Sunday, August 15, 2010

Astarra weekend edition: some of my best friends are architects

Some of my best friends are architects…

Actually my wife is an architect – so I risk marital issues by ripping into the profession for the vacuous waffle-bags they are.

Well sometimes are.

I present to you McNally – an Australian architecture private company which did a commercial fit-out for Absolute Alpha – the funds management company that later renamed itself the Astarra Asset Management and were responsible for the Astarra Strategic Fund.  (Regular followers of this blog will know this fund for the disaster that turned out to be…)

Here is McNally advertising their commercial fitout skills – showing pictures of what they have achieved.

And here is the text:

Absolute Alpha, MLC Centre, Sydney

This is a high quality commercial fitout for a Funds Management company.

The design came from close study of the organisation’s work methods, practices, technology, culture and vision. High quality finishes are used throughout with colours reflecting the companies [sic] corporate identity. All spaces have connection to the external windows that have panoramic city and harbour views. The end result is improved office efficiencies and productivity. This, along with enhanced staff satisfaction, makes this project a success.

Completed 2007.

Now McNally say that their design came about – and I quote again – “from close study of the organisation’s work methods, practices, technology, culture and vision”.

Ok – here is what the work practices now appear to be:  Absolute (or later the Astarra Asset Management) invented the returns for the “strategic fund” (or their Hong Kong controllers invent their returns).  They looked good.  They had an impressive sales function that paid undisclosed (hidden) commissions to financial planners.  When they raised money they wired it to a bank account in either the British Virgin Islands or the Caymans never to be seen again.

The conclusion – either the architecture company is

(a)   Vacuous – as they did their “close study” and did not notice the bleatingly obvious truth,

(b)   Complicit in the crime – in that their close study did reveal the truth but they chose to ignore it for the commission or

(c)   Lying – in that they did not do a close study of the “work methods, practices, technology, culture and vision” but said they did for marketing purposes.

When shown a patina of architect marketing I think of that profession as arty-farty, quasi-psuedo intellectuals who get invited to pretty darn good cocaine snorting parties.

And when an architect says that they get to know their clients I guess it is because they imagine the clients going to those same parties.

Here are photos of the old premises – ripped off the McNally website.










Anonymous said...

Agree completely about architects. A profession with a misplaced superiority complex if ever there was one. The problem is that it's hard to imagine an 'emporers new clothes' moment because architects 'know' that architects rool, and that anyone who says different is just some jumped up construction engineer architect-wannabee, or else some other breed of insignificant philistine....

Unknown said...

Slow news week? Let's see how quickly McNally remove the copy of their WWW site? Keep us posted...

Anonymous said...

No really John, tell us what you really think.

Anonymous said...

The point is not McNally the point is about Astarra, point well taken but its a bit convoluted to expect to them to detect they under lying goings . Astarra took most of the industry down the yellow brick road and Alice is Shawn. So how come Shawn is reflecting some kind of guidance or governance over Wrights today in Investor Daily, some deal has been done with ASIC?

Anonymous said...

McNally's 'close study' sounds a lot like the AIOFP's Filtered Research Commitees close study of Astarra. And your succint conclusion would be a welcome judgement of all those involved in recommending clients part with their hard earned life savings into this fund.

Matt Hill said...

Looks to me like McNally got to understand Astarra pretty well. All offices come with two-toned glass walls. The bottom half of the wall is frosted to obfuscate any transactions going on under the table...

drpat said...

Is this really architects going bad? Or is it Marketers going (staying?) bad?

Anonymous said...

....anyone who says different is just some jumped up construction engineer architect-wannabee....

Exactly right. Most of Frank Lloyd Wright's buildings are falling down, or have major structural problems.

It's art, don't dress it up as science and then sub out to a structural engineer. That seems like a banker calling in an "asset valuation manager".

Very long and heated relationship with architects, especially for the crap they build and then call high art. Too many examples to list.

Anonymous said...

I'm not an architect, but I'm struggling to work out how they are expected to follow the money? They could have "closely observed" meetings, strategising, phone calls, all sorts of activity and had no idea it was all bogus.

John Hempton said...

A "close study of work methods". Nah - they asked the client what they wanted and they built it.

But "close study: is - best interpretation - a lie.

I read this to an architect and she said "that is just architecture speak".

This "close study" was about the same level of "close study" every financial planner did (when they also collected their commission). It is just the financial planners had duties the architect firm did not.


Prosecutor of Punks said...

Hmmm, a little aiding and abetting I see.

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