I am a fan of hitting the week hard, so I don my thermals (it is winter) and at 7am meet a friend, who works in commodities trading, for our semi-regular 10k run around Regent's Park. I arrive at the office just before 9am.
The main event of the day is a meeting with a new client. Following disappointing service from a former adviser, she is understandably cautious about my suggestions. I am keen to emphasise that the industry has moved on a lot from the commission-centred world of the past, and financial services are now one of the most regulated industries in the UK, subject to more regulatory rules than pharmaceuticals and air transport. We agree to catch up soon, and I follow up with an email summarising our discussion, including some facts and figures about the types of investments I mentioned.
Later that day I get in touch with another new client who is almost constantly away on business. With luck I catch him on the phone walking rapidly between meetings, and we agree a course of action in relation to his investments. Again, I follow this up in writing for him to review, and send some suggested meeting dates for April – knowing this is as early as I can likely manage to see him.
Whenever possible, I work remotely as this gives me a couple more precious hours to the day, and the ability to focus on larger projects without distraction. This can include producing materials for our seminars and client marketing – all Ascot Lloyd advisers are expected to contribute to business development initiatives to ensure promotional activities deliver real insight.
Working from home also means I can intersperse working with household tasks on my ‘breaks’ - much to my wife’s delight. The productivity tips in Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week taught me to focus on the most essential parts of my job.
The main meeting of the day is with a client in her late 80s, whose main concerns are meeting her long-term care needs and ensuring that the beneficiaries of her estate do not pay unnecessary inheritance tax.
Her present portfolio, set up by a former adviser, meets neither of these objectives, but has given solid returns up until recently. I explain that, although there is nothing inherently wrong with her current arrangement, it is far from optimised. My role is to make sure that a portfolio is as effective as possible.
We agree to consider a few IHT efficient investments and adjust the remainder to take these into consideration holistically. Changing investments she has held for 20 years is not an easy decision when they are doing ‘okay’, so I ask if she would only sell them if they did badly. Financial planning is always important but rarely seen as urgent until it is too late, so I try to encourage a proactive approach with my clients.
One of our advisers is retiring, so much of the afternoon is spent meeting with him to discuss the needs of the clients he will be transferring to me. I try to combine the best of approaches (old and new) during these types of transition – clients’ needs and expectations remain the same, but the product and investment landscape continues to evolve. Working at a larger firm means I benefit from a wealth of research and analysis. I make notes as the retiring adviser details the history of the clients, and try to bring fresh eyes to their portfolios.