Christmas charity round-up

This year, a few members of the Bristol team took time away from the office to help at the Children’s Hospice South West (CHSW) Christmas party at the Charlton Farm Hospice, on the outskirts of Bristol. It was a lovely event with lots of different activities which the children enjoyed immensely.

Instead of sending our clients Christmas cards this year, we made a donation to CHSW to help them continue their great work providing care and assistance to the families of children with life limiting conditions.

In additional to financial support, we bought a selection of small gifts which were handed to the children by Father Christmas at the Christmas party. It is great to see first-hand what the difference that these donations make.

Volunteers at the CHSW party included (from left to right) India, Vicky, Stuart and Sara.

Through the Wells Dementia Action Alliance (WDAA), donations were made to local Charities “Heads Up” and the “Lawrence Centre” towards their Christmas Parties which brought much cheer to their clients living with dementia.

Plans are also underway to celebrate the 5th Anniversary of the WDAA during Dementia Action Week between 11th and 17th May 2020, when there will be activities for all throughout the week to help raise awareness and fund raise as there is so much more that we can do to help those living with dementia in our community.

Guests and clients and the Mayor of Wells share a seasonal cheer at Heads Up’s Christmas party.

Photo courtesy of Philip Welch.

Growing better

The Greek Philosopher Heraclitus once said that “change is the only constant”. He could have well been looking at the Financial Services profession today!

The Directors at Brunel and Pilgrim are continually looking at ways to ensure that we maintain the high level of service to clients by embracing change when it comes along and where we see that it will benefit our clients.

We have several projects that we will be completing this year, notably launching our own investment platform and our own Client Portal, which we’re really excited about!

To make sure these projects are a success, we have reshaped our team and it is with pleasure that I can introduce our new Managing Director, Andy Weston.

Andy has been our Head of Compliance for many years and he is the perfect man for the job.

We also see promotions for Kate Harris and Sara Mather to Group Operations Manager and Technical Team Manager respectively. Damien Rylett remains our CEO.

To fill the gaps left by these promotions, we have taken on more staff.

We are also pleased to therefore welcome Bryony Slade to our Compliance and Operations team, who will be working between both the Bristol and Wells offices.

In addition, we have augmented our Client Services team with Tom Doughty and Louise Brown who each bring valuable experience to their new roles. Jamie Havard joins us from the Office of National Statistics as a member of our Paraplanning team in Bristol.

The Wells office has been strengthened by Rachel Goymer and Katy Cox who have settled into their administration roles, and Lucy Harris has recently joined Harriet Carss in our Paraplanning team.

You will be pleased to hear that we will also be launching a new website where you will be able to put faces to names.

Whilst the team is growing, it remains our plan to stay nimble and focused entirely on our clients.

Technology can bring many benefits to our lives, but we will always be a company where you can be assured that a human being will be at the end of the phone and happy to talk with you.

Why financial advice is priceless

Do you remember the Mastercard ‘priceless’ campaign of the late 1990s?

These iconic adverts reminded the viewer, usually in a funny or thought-provoking way, that there are some things that money can’t buy.

These Priceless adverts came to mind when I reflected recently on the value of financial planning.

You see, a lot of what we do for our clients has a tangible value attached. But many other elements of our service can only be described as ‘priceless’.

Recent studies by the have found that those who used financial advice were better off than similar individuals who did not take advice.

A study originating in the United States concluded that the services provided by an excellent financial adviser have the potential to add around 3% each year to your investment returns. So we know that working with a financial adviser can make you wealthier.

The ‘Adviser Alpha’ study from investment provider Vanguard quantified the potential value added to an investor from services including rebalancing investment portfolios to manage risk, selecting low-cost investments and behavioural coaching.

When compared to the cost of ongoing advice, this added return through the provision of financial advice is excellent value.

But what takes financial advice from something valuable to something priceless? In my mind, it’s the less tangible benefits of what we do that make our services invaluable.

For example, we ensure things get done.

All too often, it’s easy to set financial goals (especially at this time of the year, when Resolutions abound), but fail to follow through and execute these goals as planned. By working with a financial adviser, we help life work by holding you to account and making sure these ambitions are realised.

There are some unquantifiable aspects of our role, which are undoubtedly priceless. We help our clients avoid the biases which arise a result of merely being human. These are biases which can derail even the most experienced and sensible investors.

One of the most important benefits our clients tell us we provide is delivering peace of mind. The ability to sleep well at night, safe in the knowledge that you have a plan for the future, is priceless.

Peace of mind ties in closely with the reassurance that you are making the right decisions, for you and your family.

One of the results of a financial plan includes being able to spend your time doing the things you enjoy, safe in the knowledge you won’t run out of money in the future, and your investments are in an appropriate place.

When the clients we work with can confidently provide financial assistance to adult children or other family members, they tell us this is priceless too.

If we believe everything we read in the press, working with a financial adviser is all about picking the best investment funds and being sold products to fill gaps. I hope this article shows you that, in addition to the tangible benefits of working with a financial adviser, it’s something that results in a priceless outcome too.

Wells Dementia Alliance Walk

Last month, we took part in the Wells Dementia Alliance Walk, raising money for those in the Wells community living with dementia, as well as their carers.

Despite the wet weather over 60 people turned out along with lots of dogs!

Len Sweales the Wells Town Crier gave us a great welcome and the Rt Rev Peter Hancock Diocese of Bath & Wells started the walk. We were lucky to have Mayor John Osman and Tessa Munt join us as well!

A total of £750 has been raised to date.

It’s worth remembering that dementia is not a normal part of the ageing process. But with more of us living longer lives, the diseases of the brain which cause dementia are becoming more widespread.

There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. This is forecast to soar to 2 million by 2051.

Wells Dementia Alliance Walk

South to North Dartmoor Challenge

Team members from our Bristol and Wells offices came together in June to complete the South to North Dartmoor Challenge 2019.

Ten members of the team walked 30 miles over rough terrain and undulating ground, including bogs (nobody fell in, fortunately).

On day one, we walked from Ivybridge to Princetown, staying overnight in a bunk house – thankfully it was next door to a pub!

Before setting out the next morning, we enjoyed a cracking fry-up breakfast, courtesy of Andy Weston and Neil Pinney.

On day two, we completed the challenge, walking from Princetown to Meldon.

South to North Dartmoor Challenge

In addition to the long distance covered, the hot weather added another challenge to the event, trying to avoid sunburn.

The team raised more than £1,000 which has been donated to St Margaret’s Hospice and Children’s Hospice South West.

Fond farewell

Fond farewellEarlier in the summer, we wished Arnold and Julie Wills a fond farewell from Pilgrim Financial Planning with an evening celebration in Wells.

They officially finished with the business on 30th June and, while we were sad to see them go, it was a fantastic opportunity to wish them well, along with other local professionals from the Wells community.

Arnold has been a local financial adviser for 36 years, commenting that he will be “looking forward to having more family time and time to enjoy his hobbies, particularly his music interests and travelling.”

All who know Arnold knows that he won’t be putting his feet up in retirement! He will continue to be active in the local community.

Julie is also looking forward to having more free time to develop her hobbies, now their four children have finished their schooling.

The evening was enjoyed with wine tasting at Vicars Hall, where we were also able to raise £1,000 to donate to the YMCA in Wells.

Michelle Payne, marketing manager for YMCA Mendip and South Somerset, mentioned in her thanks, “Our services are not just about providing safe accommodation for the vulnerable homeless; but also provide support, guidance, encouragement and opportunities that are so vitally important. Donations like yours mean we can carry on providing the important services we do.”

The evening was a fitting farewell and acknowledgement of Arnold and Julie’s excellent work, building Pilgrim Financial Planning over the past 24 years, as well as their commitment to the local community.

Arnold has always been passionate about providing impartial advice. He said, “I’m confident in the future of Pilgrim and that the directors and teams will continue to provide a caring and professional service.”

What prompts a meeting with a Financial Planner?

The reasons for arranging a meeting with a Financial Planner are many and varied.

Historically, we would talk about the ‘Four D’s’ as the biggest drivers of financial advice; these big four are death, debt, disease and divorce.

As morbid and miserable as these drivers were, they often gave individuals and families a reason to seek out professional advice, usually at a difficult time in life.

Thankfully, the drivers of advice seem to have moved on to encompass a much more extensive range of reasons, many of them happy and positive!

A recent example

One recent example involved a client initially wanting to explore some questions about a trust investment and her pensions. Our conversation developed into a broader conversation about what they wanted to get out of life, and culminated in the creation of a comprehensive financial plan.

She told me that there was a light-bulb moment when all of the parts of her financial plan came together; a sentiment we often hear from clients when presented with a financial plan for the first time.

An important part of the financial planning process is the creation of a lifetime cash flow forecast, which allows clients to see how different decisions or life events might influence their wealth in all stages of life. We create these forecasts using reasonable assumptions about the future, and keep them under regular review as external factors including investment returns and price inflation change over time.

When we create a financial plan for someone who needs to make important choices about their life, such as whether to give up a particular job so they can retire, or downsizing to a smaller property, the plan offers a high degree of comfort that decisions are sound.

I particularly love when the financial planning process opens eyes to the fact that clients can afford to do the things they want today. All too often, we’re scared to make big decisions because of the absence of certainty around our finances. The financial planning process introduces that certainty.

It’s especially satisfying when that certainty is originally triggered by a conversation about a small part of the financial planning world, such as a trust investment or an old pension plan.

What are some of the big current or upcoming events in your life that could prompt you to call one of our Financial Planners?

Avoiding financial scams

Financial fraud is sadly widespread. Rarely a day goes by without a mention of the latest scam in the news, or talk about unsolicited phone calls targeting vulnerable members of the local community.

These financial scams can take a number of different forms.

There’s the authorised push payment scam, where banking customers are tricked into moving money into an account controlled by the criminal.

Or courier card fraud, which involves the scammer sending a courier to collect your bank card and PIN number, which you hand over in the belief you are helping to prevent a crime.

Criminals create fake but very convincing investment companies – tricking people into thinking they are investing their money when it’s actually being stolen from them. They often call you out of the blue or advertise on social media – offering great investment opportunities that seem completely genuine.

These fraudsters can make lots of money with this type of scam, so they make the story as believable as possible: creating fake reviews, literature and brochures.

Companies are faked so well, it makes it difficult to identify a fraudulent company from a real one. The most common types of investment scams that people have become a victim of include cryptocurrency (i.e. Bitcoin), foreign exchange, bonds, shares and early pension release.

While not technically a scam, there are also several forms of investments which we consider to be such high-risk that you are very likely to lose your money. These investments sit outside of UK financial services regulation, which means you have no recourse to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), when things inevitably go wrong.

Cases that we have come across in recent years have involved investments in Offshore Property Bonds and also Storage Pods. In both instances, the brochures were very glossy, with high-quality photography and convincing words. The salesman promised returns of 10-15% a year, which compared with the return investors were currently receiving or the low interest on cash savings, was very appealing.

When we looked at what had taken place in each instance, we raised our concerns with the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Storage pod schemes and other exotic investments might not be a scam, but they are extremely high risk and in the cases we have come across have ended with the investment companies becoming insolvent.

Anything offering such high returns must be treated with a healthy degree of scepticism. The litmus test being, if it’s too good to be true, it usually is. Apply this rule to any investment or financial offer, and you are usually kept from harm.

There are several steps you should take to stay safe from scams.

Be aware

Your bank will never ask you to move money to another account. Bank accounts can be blocked to instantly stop any transactions – so there is no need to transfer your money to another account.

What to look out for

-If you’re being offered high returns and interest rates – take a moment to think about it. If it seems too good to be true it probably is.

-Sometimes a genuine investment company can be cloned. If you’re making any investments it’s always best to speak to your Financial Adviser or check the FCA investment scam list at  www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/warning-list for all known cloned firms.

-If a company contacts you out of the blue, via phone, email or text and puts pressure on you to make a decision quickly it’s likely to be fraudster. Genuine investment firms will give you time to think things over.

-Investment scammers sometimes advertise their services on social media and wait for you to contact them.

What to do to be sure   

-If someone calls you out of the blue asking you to invest money, just hang up. Wait for at least 10 minutes before making another call as fraudsters can keep the line open. Alternatively, use a different phone. Remember, nobody ever lost money by hanging up on a cold caller.

-Check the FCA investment scam list to see if that company has been cloned by fraudsters. You can also call the number the FCA have listed from a different phone to check it’s the same company. http://scamsmart.fca.org.uk/

-Always get independent investment advice from an FCA-regulated firm.

-If you believe you’ve accidentally shared any of your details, get in touch with your bank. Remember it’s best to use a different phone or wait at least 10 minutes in case the fraudster has kept the line open.

Please stay safe out there and remember you can always speak to one of our Financial Planner if you would like a second opinion.

Taking withdrawals from your investments

Taking withdrawals from your investments - article for Brunel Capital Partners

When we review your financial plan each year we discuss with you any requirements you may have to meet planned expenditure in the coming 12 months. We can then make recommendations to ensure that you receive this money from the most tax efficient and appropriate investment in line with your financial plan. We also ensure you receive the funds when you need them.

We understand that even with the best laid plans, life happens and there will be times when unexpected expenditure arises that cannot be met by your cash reserves. In these instances we will still need to make recommendations and gain confirmation that you are happy to proceed on the basis recommended.

So please allow as much time as you can once you know you have a need for extra funds from your pensions or investments to allow for this process. As always we will do our best for you.

Ride for Precious Lives

For the third year running, Damien will be taking part in the Ride for Precious Lives with Children’s Hospice South West. This is a unique annual sponsored 205 mile, 3Damien Rylett day cycle challenge to raise money for short and precious lives. Riding from St Austell to Bristol from 12th -14th July he will cycle through challenging but breathtaking scenery and visit three very special Children’s Hospices along the way: Little Harbour near St Austell, Little Bridge House near Barnstaple, and Charlton Farm near Bristol .

This exceptional event attracts cyclists who are committed to ride between 65–80 miles each day incorporating several hills the South West has to offer!

Ahead of the ride Damien commented “This year’s ride will be particularly challenging as I am having to train while recovering from a dislocated shoulder. Every year the children and families you meet along the way are truly inspirational and this is what drives you on” A number of you have asked how you can make donations to support Damien’s efforts – here is a link http://bit.ly/2w7Bsvt to the JustGiving page.

Sara MatherHis ride is hot on the heels of a wonderful achievement by Sara Mather in Paraplanning team. Sara ran her first Marathon in Newport at the beginning of May raising over £1,000 for Children’s Hospice South West.

Talking about her experience Sara commented “I was delighted to raise funds for the Children’s Hospice South West and was blown away by people’s generosity. Raising funds for this brilliant charity kept me going and it was an amazing day I won’t ever forget”.

Brunel Capital Partners is a sister company of Pilgrim Financial Planning