The coronavirus pandemic – with enormous speed and significance – has impacted almost every aspect of our lives in the UK in recent days and weeks.
From mid-March, huge numbers of us began working from home indefinitely, against the broader backdrop of being increasingly told by the government to avoid trips outside and contact with others. The magnitude of everything currently happening may only really resonate further down the line, once we have had time to absorb this experience of Covid-19.
In the more immediate term, life and work, of course, must continue as best it can. There is solace and reassurance, in a sense, that we are all in a similar boat, right now. We are all sharing and experiencing the same circumstances and problems.
What has been the initial impact on one advice firm, Jan Oliff Financial Planning in Worcestershire? Here, Director Jan Oliff kindly takes time to offer and share her thoughts and experience of all of this. And please note: the current Covid-19 crisis is, of course, fast-moving on many levels. All Jan’s comments were correct and given in good faith at the time of interview [23 March].
Are you working from home now?
Yes, I am working from home now, but I have always worked from home.
How is that disrupting you and your firm?
The disruption has been that I am used to being out and about a lot, visiting clients. I have about 60 clients – in Bristol, in London and a lot of older clients, who have mobility issues. But, of course, I’m not able to get to them, at the moment. During a normal working week, before all this, I would only be in the office for a bare minimum of hours.
And obviously, we have lost 30% of income, because the markets have dropped by 30%. But this is a micro business in many regards – it’s just me. I don’t have rent or wages to pay.
Have you ever experienced anything like this before?
On a professional level, the message to clients isn’t any different from the one we would have given them in 2008. But on a personal level, this crisis is much, much harder, because people are not just dealing with things on a financial level, they’re having to deal with major personal issues as well. Many of my clients have elderly partners or elderly relatives, and that’s challenging. I have no doubt, at the end of this crisis, that we will have lost people we care about deeply. I’m very aware of that fact.
What conversations have you been having with clients, worried about their portfolio?
Largely, conversations have been, ‘Let’s calm it down. Let’s accept the situation and also that markets will recover’. I have looked at all my clients’ portfolios and I am absolutely comfortable that all of the portfolios we are running contain sustainable, well run assets. There is no reason why we should be abandoning those assets now.
We can review them again at the end of all this, of course and the answer might be for a client that they are not prepared to experience volatility again like this. But, of course, if clients abandon those positions now, they are compounding any losses they have suffered. In truth, dare I say, we are not seeing huge losses yet for individual clients, which hopefully again reassures people that we did the right job selecting the assets they are invested in, in the first place.
How does Dynamic Planner help your firm?
I build ESG model portfolios for my clients and, prior to using Dynamic Planner, I was not easily able to find a way to risk assess them. Using Dynamic Planner, I can do that, which makes life so much easier.
I am passionate about ESG and the portfolios I build for clients reflect how the future is going to be. We’re going to need renewable energy, for example and we’re going to need scientific breakthroughs which will help us change the way we live our lives. That’s the basis I work on – and I’m blessed by not having to refer to an investment committee!
Read our market commentary from Chris Jones, Proposition Director and Abhi Chatterjee, Chief Investment Strategist here