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Phil Wickenden: Getting to grips with trusts

Trusts can be complicated but not beyond advisers who are willing to put in the effort.

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Advisers, on average, have established trusts for around 19 per cent of their clients (excluding protection plans) – although this incorporates a number of specialists for whom a far higher proportion of their client’s portfolios are written in trust. Excluding these, the average is closer to 13 per cent.

Most advisers expect these figures to increase as tax optimisation generally – and estate planning specifically – becomes a more important part of planning for a core group of wealthier clients.

With many advisers engaging in aspects of (often complex) trust work in connection with investments only periodically at present, the question remains – ’What will it take to see this uplift?’

The answer – at least in part – is time, effort, understanding, commitment and interest: investments that should not be under-estimated nor taken for granted. And let’s not forget all important confidence. Without it, who would want to be involved?

I recently received a challenging email from Seth Godin’s blog: “The next thing you do today will be the most important thing on your agenda, because, after all, you’re doing it next. Well, perhaps it will be the most urgent thing. Or the easiest. In fact, the most important thing probably isn’t even on your agenda.”

Which rather pointedly jabs at the weaknesses of man (and woman…sounding like an excerpt from Life of Brian now); and that expectation minus a clear plan of action and the guts to carry it out equals disappointment. Or at least maintenance of the status quo.

One model of organisation is to find the things you’re good at and stick to them. That’s relatively straightforward and pays just fine when executed well. The other model is to seek out things that are incredibly difficult and do those instead ,or as well.

By doing the hard work that others fear, you create the kind of unique value that’s far harder to come by these days. Henry Ford (an old example I know) did the same thing with the relentless scale and efficiency at Ford. Others couldn’t imagine raising their own sheep to make their own wool for seat fabric.

’How do we do something so difficult that others can’t imagine doing it?’ is a good question to ask. You probably know what you want to accomplish. You know how you’d like everything to turn out. The real question, though (and I’ll lean on Seth Godin for another killer quote) “what are you willing to push through the dip for, to commit to and generally be unreasonable about? Because that’s what’s going to actually get done.”

Phil Wickenden is managing director of So Here’s The Plan

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