What have you done differently, in 2020, because of the crisis and lockdown?
One of the sad parts of the crisis and lockdown is the social interaction, which nobody’s been able to do – and we have a lot of older, vulnerable clients, who live on their own.
The first thing we did was get on the phone to all of them, to see if we could help in any way. A lot of 5-10min phone calls initially were 25-30min, because we were asking how they and their families were, and because they needed someone to talk to. Most people were fine, but there were some customers, who we have had for 30 years, who we did help out with things like food shopping and picking up prescriptions.
One of the other things we did was get Microsoft Teams installed for everyone and we’ve had regular meetings on Teams. We also had an 11am ‘coffee break’ on Teams each day for the social interaction and to help with everyone’s mental wellbeing.
We’ve introduced electronic signatures and we’ve looked at and upped our IT security, which we’ve always been conscious of before, but during this even more so. It’s worked well. I think some companies and providers still insisting upon something like a wet signature need to stop focusing upon their solution, but other organisation’s solutions and what can be done for the customer.
How does Dynamic Planner help your firm?
I am quite typical as an IFA, in that I don’t take many new clients on and as a result I do a lot of reviews. I think the Client Review in Dynamic Planner is wonderful – and with new cash flow Dynamic Planner is going in exactly the direction we want: the ability to show to clients the impact of, ‘What if?’ scenarios.
It says it quite early in the review reports, ‘Plan for this, but be prepared for this’. All our advisers have that conversation with clients: ‘How will you feel if markets go down?’ Of course, it is easy to say you are adventurous in terms of your attitude to risk, until it goes wrong and your portfolio has fallen in value.
We always remind our advisers that they are advising. It is the clients who are taking the risk. It is up to the adviser then to explore a client’s capability, in terms of capacity for loss, to take on agreed risk, which we always have done.
It is up to the adviser to explain risk, because there is risk in everything the client does. Even in an old-fashioned Risk Profile 1, ‘Under the bed’ there is the risk of theft and of inflation. That is where Dynamic Planner helps so much, in pictures and words, to explain that. We couldn’t be without it and it is exactly where we want to be in terms of customer experience – for attitude to risk, capacity for loss and fund analysis.
After 2016, we developed a Brexit strategy for portfolios, moving away from UK equity, but while also being prepared to return to it if needed. We wanted portfolios to have a more global outlook and Dynamic Planner allows you to build multi asset portfolios how you want, but while being aware all the time of the impact of risk and how that translates on the ‘efficient frontier’, which you can see at a glance.
‘Dynamic Planner was the first company to come to us with an actual review proposition for clients’
For a typical client review, the first thing I would do is go into Dynamic Planner and get a latest valuation for their portfolio. We then send the client the risk questionnaires to redo and then prepare the report ready for the meeting. Once with the client, you can decide if a rebalance is required.
Dynamic Planner is embedded within all our processes – and, for me, was the first company to come to us with an actual review proposition for clients. It’s the audit trail it creates and provides, in that interaction with the client from start to finish. There’s nobody else out there providing that, that I can find.
Dynamic Planner is, as we are, very customer focused and the way it is driving forward, it is exactly the way we want to go. I sing Dynamic Planner’s praises to different people and companies within the industry, because I have full confidence in what it enables me to offer customers.
Are there lasting benefits, do you think, to working remotely from home?
Yes, I think accelerating the adoption of electronic signatures, which we had been increasingly looking at for clients in the last 12 months. Also, video chat on a platform like Microsoft Teams, which we all knew about previously, but this has made us use it and we’re now going to keep it – instead of asking people to physically travel to meetings constantly.
I think Teams will allow us to have shorter, regular meetings internally – because we always ask our advisers to share information. Each client is different, which means things have to be done slightly differently, so we like our advisers to share their client cases.
I think for clients we will also introduce more meetings using Teams, which will be more efficient and better for the environment. For example, for a client we saw three times a year to review their portfolio, we’ll now do two of those meetings face-to-face and one on Teams, to cut down travel, because in a county like Cumbria you can drive for 1hr to see a client.
Moving forward, we want to make sure we can share our screens and show the client the review report during a meeting if it is remote. We’re also deciding how people who want to work from home, who didn’t previously, can in future – maybe only two to three days a week. But we’re going to do it.
What types of conversations have you had with clients?
The conversations we’ve been having have been testing how they feel emotionally and then if necessary completing again the risk questionnaires. Then of course we always have the option to rebalance their portfolio. We’ve been advising people and telling them what we think – but asking them how they feel about it, because obviously it’s their money.
For more conservative clients, we have been talking about holding their current position until we have seen more clarity in markets – and for the more adventurous, they have been putting more money in, because they recognise an opportunity and some have even wanted to rebalance their portfolio more aggressively, again because of that opportunity. They are prepared to take that risk.
We, of course, do have more conservative clients, because we have built a reputation locally of protecting people’s money – and people work hard for their money, so we have to value their position.
Some clients have been saying, ‘We haven’t been through anything like this before’ and of course, no, we haven’t been through a pandemic before. But we have been through market crashes and crises before. The end to this crisis will come – we just don’t know when.