Walking past the London Eye and along the Thames early first thing, en route to the venue, there was already a great energy to our seventh Annual Conference at the IET on Wednesday 6 February.
James Smith, our Head of Adviser Services, was first up on the main stage in the IET’s luxuriously compact Kelvin Lecture Theatre, delivering a warm welcome to a busy throng of delegates – proud financial advisers, paraplanners and administrators.
Simon Jack, journalist and BBC Business Editor, presented the day’s first keynote, ‘Economic Update; Off the Press’ on topics which have dominated the headlines and our lives in the UK so completely recently.
“Congratulations financial services,” he told delegates. “You are weathering Brexit very well indeed,” before adding: “Coral reefs don’t die overnight, but there may be slow erosion of influence over time.”
Ben Goss, Dynamic Planner’s CEO and co-founder then gave his Annual Conference keynote, which mirrored the day’s subtitle, ‘Transform the Way Clients See You’. Ben exclusively launched to delegates the new Dynamic Planner Client Review and the first release of Elements, a £5million, three-year rolling programme of major upgrades to Dynamic Planner.
“What we are announcing is the largest single investment in our history,” said Ben. “Dynamic Planner Elements will future-proof advice firms in an increasingly demanding and technology-driven financial planning market.”
That was only the start of the significant announcements and breaking news. Nick Eatock, founder and Executive Chairman at Intelliflo, one of our growing and influential partners, took to the main stage during Ben’s keynote and announced the new, two-way Dynamic Planner – iO integration, the best, in his words, iO had ever delivered with a partner.
Nick added: “This highlights how UK software companies have grown up. This is not about competition – it is about collaboration.”
Steven Kowal, Executive Director at MSCI, too was in attendance and made a guest appearance during Ben’s keynote, unveiling a new partnership between Dynamic Planner and MSCI to create 10 indices based on Dynamic Planner’s 1-10 risk ratings.
He said: “There is a lack of proper benchmarks for how wealth portfolios are managed. This collaboration with Dynamic Planner is a game-changer.”
FT Adviser covered the story, showcasing its significance. The pace of the day and occasion was becoming infectious.
“There feels like there is a theme of innovation today,” noted one asset manager to delegates in the session immediately following Ben’s keynote.
Time then to breathe, take stock and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in the IET’s impressive Riverside Room, which overlooks the city of London and its iconic skyline. You couldn’t be anywhere else in the world. It’s reassuring to see it. We continued to be in safe hands in the final session before lunch and the Chief Investment Officer CIO Panel chaired by the impossibly brilliant Simon Jack, who would enrich any dream dinner party guest list. He was a joy to listen to on Wednesday.
Simon’s grasp of current economic and business news is phenomenal and the ease with which he conveys that handle to a large audience is wonderful to hear and experience. That expertise was not lost on the seven CIO’s on this year’s heavyweight panel. They knew they had a formidable Chair steering the discussion.
“Please do come back at a journo though,” Simon confidently added before we kicked off. “We do like a scrum!”
“What decision would you take back, if you could, in 2018?” Simon first asked panellists.
Bill McQuaker of Fidelity International was candid and happy enough to share: “Investing in US oil worked out alright in the end, but it was an unbelievably rocky road I wouldn’t want to repeat.”
“What is the biggest challenge for a DIY investor?” Simon then asked.
“Keeping control of your emotions,” answered Ian Jensen-Humphreys of 7IM.
“Or outsourcing to silver fox fund managers,” quipped Simon. The joke, lightly and briefly, was then on him. Who had left their mobile phone on? Someone’s was embarrassingly ringing. It was Simon Jack’s of all people.
“I can’t talk right now,” he said rather red-faced after walking over to the side of the stage and interrupting proceedings while he answered it. Much laughter in the room.
“Who was it?” asked one of the panellists, keen to not let the moment pass too quickly. “Jacob Rees-Mogg?” they jibed.
“No,” answered Simon, quickly regaining control. “It was Philip Hammond!” Cue louder laughter. A brilliant moment.
The decibel level did not fade healthily with a happy hum of conversations and ideas exchanged between delegates over a bite to eat at lunch back in the IET’s Riverside Room – before the Compliance Panel, again chaired by Simon Jack, signalled the start of the afternoon Annual Conference schedule.
“It’s quite simple,” opened Richard Allum, founder of The Paraplanners, “It’s about doing the right thing for the client every time.”
“Advising is often an art,” said Russell Facer, Managing Director of threesixty Services. “It’s the soft skills and teasing out motivating factors behind a client’s big life goals.”
Chris Jones, Dynamic Planner Proposition Director, said: “It’s very easy to confuse understanding with information. Does the client really understand the consequences of decisions? That’s key.”
Dan Jordan, Managing Director of Lighthouse Wealth, neatly rounded off the debate: “You have to deliver MiFID II as cost efficiently as you can. We have seen what Dynamic Planner is doing today. You’ve got to embrace that.”
Key Swinburne, MEP for Wales, delivered the day’s penultimate keynote. “I wonder what would have happened if this Brexit negotiation was given to MEP’s not MP’s?” she thought out loud. “MEP’s do compromise for a living.”
Chris Jones had the final keynote and word, ‘Managing the Client, Not the Money’, bringing the focus and day’s agenda fittingly back to the client and the people financial services work so hard to serve.
The day had faded outside now to darkness and the London night lights were glowing out across the city, looking out from the Riverside Room in the final networking session at Annual Conference on Wednesday. What would happen beneath that landscape, down at the coalface, in the potentially choppier waters of the Thames, was on everyone’s lips as minds cast forward to the rest of 2019.
Whatever transpires in the sector and markets this year, and beyond into 2020, with all the different partners in the room, you felt better that you were not alone facing those challenges.
Dynamic Planner’s CEO Ben Goss sets out below what he believes the next 12 months has in store for the advice industry.
Advisers won’t need a crystal ball to know that 2019 is likely to start in a more challenging place for them and for their clients than 2018 did, but the advice industry earns its corn in times of uncertainty. 2019 will offer huge opportunities for advisers to demonstrate their value to clients and enhance their proposition along the way:
1. Cash will (initially) be king:
At the start of 2019 the temptation to move into cash will be very strong indeed for clients approaching or in retirement as market volatility and the uncertainty around Brexit continues. Advisers will have to be on their game reassuring them that their investments are suitable and that they should stick to their plan. The use of risk-based cash flow plans to illustrate the range of potential returns likely to be encountered and test risk capacity, will be invaluable in helping clients stay on track.
2. Change and yet more regulatory change:
January marks the first anniversary of MiFID II and the point at which firms have to start giving their annual suitability reviews and address their buy/sell/hold methodology. While potentially challenging given the work that is needed, this is also an opportunity to add further structured reassurance and demonstrate value against a plan which is suitable for the client’s risk profile. This is made far easier when using a technology-based investment process. In the Spring the FCA is due to review its thematic work on suitability.
3. Increased focus on developing retirement propositions:
While almost all firms have a centralised investment proposition (CIPs) few have something different for clients in retirement. With the challenges of sequencing risk, annual reviews and the need to generate regular income for clients over increasingly extended lifetimes more and more firms will build Central Retirement Propositions (CRPs) in 2019. For the early adopters, there is an opportunity to differentiate from peers and competition here and to attract new clients while extending services to existing ones.
4. Risk targeting will move mainstream:
Two years after the IA launched the volatility managed sector (and 4 years after DT launched its Risk Target Managed service) this approach to managing client money will finally come of age. A critical mass of major managers now explicitly target objective, independent risk profiles linked to the client’s agreed profile. Those funds targeting our own profiles already exceed £10billion from major managers. The range of outcomes experienced by the client become more certain as a result and the challenges of MiFIDII reviews and ensuring ongoing suitability significantly reduced.
5. Digital reporting accelerates as DB transfers reduce and FCA reviews FAMR:
While game-changing initiatives like pensions dashboard and open banking are on the bleeding edge of the industry for the time being, the need to reduce client cost to serve will be a priority once again. With the wave of DB transfers diminishing firms will return to a more normalised business model – one where the cost to advise and deliver an ongoing service become a priority once again.
The use of digital to automate client reporting, a key driver of cost, will accelerate as will the use of technology within the advice process with requests for clients to complete questionnaires online or elements of the advice process digitally growing exponentially. The FCA will be reviewing progress of FAMR in 2019 including Project Innovate and the Innovation Hub and so we can hope for continued support for technology in the advice process.
If you would like to speak to Ben Goss on any of these points please get in touch on via the contact details below.