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The Slow and Steady passive portfolio update: Q1 2013

The portfolio is up 9.93% on the year (to date).

Well now, it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that the markets have been dancing a merry jig since our last check-up in January. Clap your hands and say, “Yeah!”

Everywhere you turn it’s good news, if you like drawing ‘up’ arrows on your graphs:

  • Our US fund has leapt 20% since the start of the year.
  • The UK allocation swelled nearly 10% with Europe not far behind.
  • Even Japan climbed out of the red to put on 17%. Roll those printing presses.
  • The worst news we had to bear is that our Gilt fund could only manage a 0.25% gain over the last quarter. Not bad considering the hysteria about bond time bombs. Can’t hear any ticking… must be a good sign.

In raw numbers, our little portfolio is up over 17% on purchase, and we’re sitting on a £1,500 cash gain – considerably better than last quarter’s £600.

The portfolio tracker has got more complicated since we've sold several funds. The red annotations show you which funds we still hold.

The portfolio tracker has spawned complications now that we’ve swapped some funds. The funds inside the red boxes are the ones we still hold.

The Slow and Steady portfolio is Monevator’s model passive investing portfolio. It was set up at the start of 2011 with £3,000 and an extra £750 is invested every quarter into a diversified set of index funds, heavily tilted towards equities. You can read the origin story and catch up on all the previous passive portfolio posts here.

It’s impossible not to feel good about the gains even though we know that a rising market is making our next purchases more expensive.

Without doubt, sober-me prefers to buy shares when they’re cheap, but I’m also the kind of chimp who loves a bit of short-term success. I’m sure I’ve been warned about people like me in the behavioural economics books.

Luckily our passive plan is a straitjacket for the senses, or else we’d probably do something daft like sell our gilt funds.

Portfolio management

OK, fun time is over. Now we’ve got to re-enter the world of faffdom that is post-RDR brokers.

Last time, I sold up the majority of our retail funds because online broker TD Direct was touting cheaper clean class funds with nary a sniff of platform fees.

Well, it didn’t take long to discover I’d fallen for the cheap perfume of teaser marketing.

TD will be charging 0.35% platform fees on all funds from August. That means they’re knocked into a cocked hat by the best of our broker comparison table.

So what to do now?

I’ve decided to hold off on a wholesale bail from TD.

That’s because further upheaval is nigh. A decision is due shortly on the banning of commission for execution-only brokers.

  • If commission is reprieved then any Slow and Steady style portfolio worth under £46,000 would be best off going back to the way things were. That means investing in retail class index funds free from trading fees or platform fees, bought from a platform like Cavendish Online.
  • If commission is axed then everything is chucked up in the air again. Existing commission-troughing brokers will have until some point in 2014 to bedazzle us with new offerings.

Some industry insiders think we’ll enter a confusing twilight world where commission morphs into fund unit rebates rather than straight cash rebates.

Whatever, it seems unlikely that the best broker and portfolio selection I could make now will still be the best in a few months. Rather than continue to chop and change, we’ll assess the situation again at the next Slow and Steady update.

If you must invest straightaway then you can use the broker comparison table and these portfolio calculations to make a good decision now.

Even if your broker isn’t topping the best-buy tables, you’re better off waiting to see the lie of the land over the next six months than being a broker tart who gets whammy-ed with exit fees on multiple occasions.

All that said, I am going to sell out of the L&G Global Emerging Markets R fund in exchange for the L&G Global Emerging Markets I fund that’s now available with TD Direct.

It’s the same fund but a different share class that more than halves the Ongoing Charge Figure (OCF) from 1.06% to 0.52%.

As our funds are snugly tucked away in an ISA, there aren’t any capital gains tax issues to worry about, and even if there were, our gain is too tiny to trouble our CGT allowance anyway.

New transactions

Every quarter we lob an additional £750 into the maw of the market. Our cash is divided between the funds as per their target asset allocations.

We use Larry Swedroe’s 5/25 rule to trigger rebalancing moves, but all’s quiet this quarter.

UK equity

Vanguard FTSE U.K. Equity Index Fund – OCF 0.15% (Stamp duty 0.5%)
Fund identifier: GB00B59G4893

New purchase: £112.50
Buy 0.63 units @ 17751p

Target allocation: 15%

Developed World ex UK equities

Split between four funds covering North America, Europe, the developed Pacific and Japan1.

Target allocation (across the following four funds): 51%

North American equities

Vanguard U.S. Equity Index Fund – OCF 0.2%
Fund identifier: GB00B5B71Q71

New purchase: £187.50
Buy 0.91 units @ 20523p

Target allocation: 25%

European equities excluding UK

Vanguard FTSE Developed Europe ex-UK Equity Index fund – OCF 0.25%
Fund identifier: GB00B5B71H80

New purchase: £90
Buy 0.6 units @ 15074p

Target allocation: 12%

Japanese equities

HSBC Japan Index C – OCF 0.23%
Fund identifier: GB00B80QGN87

New purchase: £52.50
Buy 73.75 units @ 71.19p

Target allocation: 7%

Pacific equities excluding Japan

HSBC Pacific Index C – OCF 0.31%
Fund identifier: GB00B80QGT40

New purchase: £52.50
Buy 19.38 units @ 270.9p

Target allocation: 7%

OCF down from 0.36% to 0.31%

Emerging market equities

Legal & General Global Emerging Markets Index Fund R – OCF 1.06%
Fund identifier: GB00B4MBFN60

Sell: £1005.53

Replaced by

Legal & General Global Emerging Markets Index Fund I – OCF 0.52%
Fund identifier: GB00B4KBDL25

New purchase: £1080.53
Buy 2144.76 units @ 50.38p

Target allocation: 10%

OCF down from 1.06% to 0.52%

UK Gilts

HSBC UK Gilt Index C – OCF 0.17%
Fund identifier: GB00B80QG383

New purchase: £180
Buy 151.13 units @ 119.1p

Target allocation: 24%

OCF down from 0.18% to 0.17%

New investment = £750

Trading cost = £0

Platform fees = £0

Average portfolio OCF = 0.23% down from 0.29%

Finally – if all this seems too much like hard work then you can always buy a diversified portfolio using an all-in-one fund like Vanguard’s LifeStrategy series.

Take it steady,

The Accumulator

  1. You can simplify the portfolio by choosing the do-it-all Vanguard FTSE Developed World Ex-UK Equity index fund instead of the four separates. []
{ 44 comments… add one }
  • 1 diy investor (uk) April 2, 2013, 11:34 am

    Thanks for the update TA, good to see the portfolio is making progress – looks like its put on around 10% this past 3 months which is good considering the weighting of gilts.

  • 2 BeatTheSeasons April 2, 2013, 12:52 pm

    Another change is that HMRC have decided to start charging tax on ‘loyalty bonuses’. Would that impact the decision about the best place to hold tracker funds?

  • 3 Jumper April 2, 2013, 1:07 pm

    > being a broker tart who gets whammy-ed with exit fees on multiple occasions…

    In the past year I have twice taken advantage of fee-free exits from brokers to move away from new charges. I estimate savings from this to be around £500/year. And if you have a larger portfolio, swallowing even £100 or so in exit fees could still be worthwhile even if you have to switch again in a year or so.

    For what it’s worth, so far Alliance Trust is the only fund platform I’m aware of that has said unequivocally that it does not believe in percentage-based fees. Good for them.

  • 4 David Stuart April 2, 2013, 1:16 pm

    So much negativity about financial markets these past few months–yet up 20%.

    These market traders who analyze very second of the day,TV financial analysts who contradict themselves on market direction anytime theres a triple pts loss any given day.

    You could of lived in a cave an come out of hibernation still ahead

    slow an steady passive porfolio is the way

  • 5 DIY Income Investor April 2, 2013, 2:32 pm

    That’s a good quarter’s work! It beats my own monkey-fingered effort.


    I have never been keen on ‘bonds’, because of the greedy fees and lack-lustre performance – but I could grow to like your Vanguard LifeStyle fund suggestion, particularly for people who are not really interested in investing (so that excludes most readers of your blog!)

    The US has just opened to an almost wholly green screen. The US does look like being the place to be – but the problem is that dollars are too expensive right now.

  • 6 Curious-Sarah April 2, 2013, 5:20 pm

    I am probably missing something you all understand clearly but why are there red boxes in the graphic? I see that it says “we swapped some funds” but why then are the ones that were swapped still there? Are they for comparison with the new funds or something?

    I’m sure there’s a good reason but it is a bit confusing to me, and I am easily confused!! 🙂

  • 7 Andrew Williams April 2, 2013, 5:49 pm


    The Accumulator has done some swapping around of his funds. The ones in red are the ones that he currently holds. The others (if you look at the first column, it says that there are 0.00 shares held) are the ones that he has ditched in the past. The swapping is to do with the fees associated with the funds; he has kept the allocation of the different sectors the same (apart from “lifestyling”, which is adjusting the proportion between equities and bonds as one gets older).

  • 8 The Accumulator April 2, 2013, 6:05 pm

    @ BeatTheSeasons – The HMRC decision shouldn’t make any difference to most passive investors as very few index funds ever paid trail commission. Some of the BlackRock ones do and L&G, but even then many brokers don’t pay it out. I’ve never received a rebate in my life.

    @ Jumper – Sippdeal and iii are possibilities too, but I agree, Alliance Trust is my pick too. Although if your portfolio is under 20K and in no danger of breaching that barrier then I’d take a look at Charles Stanley.

    @ Andrew – thank you, perfectly summed up. Hope that helps Sarah.

    @ DIY – Every now and then, when there’s some new RDR related twist, I do think ‘why don’t I just chuck the lot into a LifeStrategy fund?’

    Has anyone taken a look at the newish BlackRock Consensus index funds?

  • 9 Greg April 2, 2013, 6:32 pm

    I was not aware of the Consensus funds, but Blackrock do seem to do a cheaper EM tracker than the L&G one. This one recently highlighted by HL (of all people) claims to have a TER of 0.28%


    TD don’t seem to have it yet but they do have this, which seems very similar: (TER: 0.34%)
    “BlackRock Emerging Markets Eq Tkr D Acc”

    I think the V-LS funds make an excellent core or even complete portfolio, though they would make a pretty boring series!

  • 10 AnAdmirer April 2, 2013, 6:49 pm

    BlackRock Concensus looks expensive (A class, comparable cost to HSBC World Index, D class better but £100k min) and relatively opaque to me. Basically piggybacking on using index funds but with “active” asset allocation juggling. They seem woolly about how this actually works. No pie charts or hard stuff I could find in their brochures.

    BR are well placed commercially to take index portfolio funds (killer product) into Vanguard’s teeth but I suspect don’t want to go toe-to-toe with LifeStrategy (shame) purely on cost (unlikely to beat), and hence feel the need for some active “value add” – oh dear.

    Personally, if they (or anyone, please!!) had a plain/static index portfolio like LS for even the 0.5% zone, it would be well worth it for me to diversify off a single provider. But I am not interested in paying 0.6% + spread for their active “skill.”

    Looking at corrolation, charts say to me these products are roughly equivalent in performance terms, costs aside:

    BR C 60 ~ LS 40
    BR C 85 ~ LS 60

    But hard to tell long term as there is only a couple of months of data.

  • 11 Curious-Sarah April 2, 2013, 8:11 pm

    Thanks, I thought it was something like that. Does this mean they (the old ones) will not be there next time? When I change or sell my funds (or shares) they go from my account screen completely, so I don’t see “0 holdings” there afterwards. They just vanish!

  • 12 Lacy @EarnVerse April 2, 2013, 8:57 pm

    Very interesting to see a passive investment strategy from the perspective of someone outside of the US. Fascinating to look at the fund choices verses some of the more common names you see here like BlackRock, Vanguard, etc…but some of the same type of funds. Thank you for sharing.

  • 13 The Accumulator April 2, 2013, 9:29 pm

    @ Greg – great spot on the BlackRock Emerging Tracker D at TD. It doesn’t come up if you look for trackers on their Fund Quick Rank tool, but does if you search under Clean Funds.

    That fund is the cheapest I’ve seen that’s actually available to retail investors. It’s on Charles Stanley too, but seems to be spreading across the brokers who are selling Clean Class funds.

    HL are still stocking the much more expensive A class version. Trustnet are listing other share classes but they are most likely institutional and remain unavailable to us small fry (to the best of my knowledge!).

    @ AnAdmirer – odd that they aren’t going toe-to-toe because BlackRock’s D class versions of their index funds are now cheaper the Vanguard equivalents almost across the board. Certainly in every asset class covered by the Slow & Steady portfolio bar Gilts.

    @ Sarah – the screenshot is from MorningStar’s portfolio tracker not a brokerage account. You can use it to track your performance independently of your broker. The track record of the old funds won’t be removed or else the numbers won’t add up.

  • 14 The Accumulator April 3, 2013, 8:48 am

    I should add that anyone with TD Direct should take a look at the BlackRock Tracker D fund’s across the piece. The OCFs are very competitive now and on that basis alone I could have swapped most of the funds in the current Slow & Steady portfolio for the Tracker D equivalents.

    @ Lacy – you’re welcome. Vanguard have very much changed life for the better for UK passive investors since they arrived here a few years ago.

  • 15 Ian @SmarterSpending April 3, 2013, 12:48 pm

    I was actually reading your posts about the Vanguard LifeStrategy series yesterday. Would you still recommend using TD for this type of fund in light of their new 0.35% platform fee?

  • 16 The Accumulator April 3, 2013, 1:41 pm

    Hi Ian, no, I wouldn’t. I’d use Hargraves Lansdown (£2 per month fee for one LifeStrategy fund), or Charles Stanley Direct (0.25% fee) if your portfolio is under 10K and likely to stay there for a good few years.

  • 17 Geo April 3, 2013, 5:40 pm

    TD insisted to me they still won’t charging 0.35% for LifeStrategy, but I guess we’ll see about that. I’m reluctant to put more money into them at the moment which is a pain (some cash in hand) also switching could be costly. Who knows HL might put costs up at some point too. Nasty.

  • 18 Geo April 3, 2013, 5:43 pm


    Not tried it but BLK class D are shown as not ISA eligible on TD at the mo, but then TD system is a complete pain sometimes. They snazzed up their main facing site but left the backend in the 1990’s!

  • 19 Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle April 3, 2013, 10:58 pm

    Vanguard is very new to Canada and I am ready to make a purchase but I haven’t decided which fund I should fund so this week I am doing something very safe and boring and buying shares in a dividend paying Canadian bank – The Bank Of Nova Scotia. They have never missed paying a dividend since they were founded in the late 1800s.

    Banks are taking over my very small portfolio and will continue to do so in 2013.

  • 20 The Investor April 4, 2013, 11:27 am

    @Jane — Careful. 🙂 Lloyds Bank in the UK had something like a 300 year old dividend paying record, and now it pays zilch. I doubt things will get that bad in Canada — and sure you know better than I about the Canadian situation — but I do wonder if your economy dodged a bullet due to the resource boom that now seems to be running out of steam. You’ve certain had something of a house price bubble, for example.

  • 21 Jane Savers @ The Money Puzzle April 4, 2013, 1:11 pm

    House prices are down in Vancouver and condo sales are slowing in Toronto but we haven’t experienced and American style bubble. The government has tightened up the mortgage lending. Last month 2 banks tried to offer a ridiculously low short term mortgage interest rate and the finance minister’s office called them and told them to drop it.

    Did Lloyds get in trouble for over-reaching, stepping outside of what banks are supposed to do? Making extreme investments for instance?

    I do need to diversify my portfolio but I find there is not much I have confidence in and I prefer individual stocks instead of funds.

  • 22 David Stuart April 4, 2013, 1:39 pm

    listened to radio scotland just on tues

    a shareholder had his whole portfolio royal bank scotland founded 1724
    receivied good dividends with a sound history

    2007—very rich
    2009—wiped out

    he’s now one of the 12000 ordinary share holders with a lawsuit

  • 23 LT April 4, 2013, 2:04 pm

    Its there a definitive statement that TD will charge 0.35% on ALL funds somewhere? I know they have said they will for clean funds and for those that pay more than 0.5% trail comission, but I hadn’t seen anything on things that feel in the gap?

  • 24 Scott April 5, 2013, 11:09 pm



    Bottom of the page:

    “Pay no platform fee charges on clean funds until August 2013. The fee we will introduce at this time will be 0.35%.”

  • 25 The Investor April 6, 2013, 7:45 am

    @All — Away for the weekend and on mobile so just briefly, my point of including GDP is to emphasize there’s an underlying reason why stocks advance. When you buy companies, you buy into economic growth. This is in contrast to bonds where as we all know you just buy an IOU.

    I do not mean to imply that stock returns from year to year are closely correlated with GDP etc. As The Accumulator notes, they often are not — not least because any old investor can spot a fast growing economy and hence people tend to overpay for that growth in advance.

    Valuation then is part of the long term picture. But as has been pointed out it’s got a poor ability to predict near term returns. High PE markets can stay that way, and in particular very high PE markets can be associated with imminent economic recovery (what fooled a lot of bears in 2009).

    In the longer term there’s a correlation between market valuation over the cycle (pe10 etc) and subsequent returns on a decade view, but you use that sort of measure for market timing at your peril.

    Right, that was far too much to type with one thumb! 😉 Thanks all for stopping by. I’m off for a cafe con leche in a cathedral square. 🙂

  • 26 Geo April 15, 2013, 8:55 am

    Email from TD this morning, not sure I’ve seen exact confirmation like this yet, but as expected:

    From August, our rates are changing and we will charge the platform fee of 0.35% annually on all funds, including the Vanguard ones, after rebating any trail commission paid.

  • 27 Allan April 26, 2013, 12:34 pm

    Hello all.

    I just tried to buy some Blackrock D Class funds through TD Direct however I couldn’t because the amount (~£200) was less than the minimum investment. Not sure what the minimum investment is but it looks as if these funds are unsuitable for me.


  • 28 The Accumulator April 26, 2013, 6:08 pm

    Hi Allan, TD require £500 for a first investment and then £100 per top-up. However, I’m pretty sure that’s for irregular purchases. I think it’s more like £50 for a regular purchase. Be worth double-checking with them.

  • 29 Allan April 26, 2013, 11:07 pm

    Thanks for the info, much appreciated. Yes, I know from previous experience that the minimum is £50.

  • 30 Grand May 12, 2013, 12:27 pm

    HI there the Accumulator, I’ve been thinking about investing for some time and have been reading up on the slow and steady approach. I am in my 20’s working full time and am a bit annoyed that the money I am saving isn’t growing. I am currently going through financial books on the subject of investing like a chain smoker goes through a pack of cigarettes; I’ve just finished A random Walk Down Wall Street. Could you recommend a good brokerage account now that TD will be levying their 0.35% fee on clean funds or would the best approach be to setup a regular investing account with them and go for retail funds. It seems as if the hardest hurdle in this approach is building a portfolio with the lowest OCF.

  • 31 The Accumulator May 12, 2013, 12:56 pm

    Hi Grand,

    Have you read Smarter Investing by Tim Hale? That’s the best passive investing book for UK investors that I’ve read.

    For a flat-rate fee broker, I can’t see past Alliance Trust at the moment. £50 a year plus trading fees but you can limit those by using their £1.50 regular investment option.

    Don’t worry too much though about finessing down to the absolute lowest OCF you can theoretically find. The goalposts will continue to change and as long as you’re in the right area then that’s close enough.

    Here’s our cheap broker table:

    Good luck when you finally take the plunge. I wish I’d started in my twenties.

  • 32 Grand May 12, 2013, 2:32 pm

    @ The Accumulator,

    Thank you very much for taking the time out to reply to my comment.

    Best wishes,


  • 33 BenS May 20, 2013, 10:30 pm

    Hi all

    I have recently started looking into investing, currently I have a company pension which my employer pays a flat amount of £1000 p/a into and I personally contribute £200. I have been considering opening an isa to invest approx £250 p/m in funds like those mentioned above.

    But after reading the comments here I am considering waiting until charges are clearer.

    I am thinking I might start overpaying my mortgage instead for the time being. Then once fees are a little clearer (whenever that may be!) switch from overpaying to investing.

    My current mortgage rate is 2.5% so it seems a good time to overpay?

    As investors do you think this is a bad idea due to the effects of compound interest on investments? Any advice on whether this is a reasonable idea or not would be greatly appreciated.

  • 34 The Accumulator May 21, 2013, 5:37 pm

    @ Ben – I’m doing both. 40% of my spare cash is overpaying and 60% is going into investments. I should earn a better return from my investments but that’s subject to change at a moment’s notice if there’s a crash. So I have to think of that as a longer-term play.

    Overpaying the mortgage is guaranteed and needs to be done one day, plus it has a massive psychological benefit for me personally. But, at current interest rates, it is likely to earn me a smaller return than investments. Hence I hedge my bets and do both.

    If paying off your mortgage is a long way-off, say 15 years or more, then you could well consider investing the lot and gradually rebalancing into safer assets as the clock ticks down. That’s assuming you’re able to handle increased interest payments when mortgage rates rebound.

  • 35 BenS May 22, 2013, 12:09 pm


    Thanks for the reply.

    I am 24 years from paying off my mortgage as I aim to pay it off by age 55… all being well!

    I think I will start overpaying now as to combat future increases in mortgage rates and then hopefully fix on a decent deal in a year or so once there is more equity in my house.

    I am also considering the Vanguard Lifestrategy funds, and considering using Charles Stanley Direct. From what I can figure out (after reading your comments above and looking at the broker table) this seems one of the cheapest options in my situation. I will be starting from pretty much scratch and using the regular investment strategy. Do you think this is a good option? I must admit I am finding the whole charges quandary quite difficult to get my head around!

    Love the blog by the way, its really informative for someone who is new to all this!

    Thanks for the advice

  • 36 The Accumulator May 22, 2013, 10:23 pm

    @ Ben – That sounds like an excellent option. As you’re just starting out, you’re better off with a broker charging a percentage rate than a flat fee. It should stay that way for several years too until you’ve had a chance to build up your nest egg. Just check with Charles Stanley what their minimum investment amount is.

    One thing I would say is the lowest cost deals (in terms of funds and brokers) are likely to move around over time. It’s far more important that you’re in the right ballpark and in a situation you’re happy with then to stress about every last basis point of cost. As it is, you can’t do much better than your current choice.

  • 37 BenS May 23, 2013, 8:44 am


    Thanks again for all the advice. I will ring Charles Stanley to check their minimums.

    They don’t make it very easy to choose the right path for the inexperienced do they? I suppose eventually you just have to bite the bullet and start investing!


  • 38 The Accumulator May 23, 2013, 1:25 pm

    You’re absolutely right, Ben. I was at the same point myself many moons ago. I’d spent a lot of time researching but was still faced with many unknowns. But I’d reached the analysis paralysis stage and it was better to plunge in and learn the rest on the job.

  • 39 BenS May 24, 2013, 8:23 am

    Hi @Accumulator

    Just thought I would let you know (in case anyone checking these comments is interested) I have checked with Charles Stanley – the minimum investment in to a fund is £500. Or if you pay by monthly direct debit it is £50 per month.

  • 40 Allan July 2, 2013, 8:40 pm

    With less than a month to go before TD introduce their 0.35% platform fee for funds, the question of switching broker arises……should I stay or should I go!? Any thought from anyone?

  • 41 David Stuart July 2, 2013, 11:13 pm

    the depressing thing about 0.35% is others who hav 0.24% might think,hey let’s put our up

  • 42 Grand July 2, 2013, 11:40 pm

    Just for an update… I took the plunge and created a portfolio through Charles Stanley Direct. I need to up my balance of bonds, as I currently have a 85/15 split. I am thinking of actually buying some bonds to hold to maturity instead of investing anymore into my Vanguard UK Government Bond fund.

    Thank’s for all the useful information on this website.

  • 43 Geo July 3, 2013, 8:58 am

    @ Allan ….. well i think no dont move (not yet anyway) the cheapest is Charles Stanley but you are saving only 0.1%. You could lose this in transfer fees, that might take over 10 years just to get back, or you could lose it in being out the market. TD do have some extra things that are useful for me, they don’t charge on shares, etf’s, IT’s for example (Charles Stanley do), they also allow regular investment in ETF’s etc

    I have been frustrated with their service, but I am going to stick with on the theory that it can only get better.

    I would wait a year or so and see what charges are like across brokers then.

    Some people use a horrible phrase – IMHO (in my humble opinion)… this is mine….. well its just my thoughts 😉

  • 44 Allan July 3, 2013, 2:30 pm

    Yes Geo, I’ve been swaying towards the option of staying put for now- at least until brokers sort out their charges post RDR2. I had previously considerd switching to a Vnaguard Lifestrategy fund with H&L but it seems H&L now charge an annual percentage based platform fee as well as a monthly flat rate platform fee. RDR certainly hasn’t helped passive investors!

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