Starting a new decade, here are my winners and losers for 2019

STILL ON THE UP: The Australian Stock Exchange has performed well again.
STILL ON THE UP: The Australian Stock Exchange has performed well again.

AS we head into a new year here's those who have made unique contributions to the world of money in 2019.

Beached Wales

The standout contender for the Naughtiest Kid on the Block Award is Westpac bank. Despite all the flak the banks received from the Hayne Royal Commission, Westpac ignored warning after warning from Austrac while committing more than 25 million breaches of the money laundering rules. They didn't do any better in the superannuation fund area. APRA announced last week that Westpac's BT Super Fund was one of the worst performers in the country and were "consistently delivering substandard returns to members of My Super funds." It gives a new meaning to their old advertising slogan, "you can bank on the Wales."

Pershing fail

On 10 December ASIC charged Pershing Securities Australia with two counts of failing to pay client money into an account and one count of failing to comply with requirements relating to a client money account. That's the kind of conduct you might expect from a small firm in the backwoods. But Pershing has assets of almost $1.9 trillion and is a subsidiary of the Bank of New York Mellon, which has assets of over $35 trillion.

Lion's share continues to roar

The Golden Lion Award for the Australian Share of the Year goes to CSL. The share price has doubled in just two years and over the last decade its price has increased by a staggering 773 per cent. I must confess, I've never bought any CSL shares because the price always seemed too high. Part of the company's success has been its policy of ploughing back earnings to maximise compounding instead of paying big dividends.

Platinum point of no return

The Nant Whiskey Award for the record number of full-page ads offering breathtaking returns goes to the Mayfair Platinum group - a newcomer in Australian investing. My suspicions had been raised by the advertisements themselves, then on December 6 online newsletter Crikey published an article by Adam Schwab, who reckons Platinum "raises more red flags than a North Korean military parade." Schwab is the author of the brilliant book Pigs in the Trough:Lessons from Australia's Decade of Corporate Greed.

Next day, a two-page article in the Financial Review pointed out that Mayfair's own pronouncements "show it is making speculative plays on everything from an Indian accounting software firm to a Dunk Island transformation." As the old saying goes: "You pays your money and you takes your chances".

Not so Amazing Grace

The Bernie Madoff Award for risk and reward goes to Gold Coast couple Ken Grace and Jane Marzin-Grace. Grace promoted himself as a trading genius whose so-called hedge fund could make his high-profile athlete investors rich, with forecast returns of 20 per cent a year. The fund, described by the regulators as a possible "Ponzi scheme", has now been wound up with $24 million of investor money unaccounted for. Investors who lost money include Olympic swimmer Samantha Riley and cyclist Robbie McEwen. Grace is now facing the prospect of bankruptcy

Barking up the right tree

And, finally the Red Kelpie Award (for long-term, loyal and meritorious conduct) goes to ... the Australian Stock Market. Despite all the doomsayers, our favourite pet got it all together this year to give its loyal investors a total return of 26.5 per cent for the year when reinvested dividends are taken into account. If you had invested $100,000 in January 2009 into an investment which matched the All Ordinaries Accumulation Index, which includes income and growth, you would now have a portfolio worth $309,000. That's a total gain of 209 per cent or a compound gain of 11.94 per cent a year.

  • Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple and numerous other books on personal finance. noel@noelwhittaker.com.au