How have you found Dynamic Planner Cash flow, in terms of user experience?

I have not used cash flow planning tools before, but I found it easy. It’s really good. It’s so easy to navigate your way around and move from one section to another. I haven’t found something it doesn’t do yet.

Clients are engaging with it well. I almost can’t wait to sit down with them properly, so they can start grabbing my laptop or iPad and moving the slider up and down the life phases saying, ‘What happens if I retire here? Or here?’ To have that engagement with a client is so important, 100%. It’s always how I have tried to work as a wealth adviser in my career.

I see that as the real plus point with Dynamic Planner’s cash flow – encouraging clients to grab my device and interact with it.

I do have limited experience from using a simple cash flow modelling tool from a provider in the past, but this is 100 times better. Now those same clients can really get involved and engage with the process. We knew Dynamic Planner’s new cash flow was going to be good, based on our experience using the Client Review report in Dynamic Planner, which has been so easy for us to use – and has saved us so much time at Lifetime completing reviews.

Does it help that Dynamic Planner uses the same assumptions throughout – for example, for risk profiling a portfolio and for cash flow planning?

Yes, the fact that it uses the underlying assumptions in Dynamic Planner, for risk and returns, makes your life easier. You can then explain that to the client. It’s peace of mind definitely, knowing those assumptions are calculated for you.

Before I started using Dynamic Planner, I was using platforms when I was completing reviews, but they sometimes use different assumptions for different things, so it’s not uniform. In Dynamic Planner, you know it’s the same throughout and yes, we are definitely closer as a firm now to using one system to support us.

Has Dynamic Planner been helpful in 2020, working remotely?

Yes, definitely, it’s been a great help in 2020 working remotely – particularly Dynamic Planner’s Portfolio Suitability Hub. If I’m talking to a client and we’re looking at a potential fund switch, it’s such an easy tool to use and run and map a fund comparison. That has been really useful and it all backs up your conversation with a client.

Why are you telling them to make a switch? Well, this is why: a, it’s expensive and b, it hasn’t performed this year. That’s all in the report for a client and Dynamic Planner produces a decent report.

Would you recommend Dynamic Planner – and its Cash flow – to a fellow advice firm?

Definitely. I’m on Dynamic Planner’s side here. I already have gone through and showed it to quite a few colleagues here at Lifetime. And people can always be hesitant to adopt something new – for example, with the Client Review report in Dynamic Planner. But I said, ‘You have to. It’s 100 times better than a report you would use from a provider. And it will make your life so much easier.’

For the new cash flow, what I’ve suggested at Lifetime is send the review report out to a client before a meeting, saying, ‘Look, this is where you are now. Where do you want to be in future?’ Then, in the meeting itself, we can hone in on the cash flow modelling, go through a client’s expenses and see where they will be and how long their money will last.

How useful is it, to link a client’s risk profile to their cash flow plan?

In comparison to other tools, that’s where Dynamic Planner’s Cash flow planning is brilliant – the ability to model for a client stochastically, showing the level of risk within the portfolio and plan. What a client can expect to happen, but also what a client needs to be aware can happen.

Other cash flow modelling tools use fixed assumptions and we know fixed doesn’t exist, in that sense. Everything moves. Everything changes. There’s no certainty with anything you do as an adviser. For the modern world we now live in – for analysis, regulation and for remote meetings – the way Dynamic Planner is designed and built I think is brilliant.

By linking the risk profile of a portfolio to a cash flow plan, you have a story to tell the client, in terms of what assumptions you’ve assessed and are happy with and are therefore using here.

Is the ability to model different levels of client expenditure helpful?

The way you can very quickly forecast different levels of expenditure for the client is useful and really helps with your conversations, because, often, a lot of clients haven’t nailed what their ambitions really are for retirement. If you were using another cash flow modelling tool, you would have to start again and physically produce another model and another model and so on, which is all extra effort.

In Dynamic Planner and in a final cash flow report for a client, you can have three different levels of expenditure for a client [basic, mid and high] alongside the three, ‘What if?’ scenarios for higher or lower portfolio growth rates all in one. Using another tool, that would probably take twice as long, physically modelling all those other ‘What if?’ scenarios. That’s a valuable benefit of Dynamic Planner.

Does it help, from a regulatory perspective, adopting Dynamic Planner’s risk assumptions for cash flow planning?

The big advantage of Dynamic Planner’s cash flow is the risk assessments being completed in the background. Other tools, I don’t think, have that in their back pocket – they’ve all, in that sense, started life as pure cash flow planning tools. While they may be ahead, in terms of being able to produce a myriad of more calculations, they haven’t got that link – that real life, client link – to risk. So, yes, they may be able to plug in more numbers, but they don’t arguably relate to anything.

In this world we now live in, Dynamic Planner’s new cash flow works – in terms of showing the regulator what you’re doing and delivering, and that you’re assessing risk for a client correctly, which seems to be the FCA’s biggest bugbear today: risk and appetite for loss. It’s everywhere you go.

Would you recommend Dynamic Planner Cash flow to a fellow advice firm?

I like it and absolutely would recommend it to another firm, alongside of course Dynamic Planner’s risk assessment, which I’ve used for years. I like the layout of reports Dynamic Planner produces and the fact that you can produce a report, from start to finish, including the risk questionnaire, valuation and cash flow plan all in one. That’s a client meeting right there. In the real world, that’s amazing.

Does Dynamic Planner Cash flow help you engage more with clients?

Cash flow planning, done well, lets you paint a picture for clients, 25 years in the future and tell that story, because in many ways as an adviser, that’s what you’re doing – telling a story. As an adviser, you spend your life talking about your clients’ lives.

Of course, that works, but a picture paints a thousand words and the graphs and analysis in Dynamic Planner really do show a client their situation – better than I can explain – and the problems they will or won’t have in future.

Other cash flow modelling tools can be repetitious. By the time the client sees it for the third time, it becomes just numbers for them. When done well, cash flow is not just a way of winning new business, it’s a way of consolidating business – proving to a client that you’re really thinking about them and their situation.

‘A business plan for household finances’

In my experience, more clients have trouble spending money in retirement, because they’re worried it will run out. Equally, some clients will treat money like it’s never going to run out. Cash flow planning can ease those concerns for the former and really highlight the impact of overspending for the latter, because people, of course, make mistakes. We all do. We’re human. What cash flow allows you to do is sit down and really ask a client, ‘Is that spending a necessity?’ Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.

You can ask a client, ‘What have you got planned for the next few years? What about inheritance one day? Would you like to start giving gifts to the children soon? Or something else?’ Cash flow planning helps enormously with that conversation, because it makes the client more aware of their choices and the impact of them.

You’re looking at the long-term journey for the client, while I describe it, in the short-term, as a two or three-year business plan for your household finances. You can then work to that plan. What is a client’s short-term desire and spending? And how does that impact on their long-term outlook and objective?

How easy is Dynamic Planner Cash flow planning to use?

The navigation is intuitive. Screens are easy to handle and the continuity of all the tools in Dynamic Planner coming together now is amazing, I think. You can see it in cash flow from the Client Review. Carrying those themes through allows it to become consistent for a client and I think that is important.

I was speaking to a colleague recently and we said, ‘All the financial planning tools we need today, in IFA terms, are in Dynamic Planner’. And we have been able to stop using other tools, which we don’t need, because of the scenarios Dynamic Planner allows you to paint for a client.

One of our strengths – that we are proud of – as a firm, is we work very hard to build relationships with our customers. With Dynamic Planner, it is the same. They are as important to us as we are to them. The direction that the software is going in is fantastic. And the ability to work together and help shape those developments only makes the journey more rewarding.

Is Dynamic Planner Cash flow saving you money – and paying for multiple tools?

Across all advisers, we’ll be looking at saving between £200 and £300 a month now. And whatever you spend with Dynamic Planner as an investment is well worth it, because it helps you win more assured business and prevents problems in future with clients, if they get a surprise which can turn into a complaint.

Showing a client, ‘Be prepared for this’ is a really good way of evidencing that you showed a client that and you’ve got that then in your records and files, so you’re protected. From that perspective, the reports in Dynamic Planner are the best there are, I think. They help you so much with your records and files, putting them to bed knowing you’re happy with them.

It allows you to put down in black and white what you know about your client. You’re effectively saying, ‘This is what you’ve told me and this is what I think it leads to’.

Does it help test a client’s capacity for risk?

Yes. I think there’s no doubt about it – Dynamic Planner’s risk profiler is the best on the market. It leads to a discussion with the client and raises relevant issues for them, like their capacity for loss. Couple that now with cash flow modelling and to be able to show a client what they can expect to happen in the future is tremendously helpful.

You’re building the idea into the plan that markets and their portfolio can go down in value. The ability to show that is important. I love the statement in Dynamic Planner, ‘Plan for this’, but ‘Be prepared for this’. As an adviser, that’s what I want to discuss with the client, that doom and gloom scenario, ‘What are you going to do if this happens?’ From a compliance perspective, that’s vital.

Be a pessimist first, because as advisers we can’t manage the world if it’s in a bad place and lo and behold this year, it’s been in a bad place.

Do you recommend Risk Managed Decumulation funds for clients in Dynamic Planner?

Yes, we have. I describe them to clients as looking at drawdown in a far more balanced and reserved way. Those funds are only going to be more important in future, because we know the regulator is looking at this. As a firm, we feel confident, backed by

Dynamic Planner’s fund research, that we can pass on a recommendation to a client, saves an awful lot of work justifying what and why we’re doing something. It’s something less for you to worry about.

Has Dynamic Planner helped you in 2020, working remotely?

Yes, it has helped us move our technology forward, which we did in March much quicker than we had planned, because of what happened. Sharing your screen with a client on Microsoft Teams and showing them the analysis Dynamic Planner gives you – a meeting can take 40 minutes. If it was face-to-face it would be two hours.

Would you recommend Dynamic Planner Cash flow to a fellow firm?

Without a doubt. Its ease of use is very good and I love the fact that it really makes you think about and hone in on the fact find, in effect, for a client and what is a business plan for their household finances. I love that and the fact then that you can follow a plan and you can pick it up again in six months or a year and see how it’s changed.

How easy is Dynamic Planner Cash flow to use?

From a UX point of view, it’s very, very good. Without any major training – simply a quick walk through of how it works – I have been able to intuitively use it. It’s easy – certainly the easiest cash flow modelling tool I’ve used in my career.

Another tool might be all singing, all dancing, but have you really got the time to learn its intricacies to make full use of it? With Dynamic Planner, you can pick up and use it straight away – and, almost certainly, in my view, with more relevance for the client, because it links to volatility within their investments.

Does it encourage client engagement?

Already with a client, I’ve had Zoom meetings and been able to share my screen and make adjustments and show the client the impact of them there and then. It’s straightforward as an adviser to do and the feedback so far from clients, they’ve said it’s absolutely superb.

It helps me a deliver a fully holistic, advised process. Rather than providing investment advice in isolation, I can now link it to a client’s income objectives and show graphically that they can achieve their objective by following my advice.

It’s more engaging for the client, that they can see graphically the impact of fund performance and adjustments over time on their overall plan. Ultimately, Dynamic Planner’s new cash flow has already helped me enhance my service and deliver better advice for clients.

How useful are ‘life phases’?

The life phase slider is exceptionally useful, because of course clients do have different life phases, which result in different income and expenditure needs. It’s easier, from the perspective of an adviser, to have those clear life phases and to be able to link income and expenditure to specific ones. It’s easier then also to quickly adjust the plan and show a client what would be the impact if, for example, they started taking their drawdown income sooner. From the client’s perspective, it’s better, because they get to clearly see that journey too.

Does it help, being integrated with the rest of Dynamic Planner?

It’s nice it has the same theme and layout as the rest of parts of Dynamic Planner, like the Client Review. All your clients’ data feeds into the new cash flow, avoiding any rekeying or entering data incorrectly. It’s all prepopulated. That’s extremely helpful, from a user experience and saves a huge amount of time.

If you are able to prepopulate, a new cash flow plan for a client only takes 10-15 minutes, which includes the time it takes for you to sense check it. You’re saving the time on manual inputting and on assuming growth and inflation rates etc.

Having one consistent tool and process, which Dynamic Planner provides – for risk profiling, for fund research, for reporting and now for cash flow planning – cuts down on extra administration and internal training at your firm. It cuts your costs as a firm, because you’re not paying multiple providers for different tools.

It also provides your clients with a consistent experience and you as a firm with a consistency of client proposition. Cash flow planning is very, very important for a client, so that you can show them the impact of increasing their current pension contributions, for example, 30 years down the line.

Dynamic Planner Cash flow is risk-based. How helpful is that?

The key win for Dynamic Planner Cash flow modelling is that it is based on the volatility of either the client’s funds themselves or the volatility of the benchmark asset allocation for their risk profile. That is a superb improvement over simply assuming a flat, growth rate of 3%, for example for a client’s investments.

That’s important, because, one, flat growth takes no account of sequencing risk and, two, where do you get that assumed flat growth from? Are you just plucking it out of the air? It’s dangerous. If you were, let’s say, to do your own maths correctly here, the time that would take would very likely be disproportionate to the charges you’re earning from the client.

Dynamic Planner’s cash flow carries out on an underlying, mathematical calculation based on the volatility of funds or an asset allocation mapped by Dynamic Planner.

From the perspective of a client, particularly in drawdown and a compliance point of view, that is absolutely superb – making sure you’re providing the client with the best possible advice and also evidencing either the continued suitability of drawdown or whether modifications need to be made to increase the chances of the client achieving their overall objective.

With assumptions built in and linked to funds and a benchmark asset allocation, that prevents inconsistencies in your process across advisers at a firm. To avoid doing that when assuming your own growth rates for cash flow, you would have to agree on those rates at a firm level – otherwise, two clients at the same risk profile could get completely different cash flow projections, because two advisers assumed different growth or inflation rates.

How dangerous is it, to assume growth rates for a client?

It’s potentially extremely dangerous for a client and the firm, because it can either under or overstate risk for the client. Cash flow planning deals in decades. If you haven’t taken into account sequencing risk or you’ve made incorrect assumptions about inflation, for example, it can have a devastating impact on the long-term sustainability of income for a client.

Previously in my career, I have never liked inputting my own assumptions for cash flow planning. I have wanted something like Dynamic Planner’s cash flow to come out for a very long time. That’s why it’s so good it has now launched. If a client did make a complaint about you and your firm, your assumptions in cash flow planning could easily be challenged, because the underlying advice you have given is determined by it.

From a compliance perspective, Dynamic Planner’s cash flow modelling is far better – putting you at a far lower risk and also helping protect your firm’s reputation as well. From a client’s perspective, you’re far more likely to deliver a better outcome.

What do you think of the client reporting?

Clients have received the cash flow report from Dynamic Planner extremely well. They find it useful. I think the key thing is that it allows me to show a client graphically why I am recommending a course of action, which is important, because previously I have had clients who have been adamant that they wanted to take one approach.

Now, in Dynamic Planner, you don’t have to just tell them why you think that’s not a good idea – you can show them. That ultimately enables you to deliver better client outcomes.

Would you recommend Dynamic Planner Cash flow to a fellow advice firm?

Yes, 100%. We really like it.

How has Dynamic Planner helped your firm in 2020?

Dynamic Planner has been tremendously helpful and time-saving in 2020. Given coronavirus, having a system where you can share your screen in a Zoom meeting and present to clients professionally graphs of their portfolio’s performance, its asset allocation and so forth, and have a subsequent discussion around that has been very well received.

Clients have been tremendously happy – they’ve said let’s do this again by Zoom after lockdown. That then cuts down on your time as a firm travelling alongside other admin costs. From that point of view, it’s superb.

Adopting Dynamic Planner is one of the best things we’ve done in years. Dynamic Planner’s continued innovation is fantastic. And the fact that they engage with you as a user, to ascertain what improvements would be best from an advisory perspective – rather than simply provide a product in a one-way process – is brilliant for us, because it allows us to ultimately have a tool which is so useful for us.