind of buzzword around the world that I’m just truly grateful for. I’ve just met so many wonderful people, Steve as you have. I know just in different countries whether they be locals or expats.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I’ve just found that in those environments, you, you’re fortunate in the business that we’re in that you get, you tend to be thrown in the deep end with a bunch of super smart people, whether they’re locals or expats and the expats because they’ve been interested in travel and been interested in living and working Overseas are normally interesting, thoughtful, curious people.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so, as I say that, that’s my greatest gift from all that has been the people I’ve met without, without a shadow of a doubt, no favorite place.

GRANT WILLIAMS: No, I’ve loved, I love them all in different ways. I love Tokyo.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And again, I think, you know, they talk about the past being a different country and, and I was a very young man in Tokyo. So the experience I had in Tokyo has to be seen through the prism of a 22 year old kid who’s never really been anywhere. So I love Tokyo. I love New York.

GRANT WILLIAMS: It was always a dream of mine to, to live and work in New York. And I loved that I loved Hong Kong, you know, Sydney Singapore, all these places. I, I have enormous connections to all of them, perhaps with the exception of Singapore. And there’s nothing against Singapore again. It was a particular time in my life.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And while it was a fascinating place to live and work, I just never really developed an attachment to Singapore. You know, I just found it was someone asked me once and I said, look, if, if you ask me to describe Singapore, the first word that comes to mind is nice. You know, it’s nice and it’s clean and it’s safe and it’s all these things and it’s a wonderful place, right? It’s a wonderful place.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But there was nothing there that really got my heart racing. There was nothing to really love about Singapore and nothing to really hate about Singapore. Whereas if you asked me to tell you about Hong Kong or New York, for example, I could give you a list of 25 things on each side that, that got me so mad or I loved and you need that, you need that, you need that kind of heart rate, changing things to connect with.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I just, I just never found that Singapore. And, and again, I think that’s because, you know, when I was there, my kids were basically going off to college. So I didn’t have the kids stuff to do. It was just me working and I just, you know, I just enjoyed my time there, but it’s the one place that I didn’t really form, I don’t think a lasting lifelong.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Connection was interesting. I was expecting you to, to say that the world was very different, depending on where you, where you looked at it from. But I suppose back then it was less joined up. So when you were in Japan, Japan was an island on its own.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And, and today it might be a bit different because if you’re in New York, you’ve got a very different perspective on what’s happening in the world than if you’re sitting in Hong Kong your day difference. And I, I’d imagine that there, that there would have been that d that difference. But listen, you’ve spent time in Japan and Japan’s very topical.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So I had James Aitken on the podcast in December and he’s very interesting on Japan. And obviously you’re, you’re a real expert and what James was saying was, you know, watch Japan because it looks likely that rates will go up, which means that there’s a big opportunity for Japanese savers to repatriate funds.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And if the yen’s going up, it makes a hell of a lot of sense for them to do that. And then there’s the issue. Well, does that mean that Mrs Watanabe is again going to be buying stocks and she was a very, very influential investor globally in the past.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: What do you, what do you make of Japan today? I know you’ve got, I know you’ve got investments there now.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Right.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Yeah, it’s, it’s fascinating. You know, James is a, is one of the most brilliant guys you’ll, you’ll find in this, in this world. He is, he’s a, you know, genuine, intellect and, and a super guy, he’s become a very good friend of mine.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And Japan’s something we’ve, we’ve talked about a lot and it’s funny. Yeah, because I started my career, I’ve just always had this soft spot for Japan and, and I’ve always been willing to listen to the Japan is back all the time.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And this is my point, Steve, this is exactly my point and I’ve, I’ve, I’ve had that kind of crushed out of me over the years by believing it one too many times. You know, this is the year Japan’s coming back and I, I was so predisposed to believing it because I wanted it to be true.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And of course, it’s broken her heart so many times. But interestingly, you know, when I sit down to write things that make you go home every month, I never, I never have a predisposed idea of. So I won’t sit there in January and say, here’s what I’m going to write about in February. I always wanna sit down and write about whatever it is that I’m interested in when I come to sit down to write.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I, I may have an idea before that, but I don’t start writing it until I get close enough that it’s a week long exercise because something else might happen, that’s more interesting or whatever. So I always leave it. So consequently, I’m always writing about something that I’m genuinely fascinated by.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I’ve been very fortunate to kind of accidentally create this ability to write about anything I want. I don’t not pigeonhole into stocks or bonds or countries or any of that stuff.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so I really have got this kind of landscape where I can, I can literally write about anything. And what I found was in the last year, almost kind of unconsciously, I’d written about Japan three times. So that’s a quarter of my pieces were suddenly about Japan. And I only figured that out when I came to write about it for 1/4 time back in I think December or November.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And it’s really interesting because over this last I guess 18 months, there have been some really strong signs that that interest is flowing back to Japan. You know, the thing that kind of got everybody’s radar twitching was Warren Buffett buying stakes in the trading companies out there.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And anyone that, that knew Japan back in the day knows what, how big those trading companies were back then and what the, the the the the kind of tendrils they have into every part of global business is, is fascinating.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And just over this last 18 months, there’s been more and more signs that Japan is kind of reawakening. It. It’s, it’s been a story about the Bank Of Japan. It’s been a story about unconventional monetary policy, a dying bond market, a demographic cliff. It’s been all these negative stories and very, very quietly.

GRANT WILLIAMS: What’s happening, happening in the background is corporate Japan has been forced to really make some changes to get its house in order that it it was just never under that pressure before.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so there’s been this quiet revolution going on in, in the state of Japanese companies and some of the rules around, you know, cross holding some of the rules, some of the behavior around dividends and buybacks and all these kind of shareholder friendly things that have happened, which Japan was famous for not bothering with for many, many years.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And the Nikkei has and the topics have kind of come to life and they’ve been making new highs and, and suddenly there are credible people like Buffett and like certain investors who have been talking positively about Japan. And when you, when you’ve not looked at Japan for a long time, and you’ve believed it to be a dead story as a lot of people have because it has broken their hearts.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So many times over the years and you listen to the demographic talking, you say, well, what’s the point of Japan is a dying nation? You suddenly get forced into looking at it again because jeez, everyone’s talking about Japan. I wonder what, what are they talking about? This is a, this is nonsense.

GRANT WILLIAMS: We’ve heard this story before. You take a look and you go holy cow. A look where the in industries are, look at what’s happened with the Corporates, look at the valuations of these companies and this is still the third biggest economy in the world. I mean, it’s, it’s the, it’s the craziest unloved market on the planet to me.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so you have this great set up from a stock pickers point of view where you can find really world class companies trading on, on great valuations.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But there are, then there’s this idea of getting comfortable with owning Japanese assets again. And, and a lot of that does come down to the Bank Of Japan and how are they going to screw me out of, you know, are they gonna, am I gonna make my money in the end? They’re gonna de value the end.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I’m gonna end up losing money because of that, you know, I find I can enter the currency. There’s things I can do. But is this a, I just treading water and the Bank Of Japan is gonna stop any real progress that I’m gonna make? And this brings us to what James is talking about.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I think this is really, really important because when James came and talked to Bill Fleckenstein and I on the podcast last year, kind of early last year, we talked about Japan a lot because Japan has been this kind of focus of the end game that Dy and I have been trying to figure out and, and James talked there and he said, look, you know, Japan is gonna normalize, they’re gonna, they’re gonna move to normalize rates and, and what does that mean?

GRANT WILLIAMS: Right. Japan’s had negative rates for as long as many people have had careers. They know nothing of a Japan with positive interest rates, which is extraordinary. But there are so many similar type of statistics you can throw out that with the length of time that the current market sit and conditions have prevailed, normalizing rates.

GRANT WILLIAMS: If you’ve got a policy rate of minus 10 basis points and you take it to plus 10 basis points, it’s a drop in the ocean, right? It doesn’t really do anything in terms of making borrowing less available to people. It doesn’t really change anything material.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But the message it sends given where the things that respond to those sort of moves are trading, given where the Japanese government bonds are trading, given where the Yen is trading minus 10 plus 10 base MS makes no difference. But to signal that we are off negative rates and we are normalizing, we’re gonna, we’re gonna move to positive interest rates suddenly changes the mindset of a lot of people.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And to your point about Mrs Watanabe and for those people, not old enough to remember who Mrs Watanabe is now, it’s probably her great granddaughter that we’re talking about now, I would imagine.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But Mrs Watanabe was this kind of mythical person that represented the savings of Japanese who are still the largest creditor nation on earth, external credit to the nation on earth. And the idea was that all these Japanese savings would, would, would fly around the world and would drive asset prices higher. And it, and it started out driving the Nikkei higher.

GRANT WILLIAMS: All the all the Japanese money was going into the Nikkei. And then when Japan fell off its cliff at, at the end of 1989 and started going down and became this kind of investment wasteland for so many years that cash had to go somewhere. So it went Overseas and it disrupted flows Overseas.

GRANT WILLIAMS: A lot of it went into the US stock market, European stock markets elsewhere in Asia, Overseas bond markets because it couldn’t really get a return in Japan. And so you send this message of the bank ban. We are, we’re going off negative rate. Yes, it’s a tiny increment and we’re not promising you that we’re gonna go to three or 4%.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But our intention now the the direction of travel is we will use every opportunity we see to get rates up and normalize them. If we see an opportunity to raise 10 basis points, we’re gonna take it that completely changes the mindset.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And when you look at real rates and you look at, exchange rate adjusted rates, you’re getting very close now to, the point where if you can get a 1% return on AJ GB, the a lot of the pension funds when they set out their, they’re forecasted returns for the year. Th those, those negotiations come up in March, they’re talking about 75 basis points as being the, you know, the kind of pension fund money market account return.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so if you can get 1% on AJ GB a 10 year J GB or, or, or shorter date and even you’re suddenly in this position where you can, you can match your liabilities by buying JG BS. And so this question we’ve had of the jap, the Bank Of Japan have hoovered up all this government debt.

GRANT WILLIAMS: How do they get out of that suddenly? If capital flows reverse and Japanese money starts to come home because they can finally see a return to invest domestically. You’ve got this, it’s, it would be the immaculate landing. I don’t expect it to happen.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But the chance of there being an absolute meltdown cos the Bank Of Japan has to divest itself of all these bonds starts to become, excuse me, a little less problematic potentially because if they can offload some of their holdings to pension funds, that helps and, and the other factor that people perhaps aren’t familiar with because Japan hasn’t been such a cultural focus of, of investment flows for such a long time is the, the the culture of Japan is such a cohesive one.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And if the Bank Of Japan or the Ministry Of Finance, get in the ears of the pension funds and say, ok, guys, we need you to bring money back home. We actually need you now to support your local market and you know, help us prop up the bond market and maybe funnel money into Japanese equities. They’ll do it, they will absolutely do it just because the government have asked them to, which sounds crazy to us in the West.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, we can’t conceive of such a thing, but it will absolutely happen. And so you’ve had this kind of weird situation where the yen was just getting pummeled and pummeled and pummeled and pummeled and going through all kinds of stops and everybody was short the yen because again, you know, going back to this point of longevity, the yen’s been a funding currency at zero for many people’s entire careers.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so talk that the Bank Of Japan is gonna normalize. Well, well, you know, that doesn’t matter, they can’t do it in fact, even if they do do it and people are buying the end ahead of that, what are they gonna do? Get to plus 10 basis points? That doesn’t make a difference.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So you saw this, this crazy dichotomy where the Bank Of Japan were making all kinds of noises about normalizing. You had a change in governor which gave, which sort of say goodbye to the, the former governor, and brought in a way the San, which gave them a chance to change policy as, and when at least you’ve got a new guy at the helm. And so, the game was getting pummeled going through 150 like a hot knife through butter.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And all the time, the signs were there saying this is an incredibly asymmetric trait because if you get along the yen here, you’ve seen the Bank Of Japan intervene a little bit at 150 a little bit at 1 52.5 ish, just to say we’re here and we’re watching this, they didn’t make a big deal out of it, but they, they, they definitely intervened. You could see it on the daily charts.

GRANT WILLIAMS: If you went along at the end at 150 your downside was pretty limited. It wasn’t going to 200 with what was going in the background and, and here we are now, you know, the, the yen jumped to 140 ish. And, you know, you can see a path to the mid one thirties quite easily there.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And there are all kinds of positive reasons to think that the yen could head back towards 100. I’m not saying it’s going to go straight in a straight line, but the idea of being short, the yen I think is, is just not a smart trade right now.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And if you think how many people are short. Yeah, because basically everyone in the world with a carry trade off is essentially short. Yen cos that’s been the funding currency. There’s a potential for a massive short squeeze as well. So I just think it’s a very long winded answer.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I’m sorry for that. But, but I just think Japan has become very slowly, very interesting and suddenly a lot of people are taking another look at it and when you look at Japan today, if you haven’t looked at it for four or five years, which a lot of people haven’t, you will see something that is actually quite shocking to you in terms of how different it looks and the potential set up.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So for me, Japan is one of the most fascinating countries that I’Ll be focusing on as we, as we move through 2024 and 2025 is.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: The, I mean, since that podcast, obviously, it’s coincidental, but I mean, since that podcast, he ends up 6% and, you know, it’s not exactly the sort of peak period for trading over Christmas. So, and if you were, I mean, you know, if you can, or you can probably put yourself in the position of a Japanese institutional investor better than I can.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: But I imagine that the conversations around the board room tables today will be, well, hang on a second. You know, it looks like we’d be better off in yen assets than dollar assets.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So why don’t we, you know, as we get redemptions, you know, as the, as the treasuries, redeem, why don’t we just switch that money back and kind of, it’s like once the bottoms, once people believe the bottoms in the bottom’s in and it will only go one way.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So I wonder what if that’s true, if that hypothesis is, is what, you know, plays out, where should we be looking for the sort of the, the, the other side of the, the effect because it would end up? I mean, should we be worried about bonds? I mean, I was quite interested in, you wrote a piece about the supply versus demand of bonds who got on to bonds in a minute?

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: But is, is, is Treasury where we should be worrying or are there all sorts of other esoteric instruments that, you know, we can make, you know, good asymmetric bets on right now as the Japanese withdraw money?

GRANT WILLIAMS: Well, I think, you know, what, what’s been interesting to me is, is when, when the feds started to normalize rates when the fed started to normalize rates and, and, and we got into the beginning of this hiking cycle.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, I was thinking about this, we did, we’ve been like, we’ve been expecting it to happen for a long, long time and everyone said me included that they’re never gonna be able to get this up very far cos the, the world has become much too dependent upon low interest rates to survive. They’re never gonna get the fed funds rate to two or even 3% maybe before something breaks.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And the more that J Powell signaled his intent to raise rates and tried to convince people that they were gonna keep going and, and keep hiking.

GRANT WILLIAMS: The more convinced I got. And as soon as you, as soon as you’re convinced that we are moving into a higher rate environment after so many decades of lower rates, you realize very simplistically and it, and it’s a very back of the napkin assessment.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But if you think about it, it’s not just a change in environment, it’s a reversal of an environment. And so everything that works with lower rates and everything is dependent upon lower rates.

GRANT WILLIAMS: It’s not that the world has changed, it’s that they don’t work anymore, right?

GRANT WILLIAMS: Everything which is 100 and 80 degrees. So if you think about that, if you think about what happens when you have a, a reversal in a in a market environment.

GRANT WILLIAMS: It actually what it does is with broad strokes, it makes thinking these things through actually easier rather than harder because it really is a case of what worked, doesn’t work anymore because that worked because rates are low. And I think people try and ascribe all kinds of reasons to outcomes in financial markets.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But the cost of capital and the and the availability of that capital is by far the most important variable. So if you change the most important variable, ie you, you increase the price of capital and you restrict its supply, then it has a massive effect.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And we’ve seen that, we’ve seen that through the last few years. We’ve seen it with the chaos that’s been unleashed in the bond market. We’ve seen it in the equity market last year and we’ve had this rally. Why? Because everyone’s convinced the fed are gonna start cutting rates again.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So coming back to the question about Japan, if Japan is suddenly investable again, if a country which has been a massive provider of capital to the world for almost 30 years now is suddenly a home for that capital is suddenly gonna attract first of all domestic capital back from Overseas. And latterly, one would assume foreign capital inflows that capital has to come from somewhere.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so look at where Japanese money has gone. I mean, of course it’s gone into the Treasury market. And we’ve seen Bank Of Japan holdings in treasuries for, you know, they, they, they fluctuate but they’re always a big player in the Treasury market. So, whatever, whatever, whatever Mrs Watanabe does with her Overseas capital will have an effect on the Treasury market.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You can guarantee that US stock market, you know, everything’s gone to the US stock market. Yes, there will be pockets of Japanese capital, like dotted all around the world, but an enormous amount of it has gone into the US stock and bond markets, no doubt whatsoever.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So at a time when the Treasury calendar of issuance is, is so remarkable in terms of its sheer scale to have the potential for repatriation of capital from the biggest creditors of the world back home is another potential landmine that, that, you know, could lead again to, to, to forced rate rises and certainly in the f in the free markets if even if it’s not at the Federal Reserve level.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And again, this, this we get to this self perpetuating cycle of rising rates again. And Japan is such a long way to go in terms of raising rates. If Japan got a little bit of inflation as they’ve had the last year or so, they’d be over the moon because it does give them the ability to move.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And, and, and I think Steven, you probably have watched this as closely as anyone. But the, the performance of Japanese bank shares, not the stock prices, but the businesses just with this change in environment, if you look at what’s happened, Japanese banks have got their balance sheets in order their profits are coming through.

GRANT WILLIAMS: They’re doing really, really well in terms of executing other businesses and having bigger net interest margins, having the ability to, to, to use higher interest rates to, to ju those businesses is a, is a mouthwatering opportunity perhaps for Japanese investors to come back and invest in such a beaten down and now consolidated financial sector.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I just think that wherever you look in Japan, you can finally make a, a strong case for why there’s a reason to be optimistic and with Japan so unloved and the end so out of favor and so weak and sentiment about the Bank Of Japan so low and the prospects, you know, e everywhere you look, you are, you talk about asymmetric bets being bullish on Japan.

GRANT WILLIAMS: To me is an asymmetric bet and it, it won’t be a straight line, there will be, there will be bumps in the road. But if you wanna think about a place to put capital for 10 years, I think Japan is starting to look incredibly attractive.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: I totally agree. I I just, I mean, obviously Japanese are the biggest foreign owners of us treasuries. So that’s an obvious area of pressure and that, that’s an interesting area because I think in last month’s publication, you had that chart of the, the U US debt maturity profile.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And you, you wrote the cumulative deficit for the 2024 to 2033 period is projected to total 20.2 trillion, that’s trillion not billion or 6.1% of GDP. Since 73 the annual deficit has averaged 3.6% of GDP in CB OS projections deficits ex equal or exceed 5.5% of GDP in every year from 24 to 2033. Since at least 1930 deficits have not remained that large for more than five years in a row.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So, I mean, this whole issue about the bond market, I think it is quite fascinating. I went to a conference in December and there was a, a, a bond panel bond expert said, oh, don’t worry if it’s a buyer’s strike. Governments have other tools at their disposal beyond QE for they can, they can sell shorter maturity bonds or reduce volume.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: I mean, this just sounds rubbish to me. I mean, you know, shorten the maturity. Well, you know, you kick the can down the road for six months. But with that, I mean, this is a structural issue at a time where you’ve got a huge huge lump in the maturity profile. What’s gonna happen?

GRANT WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, look who, who we don’t know. That’s the beauty of this whole thing. But what I will say is that I think I think the key word here is structural. You know, this is a, this is a structural problem and, and you don’t cure structural problems by selling shorter debt maturities. It just doesn’t work that way.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And, you know, there’s a lot of people throwing stones at Janet Yellen for not extending the duration of the government portfolio which II, I don’t understand why she wasn’t issuing more 20 year bonds, 30 year bonds. Iii I don’t get that. I really don’t, but she didn’t. And, and here we are. And, and you know, the, the, the problem is this is a, when the guy said, look, oh, don’t worry about that.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, you, you can kind of sit here and think how can we not worry about arguably the single most important market on earth having numbers that would make your eyes water. And the simple truth, Steve is you haven’t had to worry about it. And so when people say, don’t worry about it, what they mean is, oh, it’s always gotten fixed before.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So I totally understand why people say don’t worry about it. Right. And, and maybe we don’t have to worry about it. Maybe we don’t. But there are an awful lot of things coming together now that change things in another important way. And that is, we’ve lived through this period for at least a couple of decades, probably three of essentially co-ordinated central bank action.

GRANT WILLIAMS: They all started off with rates in the kind of, you know, 67 8% level eastern, some of the sorry southern European countries double digits that, that got brought back in in 99 and brought back down to, to, you know, German interest rates essentially which, which kicked off a lot of the, the the stuff we saw happening in Europe in terms of crazy asset prices and crazy debt bubbles.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But every central bank essentially was moving towards zero with their rates and issuing debt accordingly and asset prices were going up, everything was going in that one direction and they were all kind of on that same train.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Now, things are very different and now we’re in a rising interest rate environment.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Everybody, if the fed lowered, everybody lowered because they could and they knew that lower rates would be good for stock prices and bond prices and real estate prices. So if there was an opportunity to, to to cut, they would take it.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Now we’re in a rising interest rate environment and of course, again, things reverse, people will do, we will raise interest rates when they have to not because someone else did. So people will, will hold back on raising rates for as long as they possibly can.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so you’ve now got to this point where it’s competitive again and interest rate differentials matter and as as rates move in one country, they don’t automatically follow in others and that has effects on the attractiveness of that country’s bond market or that country’s currency.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so we’re starting to see now we’re starting to see swings and volatility come back into bond markets. There isn’t a global bond market anymore. And that I think is arguably the US, is big problem is they’ve, you know, they’ve, they have jack rates up as high as they can and they’ve done it quickly and it has sucked in an awful lot of capital to the dollar and to the bond market.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But now they have to issue even more at a time when rates are going up elsewhere. Now, cos people have been forced to do that. Capital is much more in demand now than it was because this, this abundant liquidity is no longer there anymore.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And if capital is in demand, well, guess what it looks for the, the place is gonna be taken care of the best. It looks for the, the highest bidder. So we’re in a competitive environment.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So the US has now got to fund its biggest deficits in history at a time where there’s competition for capital. So it’s impossible to say what happens or what time frame it plays out on. But what it is possible to say is that don’t worry about it no longer works because whilst we may not know what happens or when it happens, you now have to pay attention.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You have to watch Treasury auctions and look at the tail and look at what’s happening and we’ve seen some dreadful auctions, in the past couple of months and again, the headlines are terrible Treasury bond auction and then the market kind of shakes it off.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And, and people have become used to looking at markets and deciding that the markets have told them something matters or it doesn’t, you know, and that’s just simply not true. There’s a lag effect here.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I keep saying this, that, you know, in this last 20 years, nothing’s mattered to anybody until it’s mattered to everybody. And that’s been good when asset prices are rising, it’s gonna be terrible when things matter to everybody at the same time in a market that is looking to protect itself.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Why do you think that people have been so positive? I mean, you know, if we’d had this discussion a couple of years ago and we said, oh, they’re gonna put up rates to where they put them up, we’d have been assuming that the outcomes would be a lot worse than they actually have been. And I’ve been surprised that people have been so relaxed.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I mean, well, don’t, don’t forget for, for 20 years, right? People have been saying first it was QE will lead to inflation and of course it did, but not the inflation. Everybody was talking about. Everyone thought that the price of food was gonna go up and, and heating and all this sort of stuff.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And of course, it was asset prices that went up because of how QE was implemented and where the money flowed to flow to the holders of assets and the buyers of assets. So that’s that whilst that’s been disproven QE leads to inflation, it was absolutely correct. It led to massive rampant asset price inflation.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So people have become Sanguine because they haven’t had to do anything else. Right? I was sangu until the October 87 crash. I didn’t think the market would be down 22% in a day.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But I tell you what, the day after it happened, it completely changed what I thought was possible, but I needed that. If you’d have told me on October the 18th, 1987 the market could go down 22%. I told you you were out of your mind. Of course, it can’t ridiculous.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And it sometimes takes that kind of smack in it. It takes a no bid, Treasury market for people to realize that the Treasury market could go no bid. And we haven’t seen that for a while. They’ve seen it in Japan. You know, they’ve seen the Japanese 10 year government bond, not trade for days on end.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Who would have thought that was possible. I’d have told you the 10 year J GP wouldn’t trade at all on multiple trading days throughout the year. You would have told me I was out of my mind before QE and then when it happens and you go, well, that’s obviously because the Bank Of Japan is calling the Treasury market and no one’s gonna take them on yet makes perfect sense, but it had to happen before we could conceive of it.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So I think a lot of things are gonna happen that the past 20 years have, have disinclined us to believe could happen. And as and when they do one by one, look at the, look at what happened with the collapse of Silicon Valley and signature in March.

GRANT WILLIAMS: We saw things in bond markets that completely shook people. You know, we had the, we had the C NBC bond markets and turmoil segments left and right. Right. People didn’t think that you could take 100 and $30 billion Mark to market loss in your Treasury portfolio like Bank Of America did.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You can, you really can and whilst they will do everything they can to bend the rules. And you know, I we’re back to FA B 157 before the financial crash, right? When, when the people were gonna have to Mark stuff to the market rather than not be forced to do that and they repealed the rule because they realized that it would, it would shatter all these illusions about what assets were worth.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So they will, you know, when this, when the stress becomes more evident, they will do things to try and stop it manifesting in markets. But ultimately, that pressure has to go, has to go somewhere.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: That’s a very good point.

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STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So Gold, you wrote recently, you cited Jack Ryan, the fictional character, which is our favorite, our favorite of ours.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Alan Greenspan, Carol Sokoloff as fellow Gold enthusiasts. And I was actually quite surprised to learn in that piece that Gold had outperformed stock markets this century. But what do you think about Gold in? I mean, I’ve been slightly surprised that it hasn’t done better. I mean, obviously rates have gone up a lot, but presumably it should move now.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Well, look, Gold’s fascinating. Gold has been fascinating to me for 25.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: What got you into it? What got you into Gold?

GRANT WILLIAMS: I just, you know, reading in 2000 when when the response to when the response to the.com bust was, you know, rate driven, you know, flow, push, race to the floor. I remember reading the late Richard Russell God rest his soul who was a, a tremendous, tremendous analyst who wrote something called dow theory letters.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I, I used to read Richard voraciously and he talked about what this meant in terms of what policy was going to be going forwards and the policy going forwards was going to essentially be one of currency basement. It was gonna be policy driven, rate policy driven lower for longer.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And that was ultimately going to debase the currency. And it just made sense to me, it just made sense that that was really the tools they had left. And it made sense to me that over time, they were gonna reduce the purchasing power of the money, right? Because you, you have to inflate away this debt, the other options just aren’t palatable.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So I, you know, I looked at Gold there and I, and I, I’ve never cared about Gold before. I was aware of the Gold price and people used to talk about the Gold price, you know, when I was young in the industry, I know, oh, the Gold price I did, I had no understanding of Gold’s connection at the center of the monetary universe. None at all.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I started reading about it in the late late nineties, I guess early two thousands. Yeah, early two thousands. And, it just made sense to me. It just made sense to me and I, and I completely understand why it doesn’t do an awful lot of people because it’s, it’s a pet rock as people love to call it.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But there was that longevity and I, you know, I love history and the historical component to it made sense to me. So I, I remember buying my first Gold coin I bought, I wanted, I wanted to understand because one of the big kind of push backs against owning Gold was, oh, it’s difficult.

GRANT WILLIAMS: It’s complicated to do. It’s not like buying a stock. It’s, it’s, it’s difficult. So I want to test that and I’Ll, I’Ll never forget. I went and bought my first ounce of Gold Gold coin and I, I paid $333 for it and I handed over $333 in cash in return for Gold coin.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I’Ll never forget the feeling of handing over, you know, a bunch of paper and being given this little coin in your hand that, that is heavier than you think it is. So you kind of go, oh, there’s something about that, a visceral experience of understanding what something’s worth. Cos both these things were technically worth the same.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Right in one hand, I had these bits of paper that weighed nothing. They crump it up my back pocket and find them in drawers. Lying around the house down the back of the couch, whatever. And you hand this over and it doesn’t feel like anything and you get given something in return that’s supposedly worth the same.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But it’s dense and it’s heavy and it’s shiny and it’s beautiful and it’s, there’s work gone into it. Right. There’s, there’s a coin, it’s, it’s, it’s minted, it’s, and it’s something, there’s something about that and it won’t happen to everybody but it, it connected me with what money and wealth, how different they feel.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so anyway, so I, I, having done that and, and just noted in my head that, wow, there’s, there’s something about this that I don’t, I don’t understand. I don’t, I don’t get why I feel the way I do about this.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I just went down the rabbit and started reading and trying to understand it and, and my understanding as it developed, you know, I went through all the conspiracy theories and down all the rabbit holes and there’s a million of them in the Gold and silver markets and they’re fascinating stories and very interesting rabbit holes to go down.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But they missed the point and whether they’re right or wrong is kind of irrelevant. So I, I did them and I, I learned all about them and II, I believe that they’re not all false, but I’ve refused to get fixated on them all being true. Cos that doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But as my thinking evolved on it over the years, I came to think about Gold, unlike any other investment I’d ever made. And it was certainly not a trade to me and I think this is where a lot of people kind of missed the point or not miss a point. But, but certainly think about it differently to what I do. If you want to trade something and you choose Gold.

GRANT WILLIAMS: It’s a great thing to trade for a technician because it, it, it does swing around. It actually moves in both directions. It trends in both directions. It’s volatile. The charts are always pretty accurate. It tends to react well to chart patterns. It’s a good trading instrument.

GRANT WILLIAMS: What I wanted it for was very different. I didn’t want to trade it. I didn’t want to buy Gold and sell Gold and try and make a profit out of it because you can do that with Apple shares and Google and Japanese government bonds, right?

GRANT WILLIAMS: Instruments that don’t have anything really to them anymore. I mean, yes, it used to be that you owned a stake in Apple, the company, but I don’t think anyone who owns an Apple share really feels like a stakeholder in the company anymore.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But for me, Gold was a way to hold my liquidity reserve in an asset that would over time maintain its purchasing power. That was the important thing to me, as I say, when I understood that currency debasement was the way forward and, and inflating your way out of the debt. I realized that, you know, if I, if I save $10,000 and I stick it in a bank account yielding zero in 10 years time, I’Ll still have that $10,000.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But it’s gonna buy me nowhere near what it bought me when I put it in and over time. If you look at Gold over the very long-term, don’t forget most people are not very long-term investors. We we’ve become shorter and shorter in terms of our time horizons. Gold has performed that job very well.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So I wanted to own it as, as a liquidity reserve and as a, as a, as a protector of my purchasing power. And it’s done that and more since I started buying it in the early two thousands, as you say, since the turn of the century, it has outperformed equity markets which is great, but it’s not why I own it.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I never, I never focus on the price I never think about. Oh yeah, we’ve broken 2000 next up, 2.5 1000. I own that Gold as a way of holding my savings. And I only ever think in terms of exchanging that goal for something I want to own more.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And my belief is, and I always use this, excuse me, this example cos it’s such an easy one for people to get their heads around. But, you know, if, if, if 20 years ago I’d have had enough in Gold to buy, you know, not quite enough in Gold to, to buy AAA Harborside property in Sydney. And that’s what I really wanted was to live by the water in Sydney.

GRANT WILLIAMS: If my goal maintains its purchasing power along with the price of Sydney property, which it probably hasn’t quite in terms of that.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But, but, and this is exactly the point right in the real world, absent these inflated asset prices. Gold maintains its purchasing power. The inflated asset prices are absolutely dependent upon low interest rates and abundant liquidity for them to survive at, at those bubble levels.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And the Australian government, if you pay attention to Australia, which I do very, very closely, The Australian government is doing everything in its power to keep the property market high because so much of Australia’s wealth is tied up in that property market.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And it’s, they’re getting more and more desperate. But my point with the Gold is I own that Gold. I’m not looking at the price and I want to sell it. But if there’s a crash in property in Sydney, let’s say the RB A is forced to put rates up, it burst the property bubble.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Everyone’s a seller and Harbor front property in Sydney falls in half. I’m not expecting. But it’s the metaphor that we’re interested in here. Suddenly my Gold.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I can exchange it for that Harbour front house in Sydney, same amount of Gold. But at this, at this exchange rate, if you like, I want to own the property more. So I will happily give up my God. I’m not wedded to it, but I can exchange it, not sell it.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I can exchange it for that house for an asset. I wanna hold more. And that’s how I think about it And I think Gold does an incredible job of that. And as we go into 2024 that part aside as I wrote in that piece back in, in December.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And if any of your listeners would like a, a copy of that, I’m very happy to, to send it, send it to them.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I made the point that aside the purchasing power protection part of owning Gold, the big picture macro and geopolitical landscape is lining up in a very favorable way, not that the Gold price is gonna wanna go up, but the more people are gonna want to own Gold, it’s really important to make that distinction. Cos it’s not about the price.

GRANT WILLIAMS: There are more reasons for more people to want to own Gold because more currencies are being debated, more bond markets are being debated and more central banks are trying to own Gold in the wake of the sanctions placed on the Russian Central Bank. So the price takes care of itself if you have suddenly central banks for the last two years have bought more Gold in 2023.

GRANT WILLIAMS: We, we haven’t got the final numbers of 2023 in 2022 they bought more Gold that year than they had since records began 70 odd years ago. They were on track as I wrote that piece to do the same again in 2023. And these are the most price insensitive bars on the planet. They need to own Gold. They have a whole load of paper currencies in their reserves.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And they have realized we need to have more Gold and less dollars because if we happen to upset the US, they could sanction us and like the Russians and, and seize our assets. So we need to own Gold and not only they are pricing sensitive but guess what? They can print the money to buy the golf. Isn’t that great? If I could do that, it would be fantastic. So you just have this incredible set up.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And again, I wanna be choose my words very carefully. You have this incredible set up where more people are gonna want and need to own Gold.

GRANT WILLIAMS: What that does to the price I believe will take care of itself because you cannot like unlike bonds and unlike currencies, you cannot just open the spigots up and print more Gold. It has to be dug out of the ground. And again, I go into this in another piece how difficult it’s gotten to, to get Gold out of the ground.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So there is a really constructive reason to be bullish Gold as a trader to be, to wanna own it as protection against currency debasement and to benefit from increased demand against the backdrop of very fixed increase in supply. So I, I think 2024 is gonna be a very good year for Gold.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I, and I, you know, some people call me a Gold bug. I, I very rarely come out and pound the table and say, I think now’s the time to buy Gold. I always want our own Gold in different percentages of my portfolio as a liquidity reserve. But I think 2024 it’s going to be a year where an awful lot more people want to ungo.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: It’s very, very well explained. I, although it’s personally quite painful to me, the, the Harbor side, Sydney Harbor side property comparison is a very good one. It’s painful to me because about 20 years ago, funnily enough.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: My then girlfriend and I were in Sydney and we thought, oh, maybe we should buy one of these and I, I, oh man, you know, no, I just thought the logistics, you know, of owning a property on the other side of the world, didn’t, it just was too, too complicated.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So I didn’t bother. I always thought that, you know, there were always, there are always opportunities in the stock market. This is a story of, of my life. I, I had, my brother is very much richer than me because he’s owned property.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: But, I borrowed and I never like, I never like gearing. But now listen, you have the most amazing podcast for, I don’t think you disclose your subscriber numbers, but a paid podcast is incredible. You crossed 1 million downloads in five months. You were in, you may not know this. You were in the top 100 of all UK podcasts. Did you know that?

GRANT WILLIAMS: I mean, that’s quite.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Astonishing for a paid only podcast, which is in the top 0.5% podcast globally. You’ve done, I don’t know, 100 and 30 odd episodes which I mean, isn’t actually long established. I mean, Barry Ritholtz, who was on the show a while back, he’s coming up to number 500 but you’ve been incredibly successful. Why is that?

GRANT WILLIAMS: Ii, I, I honestly don’t know. And I think that, that, that maybe part of the, the reason to be honest because I never set out, I never set out to make a business out of it. I never set out to have a podcast to be perfectly honest with you. I, I was bored in, in COVID lockdown just like everybody else was.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I’m sitting in the Cayman Islands stuck on this island, unable to leave, unable to go out of my house, except for an hour a day for weeks on end. But curious about the world, you know, this, this new world that we’re in, what does it mean? What’s happening? Ii, I don’t understand it.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I know going back to that network of people that I’ve built over the years all around the world, I know that there are plenty of smart people out there. And so I was, I was talking to my friends with email or phone or, you know, whatever, just trying to kick ideas around it and understand what was happening.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I just, I was sitting there one day on Zoom talking to a friend of mine. I thought, you know, so interesting what this guy had to say, I think, you know, other people would probably be interested in listening to this. So I, I set up a week of free public Zoom course and I, you know, II, I had the letter that I’ve been writing for a long time, so I had an audience but I put this thing out on social media.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I emailed my, my reader to say, look, I’m gonna, I’m gonna do a week of these. It’s gonna be three o’clock, I think it was or two o’clock eastern every day. It’ll be a live one hour conversation and just join in on Zoom if you wanna watch it.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I did those II, I called five friends up and said, hey, look what you do now with them and of course, it was perfect because they were all locked down as well. So, yeah, great. So I did this week and I, and I really enjoyed it. We had loads of questions coming in and people live and, you know, great feedback and it was wonderful and, and I, and on the Friday I finished up.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So it was really interesting. Thanks very much everybody for watching. That was it. And, and I had no plans to do anything else. And the kind of weeks went by and I got tons of emails from people saying really enjoyed those. Are you gonna do any more of those? Are you gonna do any more of them? I’m still stuck in the came on.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So, about three or four months later, I said, I’Ll do another week, just get bored and I’Ll do another week of it. So I called five more friends and I set up another week of these things and a couple of them were kind of panel discussions and, and again, just, I just thought to myself, who are the people that I most wanna talk to about this?

GRANT WILLIAMS: I didn’t think, ah, who does the audience? Who’s a big name that the audience were coming through? It was like, who am I really interested? Whose opinions do I wanna hear? Whose thoughts I wanna hear? And I put that week together and we sat down and we talked about all these different aspects of COVID and investing and how the world had changed.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And end of the second week, I said it’s been great. Thanks very much for everybody.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I’m off and I got twice the number of emails coming back saying, are you gonna do any more of those? And I thought, oh yeah, I’m not gonna do any more of them. It just seems like the world was starting to open up a bit and I, you know, I was going to be able to travel again.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so someone said to me, I forget who said, well, why, why don’t you do a podcast? Why don’t you do like a, a weekly podcast or something? I kind of thought that it might be fun. I’m, you know, I’m, I’m interested in talking to these people. So I looked into like the logistics of it all and I thought, yeah, fine, I’Ll do, I’Ll do it.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So I started doing this podcast just for fun. And I would do again. I never wanted to say I’m gonna do one every Tuesday at five o’clock. It was, if an interesting conversation comes up, I’Ll, I’Ll record it and I’Ll, I’Ll, I’Ll put it out there.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So I did that and it went out on itunes and it was, you know, free and I, and I know it got into some charts because people used to send me this, I don’t know how to look for itunes chart. I don’t know how it works, but people send me oh yeah, you’re number X in this chart, which is great.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And then more, I got more and more questions. Could you speak to this person? Could you do one with this person? And I found myself, I wasn’t just getting people on that. People said, could you interview them? I would say, oh OK. Let me look at that point. Oh yeah, that might be interesting.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Or that person that’s not really what I’m interested in, but there were only conversations I was interested in and, and this, this thing mushroomed and it, and it just became, it started taking up more and more, more time and I loved it. I really, really enjoyed it. They were fascinating conversations and I took something away from each of them.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But I it reached a point where I thought, look, I only have a finite amount of time on my hands and I’m gonna be traveling and everyone tells me that this, this is an invaluable resource.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So I thought, you know, I’m just gonna test the market and if it’s something people want to pay for, if it really is valuable to people, they’ll pay a nominal fee for it. And if, if everyone says which I fully expect them to, this is invaluable. It’s gonna be $10 a month. Yeah, I’ve got other things to do with my time which I fully expected to have, make no bones about it.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I thought great Well, it’s, it’s not valuable to people. They, they’ve enjoyed it. I totally get why. But my time is incredibly valuable to me. It’s the most valuable thing I have. And so I’m not doing this because I wanna be AAA an influencer or a personality. I’m doing it cos I’m curious about the world. There are plenty of other ways for me to indulge that curiosity. So I, I, you know, said this is what I’m gonna do.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I had no idea if it was gonna work or not and it worked, it, it worked, it went, I, I put it on a table and enough people pay for it to make it stand on its own 2 ft. And it’s kind of carried on from there. And I’ve, you know, like I said, I still don’t do a regular episode.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I’ve got several different shows that I do with friends of mine as collaborators, all of them with a very different kind of theme. But I, we do them as, and when there’s something to talk about, you know, I, I think I put eight podcasts out in December.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I had so many interesting opportunities to talk to people and I just figured, look, I’m gonna, I’m gonna have these conversations when they come up and if the audience catch up on them in January, that’s fine. But if I say to someone, actually, I’ve, I’ve already got one this month. Can you do it? In January and he goes, oh, I’m busy in January. Let’s do it in February. You miss a chance.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So, you know, II, I think I did one or two in November and eight in December. And that’s, that’s always the way it would be. I will never say it’s, it’s gonna be a podcast. Cos then you get to the point of God, I need someone to talk to for next. Find me. Anybody. Well, that’s why I work because I’ve promised to deliver a conversation.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I, that makes, that makes, that’s no surprise to me if I’m here to fill a quota, I, I understand completely.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So, has anybody refused, has anybody refused to come in your show?

GRANT WILLIAMS: I haven’t had anybody, I don’t think outright refuse. I’ve had some people I’ve had to cajole famously, my dear friend and mentor Tony Dean, who I spent three years playing Jedi mind tricks on to try and get him to sit down and do an interview with me, which he graciously accepted.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Thank God. And it’s, and it’s to this day still the, the, the, the single piece of video or audio content that I’ve created that I get the most emails about where are we? It’ll be six years ago, six years ago, next week we filmed that conversation, Tony.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Deen Deden.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And there’s a video if you search my name and Tony’s on YouTube, you’ll find a video that we recorded during my rear vision days.

GRANT WILLIAMS: It’s two hours and 25 minutes long, which seems incredibly daunting to a lot of people. And indeed, when I filmed it and I edited it down to two hours 25 minutes, I got into a big fight with the guys at rear vision. So you can’t put a two hour 25 you know, all our content at that point have been an hour in length at maximum, most of it, you know, 30 minutes long.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I said this is just too good. I’m not gonna chop another second out of this. Ii, I hated whittling it down to 2025. This content is just too good. I refuse to do it. And I, and I, I said this is a hill, I’m gonna die. I will, I will stand by this.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And, and so I won that argument and we put this piece out and I was, you know, hiding behind the couch doctor who style terrified of what was gonna happen when this piece came out. And I, I, and I, and I only cared that that Tony was happy with it cos he’d done me a real favor by agreeing to do this. I mean, he didn’t want to do it at all. So all I really cared about.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I didn’t want the comments to be 2025 a guy I’ve never heard of. Why would I watch that kind of thing. That was, that was my fear. So we, we posted this thing at whatever midnight on a certain night it was. And, you know, I, I kind of wake up the next morning and start looking at the comments kind of like this and a a and actually got quite tearful because the, the comments were extraordinary.

GRANT WILLIAMS: They were, you know, this is amazing. This is the most thought provoking thing I’ve ever listened to. Why, why was it only two hours? 25? And, and you know that, that that conversation and the comments, you know, it’s up on YouTube and YouTube is a place where I in any video.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I think it’s very difficult to find a video where if you, if you scroll about an inch down the comments and it’s already turned into a cess pit, right? Of people who’s this guy, you don’t know what you’re talking about. No, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Why, you know, it’s just a cess pit.

GRANT WILLIAMS: The video of Tony sharing his thoughts, just sharing his thoughts about the world. He’s not making predictions, he’s not giving you investment advice, he’s sharing a philosophy.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And a way of looking at the world that is so profound and you could scroll down those comments all day and there are thousands of them. It’s had I think 2 million views or something on YouTube. Now you can scroll down those comments, you know, until you fall asleep and you won’t find a negative comment, which is extraordinary.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And that’s testament to Tony purely and simply to Tony Deon, his, his his character, his integrity, and his, and his, his view of the world and, and how he manages to distill very complex world into a set of very simple principles and, and an awful lot of wisdom.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so, you know, that’s always been what I’ve been interested in is, is, is having these conversations with people. So Tony took me three years to persuade him to sit in front of a camera and, and record that conversation with me. He w he hasn’t done it. He won’t do any more media. He did one more podcast with me.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Again, when I, when I launched the service, Tony kindly agreed to podcast with me, but I know cos he’s a dear friend of mine. I know how he’s returned down every single request very politely that he’s ever had for a podcast. And he said to me, I, I won’t do anymore, but I said I’m not interested in doing them.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So I’ve had a few people that I’ve had to gently take my time and persuade to come and talk to me eventually. And, there’s a few of them that I haven’t gotten to, to acquiesce quite yet. But, but if any of them listen in, I won’t give up, I’m gonna keep asking you very politely every now and again.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Because I just think I just think, you know, people have these experiences that are just too valuable to let, to let die, you know, interesting Steve. I, I went to France, I had a few days off, a couple of months ago and I went to France. My father lives in France and I went to France and I took Franz, who’s the guy that I work with when I film these videos, my cameraman, editor director, he’s a genius.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I mean, the guy is just so good at what he does. And I love him like a brother. And I said to him, look, he was in Belgium at the time. He’s from Belgium. And I said, can I borrow you for four days? And I flew him to France and we went to see my father and I sat down with my father and I recorded a 3.5 hour interview with my father just about his life.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Not for anybody else but for, for me and my brother and my kids and my grandkids because you know, my grandfather, my father’s father died before I was born. I never knew him. And my grandfather who I adored when I was a kid. I didn’t know his story. I didn’t know his life.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so I wanted to get this story of my fathers down for generations. I mean, I, I maybe they’re not interested. I don’t know, but at least if they are, they can hear about what life was like in, in the war in Great Britain. And my, my dad’s 85 this year. So he was born right in the start of World War Two and was evacuated and spent his whole war up in Burnley of all places.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But just hearing what the world was like in the forties, fifties, sixties, seventies eight and through it was fascinating. And I, and I think this, this idea of telling stories, everyone’s so fixated on investment advice and actionable ideas.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, the word actionable makes the head in the back of my neck stick up because everything’s actionable, right? What people mean by actionable ideas is spoon fed ideas. Every single thing is actionable. Everything you’ve heard us talk about in this conversation is actionable.

GRANT WILLIAMS: If you sit down and take the time to think about what’s been said and how it applies to your own life. And so I’m not interested in stock tips. I’m not interested in you and I talking about, hey, what should we buy today? Because depending on your editing schedule, this might get released on Monday.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Let’s say if you and I were talking about stock recommendations, anything could have happened, the company could have gone bust, the company could have doubled and people will listen to this and take that as a moment in time. Oh, so and so said to buy this company, they look at the price, they buy the company.

GRANT WILLIAMS: What do I do now? And it’s just, you might, you might get rich, you might lose all your money. And if you get rich, you’re gonna think you’re a genius. And if you lose all your money, you’re gonna wanna blame the guy on the podcast who told you to buy it. Right.

GRANT WILLIAMS: That’s just, it’s human nature. That’s not a detriment to anybody. That’s how we all function. So I, I’m just so I have such a strong belief that talking about experiences and philosophies and how you see the world and why you see the world that way rather than what you see is timeless and, and provides people with a window into, people’s, mindset and people’s careers that is valuable over time.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so, you know, that’s, that’s really what I love to do is, is sit down with people and talk about their careers and find the points in those careers where they’ve encountered either triumph or disaster and pick apart.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Ok. What happened? Why did you react to what you do? What did you decide to do? Why did you decide to treat it that way? Because that way people can apply those lessons to their own life and they’re, they’re absolutely actionable.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: No, I completely, I completely share that sentiment. I totally agree. And what a wonderful thing to do to film with your dad. That must be.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Oh, God, I’m so lucky. I was so lucky. And France is France is a genius and my dad’s a lovely, a lovely old duffer. What did your dad do? He did a, he did a bunch of things. He was in the army after World War Two. For a little while, conscription. He was in Germany driving a scout car and he he worked for a bunch of industries in industrial companies and ended up being the company secretary for a, for a merchant bank.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And then, and then he set up a recruitment firm, a financial recruitment firm. So he’s done a bunch of different things and, and you know, as a kid, your parents, they’re around you and you, you kind of know what your dad does a bit.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But what do you really know about their lives and what do you really know about, what, what they’ve been through? You know, and, and, and I think for everybody, you don’t have to, you don’t have to take AAA Bald Belgian Vin Diesel look alike cameraman with you to do this. Get your iphone out and sit down and, and ask your parents to tell us. Just tell me a story.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Tell me about your life and you don’t people think, oh, right. I need to have all this list of questions you don’t. It’s a conversation, ask a question. Tell me about when you were born and whatever occurs to you to ask them when they say something that you’re curious about, follow that rabbit hole, ask them the question and, you know, it’s, it’s amazing.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, I, you look around what’s happening and, and I think I said this to my dad when we were having this conversation. She said, you know, my dad, my dad’s an old man now, right? He’s 85. He’s in incredibly good health and his, his, his disposition is extraordinary. He’s just a wonderful, wonderful human being and I love him to death.

GRANT WILLIAMS: But he’s an old man. He’s, he’s, he turned 85 a couple of days ago.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And when I watched footage on, on CNN or whatever, it was a few weeks back, a couple of months back, maybe of, of people smashing windows of Jewish cafes in Paris in the middle of the day.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I was horrified and I’m thinking, how can we possibly be here again? How can we be here again? That this is ok. This is, it just makes no sense to me. And that was when I thought about this thing with my dad cos I realized at the time my dad’s 85 and he was born in 1939.

GRANT WILLIAMS: He was born at the outbreak of World War Two. So he doesn’t remember World War Two. He was, he was, you know, whatever, five years old, six years old when war ended and he came back down to meet basically meet his parents for the first time.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So he doesn’t remember the war. He doesn’t remember the thirties and the rise of kind of, fascism in Germany and the rise of Hitler. He doesn’t remember them.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So the stories of what happened are gone and when we lose those stories and when we don’t teach history anymore and we don’t teach those stories to people. Of course, we forget them. Of course, the kids out there smashing up windows because it seems like the cool woke trendy thing to do.

GRANT WILLIAMS: If they understood what happened in 19 thirties in Germany, there’s no way they would do that, but they don’t. And so I think these stories that we, we have to kind of perpetuate are important and they’re important to get them down. They’re important to preserve them, they’re important to pass them on.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Because, you know, ee everything is cyclical and, and, you know, my friend Neil Howe wrote this tremendous book before turning. If nobody’s read it, I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. It was written in 1997 published in 97 by Neil and his partner, late Bill Strauss.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And it was a look at the generational cycles of humanity and, and when you read that book and in 1997 they basically said, I’m paraphrasing slightly but they said, you know, that the fourth turning, which is a time of crisis and happens every 80 years will begin roughly in 2008, it’ll probably begin with a financial crisis and it will culminate in some kind of conflict or war of some sort.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And so, you know, these cycles repeat and it’s only by preserving the stories, it’s only by people understanding the actions and the intents of the people that went before that we can avoid making the same mistakes again.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I, like, I don’t expect us to do it but to sit idly by and say, well, it’s not even worth capturing your stories because it’s not gonna make any difference. Just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do to me. No, absolutely not.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Before you go, I just want to talk a little bit about the newsletter because I was curious, you, you started that some years ago when you were still working at hedge fund, what made you do that?

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: It seems like, you know, working at a hedge fund is quite stressful. I mean, the last thing I, I mean, I, when I was working at hedge funds, I barely read any books. I mean, I, it was just like an all consuming affair. I had no bandwidth for anything.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I wrote it while I was at hedge fund. I didn’t start it at hedge fund. I started it when I was working for a company called BT IG. And it was, it was really, it was, it was much shorter. The format has changed over the years.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And it’s become much more, much more involved in detail, but it was a, it was basically a daily collection of stories that were flying under the radar that you wouldn’t. If you were just relying on C NBC and the BBC and CNN to get your news, you wouldn’t have seen these stories.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And this was kind of the early days of the internet and Zero Hedge and all these kind of gonzo finance sites that were publishing some really interesting stuff actually at the time and I would, I would go through all this stuff, very, very early in the morning, you know, 34 in the morning I’d be sifting through trying to find interesting stories that I thought, oh, that’s interesting.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, I, that, that might mean something, hence the title, you know, things that make you go home because all these articles that I would send people were things that I, I thought two things, one that they’d be curious and interested in them.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And secondly, they would be able to use those stories and the information contained in them to sound smarter to their bosses like, 00, did you know that this is going on in, you know, we ULA battle?

GRANT WILLIAMS: Because I knew that if, if I could provide people with something that was interesting, but also they could use that information however they wanted to use it, it would be, it would be valuable to them in terms of the time spent reading it. And that’s, that was really my only desire. I don’t want to be a waste of anybody’s time.

GRANT WILLIAMS: So that’s how it started. And, and I just II, I left that job and, and, on my last day I was taking a month off before I joined. On the f, on my last day I wrote to everybody on the list. It, it, it grows organically. There was, I don’t know, maybe five or 600 people on the list at that point. And it literally started off with like 10 mates.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I wrote to them and I said, look, this has been great fun. I’m leaving. I’m joining such and such a firm in a month. Here’s my personal email stand out. It’s been a great ride. Thanks for all your business and all conversations, et cetera, what whatever. And I went to the pub with my mates.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Our mutual friend, Steve Conway, I think was, was among them.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And and when I got home later that evening, I had all these emails from people saying, you know, first of all, congratulations on the job and good luck, blah, blah, blah. But they all said if you resurrect this mailings at your new place, can you please make sure you include me, include me on it?

GRANT WILLIAMS: Which I I thought was really interesting. And so I, I had this month off, I wasn’t going around. I had my daughter with me. I was, you know, she was at school so I wasn’t taken off for a month or anything. And so I just kept doing it every day because I wanted to stay current what was going on.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, it was, it took me a few hours in the morning, but it was, you know, three till six in the morning when no one was awake anyway. So I just kept doing it myself just to stay current and to stay engaged. And then, you know, it, it from there, I took it to my next firm with me and I, and I said to them, look, II, I do this thing.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I’m happy if you want me to do it to send to our client or if you don’t want me to do it, I don’t mind. It’s either way but it’s there if you want to use it. And I did and then, and then I got fired over it, which is a whole other story for another day.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And went back to so I stopped publishing it because cos I got fired over it and then I was out of work for a number of months trying to fight a big lawsuit against this company. And I thought screw. Why am I not doing this? I, I enjoy it. I’Ll just start doing it again. So I started doing it again just for fun and doing it once a week.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I would send it out on a Saturday and John Malden found it and picked it up and contacted me and said, hey, look, I’d love to distribute this to my readers. It’s such an interesting piece and that was, that was it. That was the makings of a letter and the makings of a business.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, I owe John, I owe John so much for his, for his kindness in distributing that and he’s become a dear friend over the years. And again, you know, it just accidentally became a business thing. I didn’t set out to do it for any reason other than I found it interesting and, and I think that’s the best way, do anything. You know, if you, if you’re interested in something, it just never feels like work.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: No. Absolutely. I, I mean, I completely echo that in my new role, the stuff that I’m doing is enjoyable.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Makes a difference.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: So I’m conscious of your time. I normally ask people to recommend a book. Do you feel like recommending a book?

GRANT WILLIAMS: I can recommend you tons of books. I yeah, I read a lot of books. But the only problem I have is recommending one book. That’s the only problem I have.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You know, there’s a, there’s a couple of books that I, that I always recommend because I, I just think they’re that good one is The Lords of Finance by Lera Ahmed.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Which is a, a great account of the central bankers of the 19 thirties and, and all the conditions and, and the, and the more we go through this fourth turning, the more that book becomes a useful handbook for the times we’re in a useful way to understand the forces putting at central banks. I would absolutely urge you to read that book.

GRANT WILLIAMS: Another book that I love to recommend is a book called a Gentleman in Moscow by a guy called Amor Towles. Tow Les. It’s a, it’s a fictional novel, but it’s, it’s set in and after the Russian revolution about a count who who was imprisoned in a hotel in Moscow. And it’s just, it’s just a beautifully written, beautifully written story.

GRANT WILLIAMS: It’s the first book in many, many years since I was a kid that I finished. I turned the last page. It wasn’t a disappointment, which is, you know, you know, you get that fear as you approach the end of a great book. So please stick the landing and he did and I turned straight back to the first page and started reading it again. It was such a wonderful story.

GRANT WILLIAMS: I would again urge people to read The Fourth Turning by Neil Howe and William Strauss and Neil last year or earlier this year. Oh, yeah. Last year I can tell that now published a sequel. The Fourth Turning is here.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And I think those two books are incredibly important for people to, to read and understand.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And then I’Ll give you two more The Guns of August by Barbara Quin, which is the build up to World War One, which is AAA, just an incredible historical document.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And the book I read recently for fun, which I don’t get much time to do these days, but I’ve recently read Alan Snap’s, live and let die about the, the live golf tour and the PGA tour, which, which I found really, really enjoyable if you like golf. It’s a really good read. It’s just a, it’s just a fun read. It’s a very easy read. And, and I loved it. How’s that? There’s a few there for you.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: I, I’Ll link to them in the show notes. I, I didn’t want to touch on sports because I believe you are a Manchester United supporter.

GRANT WILLIAMS: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, I’m a Fulham fan, lifelong Fulham fan. And, and there is nothing in this world that would either change my allegiance and nothing I love more than, going to row cot and watching them play.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: All right. Well, you need to let us know when you’re next going. My, my elder boys are sadly a Manchester United fan, but Fulham is the closest ground where you can watch some decent football from, from our film. Tell us, tell people where they can find.

GRANT WILLIAMS: You in person. Very difficult. I’m always moving around the place, but on the internet, you’ll find everything you need to know at Grant Dash, Williams.com and my Twitter account if you’re interested in that, which less and less people are on that platform these days. You’ll find me at TT Mygh, which is just the acronym of things that make you go Grant.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: It’s been a delight, a pleasure to, to talk to you. I didn’t open with this. But I don’t know if you’re aware, I mean, you know, I have read, I don’t know how many thousands of pieces of research in my life and the one piece of research that I have picked up read and it has made me money and I’m sure there have been pieces of research that have made me money laterally.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: But very few pieces of research saying by XYZ, have I ever paid any attention to probably to my detriment?

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: But you wrote about a vote that was taking place in one of the Swiss Cantons as to whether the Swiss Central Bank Reserve should be backed by Gold. And I thought, oh, Crikey, if that goes the right way, the Swiss Franc is gonna be four up.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And if you remember at the time, the Swiss was, was pegged to the Euro. And I thought that’s really stupid because Swiss Franc’s worth more than what I can buy it at. It’s a no risk trade. And there were a lot of people shorting the Swiss Franc.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And of course, they, it was, it was kind of the inverse of the Bank Of England. And sadly, I didn’t have as much money as George Soros. But I put, I put, I, I mean, I put, what was then, you know, a serious six figure song into the Swiss Franc.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And two months later I came in one morning and the guy opposite me was pale and he said, you never guess what’s happened, what’s happened? The Swiss the Swiss Franc.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And I immediately, I phoned up, I picked up the phone to my bank and I said, sell 100 grand of the Swiss E I and the guy looked at me, I was the, you know, the rest of the day was more complicated as I tried to extricate my clients from various Nestle and Roche holdings and that was a bit of a, but so I thank you for doing this and thank you for writing a brilliant, brilliant newsletter and having a really amazing podcast.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Hopefully, we shall see each other next time you’re in England.

GRANT WILLIAMS: And thanks again, mate. Anytime. Always a pleasure, Steve and I, I’Ll talk to you soon. Take care.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: Well, I hoped you enjoyed that as much as I did. Grant and I were introduced by my good friend Jonathan Tepper and Grant then arranged for me to be interviewed in rear vision and that led to my doing several shows for them. Grant had me in his podcast and that immediately generated significant business for my online school.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: And he even let me contribute to his newsletter, things that made you go. Last year. So apart from my gains in the Swiss Frank, I have a lot to thank Grant for and particularly for doing this podcast. The takeaways for me were one watch Japan, two watch treasuries carefully and three keep on top of what’s happening through Grant’s work.

STEPHEN CLAPHAM: You won’t often hear me recommending another podcast, but 10 bucks a month is stupidly good value for his content. If you enjoyed this episode, please tell your friends share it on social media and please leave a review or a five star rating on Apple podcasts or Spotify. That really helps. Thank you for listening.