Is your money an extension of your values?

Dominic Thomas
July 2023  •  12 min read

Is your money an extension of your values?

The financial services sector, like others, has been attempting to evolve over the years, moving with the times. I’m not talking about technology; but the people and culture. The regulator has had things to say about culture for some years, but usually too little too late and with no real weight behind it.

Sentry at your door

One of the things you may not be aware of is who we do not use. As your adviser and confidant, I take my role seriously. One aspect of the role is being a bit like a gatekeeper or ‘bouncer’. Some might say I possess the right thuggish look for this! What clients end up with is hopefully a well-screened experience, but you almost certainly don’t know how that is done and how much dross has been screened out, why should you?  It’s my job to do this and time is too limited to bore you with all the detail.

So, cutting to the chase – price, functionality, financial resilience, performance and philosophy are all perhaps obvious elements. Culture is much more subjective. Whilst this can include ‘greenwashing’, I also consider elements of what, who, why and how things are done. Rare is the day that you will ever hold a ‘Prima Donna’ investment. Stars are for astronomy not your investments.

Leadership

We are all familiar with the reality that the wrong people are generally leading the world rather badly. Good leadership is vital, sadly the culture within financial services is often intoxicated by its own sense of importance and ‘leadership’, which often gives way to belief of possessing better skills and a Midas-touch. Performance-fuelled and rewarded and then re-awarding itself like an ever-consuming sycophant.

Nobody is without failings, but some people seem to believe that they can behave with impunity. An error of judgement or mistake is one thing, but constant repetition is another. One of the many problems with success is that people tend to ignore details, yet it is the detail that is likely to be the undoing.

Money, power and sex … or rather abuse

Money and power tend to keep those benefitting from it quiet. Sometimes a lowly observer has to point out the Emperor’s predicament. We can all be fooled, but I am often surprised how easily this is achieved.

You could read the article by Marriage, Cundy and Caruana Galizia in the Financial Times on 8th June 2023 for detail about the behaviour of one of its members, (well several actually). However, the network will generally seek to protect and deflect blame, minimising any wrongdoing as ‘misunderstanding’.

Big fish, small pond

You can make the choice with your money to follow these people or not. However, I have no intention or interest in helping increase the personal fortunes of those whose behaviour privately, publicly and corporately appears self-serving. If you prefer to help these particular millionaires (or billionaires) become richer, that’s your choice, but it’s not mine. For me, money should be ‘used’ not ‘played with’ to impress parents who clearly gave up providing enough attention at the beginning.

Accomplished liars

Having been around the sector for over three decades, it won’t surprise you to learn that I do not believe regulation or legal action really makes a difference to characters who simply do not care about anyone else. They will of course utter feeble words about lessons being learned, seeking help, blah, blah … whilst standing beside a spouse who has yet to comprehend the depth of the offence … but this is all too predictable. They haven’t changed behaviour and its naïve to think they will.

They bullied or charmed their way into the spotlight. A lifetime of bluff and overconfidence has resulted in them becoming highly skilled liars. However, they are permitted to thrive by others pretending that everything is somehow OK, when it clearly is not. I don’t mean we should all pass judgement on each other’s choices, but ‘the network’ allows it to thrive. Of course, this is not simply within financial services, sadly most walks of life from the pulpit to the bull pit, the shop floor to the studio, the Boardroom to the changing room.

Another way

Your money is remarkably powerful – it endorses, promotes, approves and rewards. This is why I take great care in how it is invested and the philosophy behind it. As a client, you back our small firm that rewards its staff fairly and takes each person seriously, helping each to build their own lives on their own terms.

Click here for FT piece

Is your money an extension of your values?2023-12-01T12:12:31+00:00

Working in financial services … A calling?

TODAY’S BLOG

WORKING IN FINANCIAL SERVICES… A CALLING?

Normally when someone asks what I do for a living, my answer creates a knee-jerk reaction of eyes glazing over, hunching of the shoulders and the stifling of a yawn before the sarcastic comment “that sounds … thrilling” (or variations thereof!)

And I get it – to an outsider, financial services is Dull (with a capital D).  In fact, to many ‘insiders’ as well, financial services is pretty dull!  But I consider myself truly fortunate to be working in a firm like Solomon’s, with a great team of people, and a fabulous bunch of clients, doing the work that we do.

As a relatively small company, we don’t have hard lines between our roles here, which means we all get some exposure to marketing, finance, report writing, admin, client liaison, writing content, editing, checking each other, creative processes, planning, business growth.  It’s a dynamic work environment for us and it’s the absolute opposite of the toxic workplaces that grace so many threads on social media at the moment.  The team works well together as we all like and respect one another (even when we disagree).

Financial planning is not known as a caring profession (that expression seems to be reserved for medical personnel) but at Solomon’s (as a firm and as a team of individuals) – we genuinely do care about our clients and the work we do with them and for them.  It is a great pleasure and an honour when a client realises they can retire earlier than they imagined; or that they can afford to do something that had seemed out of reach; or quite simply that they can ‘stop worrying’ about some of the ‘big stuff’ like “will I run out of money?” or “what would I do financially if I lost my spouse?”.

Most of our clients have been with Solomon’s for MANY years (some are counting in decades) and we know them very well … to a point of reading an article in the news or social media that reminds us of a client (a football team winning a big event, the sale of a very old and valuable stamp, or an interesting gardening fact – you catch my drift).  We are invested in our clients’ lives (not in a stalker-ish way!) quite simply because we care what happens to them.  We care that they are separating from their spouse, we care that they have been diagnosed with a critical illness, we care that they have lost a parent (or sadly a child).

We aren’t just about the money; we aren’t just about the work; we ARE about people; we are about empathy; we are about relationship.

We are a small firm with a big heart.

Debbie Harris
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

GET IN TOUCH

Solomon’s Independent Financial Advisers
The Old Bakery, 2D Edna Road, Raynes Park, London, SW20 8BT

Email – info@solomonsifa.co.uk 
Call – 020 8542 8084

7 QUESTIONS, NO WAFFLE

Are we a good fit for you?

GET IN TOUCH

Solomon’s Independent Financial Advisers
The Old Bakery, 2D Edna Road, Raynes Park, London, SW20 8BT

Email – info@solomonsifa.co.uk    Call – 020 8542 8084

7 QUESTIONS, NO WAFFLE

Are we a good fit for you?

Working in financial services … A calling?2023-12-01T12:12:52+00:00

Pension Exit Charges

Pension Exit Charges

I wonder if I can be honest with you about pension exit charges? I freely admit that I probably spend too much time concerning myself with what others within my industry think. I spend a lot of time improving my knowledge and this involves reading both technical papers and opinion. Yet I find myself increasingly perplexed by the comments on industry media outlets.

THIS IS A LONG ITEM, BUT PLEASE STICK WITH ME…

Like it or not, the financial services industry regularly gets berated for being nothing short of self-serving. Often different or indeed competing elements of the spectrum that make up the financial services get lumped together, frankly this is our collective fault for not clearly defining or explaining the differences, invariably made harder by really rather poor regulatory clarity.

However I was utterly exasperated with my peers on yet another comment section within the “trade press”. This concerned the issue of exit penalties on pensions. At the time Mr Cameron, the Prime Minister was expected to outline his frustration with pension companies that apply high exit fees… for the sake of simplicity, let’s call them what they really are – transfer penalties.

Old World not New Model Advisers

The comments appeared in a publication that I respect by Citywire – New Model Adviser, the article written by a very thorough journalist, Will Robbins. The publication aims to high-light good or best practice and aims to help improve the advice sector and thus help achieve better results for the investing public. So one would hope that the readers and their comments are towards the front forward-thinking end of the adviser population.

The King is dead, long live the King

On the topic of exit penalties it seemed to me that commentators reverted to their historic stances as salesmen, not advisers, preferring to defend high penalties rather than lead a revolution to have them scrapped or at least capped.

Investors are being ripped off

Yes it is true that pensions set up were contracts and that contract law is therefore under the microscope…. but there are times to simply admit that enough is enough.  I have seen some horrendous penalties (the difference between the actual value and the transfer value of a pension)… some taking well above 30% of the fund. That is simply not good enough. OK there was a contract, but neither “adviser” nor investor could have anticipated these penalties which have become increasingly pertinent as investors and advisers seek better, more efficient and cost-effective solutions. Something that I regularly do to great effect for our clients.

Analogies have flaws but…

However suggestions that imposing a cap were largely greeted with derision. I was under the impression that it is the advisers job to represent the client, not the pension company and if engaged by them, to seek the most suitable solutions. I would like to think that it is in the collective interest to allow someone to move their money elsewhere with minimal fuss and cost so that it can grow better (hopefully) – and yes it cannot be guaranteed…. at least it cannot be guaranteed in a way that your life is not guaranteed by the protection that the airbags in your 2015 car should deploy if you have an accident, as opposed to your 1986 car that doesn’t have any of the current safety features. Yes you may be maimed or even die in the accident, but which do you think is likely to provide a better journey?

Aren’t we meant to put you, the client first?

In an industry steeped in scandal and mistrust this ought to be an opportunity for pension companies and advisers to put clients interests first. I find this even more frustrating as in reality it is all to do with commission and the lie that advice is free. Old style policies are those that typically paid high levels of commission, which the pension company advanced to the adviser as payment for arranging the pension with them. Of course it didn’t help that some pension companies offered more commission for using them as opposed to others, thus bringing into question the independence of the advice and adviser. If you went to a Tied Agent or Bank, you didn’t even get any option to compare costs…. which was the job of the IFA at the time.

Thinking that is so last century…

This has been going on for years, yet alternative approaches have also been available for those willing to face some truths. In 1999, 16 years ago I formed Solomons, removing commission, charging 1% on any investment or pension product – no matter who… a level playing field. 16 years ago! The regulator eventually caught up and banned commission on investments from 2013 called RDR so since then all advisers have had to charge fees properly.

Vive la revolution

Why does this vex me so? well as someone still in their 40’s I expect and plan to remain advising clients for many years to come, so I’d like to see things improve. I would like to see the standard of advice improve and the number of scandals and complaints decrease… not least because invariably the way compensation works is that those left working within the sector pay the compensation levy, even if they had nothing to do with it. This summer I had yet another regulatory invoice for this levy, an increase of 64% on last year…there comes a point when I and many (thankfully) like me, simply cannot absorb all these costs without jeopardising our own sustainability.

If you are fed up with your pension or not even sure what its worth, please check out my free guide, which  will help you regain control of your pension planning. There ought to be a box below to download this, if not just email me.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Pension Exit Charges2023-12-01T12:20:04+00:00
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