We have always been a fee-based firm (since formation in 1999). However, way back in 1999 we went far further than the current RDR rules, by removing all commission from protection arrangements as well. We are independent financial advisers, we would describe ourselves as a financial planning firm, by which we mean that we help and enable clients to express their real values and hopes for their own lifestyle, (some call this coaching) then construct a financial plan (financial planning) and then advise and arrange financial products from the entire market if required (financial advice). We took the decision in 2019 to refer personal protection business as we do so little it felt that we were not sufficiently up to speed with current underwriting trends.
At the risk of looking foolish in hindsight, we have implemented a plan to grow the business into a regional firm by 2030. We have taken on our first Graduate apprentice who has completed his CII R0 examinations. A substantial element of the training is provided via PFS and NextGen Planners. This is something that we hope to repeat regularly over the coming years. We intend to secure the future for clients and staff ensuring full continuation of service. Our target is to have 10 RIs in place ideally by 2030, each looking after between 50-100 families. We expect and plan that this will require a suitable level of support of somewhere between 15-25 additional staff. We are reviewing our processes against our plans for scale.
Clients have to complete a risk questionnaire, we previously used FinaMetrica, but have now moved to Timeline. Clients are encouraged to reflect on their values and define the purpose for their money, we can then use sensible cashflow modelling tools to help estimate the required returns and whether there is any mis-match between required returns and associated risk, when set against an appetite for risk and the reality of their ability to cope with “loss” by which we mean a temporary reduction in capital values when considered over decades. We use software to help clients understand sustainable withdrawal rates and the impact of the mix of equities and fixed income on a portfolio over time. This then helps us to determine a more nuanced, personal appropriate level of risk for our clients.
We believe that diversification through appropriate asset allocation delivers long term investment success. We use external expertise to challenge and sense check our asset allocation decisions and rationale. As we have grown and have plans to do so in the coming years, we elected to move away from designing every portfolio and rebalancing them oursleves, which created unnecessary administration for clients. We have therefore begun to use Timeline to run portfolios for our clients. This means that they rebalance holdings within specific criteria and we review performance and determine exposure to global equities.
We believe that investors should be rewarded the market returns appropriate from asset class selection. We believe in diversification and minimising investment expenses through investment efficiency. We believe in a buy and hold strategy with sensible, evidence based rebalancing in order to avoid portfolio drift. We believe that the aggregation of marginal gain can deliver out-performance.
Our role is to ensure that our clients have the money they need when they need it. We are aware of our limitations at not being forecasters and able to predict what markets will do or when. We take a long-term view and apply a disciplined approach. As our work is based upon assumptions about the future, we meet regularly with our clients to check progress towards goals and make necessary adjustments as appropriate. This is a vital part of our process and also enables us to gradually educate our clients about the required skills for a successful investing experience.
We have a number of clients that apply ethical, SRI and ESG criteria to their portfolio in a manner that is consistent with their values, but aware of the limitations and restrictions that exist within the ESG investment arena. A growing number of clients express interest in social impact investing and this is something that we can discuss. Research tools include FE Analytics.
If you are seeking a figure for portfolio fees, these tend to be between 0.08% to 0.15%. Platform charges tend to be no higher than 0.15% we have been working to reduce all investment costs for our clients. Cost is something that we do pay attention to, like our clients.
ALTERNATIVE INVESTMENTS & TAX REDUCING INVESTMENTS
As we are fully independent, we are able to consider all relevant retail investment products. We are open to the concept, use and selection of Structured Products, BPR, SEIS, EIS, VCT, crowdfunding and even UCIS however we believe that these products invariably carry additional risk which is inappropriate for the vast majority of investors (according to the FCA roughly 97% of investors are probably excluded). However if you believe that your firm has a unique approach, that is tested in law, complies with all UK regulation and operates within the spirit of HMRC rules, we are open to discussing such proposals with you. We are also mindful that there are many ways to “invest” which might include alternative investments into wine, antiques, art and so on. Most significantly, we believe that a valid form of investment can be made into personal development, family, relationships, private enterprise and community. In short, investing is a very broad term.
Fund selection is very much the last aspect of our approach to investing. For us to consider your investment fund or DFM proposition, you will need to be able to demonstrate consistent out-performance (if you seek alpha) or adherence to a clear benchmark for an investment cost that does not negate this. You will also need to explain where the additional risk was taken to deliver your out-performance. We will also need to understand your investment criteria, portfolio turnover and why you believe you can consistently deliver alpha as well as the various real costs associated with investing via your fund. We will of course research this independently using market leading independent investment research from FE Analytics and MICAP.
We are very much of the opinion that when it comes to investing, one size probably fits no one, however we will focus on investment efficiencies wherever possible. There are no absolute answers and the wisdom of investing is experiential not theoretical. That is not to say that we ignore the importance of good research to seek better performance, but the fundamental purpose of investing is not to “win” but to ensure that our clients have a good investment experience that provides for their chosen lifestyle.
We appreciate and value informative and educational resources that can be supplied and included within our website or blog. We are aware that this can sometimes create problems for firms with their own internal compliance processes and we do not seek to cause harm or damage to any company. We will not knowingly publish resources that compromise data protection, copyright or compliance rules. We appreciate and value any input that you are willing to provide that helps our clients to understand aspects of the financial services industry or financial products.
We have begun to develop our educational material for clients and anyone interested in obtaining financial planning for themselves. We are seeking assistance from providers who are willing to provide some basic generic education to camera (video) for publication via our website. This will have nothing to do with performance at all, it will involve explaining in easy to understand terms, what relevant asset classes are and what they are for and how they work within a portfolio. This really ought not to be a compliance issue as it is factual, accurate educational resource material.
Sometimes, much is unsaid within commercial relationships and assumptions made about each other. So let’s be plain. Whatever your service, you are likely to want me and my firm to buy more of it. Your remuneration structure (probably not of your own making) will determine how you approach the relationship. It is therefore important for me to understand if you are paid for the number of calls or visits to our premises, or whether I attend a seminar that you provide. I will assume that the more business we conduct with you, the more you achieve your own commercial targets, possibly leading to bonuses. I don’t have any particular concern about this dynamic, there’s little I can do about it, but I think its important to be be honest about how it works. Importantly, we do keep records of “inducements” gifts, however small or corporate sports events etc. As you know the regulator recognises that this can alter a relationship, possibly leading to bias and has clear guidelines.
The most important aspect of our relationship is one of honesty. Believe it or not I do not know everything (shocker) and yes from time to time I will make mistakes, though not deliberately. Honesty is often assumed, but when things go wrong my experience has been that often blame is often allocated eslewhere. So should errors be made it is important that these are brought to my attention as quickly as possible, ideally together with a solution. However much quantitative research is conducted about your proposition / service if I am unable to trust you or your organisation, this will almost certainly result in ending the relationship / service / product. The credit crunch, the reasons behind it and the key companies that deliberately ripped off their own clients are not considered favourably and I acknowledge that this may have nothing to do with you or your product, but the corporate culture displayed runs counter to all that I believe and the responsibility that our clients place in me. Most importantly, if your products are designed primarily to further your own profits and business goals at the expense of or detriment to our clients, we will immediately advise clients to withdraw from your arrangements, assuming it is practical and viable for them to do so. In short, transparent charges are vital.
We are directly regulated as a B3 small firm. Our compliance services are now provided by Apricity, part of the Verve Group to ensure we remain on track with emerging themes within regulation. We currently use Voyant lifetime cashflow planning software in conjunction with Timeline, Cashcalc and others.
In 2019 we moved our back office system to Intelligent Office, primarily to improve efficiency and take advantage of improving technology. We attempt to use technology that enables us to provide even better services and communications with our clients, including Skype, GotoMeeting and Zoom. We had our own App since 2014 but decided to close this in October 2020. We constantly seek solutions that make life easier for clients in a digital form and are aware of the inability of many software solutions to properly integrate.
We take training seriously and we use the CISI online CPD services, who now also provide our SPS each year. We favour using CII, PFS, Apricty and CISI events for training, although not exclusively. Conferences such as Humans Under Management, The Science of Retirement are regular features in the training diary. We hold the required qualifications and gap fill for 2013 verified by SPS. Dominic has also worked with various coaches over the years to help improve skills, these included John Dashfield at Client Centred Advisers, David Batchelor at Strategic Coach, Phil Calvert and Brett Davidson at FP Advance. Dominic is a member of the Initiative for Financial Wellbeing which seeks to bring better understanding or money and how it can be used to help everyone find contentment.
We use platforms that work well with our database so that we can deliver services to our clients, we now use Platform Analyser by those music loving Scots at The Lang Cat. One of the criteria that many forget is in relation to withdrawing money from platforms, which we consider rather vital, after all it is the client’s money.
We proudly produce Spotlight, our own client magazine twice a year where possible. This is a traditional hard copy paper format, although we also provide a digital version which you can find in our resources section.
We do not arrange mortgages or PMI. We do not provide Occupational Scheme (DB) Pension Transfer advice (although we can transact DC transfers) or Long Term Care advice. All protection products are arranged without commission, directly reducing premiums for clients. We expect and plan to remain as a whole of market, independent financial adviser post RDR. We believe that we work to ISO22222 financial planning standards. Our Professional Indemnity is renewed each September. You can find Dominic on LinkedIn and as a member of IFA Life and The Professional Development Group.
FURTHER GENERAL COMMERCIAL INFORMATION
Please use this information wisely. It should help you to determine if your services or products are likely to be considered by us. We recognize that people make mistakes, so we advise truthful communication. Your call will not be put through to Dominic without being screened by prior email approval. Deception about the nature of your call is counter-productive. We do not advertise and we do not receive prospecting calls. We do not pay to be listed in directories. We are happy with our IT support, SEO and website, we have no requirement for translation services at this time.