It is about that time now when we tend to reflect on the year that has gone and have a peek through the Christmas baubles to see what may happen in the forthcoming year. Coronavirus and its fall out have ripped through all areas of the economy and society at large, so it is at least pleasing to hear that yesterday has been named ‘V Day’, as the UK grandmother Margaret Keenan received her jab as part of the mass vaccination programme. It is a big step in the right direction, and we wish her many years of good health and happiness.
Looking back, our IronBright investment principles have been tested to the full this year. I have had many conversations with you during the year covering a range of issues, but one of my long standing clients summed it up in his usual understated manner, “it could’ve been worse”.
At one point I must confess I thought it might well be, but I am pleased to report that all but 3 of the 21 portfolios that we manage is, at the time of writing, in positive territory year to date. A sample of the portfolios’ performances is seen below:
As you know I am not into crystal ball gazing and tea leaf reading so you will not receive any investment forecasts for 2021 from me, other than I expect markets to continue to return value to investors who hold for the longer term and that markets will continue to surprise us from time to time, both on the upside and downside. I looked back at many of the forecasts from the usual pundits in the financial press for this year and whilst some were right and some were wrong, they were either right or wrong for all the wrong reasons! None foresaw the global pandemic and what happened so beware commentators who know ‘for sure’ how best to position your portfolio for 2021.
What I am excited about for 2021 is the launch of IronBright’s range of Sustainable portfolios that are now available. I was tempted to show off their respective backdated performance figures but thought better of it as any portfolio that was light on oil stocks, banks and airlines had a pretty good year. Notwithstanding this there is now a strong investment case to use such portfolios along with the ethical and moral stances many of you wish to take when investing your money. We will also be switching, where appropriate, existing active funds on a like for like basis into sustainable funds in the Core Satellite portfolios over the course of the next 12 months. Have a chat with your adviser at review time?
We have a fantastic team at Brunel who have stepped up to the plate during a very difficult year and I remain very proud of them, so on their behalf I would like to wish you and your family a very Happy Christmas and a fabulous New Year.
As I write this short note, we have just ticked over in to December. So those of you who were not sharing Pete’s enthusiasm last week for an early Christmas this year, it’s ok now, it’s now acceptable. Go get that tree. Put those lights up. No need to tell Alexa to “STOP” when Mariah Carey comes on.
This morning has seen the Pfizer/BioNTech covid-19 vaccine approved by the relevant authorities in the UK and we expect doses to arrive next week with roll out soon after. This is great news and for the first time in a while many are starting to see a way out of this mess.
In November, the FTSE 100 index had its best month in at least three decades. The rise of 14.5% is in line with the best month on record in January 1989.
The RFU has announced that 15 a side full contact rugby matches can recommence. (This is massive news in the Rylett household)
Yes Damien. That’s all very well, but where is the bad news? Well, I’m not giving you any. As an antidote to the Cerberus that is KPR, I’ll give you nothing but positive news.
Cerberus? KPR? What’s he talking about? In Greek mythology Cerberus is a three-headed dog that guards the gates of the Underworld to prevent the dead from leaving. KPR, which stands for Kuenssberg – Peston – Rigby, is it’s modern equivalent, tasked with keeping the “news” permanently negative to prevent positivity from arriving.
It is normal at this time of year to look back and take stock. Then draw a line and look forward to a new year, a new beginning. I’m happy to share my personal reflections. My relationships with friends, family and colleagues are stronger as a result of this pandemic. I have found out more about myself over the past 9 months than in any other period of my life. I am better educated and fitter (both physically and mentally) than I was before. I have more purpose and more importantly, I am happier.
There are so many positive things that have happened in the world that have slipped under the radar. Watch this short video to see what I mean and I hope that you agree.
Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor said “Don’t lament this and don’t get agitated.”
He was referring to that feeling we get when something happens. “It’s all over now.” “All is lost.” What follows are complaints and pity and misery – the impotent struggle against something that has already occurred.
Why bother? We have no idea what the future holds. We have no idea what’s coming up round the bend. It could be more problems, or this could be the darkness before the dawn.
There is one thing we can be sure of: whatever happens, we’re going to be ok.
Best wishes to you and your families for a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
The John Lewis television advert is airing which means it’s Christmas. Not too sure I find the pigeons very endearing. In a normal year it would not be Christmas at all, what with it only being November. We would be enjoying the festive TV adverts as they trickled out but we would still be muttering “too early”.
But this isn’t a normal year. It’s the year of early Christmas for many people and I have already witnessed houses lit up with fairy lights. Early Christmas isn’t just to do with wishing 2020 would hurry up and end but also with trying to wring out some joy from it. The recent announcement regarding the relaxation of Coronavirus rules from 23rd to 27th December is really welcome. I’m motivated to fully embrace early Christmas and bring forward the decorating of the tree to the first week in December. I normally wait until at least the second or third week of December!
Spare a thought for the town of Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, the “mistletoe capital” of the UK. For the past 160 years it has held a mistletoe auction but this year it has been cancelled because of the coronavirus restrictions.
So, Boris Johnson has confirmed an end to the national lockdown on December 2. With vaccines on the way, he has also outlined a roadmap to bring back “normal life” by Easter next year. Assuming the vaccines are approved by regulators, ministers expect the first injections to be provided in December before being rolled out widely in the new year. Let’s hope this happens as planned as I could do with a holiday! I’m sure many of you feel the same way.
More than 300 words and no mention of Brexit! Well, here are my thoughts.
The UK and EU have until the end of the transition period on 31st December to complete a trade deal. A deal would give a major boost to global confidence in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic. As I write, the talks seem to be making more progress towards a deal with some positive words today from the European Commission President, Mrs Ursula von der Leyen. Who knows, by the time I next write, a deal could have been completed.
Until next time, I hope you and your family stay safe.
It feels like Mondays are the new Groundhog Day – another very positive Coronavirus vaccine result on Monday from Moderna and President Trump continues to assert his statement that he won the US election. Let’s hope that next Monday brings additional good news on the vaccine front at least. The vaccine news from Moderna had a positive effect on markets around the world and they bumped up very slightly. Care is the watch word though and the scientists are keen to instil an air of caution until the regulators formally review the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. We are all waiting for the time to come when we are free to go about our usual lifestyle and this feeling of time and waiting reminded me of a client:
A number of years ago I met a new client (Gaby) who had been referred to me by an existing client. Gaby was 63 and wanted to know if she had enough money to retire at age 65 which was the normal retirement age for her employer. Gaby was a widow and therefore was already in receipt of a Widow’s pension, on top of her earnings, and a modest range of savings and investments. I asked Gaby why she wanted to see me now and more specifically, what she wanted to do during retirement. Gaby said that for many years, a visit to Cuba was on her wish list – she didn’t have a specific reason, but from what she had seen, the sights, colours and sounds made Cuba a very appealing place and she wanted to visit after she retired.
After a detailed look at Gaby’s income requirements and projected income from various sources, as well as existing savings, I asked Gaby back to the office and we went through her cash flow report (including the costs for a fabulous trip to Cuba). At the end of this meeting, I told Gaby that, instead of waiting until age 65 she could retire now and have two extra years of retirement if she wanted to. Gaby sat back and went, ‘Oh’, thought a bit more and after some further chat, she went home.
A few weeks later, Gaby called and told me that she had given three months’ notice to her employer and had decided to retire now. I quickly re-checked my figures! Everything was in order, so I wished her well and an enjoyable retirement.
Approximately six months later Gaby called and asked to see me again – she had been to Cuba and wanted to tell me about it. Gaby came in (now with pink-flecked hair!) and told me about her trip – she had a wonderful time, and it was everything she had hoped it would be. She then told me she had a brain tumour, which was inoperable and she had six months to live. I was stunned and couldn’t quite find the words. Gaby, with her background, and faith was very calm and said that if she hadn’t seen us, she wouldn’t have considered retiring early. In her words, Gaby said, ‘I’ll always have Cuba’.
So, my question to you is have you made the steps to do the thing you really want to do? If not, why? We all know roughly how much money we have, but we don’t know how much time we have. As Robert Anthony, a Professor at Harvard Business School, once said, ‘There will always be reasons to wait. The truth is, there are only two things in life, reasons and results, and reasons simply don’t count.’
What’s your Cuba?
Have a wonderful weekend, Neil.
Chartered Financial Planner
Just over a month ago, I wrote my last article and over the past month, the FTSE 100 has swung from going down 7.3% and rising by 14.4% from this low. Initially the negative response was due to the second lockdown and then we had news of Joe Biden winning the US election and of course Pfizer having a successful result on a Covid vaccine. Furthermore, we have had a swing of opinion from Growth stocks back to Value stocks and a story headlined: investors rage as market surge crashes trading platforms.
The finance and stock picking journalists have been having a field day! Rest assured we continue to ignore the short term noise; remain patient; keep a close eye on the long term rather than what markets are doing today; stay disciplined, deliver through careful asset allocation, diversification and regular rebalancing of asset allocations to keep your portfolios in line with your financial plans.
I am continually reassured that our approach is the right one especially when you continue to support our business through referring friends, colleagues, and acquaintances for financial planning advice. One of my recent referrals benchmarked our recommended portfolio against a much larger Investment Management Company who manage more than £50 billion and advised we had delivered higher returns since our launch in 2012.
As you know, we have been keeping you informed of our progress on developing the new Ironbright Platform and to follow up Dan’s article on 16th October, I can confirm the Platform has now been launched. As explained, we are undertaking a deliberate and staged transfer of your assets to ensure a smooth transition. Please look out for a message on our Personal Finance Portal over the next few months which will include a letter of recommendation to transfer to the new platform together with a request for you to agree to the advice.
… and finally, I picked out this article regarding a true great – Sean Connery who died recently. It is never the big things but the grand gestures, that people remember.
In 1984 I was hitch-hiking through Spain on my way to North Africa. A proud Scot, I was wearing my Maclean-tartan kilt while still in Europe. In Marbella, a white Mercedes pulled up, and from the driver’s window a balding head poked out, ‘Where are you headed, Mr Maclean?’ This was Sean Connery. He had recognised my tartan as his mother was a Maclean from the Isle of Skye (whenever you see pictures of Mr Connery in a kilt, it is the Maclean tartan he is wearing).
The great man gave me a lift 15 miles down the road, but not only that, he stopped at his house on the way, introduced me to his wife, and had his manservant make sandwiches for my journey.
I’d finished another heroic week at the office, reflecting on the core qualities needed to succeed in a tough job like ours – that day alone I’d dealt with a complicated ISA application form and a testy youngster in the compliance department of an investment house that really should have known better – and sat down with a well-earned gin and tonic thinking “smashed another week then Steve”.
Flicking through the iPlayer I saw ‘Saving Lives at Sea’ and initially discounted this as it does nothing for my ego, seeing what really good men and women sign up to in their free time, but something made me hit the play button. There was the usual start with the gravelly voice over, panoramas of rough seas and close ups of salty sea dogs recounting stories of genuine heroics.
All well and good and then I heard a familiar voice saying “the Bristol Channel itself is quite a busy place..”, spoken by an “Andy Weston, Managing Director” . The ice cube I was in the process of swallowing flew out and hit the far wall because the Andy Weston on the TV was indeed our very own Andy Weston, our Managing Director.
Pip came in and asked what was going on and I explained it was Andy and he’s on the TV and no I didn’t need the Heimlich manoeuvre, so we settled down and watched the story of the Portishead RNLI crew unfold. Towards the end of the story:
Pip: “These people are amazing. And that Andy, what a lovely face and those piercing blue eyes”.
Me: “It was only a small boat”.
Pip: “But they saved two whole lives”.
Our job is focused on keeping your lifetime savings in good shape and your Financial Plans on track, which is no mean feat in the current climate and a job we love to do; however, it’s good to be reminded that there are countless volunteers out there who do amazing things that you cannot value in pounds, shillings and pence and who selflessly keep answering the call of “a shout” whenever the pager goes off.
Andy has been at our helm for a while now and I thought it’s a good idea to bring him to your attention. He has navigated the company through some turbulent times this year with calmness and clear thinking at some critical moments. I do, however, need to have a word with him about carrying his business card at all times, because people who own boats have money, and if you’ve just rescued them why wouldn’t they want to become a client? There is a marketing strategy there somewhere!
I would encourage you to look at the iPlayer, Saving Lives at Sea, Series 5: Episode 3 while it is still there to see Andy and his crew in action. It is quite something. I speak for us all Andy when I say that we are very proud of you and we are very lucky to have you.
I hope that you all remain safe and well and once again a big thank you for your support, patience, and good humour this year. It is really appreciated.
Amidst all of the doom and gloom of a second wave and threat of a second national lockdown, I hope that you are able to remain positive and that you and your families are safe and well.
I was recently reminded of Linda Ellis’ poem The Dash, and remembered that we shared it with our clients a few years back. I thought that it was very relevant now given the times we find ourselves in and the work we do with our clients. You can read the poem in full here.
The Dash talks about the life of a man who has passed away, being talked about by his friend at the funeral. The friend refers to everything that he had done and achieved during his life as being represented by ‘the dash’; the space between the two dates of birth and death on his headstone.
The poem has lots of resonance outside of financial planning, of course, but it also speaks to us about what financial planning is really about and why it can be so important.
During the course of the poem, the speaker notes that what was important about the man was not what he owned, ‘the cars…the house…the cash’, but what he had done and the lives he had touched. He goes on to consider ideas of living a good life, putting things right that we know are wrong, changing how we live for the better.
There’s truth in the poem that, ultimately, your pile of cash is meaningless next to the things that you can do with it. Money is merely an enabler for things to happen and, if those things are good and lasting, they tend to have more impact on us and others than transient things we could spend the money on; a new car or house, for example.
True happiness, the poem suggests, is not about building up ‘things’, but in making sure that you have no regrets, putting wrongs right and living life the right way. Money can, of course, help to do all of those things, but it is not those things in and of itself, it is merely a way to get to the place that you want to reach.
So the next time you sit down to think about your financial planning goals, make sure that you are truly thinking about what you really want to achieve. Not increased revenue, or the next purchase, or to what accounts your money needs to be assigned; but what would genuinely make you happier; your life more fulfilled; your ‘dash’ better lived.
In other news, we know that physical and mental wellbeing are closely linked so as a company we set ourselves physical challenges to encourage and support each other in keeping well. Our latest challenge “Step it up” focused on achieving more that 8,000 steps a day with the winner being the person to achieve most steps. Not a huge goal but when you are sitting at your desk all day it’s easy to forget to build in time to exercise. This challenge had the double benefit of supporting Wells Dementia Action Alliance (WDAA) as like many charities they have been unable to hold their usual fundraising activities. This can be a very isolating and confusing time for those with Dementia so maintaining awareness is key. Any funds that we can raise along the way help to provide support for example for funding PPE for a day centre or providing MP3 players for those who are admitted to hospital make a real difference.
This initiative is being taken up by the wider community over the half term weeks when we are encouraging people to walk in their bubbles either along a designated route or in their local outdoors for more information visit https://www.facebook.com/WellsDAA
It’s funny how your perception of money changes as you grow older. Children and teenagers often request money instead of presents for birthdays and Christmases as, particularly from older relatives, the prospect of another Christmas jumper suddenly loses its appeal. Then, as soon as they receive this money they must go out and spend it – the cash is practically burning a hole in their pocket. However, as adults, being gifted a sum of money or receiving an inheritance can seem like a burden.
Typically, people receive an inheritance when they are 55 to 65. Many are unsure of what to do with it and if they don’t pass it to the next generation, they leave it languishing in a bank account or Cash ISA, generating little or no return. Research shows that 35% of people deposit the capital in a bank or a Cash ISA. This is despite the negligible returns available that almost certainly could see the cash lose its real value over time as a result of inflation. Another 32% spend the money, while 15% take a longer-term view and invest it. The balance 18% pay off debts.
Perhaps, their inheritance could have been gifted to the next generation, which is something that only one in five of 55 to 65-year-olds currently do! The issue of inheritance can be a thorny one but it becomes even more complicated if it has not been discussed and well planned.
The age group 55 to 65 (Baby Boomers) control most of the wealth in the UK and it is the under 45s (Millennials and Generation X) who find themselves under the most financial pressure. Former university students have an average outstanding student loan balance of £35,000 at the point they commence the first repayments. Getting on the housing ladder gets even harder to achieve as house prices have increased more than incomes in the last 30 years. In real terms, house prices have increased by 259% during this period, while wages increased by 68%. So, Millennials and Generation X face a series of difficulties in building wealth. This is due to the combined impact of rising house prices, insecure employment and higher debt (including student debt) – which limits their ability to save for retirement during core earning years.
At Brunel we have become great exponents of intergenerational wealth planning and the benefits to everyone in the family of developing a gift plan. Essentially, we can tackle some of the biggest issues around the transfer of wealth including working out how much capital you need and whether you can afford to give some to loved ones without damaging your own financial plans. We know this can be a challenge without professional advice.
We certainly like to encourage regular gifts to meet the long-term financial needs of Millennials and Generation X. By way of an example, a good first step on the intergenerational wealth transfer road could be a pension contribution on behalf of a child or grandchild. A sum of £300 monthly contributed to a pension over a 20 years period could provide a £210,000 pension pot – assuming 5%pa compound growth and net of costs assumed to be 1.5%pa). This would be a great addition to the pension pot of a 45-year-old struggling to save for retirement!
Similarly, it would be possible to generate a £40,000 lump sum for a child or grandchild by making regular savings of £276 monthly for a period of 10 years – assuming 5%pa compound growth and net of costs assumed to be 1.5%pa. This could be used to help with a property purchase deposit or to assist with education costs. The same £40,000 lump sum could be achieved over 15 years by making regular savings of £168 monthly – assuming the same growth/costs as detailed above.
I hope this provides some food for thought and would encourage you to contact your Brunel Financial Planner if you would like to discuss intergenerational wealth planning in more detail.
I am delighted to announce that on 1st November we will launch our new platform. As many of you will already be aware, this is something we have been looking to do for some time and is the latest in a number of initiatives which will enable us to continue delivering market-leading service to you. As with all areas of the service we offer, we regularly review the marketplace and with respect to platforms it has become clear that technology has moved on a lot in recent years.
This means we can now offer a more intuitive and client friendly user experience at a standard cost lower than your existing platform. We are also able to control more of the elements ourselves, taking away our reliance on third parties, which in turn reduces timescales and the potential for misunderstandings.
What exactly is a platform?
To be clear, a change of platform will not impact on the wider Financial Planning and advice service we provide, nor does it impact on the portfolios we manage for you. The platform, in this sense, is simply the administration system where the assets are actually held and where the transactions (payments in, payments out, trading etc) actually take place.
This is an exciting development for us and one that keeps us, and our clients, at the forefront of financial planning services in the UK. Under the IronBright banner, the portfolios and the platform will now go hand in hand.
Did I mention that it will also be cheaper? Modern technology translates to lower running costs which we are delighted can be passed on to our clients.
What we need from you now
By moving to more modern technology we also hope to reduce the amount of paperwork that we all have to deal with. This does however mean all communication will be done online. As such, if you have not already done so, can I ask that you please register for our secure client Personal Finance Portal so that we can keep you updated?
If you are yet to register please follow https://brunelcapitalpartners.mypfp.co.uk/ and click on the ‘Register’ button in the top right from where instructions will follow.
Unfortunately, if you are not online, I am afraid you will not be able to benefit from the new platform and will stay with the current provider at the prevailing, higher ongoing costs.
While this is a positive move for all concerned we do want to make sure we move you over to the new platform in a deliberate and staged way rather than hitting a giant ‘GO’ button on the first day. This gives us more control over each account and so I would ask that you bear with us. You will all hear from us in the coming months confirming when your own accounts will be moved and anything we need you to do will be explained at the time.
In the meantime, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to speak to your planner.
In the community
Brunel are delighted to sponsor two excellent speakers at this year’s Wells Literary Festival. As there will be a limited number of people attending each event all the speakers will be live streamed, this is free of charge and we are pleased to share the link with you. https://www.wellsfestivalofliterature.org.uk/live-streaming will tell you how to sign up to attend a virtual event. The website also gives the list of all the speakers.
The events we will be sponsoring are:
Pragya Agarwal who will talk about her book Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias at 6pm on Tuesday 20th October.
Pragya is a prize-winning behavioural scientist, activist, writer, and freelancer. She unravels the ‘unintentional’ biases on how we communicate and perceive the world and the effect on decision-making. What are the forces that affect us all? She investigates who we are and who we want to be. Scientific, non-judgemental. ‘Cogently argued and intensely persuasive’ Waterstones.
The second speaker is Hashi Mohamed on Saturday 24th October at 3.45pm. His book is entitled People Like Us: What it Takes to Make it in Modern Britain
How does a refugee from the Somali civil war become a successful London barrister with an Oxford degree? Hashi Mohamed explores social mobility in Britain today and concludes that his story is far from typical. He offers inspirational advice to those wanting to change their circumstances and to all of us who wish to see a better modern Britain.
We hope you have the opportunity to dip into the delights of this year’s festival.
Financial Planning Manager
For all of you who kindly follow our weekly updates, I am pleased to report I now have a new gold crown on my tooth and can now return to enjoying a Sunday dinner of roast pork and chew a piece of crackling without the fear of breaking my dodgy tooth. Ahh, life’s small pleasures!
So, when we embarked on producing our weekly newsletters, I wanted to find the best way for me to keep up to date with the weekly news and thus keep my articles fresh and relevant to what was happening in the current week. I had become a little weary of the poor reporting from the popular news channels so decided to subscribe to ‘The Week’. What attracted me to this publication was the feedback from a couple of famous readers – It’s the quickest way of finding out what’s been happening all over the world and The Week is the ideal paper for those who are too lazy or too busy. I am both and proud of it. Yes, I thought, that is the one for me!
6 months later I have also succumbed to subscribing to a couple of authors newsletters. I wanted to share the latest from Adam Grant who is an organisational psychologist and author. Bear with me on this! This is what caught my eye recently:
2020 has forced us to rethink many of our basic assumptions—from how we work to where kids learn to what it takes to stay healthy. Yet in our daily lives, too many of us still favour the comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt.
We listen to opinions that make us feel good, instead of ideas that make us think hard. We see disagreement as a threat to our egos, rather than an opportunity to learn. We surround ourselves with people who agree with our conclusions, when we should be gravitating toward those who challenge our thought process. We need to develop the skill—and the will—to rethink our views.
This is the topic of Adam’s new book – THINK AGAIN. It focuses on how we think too much like preachers defending our sacred beliefs, prosecutors proving the other side wrong, and politicians campaigning for approval. If we thought more like scientists searching for truth, we could develop the humility to know what we do not know and the flexibility to change our minds as the world changes around us.
As you know, my better half Dr B (as she is now known) is a scientist. She warmed to the above analogy of thinking like a Scientist. For me, it made me think of two political hot potatoes – Brexit and the American election, especially when I read these 2 headlines in relation to the above:
In America – The ousted director of the office involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine has quit his post at the National Institutes of Health, charging that the Trump administration “ignores scientific expertise, overrules public health guidance and disrespects career scientists”.
Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator has hinted that Boris Johnson is willing to compromise with the EU about the contentious issue of state aid in order to land an “eminently achievable” trade deal.
For the team at Brunel, we continue to challenge our thought process; encourage new ideas and processes and evolve our financial planning and investment proposition to try and make it the best it can be.
… and finally, the death of Eddie Van Halen from throat cancer, aged 65, brings to a close one of the most colourful and lucrative sagas in American rock music. If Aerosmith was the premier US hard rock band of the 1970s, it was Van Halen who stepped into their shoes during the 80s. Formed around the Van Halen brothers, the guitarist Eddie and the drummer Alex, the band rode a tidal wave of multi-platinum albums over a 15-year period. Few other acts have come close to matching their commercially combustible mixture of spectacular and addictive rock, flamboyant stage performances and outsized personal behaviour. RIP in Eddie.