BANKS HAVE TO DO BETTER FOR FRAUD VICTIMS

TODAY’S BLOG

BANKS MUST DO BETTER FOR FRAUD VICTIMS

The Financial Ombudsman Service, which manages disputes between financial firms and customers, is ruling against banks in 73% of authorised fraud cases, data exclusively obtained by Which? demonstrates. This means if you have been tricked into sending money to a scammer, you may be able to get a refund from your bank.

The biggest banks are signed up to the voluntary Contingent Reimbursement Model (CRM) Code, which is designed so victims of authorised push payment fraud (APP) are treated fairly and consistently when they ask for compensation. If your bank refuses compensation, you can escalate your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

But the number of customer complaints about banks’ handling of authorised fraud – the vast majority of which are APP – landing at the FOS more than doubled in the 2020-21 financial year, from 3,600 to 7,770. And three-quarters (73%) of these were upheld in favour of the customer.

Financial Scams and fraud

VAST SUMS OF FRAUD – SOMEONE HAS TO PAY

APP fraud – being tricked into transferring money to a fraudster – is fast becoming one of the UK’s biggest frauds. Losses hit £355.3m between January and July, outstripping losses to card fraud. Banks are required to refund you for losses to unauthorised fraud such as card fraud, but not APP fraud. You will have noticed that we ran a couple of items in our client magazine Spotlight about fraud and scams.

The voluntary CRM code was launched in May 2019 and requires signatory banks to provide effective warnings to customers, identifying vulnerable customers and acting quickly when a scam is reported. In return, you are expected to pay attention to take care, have a reasonable basis for believing the payment is genuine, and pay attention to warnings.

Crucially, signatory banks must reimburse customers even if both parties have done nothing wrong. Data shows that many victims have been wrongly denied compensation but haven’t approached the FOS. Escalating a complaint to the FOS is free, and can be done online, but not all victims will be aware of or able to use the service. That’s why Which? wants the government to swiftly take the necessary action to enable the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) to introduce mandatory APP fraud reimbursement for all firms using Faster Payments.

If I were a betting man, (which I am not) I would conclude that Banks will find a way to recoup some of their costs from customers, this normally takes the form of higher interest rates or charges on all forms of borrowing. Alternatively, to end the myth of “free banking”. There is no such thing and its about time we all had a grown-up conversation about it.

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

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?

BANKS HAVE TO DO BETTER FOR FRAUD VICTIMS2023-12-01T12:12:59+00:00

INTERESTED IN HIGHER INTEREST ACCOUNTS?

TODAY’S BLOG

ARE YOU MORE INTERESTED?

The last year or so has seen enormous improvements in technology. Thankfully the money management technology is one of those elements that has improved.

Hunting for a decent interest rate is hard enough at the moment, but moving to a new better account once the rate has come to an end is a constant frustration due to the effort required and all the hurdles of proving your identity. As a result, most savers languish in poor accounts, earning next to diddly squat.

If you consider that your savings at a UK Bank or Building Society is only protected to the first £85,000 under FSCS rules, then balances that are larger give some concern, particularly when life feels somewhat uncertain.

MAKING MONEY MANAGEMENT EASIER

I’m pleased to announce that we have teamed up with Akoni, one of several cash management providers. They have branded the site with our logo – its their kit and service. I decided to remove any payments that we might get to your advantage. This is very self-service, but we can assist if you get stuck.

There are other solutions, this is aimed at those with cash savings of more than £85,000 – so not for everyone, but you can get rates of interest that others with much larger balances enjoy.

The aim of all these services is to make life easier for you, getting you better rates of interest. Its not free, no bank provides a free service (think about it – or ask if you still don’t understand). The Cash Management service company (Akoni in this instance) make a small charge which I believe is worth paying for the convenience.

Have a look for yourself by clicking this link.

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

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?

INTERESTED IN HIGHER INTEREST ACCOUNTS?2023-12-01T12:13:01+00:00

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

TODAY’S BLOG

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW

When things around us begin to collapse, there is an undeniable sense that screams within us to “do something!” (I’m sure it’s not just me). The global stock markets taking a battering are not good for our nerves (we were not designed for this). The temptation to do something, anything! is palpable… but you have me and all proper financial planners telling you that selling in a crisis is just about the worst thing you could do. These things happen, they come they go, they happen again. This does not placate any of our feelings, but it may help remind us of truths.

However, we are still left with the feeling about wanting to do something, even if that is not to mess with your portfolio. So here I have compiled a list of things to do. It is not exhaustive, some are more important than others, but I would urge you to consider them, particularly if you are feeling reasonably well, but having to self-isolate, or have chosen to do so.

YOUR TO DO LIST

  1. DON’T PANIC: The first thing is not to panic, whilst this version of calamity has not happened before, something very similar has. Disasters have a lot in common, they are fairly regular and prone to repeat without much warning.
  2. TAKE STOCK: This is a good opportunity to review your cash savings. You will remember that we have talked about having reserve cash funds of anything between 3-12 months of typical spending, more in some instances. See our video. Well this is the moment that those reserves may need to be called upon. Also remember that you should try to limit cash savings at any one bank to £85,000 for full FSCS protection. Let me know if you want more about this.
  3. CHECK YOUR PRIORITIES: We all know that plans are well intended, but life has a habit of getting in the way. That doesn’t mean that the plan is wrong or doomed, merely that some flexibility is probably required. So your plans may need to be adjusted, reconsidered, reviewed, postponed, delayed or cancelled, depending on your circumstances and what is wise for you.
  4. REVIEW YOUR BUDGET: You should also take this opportunity to review your regular outgoings. Have another look at your spending plan. What is important and essential, what is nice to have and what is superfluous. Let me be clear, with some luck and good leadership, the current crisis may be over within a few weeks or months, but it could drag on for a bit longer. Stopping your subscriptions to things you enjoy and use may not be sensible, unless you don’t benefit from having them.
  5. LIVE GENEROUSLY: I am a great believer in small businesses, so think about the impact of your financial choices on those within your local community and our wider one. If you have booked and paid for something and now plan to cancel, yes that might be sensible, but you have a choice about whether you simply treat the money as gone, perhaps to someone that needs it more. I’m not suggesting you should, but to merely raise the fact that you have a choice.
  6. HOPE FOR THE BEST, PLAN FOR THE WORST: The current coronavirus is not going to be a “walk in the park”. If statistics are correct the fatality rate is higher than the normal flu, particularly for those with pre-existing serious health and respiratory problems, but we expect the vast majority of people to survive.  We all hope that we will all survive whatever is coming down the road, but some will not. Yes, this is very morbid. However, I am assuming that one of the reasons that I am in your life is so that I do not ignore the difficult challenges to do with money and your financial wellbeing. My job is not to sweet talk you with nice words, but to provide a responsible truthful voice, at least as far as I see it. You need to ensure that your Will is up to date, that your Executors know what their responsibilities are, that protection policies provide ample cover. You should also consider Power of Attorney so that someone you trust can take financial decisions on your behalf if you cannot. Need help? get in touch.
  7. COMMUNICATE – GET IN TOUCH: You also need to ensure that the relevant people know where your important documents are. Why not put a copy on our portal too – see www.solomonsifa.co.uk/pfp for more.
  8. REFLECT & REMEMBER: If you find yourself having to “self-isolate” why not take the time to finally get around to writing up a brief version of your life-story. I hope that this will have the effect of reminding you of many good experiences in life and happy memories and provide space to reflect on who and what is important. Add photographs, then get to work on creating a book using a bit of software within Apple or Vistaprint or something similar, get it printed, get it done. If you would like a useful template email me.
  9. CHECK IN ABOUT YOUR LONG-TERM PLANS: In terms of your financial planning – I’m working on the assumption that your plans have not altered. If they have get in touch. It is possible that some may need to be adjusted, but I doubt that this is a wise time to do that. Your investments remain globally diversified, across various asset classes and low cost where possible. We have seen the value fall sharply before and we will see it again, but there is no need to panic. In the same way that you didn’t sell your home during the last property crash, you sat it out.
  10. REVIEW YOUR BUCKET LIST: Appreciating the precarious and fragility of life will hopefully bring to mind some things that you would like to experience – have a think and let me know if anything new should be added to your bucket list, they dont have to have a financial price tag, but at least when we next review your plans together we can check to see how you are getting along…

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

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?

WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW2023-12-01T12:13:21+00:00

SINGING LIKE A CANARY

TODAY’S BLOG

SINGING LIKE A CANARY

My twitter account got a little heated at the weekend. I, like many other financial planners am utterly fed up with financial scams. Most of us get scam emails – I have yet another only two minutes ago purporting to be HMRC with a refund… Anyway, what irritates me and many planners is the apparent ease and frequency at which scams occur.

We have a regulator and anyone that knows me will know that I believe that they play an important, arguably vital role within financial services (see Cops and Robbers in Spotlight March 2019). Yet the FCA twitter account seems unable and unwilling to accept information about suspected (or even obvious) scams.

Better but not great

An item by James Coney in The Sunday Times (12 May 2019) called “Here’s how the FCA could stop savings scams – use Google” sparked some mirth which evolved into a small, sometimes heated “debate”. Some comments suggested that regulation is much better than it was, that the scams are less costly. That the FCA is doing a good job. I am not denying that the FCA is trying, they have an enormous brief. However, there are many of us that think that too much time is wasted on the wrong things.

SING LIKE A CANARY

Climb a mountain, or use the tunnel ?

This week I will have to submit yet another 6-monthly online report to the FCA telling them lots of things about my business. It takes ages and frankly I don’t think it reveals much of any importance. In any event wouldn’t a crook would simply make up the data? At the coalface of advice regulation can also be over the top…you want to top up your ISA… well yes, that requires a report, really? To top one up? Yes. You want money out? Well a report telling you that taking too much may mean it runs out is required… Admittedly the length and depth of reports and research are not prescribed by the regulator, but very much enforced by compliance and professional indemnity insurers. Certainly there is a place for this, but often it looks and feels like “overkill”.

Scams to the left of me, scams to the right…

I cannot explain why people being ripped off is so upsetting to me. Its wired into my DNA or childhood experience I suspect. Many advisers are on the same side as the regulator, we both make a living from financial services. The flashpoint, was the suggestion that advisers will be forced to pay yet higher levies for the FSCS to make compensation payments to scammed investors. This relates to yet another “obvious to an adviser” scam of mini-Bonds of London Capital & Finance. Who made promises that they would never keep to the tune of £237m from 11,500 savers. This was not a regulated business. There was no FSCS compensation for the investors. At least that’s what should have been the case, but now it seems this is disputed and advisers will have to foot the bill… for a scam they had nothing to do with.

Virtual reality isn’t reality

James Coney, like many of my peers argues that a quick search of the web will reveal plenty of scams. Some are obvious, some less so. This is the occasion to use the word fake – there are fake websites, fake products and fake endorsements. Please don’t get taken in. Ask me or your adviser if you have one. Why take the risk for a couple of extra percentage points of interest?

Sadly, I am of the view that the system is in need of an overhaul. The regulator thought that forcing all other advisers to charge fees, and explain these each year would solve the mis-selling problem. I’m sure it has a small favourable result, but the bulk of crime is committed by criminals, who lie. No amount of legislation or disclosures will have any impact on them, what they require is the strong arm of the law and a custodial sentence.

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

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?

SINGING LIKE A CANARY2023-12-01T12:17:25+00:00

THE F-WORD

TODAY’S BLOG

THE F WORD

The F-word in my world is fees. Today we received news that the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) has increased its “levy” on financial advisers to a whopping £516m which is a hefty increase on the £468m previously.

There are many reasons for the increase, but the main one is that many investors have been duped into moving their pension into a SIPP (a Self-Invested Personal Pension). There is nothing wrong with a SIPP in principle, it is just another pension wrapper and the vast majority are perfectly good, indeed arguably rather brilliant. However, it’s also what is inside.

A SIPP can hold lots of investments, remember in 2005 Gordon Brown opening the way and then back-tracking on allowing people to put a private residence in a SIPP (thank goodness!). The “Self-Invested” bit of the SIPP really is an opening to put anything into a pension that “qualifies”. Anyway, some “advisers” have encouraged people to use all manner of weird investments, everything from storage pods, to teak farms in Thailand, car parking spaces to any hairbrained idea. These are “unregulated” investments – clue on the tin.

Solomons IFA Blog: Sorry to bother you

The backstop agreement

These investors have a genuine grievance for bad advice. Well… more scamming than advice. Therefore, they can turn to the FSCS, who in turn “approaches” (demands) payment from the rest of us upright advisers to cover the cost of the miscreants that peddle this rubbish. There are about 5,300 adviser firms in the UK, one or two huge ones and the rest are small businesses. The bill is shared between us (feel free to do the sums). In short that means we cannot keep stomaching the lion-share of a bill for which we are not culpable and so it is reflected in our charges to clients. Hardly a fair system, indeed, like others it is miserable and broken.

Look inside

For the record we arrange SIPPS for our clients, with proper SIPP companies and ONLY hold regulated investments within them. You hold properly listed funds which are composed of shares and bonds of great companies of the world.

If you are a client with a SIPP arranged through us, do not panic, all that’s in your pension is good stuff (unless you mucked around with it or “gave the keys” to another adviser). I recently took on a client who has a SIPP, but his adviser put some awful stuff in it. We have been able to unpick some of it, but not all. Totally unnecessary, unhelpful and illiquid.

Cold Calling Ban – Stop them at the gate

As a final note, anyone (you don’t know) that calls or emails you out of the blue is breaking the law – NO COLD CALLING. Some of you helped us with this initiative, started by another decent adviser (Darren Cooke) in Derbyshire and this eventually became law on Wednesday 9th January 2019. So hopefully this will reduce cold calling (I’m not naive enough to assume it will end). Some interesting issues about cold calling, greed, ethnicity and capitalism were raised in the film “Sorry to bother you”..  it went a little off point and lost its potential purpose, well that’s what I thought. Here is the trailer, it raised some interesting questions. WARNING: its rude.

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

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?

THE F-WORD2023-12-01T12:17:36+00:00

The Hurdles We Face

Like most advisers, I regularly have enquiries as a result of the new pension freedoms. In essence, someone wants to move money out of a pension and the Pension company have told them that they cannot do so unless an adviser signs the forms, by which they really mean, takes responsibility for the advice if or when it all goes wrong. So after attempting to explain why I will not do this for the umpteenth time, I thought that perhaps a post about it would be easier… its lengthy, but provides context. If you are in this position and cannot find the time or energy to read 4 pages, then you really should not be messing around with your pension.

The Hurdles We Face

In the past, most people received a poor service from their financial adviser. As advisers were paid based on selling products, some of which were good, some of which were awful. The majority were unlikely to see “their” financial adviser (assuming s/he stuck around) unless the adviser believed that there was another chance to sell a product and thus earn some money.

Free Advice Illusion

The illusion of “free advice” was perpetuated by the product providers (the big life assurance and pension companies). They made it worse by having incredibly complex charging structures. They competed for business based on spurious data about past performance coupled with extra commission, above the agreed standard LAUTRO rate. Unhelpfully each product had a different rate of commission anyway so it was always likely that you would end up with a product that suited the adviser rather more than it suited the investor. In the late 1980s there was also the added problem of Independent Advisers being forced to disclose commission whereas Tied Agents didn’t (and couldn’t) Tied Agents were paid much more commission in any event. It was Tied Agents that were largely responsible for mis-selling of pensions. The collective advising legacy of Tied Agents is now shaped in the form of the largest financial advice company in Britain.

Suits you sir…

As an example, £200 into a pension typically paid commission to the adviser of around £2,300 and then about £5 a month after 4 years until payments stopped. The same amount invested into a PEP or ISA would pay typically £6 a month for as long as the payments were made (£72 a year). PEPs and ISAs did also include a fund based commission of 0.5% as well, so on a fund worth £2400 this would generate another £12 a year (plus growth) – £2,300 now or £84 over the year? (not hard maths).

This invariably resulted in bad selling practices and inappropriate advice. The result was marginally better regulation, improved qualification requirements for advisers and a ban on commission for investments from 2013. All advisers had to charge fees and agree these with their clients.

Unfortunately, this has not prevented criminals being criminals. The digital revolution which has helped on many levels is now under constant threat from fraud. Standards have had to be raised. What most people don’t appreciate is that the advice provided by financial advisers needs to be suitable, it sounds rather obvious but has implications. The most significant being that the adviser is liable for his or her advice not simply at the time, or their working career or indeed their lifetime, but for eternity. We are the only group on earth that can be sued posthumously (our estates).

Tongue-tied about risk

As a direct consequence of the historic mis-selling, any insurer providing professional indemnity insurance (a mandatory requirement to hold) takes a fairly negative view of bad practice and particularly “risky” products – which don’t necessarily mean investor risk, but those that invariably have been used to scam people. This has resulted in fewer insurers, higher premiums to the point that many advisers consider this a tax on good practice rather than an insurance against unlikely complaints.

Common Sense Revolution

A good adviser will always want to look after their clients well, forming a long-term relationship where a good service is provided and is financially rewarding to both the adviser and the client. Most advisers now look after their clients much better, adding significant value over time. There is much documented evidence for this (google adviser alpha).

The risk to the adviser is now more likely to be a bad relationship with a client, that results in a complaint, so service is vital and actually serves both client and adviser much better anyway. So very few advisers are now willing to take on a “one off” piece of work. The risk of things going wrong is too great.

Getting to know you

In a typical process an adviser must demonstrate that s/he knows their client before offering advice. This means sufficiently understanding the clients existing arrangements, circumstances and plans for the future, all within the context of the current real world. Here’s a brief list of the sort of things we require.

·         Evidence of your identity and residency (are you a potential fraudster?)

·         Family circumstances, context (who else is impacted?)

·         Income and tax information (to reduce but also to avoid fraud and evasion)

·         Assets (on a global basis)

·         Liabilities (on a global basis)

·         Existing arrangements (old employer pensions etc)

·         Giving (historic, present and planned)

·         Current spending levels (where does it go? How much does life cost you?)

·         Goals (why, when, who, what, how?)

·         Attitude to risk and capacity for loss

·         The content of your Will (where will all the above go?)

I could go on, but you probably get the point. Obtaining all of this isn’t as straight-forward as you may imagine either. Whilst you may loathe insurance companies, I can assure you that tracking down and obtaining the right information from them about you is enough to test the frustration boundaries of anyone.  Additionally, some people are simply not good at facing difficult truths – such as their own lack of financial control and an unwillingness to confront the basics of something that reveals where it all goes (like an expenses statement).

Trust me, I’m a…

So we’ve now gathered the above, we need to assess it and analyse it properly. Then in light of your aims, what’s realistic given your resources, appetite for risk and ability to cope with loss, we can put together solutions from everything that is “out there”…. Which to remind you is an ever evolving, changing, competitive marketplace, so what’s “best” last week may not be so today.

Committed to paper

We then provide a suitability report, which is meant to be read. Most are long because a lot needs to be said, but we also operate in a climate of complaint and many complaints are won based on what was not said by the adviser than what was done or even whether the adviser was “right”. The client is a human and wants to simply get on with life and not read a very long document about financial stuff.

Then there is the issue of fees and investment costs. We have evolved from the delusion that advice is free, but most people still believe that it is cheap. Even with very good technology (none of it joins up) completing the list earlier and creating a “file” takes about 2 days for the typical person, that assumes the information has arrived.

Fees

Anyway, fees – most charge to look after your money, so will take a percentage of this. The more you have the more you pay (as with most things in life). However in our unnecessarily complex tax system, the more you have invariably means the greater your options and the greater the complexity. Just for a benchmark, complexity probably starts at income of £80,000, but could be a lot lower depending on your age.

Fees come in all forms, but in essence I see six  

1.       The first is to implement or arrange something (i.e.. ISA). Some call this an initial charge. In essence, it is the result of a recommendation to use XYZ investing in a portfolio of funds with ABC, which is suitable because…. Charges are typically 1%-5%

2.       Ongoing management and looking after of the arrangement – the idea being that stuff changes, you need to make adjustments to keep within the parameters that were established. Perhaps switching funds within the portfolio, rebalancing or changing the “shell” of the investment to something now better. Charges are typically 1%

Both of these rely on you having money to invest and look after. Its not that different from commission, invariably taken from the investment rather than your bank account. It works but its not perfect. We know that it isn’t perfect as well, but its how most of us work.

3.       The service fee, this is often paid as a retainer and provides for the cost of meetings and keeping all your stuff (old style and new style) up to date and keeping you in the loop, charges are typically £50 – £500 a month

4.       Ad hoc fees – for specific, often complex pieces of work but of course nobody does this unless they are fully furnished with all the facts about you (as per my list). Charges typically a minimum of £300

5.       The financial planning fee – this is really where the best advisers are heading. In theory you don’t need any money to be invested with your adviser, they design a financial plan, which will take account of all you have and reveal a version of the future so that you can actually know how much is enough, what you need to do and so on, irrespective of who ends up investing the money. A financial plan can be a mammoth document covering the reasons for each assumption made, or it can be reduced to the headline charts, showing you the what and why with a list of action points. A financial plan will cost at least £1500, some ten times this (remember complexity and options). Some advisers recognise that this is often “new” for their clients and discount it heavily to £500-£750 be warned that this also indicates their lack of confidence in the value that they are offering. Financial planning is a real skill, not simply a new label.

6.       The no strings fee. This is the latest attempt to separate financial planning and perhaps behavioural coaching from your money. You pay all fees directly from your bank account, irrespective of how much you have. Naturally there will be some expectation of a correlation between how much value is added or work done, but payment is separate. As a result, there will be no adviser charge shown on any illustrations as the adviser is paid separately. This of course, makes the illustrative projections look much better. The adviser will be paid what was agreed irrespective of results. To be blunt most of us would prefer to work this way, but don’t have clients wealthy enough to do so. Those that do, successfully tend to charge £5,000 – £30,000 a year for their services.  Note that the fee is not necessarily related to time, but more likely value. Consider a tax planning saving of £800,000 what is that worth?

Show me the money

In the attempt to protect and help consumers the regulator has ensured that fees and costs are reflected in all illustrations (evolving since 1995 with “commission disclosure requirements”). Illustrations now show the impact of investment charges and adviser charges. These are significant and appear to cannibalise your investments. When coupled with low rates of growth used for illustrations and a well-intended “remember the impact of inflation” the resulting illustration far from helps consumers, but puts them off ever bothering to move money out of their bank account, (which if run by the same illustrative rules, would have you spitting blood).

Full circle…. Back to affordability and making it appear cheap

The truth, as uncomfortable as it may be, is that financial planning and good financial advice are now largely out of reach (price wise) to most people, due to our operational costs and the need to make a profit so that we can come back next year and do this all again so that our clients are looked after properly within the context of accurate information. It is an exhausting process. Most advisers I know (and I know a lot) would all want everyone to have better financial advice and are actively seeking ways to help through new media (podcasts, blogs, Vlogs, books, seminars, free downloads etc). Naturally, we hope to attract some new good clients, but we are also keen to help educate and improve financial literacy. We call it the savings gap. It’s in all our interests to help Britain become a nation of financially independent adults….the alternative is really rather frightening.

In conclusion (finally!) I cannot do a one-off piece of work for you. It isn’t in my long-term interests to do so (and probably not yours) without doing a proper job. Any adviser that offers to do so is at best deluded and perhaps desperate for money; at worst somewhat economical with the truth and likely running the risk of taking cash for forms, aiding scammers, knowingly or foolishly. This will result in further complaint, the inevitable failing of his or her business, and a compensation bill that the remaining good firms have to split between them (known as FSCS levies). Such a system has numbered days and is currently being reviewed in a fairly timid fashion. This really infuriates most advisers, many of whom vent in online sector forums and can easily be found on topics like Unregulated Collective Investment Schemes (UCIS) or Defined Benefit Pension Transfers or any recent receipt of a regulatory invoice from the FCA or FSCS, despite this there has been little appetite for opposition to a regulator that appears powerful yet out of touch.

When all is said and done, nobody can guarantee anything in financial services. Trust needs to be earned, I believe that this is done by being transparent and keeping promises. Quite how or even how much advisers are paid becomes largely irrelevant under such conditions. Any good financial planner or adviser wants a good long-term relationship with clients.

I genuinely wish you good luck in your endeavour to find a trustworthy, ethical adviser that has possesses business acumen. At one point there were over 250,000 people selling pensions and insurance products, there are now about 25,000 registered individuals who are licensed to do so across 5,720 firms, the vast majority of which are not yet financial planners. You could search my social media account to find some, but in general those are the elite advisers. Beware that search engines or directories are also paid-for marketing tools.

Think I’m wrong? today a report about pension transfers from final salary (“gold-plated pensions”) continues to press the point that advisers cannot be trusted. Nobody appears to have any notion of the cost or risk involved, everything is assessed in terms of a price for filling out forms. See Professional Adviser item by Hannah Godfrey.

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

The Hurdles We Face2023-12-01T12:18:19+00:00

Should advisers fear being black listed?

Should advisers fear being black listed?

There are numerous benefits of social media. One is the ability of peers in any field to discuss topics and share ideas. Sadly this comes with the inevitable double-edged sword of whether to post under your real name or a pseudonym… or “nom de plume”. This I assume is connected to a fear of being black listed.

Of course there’s a lot to disagree about, and it appears that many will take considerable time to vent and click send. Not always a great choice, I’ve been guilty of it myself. There is a general perception, whether explicit or implied that somehow anything critical of those in power will result in some form of retribution. Hence many publish comments under false names for fear of being “black listed”.

Invariably the problem within my own sector is that of fear of the regulator. Of course on the one hand I think this is quite a good thing, advisers ought to be “afraid” of the regulator. That would really mean that they are surely there to keep people on the “straight and narrow”. So I welcome good, strong regulation – it’s in my interests (and yours). The hope is that strong regulation reduces the potential for people to be ripped off.

A critical voice brings change

On occasion, of course some criticism of the regulator is entirely appropriate (after all is anyone or any organisation perfect?). It is this that advisers fear (good ones too). The concern is rather obvious – raising a critical voice may be met with a sudden barrage of requests for information, which can prove time consuming and frankly unnecessary. I take the view that the regulator needs to be held to account and publish under my name. Frankly it is rare that I am critical of them – my main gripe is invariably a difference of approach to the way investors who have suffered scams or mis-selling are compensated following advice from “bad” advisers.

At present, the system is such that “bad” advisers rip off investors. The product, fund, adviser and their PI cover all fail and the remaining “good” advisers pay the compensation. By remaining, I really do mean a diminishing number. At one point there were about 250,000 “financial advisers” today there are about 22,000. Most advisers pass this cost onto their clients. To date, I haven’t despite a 30-day demand for payment increasing by 67% in 2015 on top of a 69% increase in the previous year! Hard to explain and pass on such fee rises in a period of virtually no inflation!

I don’t think I’m being too radical or inflammatory in my industry comments. This isn’t the 1950’s, McCarthyism has not returned (as far as I can tell). On which note, there is a very good new film out called Trumbo – the true story of a man that was blacklisted by some very unsavoury people in Hollywood. Trumbo was forced to write under a pseudonym to allow him to earn a living and he wasn’t ripping anyone off. I’m not so sure that advisers publishing under pseudonyms is really the same thing at all. I wish I had the creative writing skills of Trumbo! I only stand with him in the sense of being free to write or speak without fear of reprisal.

Oh, and you are welcome to check out my industry comments online at places like New Model Adviser, Financial Adviser, Professional Adviser.. but they are pretty dull and aimed at advisers.

Here is the trailer for Trumbo, you may recognise Bryan Cranston (who plays Walter White in Breaking Bad) and Helen Mirren has a small role, but has you piping venom… well it did for me. It has only just been released here in the UK… its one of the few films that I gave 10/10… but of course I may have been influenced by issues raised here!

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

Should advisers fear being black listed?2023-12-01T12:19:27+00:00

Your FSCS protection is reducing

FSCS compensation is reducing

Today the Government announced that from 1st January 2016 the FSCS compensation limit will be reduced from £85,000 to £75,000. This will achieve two things, firstly it will make some people panic that the reason must be due to some impending crash, the other will be that some people will need to shuffle £10,000 from various bank accounts into a different one.

In practice, the limit is reviewed every 5 years and was last reviewed in 2010. This is all based on European directives (yes another one), ingeniously entitled the Deposit Guarantee Schemes Directive, which is priced in Euros and is for the sum of €100,000 which is worth a bit less than it was in 2010, the pound and UK economy are stronger – hence revalued to £75,000. It is a little odd to make the announcement mid-Greek Euro crisis and of course we have the prospect of our own UK referendum on Europe.

Long story short, your protection is in place until the end of the year, but you will need to take action before then to move funds and open alternative deposit accounts.

Banking License Caveat

Please be aware that the FSCS protection is per person per bank, not per bank account and a significant issue is that several banks (and Building Societies) share the same banking license, so having accounts with them will make no difference to the total compensation that you would receive. You can find information about shared licenses here.

That said, and I really don’t want to alarm anyone, but if several major Banks collapsed at the same time, frankly there is little real prospect of the compensation having much relevance. This is for unusual one-off events where a single Bank fails. I very much doubt a major systemic failure would see £85,000 or the new £75,000 returned to you for each account held.

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

Your FSCS protection is reducing2023-12-01T12:40:15+00:00

Investing: What are ETFs?

Investing: What are ETFs?

An ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) is one of a number of financial products or “instruments” which are better described as ETPs – Exchange Traded Products. In very simple terms, it is an investment that can be traded in pretty much the same way on any world stock market. They are relatively new (beginning life in 1993) but are growing in popularity.

Low cost and transparent

The main advantage of an ETP is that they are often very low-cost and transparent, particularly as the total cost of ownership is very clear. As we know, there are very few things that we can control in the investment world – but cost is one that we can exercise some degree of control over. We cannot control markets (at least not legally!) and whilst use strategies to take account of what is going on in the world, I believe that attempting to time investments to produce superior returns is pretty much beyond everyone. Admittedly it looks very easy in hindsight, but the truth is rather different and knowing when to get out is easier than knowing when to get back in…. and both decisions need to be made. Low cost is not the same as “cheap and nasty” and more than high cost is the same as quality. Cost of ownership is one of many aspects that we consider for our clients.

Focus which enables diversity

So an ETP offers a low-cost approach to accessing markets. In addition they can also provide tremendous focus. If you really want to invest in something specific an ETP will invariably have a solution. Arguably an ETP “democratizes” investing, making is just as cost-effective to invest £100 as £1m. However there are some snags.

Evolving market – teething troubles

Firstly, an ETP doesn’t have the advantage of the FSCS  (compensation scheme) behind it. Frankly that may not bother you as one can make the argument that the such protection is paper-thin in the event of a serious global meltdown. Secondly as a “security” an ETP is traded, often via a stockbroker, which means dealing costs. If the amount is large enough, then this can be an insignificant sum, but clearly it’s not for those that invest modest amounts each month or trade frequently with small sums. Many ETPs are priced in non-sterling currencies, such as the dollar, thus exposing you to increased currency risk. Finally accessibility is still limited, of course I can find the best way for you to access ETFs and resolve these snags, but the choice of providers that genuinely offer trading facilities and best execution practice is fairly small – this is an evolving market. Once these costs are included, often an ETP can be more expensive than a good low-cost Unit Trust or OEIC – which have more “protection”. So I would argue that for all but a few, the main appeal at present remains the ability to use highly specific investment strategies to add value to your portfolio. Essentially this comes down to your investment experience and requirements – which ought to serve your goals, not simply a different investment experience.

However, I want to make it very clear that ETPs can make a lot of sense for the right investor and something that we are able and willing to use appropriately, after all this is part of being independent and being able to access the entire market for solutions.

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

Investing: What are ETFs?2023-12-01T12:40:14+00:00
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