End of the Road….?

dad-india

Grief is like toothache, many people have experienced it and they have an idea of what you’re feeling, but the pain is personal to you and they will never really know what it’s like. It comes and goes in waves, you think you’re over it but then something happens to set it off again. You have no idea how long it’s going to go on for, and there’s not much you can do to stop it.

That’s how I feel after the death of my dad last week. He went into hospital on 23rd January for a routine hip operation, and we all expected that this week we would be needing to find ways to keep him in his chair resting, knowing that he would want to be up and about at the earliest opportunity. Instead, the operation caused a blood clot which went on to his lung and lead to further complications. He passed away on the morning of 26th Jan.

Dad was a citizen of the world. He spent his life travelling, firstly in the Army, then through his work designing, selling and installing quarry and asphalt plant, and latterly as a motorcycling adventurer. We lost count of the number of countries he had visited in his lifetime, and his Facebook page includes contacts from across the globe. We’ve been overwhelmed by the many tributes and anecdotes from his friends, many of whom experienced his enthusiasm, inspiration and spirit of adventure as he took part in numerous organised runs across India and the Himalaya by Enfield motorcycle, forming links with an amazing group of people who obviously held him in high regard. My own experiences travelling with him to Germany are the subject of a previous blog.

Dad was a modest man but he was secretly proud to be showing the younger guys how it should be done, especially when many of those younger guys were well into retirement themselves. To be riding the highest roads in the world across rough terrain, rockfalls and heavy fords was a great achievement in itself, to be doing it in your mid-80s is pretty special.

I learned a lot from my father over his lifetime, and I’ll pick up on some of the key things in a future post. For now, it’s enough to record that he is no longer with us and that our family is in mourning. His funeral is on Tuesday 14th February in Loughborough, and there’s a lot to do before then to make sure we give him a great send-off.

Why This Rebel Is Keen To Remain In Europe

I’m on a narrowboat this week and not paying much attention to the news, but when an MP is murdered in cold blood it’s an event that can’t be ignored.

It seems as though the perpetrator was suffering his own mental health problems, but such extreme action has to have some underlying trigger. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to guess that the Brexit campaign could have been it. I can’t be the only one to have become thoroughly disenchanted with the way in which the campaigns have descended from at least some semblance of intelligent debate to bickering, personal attacks and name calling. It seems that this has to be the way of modern politics.

(FILES) This file photo taken on August

image from metro.co.uk

What depresses me further is that the debate seems to have become about nationalism and whether you are ‘for’ or ‘against’ Britain and her continued existence. To even suggest that a vote to Remain is anti-British has to be the ultimate in distortion of reality.

I’m as passionate about this country – by which I mean the United Kingdom in its entirety – as anyone, and it’s because of this very belief that I am so strongly in favour of staying in.

That doesn’t mean I’m happy with the status quo, far from it. Europe is by no means perfect, and if it is to succeed in the long term it has to change. I think that the idea of ever closer political union in Europe is wrong, and that the EU has made some significant errors of economic policy that haven’t helped the lives of its citizens.

Red Tape Can Be Good

But despite the rhetoric there is a lot of good to being a member of the European ‘Club’. A lot of the so-called ‘red tape’ that comes out of Brussels is aimed at harmonising trade, and that requires regulations to be proposed, drafted, debated and accepted. In return our businesses can sell their goods right across Europe with no further restrictions, and this has been a boost to trade over the years. In my own field, financial services, it has taken a long time to get this harmonisation in place and there is still a way to go, but Britain has been a significant winner in its areas of expertise, with 30% of the European banking market, half of Europe’s fund management business, and well over 80% of hedge fund activity, a major money-spinner for the City. Leaving the EU would definitely put this major trade at risk, and it could take years to recover our position. Surely if rules are being drafted for the pan-European market that we will have to conform to anyway, it makes sense to have a place at the negotiating table?

Immigration

Arrivals from the European Union customs channel at Stansted Airport, England, Britain UK

image from viewsbank.com

Perhaps the greatest area of concern for many people is that of immigration. On this one I’m probably of a different view to many, because I’m all in favour of open borders. In my idealistic world it would be possible for anyone to travel anywhere without hindrance, and it would be great to think that, one day in the future that might happen. I do accept that the world isn’t ideal, of course, and in reality controls are required, but free movement of goods, services and people within the EU seems to me to be a laudable objective. This doesn’t mean free access to all services the state provides, of course, and it’s here that the debate should focus in my view. David Cameron has already gained acknowledgement of this within Europe and the Government’s policy has for some time been aimed at limiting benefits for migrants.

There’s a well-proven economic case for such free movement. At a time when Western economies are facing the prospect of ageing populations as the 1950’s baby boomers’ move into retirement, we need younger workers to be able to grow. It’s also true that many new businesses are started by immigrants seeking a better life for their families. Ultimately the way to resolve the pressure of immigration is to help make the countries from which the people come to be stable and prosperous, and here the EU has a role.

If we were to exit the Union I really can’t see how things would change much on this front, either. A large proportion of immigrants are from non-EU countries already, and we couldn’t hope for much tighter controls whilst enjoying unfettered movement of our own goods, services and citizens. It’s folly to believe otherwise.

Change is already happening

There is evidence that the EU is already changing. Its politicians are getting the message that, right across Europe, there is disenchantment with its opaqueness and remoteness from the people whose lives it affects. The influx of smaller nations who have joined in recent years

Eu Flags

image from guardian.co.uk

aren’t interested in ever closer political union, they want better access to Europe’s markets, stability, and protection against aggressors, notably Russia. Britain, with its emphasis on defence (on which we spend more than most other Euro nations) and trade is seen as a strong and consistent voice with the scale and economic clout to be a positive leader in Europe. The very intensity of the UK Brexit debate has made politicians across Europe sit up and take notice. We aren’t the only ones who aren’t entirely happy, as evidenced by rising nationalistic voices in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and many other countries. Something must be done.

Agitate from within

I’ve always seen myself as something of a rebel. I’m all in favour of shaking things up and agitating for change. But I came to realise a long time ago that crusading through the streets holding placards and chanting slogans is nothing like as effective as being on the inside and influencing things with the people who hold the power. Attractive as it might feel to make a protest against Europe and ‘stand up for Britain,’ let’s not throw away years of negotiations and effort that could set us back 10 years or more and leave us with less influence and no real gains.

Instead, let’s create the necessary change from within with a strong voice and firm principles. Let’s stand up for Britain as a negotiating partner and not a truculent absentee.

In my humble opinion, a vote for Britain is a vote to Remain.

Andy Jervis

19-06-2016

IFP Conference Report 2015 Day One

As a long-standing member of the Institute of Financial Planning I have always enjoyed attending the Annual Conference, held for the last few years in the luxurious surroundings of the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport. Today is the first day of the Conference and it’s already provided plenty of meaty food for thought.

I first got involved with the IFP in the early 1990’s, and much of what Chesterton House now practices has been learned from that long association. Members have always been generous in sharing ideas, and I’ve been highly impressed by their dedication to delivering great results for clients as well as wanting to know how to run highly effective businesses – two things that go hand-in-hand.

Twenty years ago the Annual Conference was held at Cambridge University, a mark of the aspirations of the leading players in the Institute at that time, during an era when salesmanship was much more highly prized by financial institutions than academic rigour. Since then, the regulators have imposed the need for learning on to advisers in the form of the RDR, which brought in the requirement for financial qualifications for anyone giving advice to the public. Many of the old school decided that was a time to leave the business, but for the IFP it felt like its time had come. With a burgeoning need for high quality advice from a wealthier, older and more time-pressured population facing an ever more complicated world, the IFP’s blend of holistic financial planning skills, high integrity and focus on long-term relationship based business models is proving successful for those practitioners who choose to follow it.

The Conference is the annual coming together of advisers and financial professionals seeking the latest ideas and techniques, as well as to enjoy the camaraderie of ‘front-line’ practitioners. It’s always an inspiring event and this year is proving no different.

We began this morning with a session specifically designed for members of firms holding the Accredited Financial Planning Firm designation, of which Chesterton House is proud to be one. An overview of a member survey that gave us some useful benchmarks on which we could measure our respective firms performance was followed by an excellent talk by Nicky Simonds-Gooding of Gazing Performance Systems about how to raise your performance in an increasingly pressurised world. Nicky taught us to use the Samurai principle of the ‘Double Gaze’ – being able to focus intensively on specific details whilst still having an eye on the Bigger Picture, something that resonated strongly with our approach at Chesterton House. She went on to remind us that the High Performance mind set says that however good we are, we can always improve, and suggested some techniques for generating that improvement. Inspiring stuff.

The Institute’s AGM was followed by a session discussing the future of the IFP, which has just agreed to merge with the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments, a much larger body with an academic base. This has been a big deal for IFP members and, amongst general approval of the potential benefits of the deal, there was concern that the unique qualities of the IFP might be subsumed into the CISI over time. We were assured that wasn’t going to happen, and members were reassured by the obvious enthusiasm for the idea of an expanded organisation being able to spread the word about what real financial planning is and its potential to change people’s lives.

The next session asked, ‘Does Size Matter,’ with leaders of small, medium and large financial planning firms discussing how to continue to deliver a consistent client experience and the highest quality advice as firms grow. This is something that’s particularly relevant to me in my role as Chairman of Chesterton House as our own growth continues, and there were some useful observations from the panel that I noted down.

The next session from Alison Broadberry of Charles Russell Speechlys Solicitors explored the area of Estate Planning for Business Owners. This was another topic of great relevance to me as our Legal Team develops its role in working with families and successful business people to ensure that their assets end up where they intended. Alison explained how a ‘Company Will’ can be used to create certainty for business owners faced with the death of a partner or owner, as well as ways to use trusts to protect business assets on death and massively reduce tax bills. The session was a helpful reminder of these ideas that will be useful when advising clients who are in this situation.

The final session from Michael Langerup of ETF Securities asked, ‘What’s So Smart About Smart Beta’. This was a talk aimed at the investment geeks among us, investigating as it did the market for passive investments based on Exchange traded Funds (ETFs) and the differences between them. If you’re really interested in Systematic Factor Strategies based on key macro risks as a way to diversify your portfolio I’ll be happy to speak to you separately. Or send you to see Michael.

With a lively exhibition area used as a meeting and eating venue for the evening it was great to catch up with some old acquaintances as well as make some new ones. After such an interesting day in a great Conference venue its no wonder some of us keep returning each year.

Tomorrow is an early start as sessions start at 8.15am, and it’s just turned midnight as I write this so I think that’s enough for now. Over and out!

 

Protecting Your Legacy

Last Wednesday (23rd September, 2015) saw our Team gather together with an audience of around 40 guests at Quorn Country Hotel to consider how to ‘Protect your Legacy’.

Over the course of the morning Nelissa explained why it’s so important to make a Will, Rebecca told us how Inheritance Tax works, how much you’re likely to pay, and various ideas for how to avoid it.

Richard went on to explain how valuable tax reliefs can help reduce your IHT bill, especially in the area of Business Property Relief. Dave went on to cover a range of planning possibilities using trusts to reduce your tax whilst still keeping control over your cash.

We asked the attendees how useful they found the Seminar, and the praise was high. They told us that the morning had been clear and informative, and had given them a new insight into planning for the future. There was also a wide appreciation that everyone’s circumstances are different, and that there is no single solution that works for everyone. You can view some of their comments in this short video.


The final session of the morning gathered a number of the ideas together in the form of a ‘real-life’ case study, the story of one particular Chesterton House client with a long relationship with the firm. Richard and Rebecca explained how, using a combination of financial planning, investing and legal strategies it had been possible to reduce this couple’s eventual tax bill to a tiny fraction of the amount that would have been payable without taking any action, whilst still ensuring that there were ample funds to pay for the care and support that was required for several years towards the end of their lives.

The case study was a great example of how a long-term professional relationship, focused on a person’s needs, goals and objectives, implemented and adjusted regularly over the years as those needs and circumstances change, can bring not only great peace of mind but also real financial benefit. It also highlighted the advantage of financial, legal and accounting professionals working together to get the best outcome for clients – a hallmark of our service at Chesterton House.

If these are topics in which you have an interest, you can start by having a word with our Team. They would be very pleased to discuss your situation with you.

Sarah is Mrs Bolt!

Sarah just texted to tell us they had arrived in Tucson, 18 hours after we dropped them at Heathrow. It’s 3.30 in the morning, and we’ve just woken to catch our own flight to Dubrovnik where we will recuperate from exertions of the last few days.

It was a great wedding. Sarah met James a few weeks into her Uni experience over 11 years ago. They roomed together as she completed not one but two degrees as she pursued her lifetime ambition of becoming a veterinary surgeon. Sarah Jervis, MRCVS is now Mrs Sarah Bolt and very pleased she is to be so. As proud parents and parents-in-law, we’re delighted too.

 Sarah & James Wedding

It seemed inevitable from the earliest days that Sarah and James would be a long term item. The two of them have an easy grace to their relationship that feels right. I’m sure they’ve had their ups and downs, but seeing them on Saturday, so obviously proud and full of love for each other, made the day a very special one for everyone who was there. We will all remember it for a very long time to come. Congratulations to you both!