Wow. What a day. Our first ever Annual Conference in Manchester proved to be a fantastic occasion at the award-winning Manchester Central. The day was supported brilliantly by a great audience of financial services professionals from across the North West – and even further afield, with delegates flying in from Scotland for it.
Upon arrival, they were warmly greeted in the beautiful Exchange Room – where all Conference keynotes and Panels were heard – by a high-energy ‘Welcome’ from Yasmina Siadatan from Dynamic Planner. Well known broadcaster and journalist Gavin Esler – our experienced and expert host for Manchester Conference – then delivered his keynote to the audience exploring the relationship between trust and leadership at the highest level today.
Donald Trump bends the truth 15 times a day on average, underlined Gavin – and yet 40 per cent of Americans trust him.
Ben Goss, Dynamic Planner’s CEO and co-founder 16 years ago in 2003, then delivered his Annual Conference keynote – which echoed the day’s subtitle, ‘Transform the Way Clients See You’. Ben exclusively launched to delegates the new Dynamic Planner Client Review and first trailblazing part of Elements, a £5million, three-year rolling programme of significant upgrades.
“What we are announcing today 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.”
News of Thursday’s 24 January launch received terrific and extensive coverage in the financial press and media.
We were also brilliantly supported at our Annual Conference in Manchester by 16 of our closest partners, who all spoke to and engaged with delegates throughout the day. Nick Eatock, founder and Executive Chairman at Intelliflo, took to the main stage and championed the new, two-way Dynamic Planner – iO integration, the best, in his words, iO had ever delivered with a partner.
The Chief Investment Officer [CIO] Panel debate – titled ‘Macro View of the Investment Landscape’ and always keenly anticipated at this the seventh Annual Dynamic Planner Conference – then consumed and compelled and enthralled a full house of delegates in the Exchange Room. Elite fund managers from Investec, Schroders, Legal & General, Sarasin and Miton Group, alongside our own Head of Asset & Risk Modelling, Abhi Chatterjee, shared their thoughts and hugely informed opinions on what to expect from markets in 2019; what regrets they quietly harboured from their decisions in 2018; and, of course, on the burning issue of the hour and what we are all talking about, Brexit.
What followed in the ensuing 60 minutes, adroitly chaired by the effortless Gavin Esler, captivated everyone.
“2018 was the year when it felt like banks didn’t have your back anymore,” said Marcus Brookes from Schroders.
“The psychology of markets changed,” said David Jane of Miton Group. “Cynicism now reins.”
How do you guard against that, then, over the next 12 months?
Jason Borbora, of Investec, neatly summed it up: “Do you want to up your risk exposure – or do you focus on defence in a portfolio?”
The Compliance Panel – a first for Conference in 2019 – had the spotlight after a healthy break for lunch, which was a nice chance for delegates to meet and discuss what they had just heard among their peers and fellow financial services professionals. The Compliance Panel asked: ‘How to Thrive in a Post-MiFID II World’.
“RDR really made advice firms think about their proposition and refocused attention on the adviser-client relationship,” opened Carl Wallis of Sesame Bankhall Group.
Gary Crossley, of threesixty, picked up the baton: “I can talk about MiFID II forever, but advisers simply communicating properly and well with their clients deals with many compliance issues.”
Brexit, here, still did not escape the agenda.
“It’s just another big risk event,” said Carl Wallis. “It’s nothing new for firms in that sense.”
Keynotes from Phil Young, Managing Partner at Zero Support, and from Chris Jones, Proposition Director at Dynamic Planner, served as the climax to our first ever Manchester Conference, underlining and showcasing the fact that the day’s agenda was all about you, dedicated and proud financial services professionals.
“You should be proud to be a financial planner,” said Chris, who joined Dynamic Planner last July in a high-profile switch from Intrinsic, where he was head of Investment Proposition.
Nobody, finally, was going to argue with that.
Wednesday saw the most exciting event ever held by the award-winning provider of risk profiling and asset allocation experts Dynamic Planner, at the IET in Savoy Place in London. The day was filled with controversial yet inspirational conversation, stacked with industry insight as well as macroeconomic expertise.
Advisers and paraplanners from all over the UK gathered with asset managers, platform providers, VIPs and speakers to learn the very latest in the world of investment. Simon Jack, the BBC’s Business Editor fresh from Davos, trotted us through the day with entertaining insight and mastery. Jack tells us French President Macron was the star of the Swiss slopes, and Brexit wows may be dampened by the prospect of global growth in 2018. The stage was set for a serious day.
Up next were five heavyweight CIOs from some of the UK’s top asset management houses. We heard that the giant global quantitative easing will continue to run, and we’re currently amassing pools of bonds normally associated with the latter part of wartime. The top-class debate had the CIOs agreeing that 2018 is the ‘year for portfolio housekeeping’ and advisers need to let investors know bull markets have to come to an end eventually, so make sure the risks are made clear. On cryptocurrency, this was said, ‘It’s yesterday’s story already, it’s not an investment’.
The Dragons’ Den session fired up the audience and pitches came in fast and hard from the Dynamic Planner team, with the Review Reports pitch winning over Charting and Investment Suitability Indices. The audience was delighted to hear that Dynamic Planner is taking the audience’s steer and developing the winning pitch into the product.
Updates to the Dynamic Planner risk profiler and the launch of a new questionnaire was delivered, arguably one of the most fiercely listened to addresses of the day. The remainder of the afternoon was seen through by some top-class keynotes spanning sport, politics and investment, all culminating in a quality panel debate with Dynamic Planner CEO Ben Goss, former General Secretary to the Premier League Nic Coward, Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s speechwriter and Simon Jack, the BBC’s Business Editor.
Firmly positioned as one the investment industry’s best events, the Dynamic Planner 6th Annual Conference has received critical acclaim by both the attendees and the wider community alike, and is set to be the must-attend conference in our industry’s calendar.
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This year’s Dynamic Planner Annual Conference climaxed with a Question Time-style panel debate involving keynote speakers Alastair Campbell, Nic Coward and Ben Goss.
Conference host Simon Jack chaired the panel and invited questions from delegates in the audience. With such enormous and broad business and life experience on the panel, what ensued in the following 30 minutes captivated the Kelvin Lecture Theatre at the IET London.
Simon Jack (also BBC Business Editor): When we consider this whole issue around fake news and a lack of trust in media, one could argue Alastair that you invented fake news and encouraging the public to take their eye off the ball when you were a government adviser from 1997-2003. Did people first begin to lose faith in the government and media then; were you the original spin doctor?
Alastair Campbell (former Director of Communications and Strategy at 10 Downing Street): If I may say so, it is an argument I have heard before and I think it is a very self-serving argument for the media, and I will explain what I mean by that. I did the job that I did at Number 10 and it is a job that has been done by people since the beginning of time – advising leaders and people in positions of power. I was doing it at a time when the media world was changing beyond all recognition – because when I started out in my career as a journalist, what was the media? It was a newspaper you read or the news you watched once a day.
By the time I was in Downing Street and working in a very small team, we were dealing with a media which had grown exponentially and, what is more, had ceased to become merely purveyors of information, but more like political players. As that change happened, if we had not had a strategy in government to communicate our messages at that time, the media would have blown us away.
Look what has happened to Theresa May more recently: she can’t do it. She hasn’t got control of that landscape. She’s making it up as she goes along. It’s day to day survival for her.
Ben Goss (Dynamic Planner CEO): I am worried about fake news and the proliferation of the media, but if I try and put myself in a financial adviser’s shoes – and think about how I protect my reputation – there is essentially a line of argument in the press that goes along the lines of, ‘All financial advisers are scoundrels’. That has always been slightly true of our industry. If you have a financial adviser, then you absolutely trust and rely upon them to manage your investments wisely.
But it is really easy for the media today and on social media to attack what is ultimately a very close and trusted bond between two people, and say, ‘Look, you’re making money at someone else’s expense’. And most financial advice firms don’t have an army of spin doctors to help manage their reputation – and I worry about that. I think there is a role we can play here by producing more transparent client reports, which help show the returns you are receiving for the risks you are taking. That’s important.
Alastair Campbell: I think reputation is the most important currency there is. During Tony Blair’s government, I probably received more bad press than anybody, while today I get to earn a very nice living travelling all around the world advising people how to manage their reputation. Why do they ask me to do that? Because they think I have great experience in doing that in a very difficult environment – government.
How do you do that? First, you genuinely must not care about what other people say about you. If you do that and govern by what people who are likely to be hostile think, then you will stop doing things you think you should.
Arsene Wenger, the manager of Arsenal football club, said something incredibly insightful very recently. He said, ‘We’ve gone from a vertical world to a horizontal world’. In a vertical world, you have leaders who set the tone and direction and make decisions, which work their way down in society. In a horizontal world, we are bombarded all the time by the views and fake expertise of other people – but you can’t control that. All you can control is what you do and what you say, and in doing so shape the landscape. In that sense, modern media today is too noisy.
Ken Clarke said the other day that all MPs today are terrified of newspapers – but why? Politicians have got way more power if only they would see it and use it. In financial services and in every single walk of life today, it is the same. You have to break out of that mindset because if you allow the media and this culture of negativity to affect your judgement, you’ve had it.
Nic Coward (former General Secretary of football’s Premier League): I think it all comes down to your grand plan, your vision which grabs hold of people. I think a huge gap has grown in the UK between this current generation and the younger, next generation. For example, in the EU referendum, we had an older generation having a certain view of what Europe means to us now and in the future, compared to a younger view.
Alongside that and an issue which I think is acute to the UK’s economic future is pensions. Firms carrying large pension fund deficits nationwide removes our ability to invest in the future and in our children. Who has a plan to resolve that issue? I don’t think it exists and in sync with what other people have said, yes, there is too much concern with what the media will make of it and too little serious vision.
Ben Goss: What is interesting in the financial services industry is that the regulator does have a plan and getting us MIFID II ready before we leave Europe has been an important priority and the FCA has been very clear about that. We have all within the industry had to work incredibly hard to get ready for MIFID II at relatively short notice, so that there is harmonisation. You can see that not just in the UK but across Europe investment managers and financial advice organisations have had to raise their standards. I think generally that has been positive, because, in keeping with this conversation, if we were to ask firms, ‘Who are they most afraid of: the media or the regulator?’ I suspect most firms would answer, ‘The regulator’.
Simon Jack: Let’s take the opportunity to take some questions from the audience.
Q. A lot of people like me would like to do something to stop Brexit happening. But what can we do?
Alastair Campbell: The problem we have is that we are a parliamentary democracy and ‘our’ side of the argument, so to speak would normally be made by the opposition. But while the opposition in parliament continues to not make that argument, us Remainers are going to continue to be very frustrated. Ultimately, the Remain argument, if it is to be successful, has to move forward in parliament. David Cameron – and I don’t know how he feels about it himself – has set in train something that parliament can’t fix, because if we carry on in this vein we are going to do real, lasting damage to this country.
Simon Jack: What if say Vauxhall closes Ellesmere Port and specifically say it is because of Brexit? Is there any point or moment like that which forces a second referendum?
Alastair Campbell: There might be, but you could argue we have already seen plenty of significant moments like that. So what do you do? I think you have to stay angry about Brexit, be determined and continue to believe that you still have a chance of changing people’s minds. Yes, there are hardcore groups of people on both sides of the argument. But there are millions of people in the middle who have changed their minds. You have one-time Remainers who are now saying, ‘For goodness sake, get on with it’. And you have one-time Leavers who are now saying, ‘I’m really scared about this’. But if our political process is saying, ‘Under no circumstances will we allow this issue to be revisited’ then we have a problem with democracy in this country.
Nic Coward: Surely then this is the perfect platform for somebody charismatic to carry that widespread feeling and that momentum. But where is that person? And arguably where was that person making that argument on the side of Remain when we voted back in June 2016?
Ben Goss: I remember going to bed on the night of the EU referendum at 3am – we were holiday in the States – and I said to my wife, ‘Don’t worry, there’s no point buying US dollars. The pound will be back to normal in the morning’. However, it proved to be the most expensive holiday I have had in years!
There is no knight in shining armour here or silver bullet and Brexit is going to be messy and foggy and will be for quite some time. Again, if I put myself in the shoes of a typical client of a financial adviser, I am perhaps 55-60 years old and I probably am quite scared, because I don’t have much ability now to accumulate wealth in my lifetime – so sterling matters and the UK’s ability to trade matters. I think the only reasonable argument you can give at this time – and we have heard it from CIOs of our partners here today – is you need a diversified portfolio; you need to understand in absolute detail how much risk a client is willing but also able to take; and you need to position your client’s portfolio in a way which will achieve his goals come what may.
Making better financial advice available to more people is certainly a passion of mine. At Dynamic Planner, we are a technology company, so we invest in technology. Products like AccessAdvice hopefully show that you can reach the next generation of investors and the regulatory framework is moving in the right direction here regarding and encouraging the use of technology in financial services.
Simon Jack: Let us finish by going around the panel and asking for your reasons to be cheerful.
Alastair Campbell: I genuinely believe French President Macron is a very good reason for being cheerful. And I also am optimistic about the next generation. I think they want to get on; I think they are much more inventive than the current, older generation were at their age; they’re more sassy; and I think they will sort out the mess that we have made.
Nic Coward: My reason is a message: work hard, see the good in all people and everything will be alright in the end.
Ben Goss: I am cheerful because the early feedback we at Dynamic Planner have already had today is that our clients want us to do the things we want to do, which shows that we are on the right track and is a great source of positivity moving forward.
Simon Jack: My reason for being cheerful is that social media giants like Facebook are going to start ranking their searches in order by how much a website is trusted. In this era of fake news that can only be a very good thing.