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.