Elon Musk is going to end me

Dominic Thomas
May 2024  •  3 min read

Elon Musk is going to end me

We have all marvelled at the advances made in technology and scientific breakthroughs. Most of us will have seen at least a handful of dystopian films about the end of humanity as we know it as the robots rise to power. Our screens and media in all forms are predictably full of alarm, after all – nothing grabs attention quite as well as fear.

Mr Musk or let’s just call him Mr X, a reductionist term that he appears to enjoy. It is hard to ignore the fact that he aspires to be a rival for a Bond villain with his odd sense of over importance and world domination. Anyway, Mr X thinks that financial advisers need to be worried about the threat of AI. There are many in my field who agree.

I am mindful of not wanting to take the Kodak approach to life, ignoring the rapid changes in consumer demands as technology improves and changes the landscape. Indeed I welcome it, from improvements to efficient data gathering and report writing, to better and clearer understanding of issues and options. To reduced operating costs and greater transparency. I am all in favour.

So am I to believe that a series of prompts from a cyborg will replace me? Well I suspect that s/he will be better looking, be able to perform some tasks much more quickly, but in terms of time spent with you and for you, that remains to be seen. I struggle to believe that empathy is little more than coding.

I am not fool enough to believe that change is not coming (some is already here) but I would like to remind you of some basic truths that, despite our enormous advances in technology, continue to frustrate and make life worse rather than better.

I wonder if you have tried to pay for a parking permit with a London Borough lately?  Or attempted to get the NHS appointment system to operate?  Tried to call a telecom company to discuss the problems with your line or change an error on your pre-flight check-in? To have had your mobile phone lost or locked and successfully restored all your data and applications, especially the authenticator. To book tickets online for an event in the milliseconds after they go on sale or simply try to check your National Insurance number when your surname or suffix has altered and are shocked to realise that you do not exist, perhaps we are living in the Matrix after all. Perhaps you have an old-style pension with an old-style pension company and you simply cannot obtain the right information, or you are an employee trying to retire and your employer’s pension scheme administration is, well… stuck in what seems to resemble something out of spoof BBC series from the 1980s Allo, Allo.

The commonality with these examples is that they are instances where technology has been deployed and is utterly hopeless – and they are all very common experiences. Your call definitely is not as important as you are being told, otherwise someone senior would have done something about it. As for the virtual assistants on most banking sites, well forgive me if I scream and wish for the mortal failure of swathes of the Banking sector. Yet these are all rather straightforward instances where simple technology really ought to be delivering the changes promised by the Consultants that sold them for multimillion sums, yet fail every single day.

The basics of scheduling, such as a routine, repeat order (anything from pet medication to your wine club) really should not be quite so hard to amend. A refund from the DVLA who collect your road tax each month from your bank account by direct debit yet insist on sending an oversized cheque that your banking app cannot cope with, so you have the joys of finding a local branch of your bank to deposit it the ‘old-fashioned way’. Perhaps that train ticket that you bought online is wrong and it’s too onerous to change or you now struggle with touch screens due to a medical condition that you cannot even book a ticket without joining the queue at the ticket desk now operated by someone who clearly thinks that online capability means there is now no requirement for the excesses of any human interaction.

When Amazon manage to master packaging an item into an appropriately sized box or when the next DPD driver asks if you are over 18 and if you could provide your date of birth (why?). When your washing machine, fridge, doorbell, health tech all are savvy enough to appreciate that you really couldn’t care less if they have finished their task and can dispense with the notification of the mundane. When the weather forecast is right or indeed the economic one, or a politician says what they mean rather than what they believe you want to hear.

I imagine that you assume that we use technology here at Solomon’s, and that we do so with thought and regard. I know it isn’t perfect and we all get fed up repeating some of the exercises. I also assume that you want to speak to a human who can help you grapple with sometimes dull, sometimes painful, sometimes stressful, sometimes embarrassing (really?) and sometimes joyful elements of helping you figure out how to make the most of your time and money and the relationship between them.

Whilst I do agree technology offers the possibility of enormous benefits, I respectfully remain unconvinced that either utopia or dystopia are arriving anytime soon.

Elon Musk is going to end me2024-05-03T14:13:04+01:00

DIGITAL DEVELOPMENTS

TODAY’S BLOG

DIGITAL DEVELOPMENTS

Some of you are going to get fed up with me.

One of the many challenges of our times is the constant innovation of technology. A lot of this can seem utterly pointless, tech for tech’s sake, but sometimes it is a bit like witnessing the first washing machine when you have been slaving away with a board and scrubber at the river.

The pandemic has had a multiplication effect like nothing else I have known in the 3 decades or so that I have been doing this work. There have been huge improvements, but not as many or so significant as in the past 18 months.

It is not that these are unexpected, but rather that they are almost breath-taking when the very things you have yearned for, asked for, screamed for over the years are finally ready…. and work.

The problem being that most of you have got used to a system with us and I can assure you that most of the tools we have been using are or perhaps were market leading, some of these are going to be replaced. That is the pain – just as you get used to the appearance or workings of something we go and change it. Well hopefully we can minimise any pain. The only point of the changes is to improve what we do for you and seek better efficiencies for the business, meaning we can help more people just like you.

So stand by, things are about to change again.

Sometimes it feels like...

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 Mill Cobham Park Road, COBHAM Surrey, KT11 3NE

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 Mill Cobham Park Road, COBHAM Surrey, KT11 3NE

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

7 QUESTIONS, NO WAFFLE

Are we a good fit for you?

DIGITAL DEVELOPMENTS2023-12-01T12:13:00+00:00

TECHNOLOGY IMPROVEMENT

TODAY’S BLOG

TECHNOLOGY IMPROVEMENTS

We are gradually attempting to increase efficiency by minimising the actions required to get things done. We have adopted electronic signatures for documents where this is possible. This makes life considerably easier for you – no need to sign and post a form. We are using DocuSign, which is one of the leading software providers for this sort of secure signature process.

You automatically get a pdf to save on your computer, but invariably we will also save a copy to your file within our portal.

DOCUSIGN

The process takes a few moments, most of the forms we use are ones that you will have seen regularly, but are often required for tax-year payments, ongoing declarations of your tax status and UK residence as well as our fees.

If you have any difficulties using the DocuSign system, please do not hesitate to contact the team on 0208 542 8084 or send an email to debbie@solomonsifa.co.uk and we will be very pleased to help.

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 Mill Cobham Park Road, COBHAM Surrey, KT11 3NE

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 Mill Cobham Park Road, COBHAM Surrey, KT11 3NE

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

7 QUESTIONS, NO WAFFLE

Are we a good fit for you?

TECHNOLOGY IMPROVEMENT2023-12-01T12:13:08+00:00

WARNING ABOUT EMAIL & WEB SCAMS

TODAY’S BLOG

WARNING ABOUT EMAIL AND WEB SCAMS

I asked Steve Hayward to put together a piece for me about being safe on your computer. Here are his thoughts and top 10 tips to keep you safe at a time when more of us are working from home and criminals are ever industrious. Steve…

Let’s be honest – internet security is dull topic. We seldom hear about cybercrime and data theft anymore, largely because people are more tech aware and we have relaxed our vigilance because our email providers do such a good job of filtering out unwanted spam. Likewise, web protection is built into our browsers and so we seldom need to concern ourselves with malicious code, hidden redirects, and aggressive popups. However, we cannot afford be too complacent when using any internet service as people are still being scammed and defrauded in their thousands.

A sceptical awareness has never been more important now that we find millions of people either working from home or in isolation, with only our access to the internet to keep us feeling connected to others. Cybercriminals are creative and they are making every use of this new opportunity to identify our vulnerabilities. So, here are my top 10 simple rules and best-practices to live by when using the internet:

COMPUTER SCAMS

TOP TEN TIPS FOR GOOD PRACTICE

1)      Be suspicious. Have a general scepticism bubbling away in the background with everything you do on the internet.

2)      Always use strong passwords but don’t only rely on them. Never use the same password for every application and service you use. Keeping track of your passwords can be tough and so use a decent password manager. These applications generate strong passwords and store them for you in an encrypted vault. They will also manage other credentials and sensitive data, like financial card information. They will also sync across all your devices. Look for applications like LastPass, 1Password, Bitwarden, Dashlane, Keeper, or KeePassXC.

3)      Always use two-factor or three-factor authentication and/or biometric security when it’s available. A simple username and password is not enough – especially for important services like online banking and buying and selling. The first tier of authentication is your username and password for that service; the second tier is an additional authentication, such as an SMS text message to your phone with a login code or PIN. Also, try to use services that require a fingerprint or face/voice recognition.

4)      Phishing. This is the big one that still gets people because the emails seem genuine and may not be caught by a spam filter. A phishing email is used to get you to log on (or attempt to log on or perform a password reset or confirm your bank details) by pretending to be from a source you trust, such as your bank or a retailer. This is a good time to re-read best-practice #1. If you ever receive an unexpected email informing you of a security incident or one that’s asking you to reset your password or confirm a detail of any kind, ignore it and mark it as spam. Check the sender email address. Does it look genuine? You’ll often find that an email that pretends to be from Microsoft, will not be sent from the expected support@microsoft.com email address (for example), but rather from something bizarre like microsoft-reset@blamfeutter.ru. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never heard of Blamfeutter from Russia – and neither have you. Delete it and mark it as spam. If ever in doubt, call the company that you believe may be trying to contact you.

5)      Never open attachments unless you completely trust the sender. Even then, glance at the type of file you’ve been sent before you just click on it. Is it a Word document, an Excel spreadsheet, a JPG photo, or a PDF document? If so, then chances are it’s okay. Is it a document type you don’t recognise? If so, don’t open it. Check with the sender first.

6)      Anti-virus. If you are using a PC at home, make sure you have a security suite installed. There are plenty of good free versions like AVG, Avast, Avira, and Bitdefender.

7)      Public Wi-Fi is never secure. Be extremely sensitive about what you do from your laptop or phone via the Wi-Fi of your favourite coffee shop. NEVER do a financial transaction. NEVER log on to PayPal or any other internet banking system. Write documents and send emails, that is all.

8)      Stop clicking the Unsubscribe option at the bottom of an unwanted email. You cannot guarantee where that hyperlink will take you. Simply mark the email as spam instead.

9)      Facebook and other social-media. There are so many ‘interesting’ posts on Facebook that act as bait for your click. Your click will often be redirected and a hidden piece of code will be run that will cause you to ‘like’ a Facebook page without your consent or may lead you to survey sites that are profitable for the criminals involved. Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Twitter alone hold an enormous amount of your data. Criminals are very interested in getting hold of this data – especially when there is a good chance the email and password you use to log on will also be used by you for numerous other accounts elsewhere. They will also have access to your address, your family details, your mobile number, and (likely) your credit card, what you buy and when, your movements and whereabouts from moment to moment, and what you ate for supper last night.

10)  Keep your software up-to-date. Turn on automatic updates so that your browsers like Chrome and Firefox get regular automatic security updates.

At Solomons we have a securely encrypted portal,  this is the best way to communicate with us about anything that is data-sensitive. If you have not already done so, please register for our portal. We advise watching our short video first which is below.

Now head over to any page of our site, where it says CLIENT LOGIN (top right) or use this link:

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR OUR PORTAL

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 Mill Cobham Park Road, COBHAM Surrey, KT11 3NE

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 Mill Cobham Park Road, COBHAM Surrey, KT11 3NE

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

7 QUESTIONS, NO WAFFLE

Are we a good fit for you?

WARNING ABOUT EMAIL & WEB SCAMS2023-12-01T12:13:19+00:00

ANOTHER DECADE OF CHANGE

TODAY’S BLOG

ANOTHER DECADE OF CHANGE

A new year, a new decade. There have been huge global changes over the last decade. Cast your mind back to 2010. Gordon Brown was PM. The FTSE100 closed 2009 at 5412. The starting rate of income tax was 10%, the personal allowance was £6,475 unless you were over 65. The annual allowance for your pension contribution was £245,000 with a lifetime allowance of £1,750,000. ISAs were limited to £10,200. Corporation tax was 28% or 21% for small companies. The Credit Crunch had happened, unemployment in the UK had soared to 7.8%.

On a lighter note, Chelsea were top of the Premier League, Jenson Button had been F1 World Champion for 2 months. The year ended and 2010 began with the worst snowfall since 1982.  The iphone 3GS was 6 months old, the ipad hadn’t even been launched.

Looking back, 2010 started nursing the pains of the credit crunch

Most (almost all) financial advisers all worked on a commission, the regulator (FSA) and its Chief Executive were still fending off criticism about mishandling the credit crunch, whilst working to implement new standards for advisers, which wouldn’t be implemented for another 3 years. Solomons had been removing commission since formation in 1999. A decade of commission removed already!

Evolution

Technology has evolved. Advisers have evolved (as has the regulation). Tax rates and allowances have changed, pensions have been mauled. We have lived with base rates of less than 1% for a decade (all that wasted money in Cash ISAs!).

“Lessons will be learned” (more likely: mistakes will be repeated)

The top Unit Trust returned 684% over the decade (ending 2009) it happened to be a fund investing in gold. At the start of the relevant time period, the then UK Chancellor was at the beginning of Government policy (1999-2002) to sell off UK Gold reserves like they were a bad disease, the price of gold was rock bottom at the time. However, the worst fund returned (lost) -72%! That’s a huge difference, and of course only something most didn’t achieve, for few investors had the stomach for gold when tech was the best game in town. In fact, it was the Framlington NetNet fund that was launched in 1999, a fund that was marketed to capture the returns of the internet. Within a few weeks of the start of 2000, the dotcom bubble burst. The fund was renamed and rejuvenated which ended the decade at a loss of -72%. Most investors (and Governments) did the exact opposite of what they should have done. Lesson learned? Of course not.

Planning is Art and Science

Technology is often fantastic; I use tools that I wish I had in the early days. The 2020s will only see more become available and hopefully more efficient ways to do things. Technology is simply a tool, not a replacement. It doesn’t cope well with real life and the changes that can be very sudden. So, advice should always be grounded in the real world, but more importantly with your real goals and real values. That’s where the art comes in and here is some from Carl Richards of the Behavior Gap (American!)

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 Mill Cobham Park Road, COBHAM Surrey, KT11 3NE

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 Mill Cobham Park Road, COBHAM Surrey, KT11 3NE

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

7 QUESTIONS, NO WAFFLE

Are we a good fit for you?

ANOTHER DECADE OF CHANGE2023-12-01T12:17:04+00:00

THE FLYING SCOTSMAN

TODAY’S BLOG

THE FLYING SCOTSMAN

What is it about a steam engine and the Flying Scotsman in particular? As I sat down to enjoy a trip aboard a Pullman coach, my companions and I attempted to unpick what was the nub of the attraction. After all, we had taken a train from a station close to home simply to take another train journey back into the Surrey hills, where we had just come from. This was, to put it bluntly, a journey back to where we started, simply for the sake of it. This reminded me of my own childhood and going for a drive with my father, just for the fun of it.  He used a phrase “We are going there and back to see how far it is” which is something his own father used to say to him. My dad was one of the few people in his street whose family owned a car, the days when the roads were about as busy as the Scottish Highlands, or as my daughters used to say when they were small, when the dinosaurs were around…

For all our discussion, we still didn’t really identify quite what made this steam trip so special, which it was. Something elemental about water, fire and steam? Perhaps nostalgia and the various cultural references to steam engines? A simpler way of life? The noise, smell and sense of occasion? The sense of travelling with style? Perhaps all of those or none of them. What was certainly disarmingly charming was the smiles, waves and cheers that greeted “us” along the route. People of all ages had come to bear witness to this now rare event, sharing in the collective experience, contributing to it.

SOLOMONS IFA - The Flying Scotsman

Old Technology

The steam engine is very obviously old technology. It was vital and pivotal in the industrial revolution and therefore Britain’s role in moving the world forwards. Today it is largely for the amusement of enthusiasts, but most of us probably have a fond regard for this rather nostalgic, romantic form of transport, with a sense of stepping into a story from Agatha Christie.

I found myself wondering about the different ticket classes for the 475 passengers, some of whom had a basic carriage and brought a picnic, whilst others sank into Pullman coach armchairs, enjoying canapés, champagne, and a three-course meal with wine.  Yet this would be similar on aeroplanes, or contemporary trains… or frankly almost any service. We were all being pulled along the same track at the same speed. None of us were in control of the engine or actually aboard the Scotsman. Our experiences were similar but rather different. We all arrived at our final destination at the same time, on time, but perhaps in different states of rest.

Life is a Journey

Regularly we all see adverts that play on the idea that life is about the journey not the destination, this is a truth, but how we decide to experience the journey may well impact how we feel when we finally arrive.

The idea of a journey as a metaphor often used within financial services. Indeed I often describe it as such and talk of “course correction”. Yet in practice a good plan is simply mapping out where you wish to go, the method of travel may vary and perhaps alter, the speed, comfort and experience of the journey can be tailored to suit most budgets. The key is making sure you are not simply going around in circles and on your own path. However, one inescapable reality, is that a financial plan invariably begins at home and ends at home.

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 Mill Cobham Park Road, COBHAM Surrey, KT11 3NE

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 Mill Cobham Park Road, COBHAM Surrey, KT11 3NE

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

7 QUESTIONS, NO WAFFLE

Are we a good fit for you?

THE FLYING SCOTSMAN2023-12-01T12:17:22+00:00

Website Distractions?

Solomons-financial-advisor-guest-blogger-G-JonesGraham Jones is back, examining our productivity and accuracy in our technology infused lives. Graham…

Website Distractions

Here’s a test. Look closely at what you are reading right now, these very words. Do not move your eyes away from these words. Focus. Focus. Focus.

Oh, go on then, take a look at the sidebar, take a peek at what else is on the page.

And….back to the text……youvegotmail

Now, let’s start again. Because that is what your brain is having to do. All of a sudden your reading flow has been interrupted and you need to get back into the swing of things. And here is another interruption to disturb your brain some more – a picture to look at. We all know about online distractions from our daily work – such as email alerts or the desire to see what our friends are saying on Facebook. And we all know that these distractions take us away from being productive.

People who only deal with email once or twice a day are significantly more productive than those people who constantly check their emails. Several studies confirm this. Similarly, people who only log on to Facebook once a day and who have a routine are both more productive and feel better about themselves.

However, new research shows that it is not just major distractions, such as checking your email or logging onto Facebook that are a problem. It turns out that distractions that take as little as 2.8 seconds can have a significant impact on us. The study found that an average of 4.4 seconds of distraction is enough to significantly reduce your accuracy on subsequent tasks.

What this means is that the plethora of web distractions, such as “web page furniture” is not only wasting our time and making us all less productive, it also suggests that what we do at work is becoming less accurate as a result. That also hits our productivity as we have to go over and repeat our work in order to correct the mistakes.
One way out of this conundrum is to use something like Evernote Clearly which allows you to view web pages, distraction-free. Perhaps we need to re-think the way websites are designed. Perhaps web pages that look rather like a page of a book, free of distractions, are actually better for us than pages full of potential distractions.

It also means we could increase productivity with better designs for offices, phones that do not ring for more than 2.8 seconds and so on. It is time to look at the whole way we work – we are not being anywhere near as productive as we could be, because our modern way of working provides us with a constant array of distractions for more than a few seconds.

Graham Jones

Website Distractions?2023-12-01T12:39:13+00:00

Adapt or die – warnings of an online world

Solomons-financial-advisor-guest-blogger-G-Jones

Today Graham pulls no punches as he outlines the need for businesses to have a proper strategy for utilising new technology fully or face the plight of those that didn’t adapt quickly enough, such as Kodak or Polaroid.

Most businesses could collapse in the next decadeadaptation

Let’s face facts: the digital world is fundamental to all businesses. Even if you sell offline or operate mainly in the “real world”, the digital world has an impact on your business. Whether it is for communications, such as email, or as a starting point for buyers researching your business, the Internet is central to customers.

The problem is that most businesses themselves use the Internet as a “nice-to-have” and not as central to their business. When I speak to Chief Executives and point out this difference they nod their heads in agreement. But then they say it is “impossible” to change their business to focus on the Internet because it would involve too much change.

Now, though, they are in for a shock. The highly respected consultancy firm Forrester has said that unless businesses make this change they will “face an extinction event” within the next decade.

forresterdigitalgraph

They are saying this because their latest research shows that only 21% of companies have a clear vision for the future use of digital within their business. That’s in spite of 90% of firms agreeing that digital will revolutionise their sector within the next 12 months….! And they are not the only consultants sounding the warning bell – just three months ago Capgemini published their own research suggesting that businesses simply have to make the Internet central to their company, regardless of their sector or industry.

According to Forrester, businesses are now just “bolting on” the Internet to their existing business structures. But what is required, they say, is a complete “re-set” – a fundamental shift in the way businesses are structured and run. Business leaders I meet are totally unprepared to do this because of the seismic shift required. Yet the warning from Forrester is stark: do it or die.

When you look at successful businesses online they are mostly businesses which focus their firm on the Internet – Google, Facebook, Amazon for instance. But it is not just technology-based companies like these online startups which have embraced digital as central to their business. Back in 2012 Starbucks transformed itself into a digital centric company.

Business leaders, used to a non-digital world, find it hard to make the transformation necessary. So, what is the solution? The first step must surely be to conduct an immediate review of the kinds of people setting strategy and plans for your company. The data from Forrester and Capgemini both point to the need to use the services of those “digital natives” in central roles in your company. The future of your business could well depend upon giving the strategic reins to your grandchildren.

Graham Jones

Adapt or die – warnings of an online world2023-12-01T12:39:06+00:00

“What have I missed about auto enrolment?”

Solomons-financial-advisor-wimbledon-top-banner

What have I missed about auto enrolment?

Yesterday I suggested that auto enrolment was not really about pensions, that’s because despite it being about setting up a pension, the real emphasis is much more about communications with staff and with Government agencies. The new system is rather like PAYE, though nothing quite as simple. I have come up with 11, that’s eleven, key issues where auto enrolment will challenge your business or charity.

Contracts of employmentEmployeeOfTheMonth

Contracts of employment will need to be altered reflecting the new pension arrangements; this may be a difficult discussion depending upon your type of business and workforce. Do you need to get the help of HR or even legal advice to do this properly?

Pay reviews and salary sacrifice

Some employers may use this as an opportunity to consider “salary sacrifice” or “salary exchange” this is a bizarre scenario where having a reduced gross income with the reduction paid into a pension, saves both employer and employee national insurance contributions and PAYE, yet invariably the net pay is a bit more, with more money going into a pension. Odd but true.

Payroll integration, live and up to date

Your payroll software will need to be able to integrate the new scheme, if you are a small firm and outsource this to your book keeper or Accountant; they need to be up to speed and have software that does the job.

IT overhaul

Schemes will be managed online and the Pension Regulator may demand data going back 6 years in a format that they can readily use). This therefore has implications for your IT systems and security and in particular how you hold and backup your data about staff.

Garbage in, garbage out?

Communication with staff is also a big deal. You need to be able to evidence that you have provided all of the relevant information to your staff, email is the most obvious and cheapest delivery option, but we all know that not everyone uses email or has provided you with an up to date email address, so do you need everyone in the business to have a company email address, and what happens when they leave? Do you maintain records properly?

Money Laundering

As a pension is an investment, there are issues about possible Money Laundering and politically exposed people. As an employer do you have evidence that you have done thorough identity and residency checks? Can you prove this? This will also identify any illegal immigrants or visa’s that have expired.

Staying silent and impartial

You might see auto enrolment as a valuable part of your staff package, however some see it as another tax and a whole lot of bureaucracy. You are not permitted to give advice about pensions or entice or discourage staff from joining the scheme. This isn’t just frowned on, it carries hefty financial penalties if revealed.

Disgruntled employees

Non compliance with the rules is a dangerous approach. You may believe that you know your staff, but perhaps you should reflect on what could go wrong for you if a member of staff falls out with you, or is just plain awkward anyway (these people do exist in 2014) so make sure you have complied and that you can demonstrate that you have done so. It is pointless to ask for a bullet proof vest after the event.

Tax triggers

You may not be aware that some people have very large pension scheme benefits. The Lifetime Allowance has reduced and will reduce again in April. Some people have protected their larger allowances, but should they accidentally enrol into a new pension, this would scupper their plans. This could trigger enormous tax penalties (55% of £1m for example) and you won’t be terribly popular with the employee that is presented with such a bill because you didn’t communicate well enough.

Honest guv….

The cynic in me might suggest that this is another way to join-up the Government agencies, which is fine if you are doing everything properly (unless you have concerns about information flow) but of course will catch out more people that have undeclared earnings anywhere.

Impacting your budgeting

Finally, don’t rely on your costs being 3% of your payroll. It is likely that contributions levels will be raised above 8%, in Australia (where they have had compulsory pensions since 1992) employers now contribute 9.25%. You ought to allow funds for the scheme and your systems to be reviewed and of course you might be wise to provide seminars or meetings for your staff to ensure that they understand their pension.

So, auto enrolment is about pensions… well yes, but it is also about rather more besides.

Dominic Thomas: Solomons IFA

“What have I missed about auto enrolment?”2023-12-01T12:38:57+00:00

In your pocket

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In your pocket

I am delighted to announce that we are working on a helpfphotoul piece of kit that will fit into your pocket, or rather on your smart phone or tablet.We are working on a new app, for our clients and their friends. I’m quite excited about it and hope that it’s a great aid to our clients. The new app is being constructed and we are working on the title page. I wonder if you would like to have a preview? You will be able to use the app an iphone and ipad or any android device. Its rich with lots of features, financial calculators, budgeting stuff and of course means that you can contact us easily. We are constantly seeking to utilise proven technology where possible and if it makes sense.

We have another innovation as well that I shall be speaking to clients about, but only for those that use the internet for banking and would like a clever, secure way to view banking, credit cards and investments all in one place safely.

If this is of interest to you please get in touch.

Dominic Thomas: Solomons IFA

In your pocket2023-12-01T12:38:56+00:00
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