“Was the Diocesan decision to borrow and gear up their investments a wise decision? Was it shrewd? Were other people doing the same thing? Were they advising further gearing up, not for individual assets but the extension of already diversified portfolios?
Hindsight is always a wonderful thing, but to my way of thinking any exposure of that magnitude can’t help but suggest a lack of wisdom in an organisation’s investment strategy. Plenty of people have been stung in the past year, but not that badly: the diocese didn't just gear up, they geared up bigtime. Granted, since the diocese hasn’t made their asset/loss ratio public it’s hard to accurately put the loss into perspective, but let’s not lose sight of the reality that from any perspective $100 million is a bloody huge amount of money. So big that I refuse to believe the people to whom it ultimately belonged – the Anglican parishioners of Sydney – have a right to know more details than they’ve so far been told.
I believe there’s something very wrong about the wall of silence that followed the loss. Rumours have been circulating for over six months, and yet it took a journalist from the Sydney Morning Herald to start investigating the matter before most parishioners new anything. Late last year clergy were advised of a reduction in available funding for the coming year, but other than this there was nothing.
Were the Diocese a publically listed company Australian law would have required the leadership to make a public announcement immediately upon learning about this loss. But it’s not, and they didn’t. One might hope that as Christians they’d have had a natural inclination towards transparency and disclosure, but that’s certainly not how it appears from the way things they’ve been handled to date. Rumour (and the size of the loss) suggests investments were being made in products like Macquarie Bank’ Fortress Notes, or even the spectacularly “Queensland” (sorry to my Brisbane friends – but it’s hard not to notice the stereotype ;-) Storm Financial. The truth is even seasoned Sydney watchers like myself simply don’t know what was going on.
Maybe all will be revealed in Synod, and maybe I’m just a hopeless cynic, but past observation has taught me not to hold my breath. I’ll be happy to wager a bottle of wine against anyone who thinks I’ll be proven wrong – but that would be gambling, wouldn’t it? Even though it’s a bet I’ll be praying I lose.