It is typical on the Dynamic Planner website to read testimonials from advice firms, about their experience of adopting and using the system. But how do the clients of those same advice firms – people with their pensions and investments at stake – find it? What is their experience?

Increasingly late last year, the industry regulator, the FCA, publicly stressed the need for firms to ‘know their client’ better and really understand their individual ‘circumstances and motivations’. Of course, matching people with suitable investment portfolios, through an engaging financial plan, encapsulates the heart of what Dynamic Planner does and represents the company’s vision today in 2020.

Below, we spoke to Kevin and Amanda, a couple from Surrey, who, in many ways, are just beginning their investment journey with a professional adviser. They each have a lump sum in cash, but they each have separate overall objectives and needs, and they each wanted to assess their individual attitude to risk. This is their experience of the financial planning and advice process, through the lens of a firm which has adopted Dynamic Planner.

We also, in this environment [11 May] of lockdown still only slowly lifting, asked them how they had been coping this year during the coronavirus crisis. What’s been hardest; and have there been any silver linings?

‘I was amazed at how easy and quick it was to complete the questionnaires’

Kevin: “I had an initial meeting with my adviser, who explained things like the risk profiling process, which formed a lot of what we talked about. I talked about what I and we were looking to do with our pensions and investments, because Amanda and I have very different approaches, so our adviser said, ‘Do the questionnaires separately’, which we did.

“I was amazed at how easy and quick it was to complete the questionnaires and how, in that short time, you were able to get so much out of them.

“It was interesting to see where I came out on the risk profiling scale – and I came out as a 7, which I was comfortable with, because I can like things which are very risky and then things also which carry no risk. I guess that is what having a diversified portfolio is all about.”

Amanda: “My impression was that the questionnaires didn’t throw up anything which I hadn’t thought or felt originally. My risk profile came out as I predicted, but, of course, that could be different for different people, who assume they are something and might turn out to be something else. I want a portfolio, which can slowly grow or at least protect my capital as much as possible, while giving me a regular income.”

Kevin: “Of course, it comes back to what your overall goal is: is it to have enough money to drive a Porsche in five years – or is it your entire pension for your retirement? Obviously, if it’s the latter, you’re not going to be quite so cavalier.

“The whole process wouldn’t have worked if we weren’t able to have separate risk profiles, because we have separate objectives and needs – i.e. Amanda wants to take a regular income from hers, because she doesn’t work, whereas my income comes from my job. I don’t need anymore. If we had only been given one risk profile, as a couple, it would have only been an average, which we wouldn’t have been happy with.”

‘Cash flow was extremely useful visually – and reassuring’

Kevin: “Our first meeting with our adviser was face-to-face, which felt important to build that trust. Since then we’ve had meetings remotely and they have worked fine. Ultimately, we were able to have exactly the same conversation with our adviser, as we would have had face-to-face.

“The adviser was able to share his screen and show us analysis around our portfolio and around cash flow planning, which was extremely useful visually and reassuring, because we could see overall how everything – pensions, investments and property – will likely perform. He also made sure we had read wording around our risk profile results and that we understood that.

“We brought lots of bits and pieces into the process, from things like pensions and ISA’s and also we both had cash lump sums, from inheritance and a redundancy package. It is about asking questions like, ‘How much money do we need – and really need – to maintain our current lifestyle? You’re also then able to look at things on top of that, like buying a second home, going on holidays or buying a new car every three years’.

“The next step is setting up a portfolio which optimises that and makes everything more stable and aligned to my agreed risk profile.

“It’s peace of mind, because I have been guilty in the past of thinking that financial advice is a waste of money ultimately. But even though I know what we have currently in terms of assets and lifestyle is healthy, I have no idea what that translates to in terms of a healthy retirement. And I don’t want to retire yet, but I would like to know when that might be possible. Then, when you get to something like pension drawdown, I don’t understand it, so there is a real risk that, without professional financial advice, I could do something that will cost me money.”

What has been the hardest thing about living in lockdown?

Amanda: “For me, because I don’t work, not seeing my friends has been most difficult. Normally, I would always be out and about, all over the place. It has felt quite odd to not be able to do that. We’ve just had to get used to it, haven’t we?

“Of course, I’ve been video chatting with friends on a weekend, which has been nice to catch up that way and I think, in future, as restrictions are slowly lifted, I will face-time people more, rather than just call. Also, normally I would pretty much have the house to myself five days a week, Monday to Friday, but during lockdown I haven’t. We’ve all been here!”

Kevin: “I started six months’ gardening leave at the end of February and had lots of trips planned for the summer, which I was looking forward to, but obviously that hasn’t been able to happen. Also, I have worked 12-hour days for the last 20 years and been so busy – so to leave work and then be straight into lockdown has been a huge change for me, almost too much in one go. I have been gardening a lot to distract myself!”

What has been one good thing to come out of life in lockdown?

Kevin: “One thing we have been doing is every Sunday, we have gone on Zoom and have done a quiz with our family, who don’t live near and who normally we would only see rarely. Now, we’re spending a couple of hours with them once a week, which is really nice.

“It’s been good to feel closer to people who have previously been more distant in your personal life. Not commuting each day also has been great – and I haven’t really missed driving.”

Amanda: “Life has been at a slower and at a gentler pace, which has been nice in a way.”