Profile: ‘It has been rejuvenating bringing my son into the business’

Panoramic Wealth managing director on why a fusion of youth and experience is the best recipe for his advice firm

Bridging the generation gap is the stuff of television sitcoms. There is the middle-aged parent convinced they are “down with the kids” but making a real hash of street slang and feigning knowledge of the latest trends. Why any adviser would want to risk playing it out in real life when dealing with younger clients is beyond Panoramic Wealth managing director Gary Jefferies.

For Tunbridge Wells-based Jefferies, to do his job as a financial life planner properly, it is vital to build up a genuine rapport with clients through a common experience or shared interest. He feels if you do not have a connection on a personal level, you face an uphill task to get a person to listen to you in a professional capacity.

Jefferies acknowledges the role that younger people have as future clients but believes many advisers are disengaged with millennials.

He does not think trying to reach out to them through the connection with their parents works. “There’s no point giving guidance to millennials through their parents, as there is a perception that millennials don’t trust the advisers of their parents. Millennials are often in debt and have environmental, social and governance criteria that most IFAs don’t necessarily embrace,” he says.

How advisers are reaching out to younger clients

At Panoramic, younger clients have their own adviser – Jefferies’ 23-year-old son. Ross Jefferies joined the firm as an 18-year-old apprentice. “Ross deals with mortgages for them. He assesses whether their debt is cost-effective, discusses if they have protection, where relevant, and talks about the impact of their student loans,” says Jefferies. “It’s a low-cost proposition from the adviser’s point of view. Most of those clients are going to be in Nest or workplace pension schemes. It’s a form of financial planning that most advisers don’t have the ability to service.”

Jefferies continues to deal with Panoramic’s main client bank, which includes some who have stayed with him for 30 years.

He believes it is important older clients and those going through a traumatic event are advised by someone with life experience, in addition to qualifications. “It is hard to have the required empathy needed to aid clients, particularly at times of stress, if you have little or no life experience,” he says.

“Anyone who is a seasoned business person for 45 years or more and has to turn to advice from a 20-year-old may find it difficult to relate to them in an advisory capacity. If you’ve just lost your wife or husband, it’s difficult to connect to a 23-year-old who is unlikely to know what that would feel like.”

Five questions 

What is the best bit of advice you’ve received in your career?

Don’t worry about going it alone. Have a go and don’t worry about regulation as everyone is going through the same thing.

What keeps you awake at night?

Unless I have had too many espressos, generally nothing.

What has had the most significant impact on financial advice in the last year?

The outpouring of DB transfers. The pressure is continuing for not necessarily the right reasons.

If I was in charge of the FCA for a day I would…?

Want definitions on areas of investment business and suitability, rather than this being subject to interpretation.

Any advice for new advisers?

Work with clients you like.

Advisers need soft skills improvement to get client confidence

Jefferies admits working with family can be challenging at times, but it provides the continuity for the future from a succession point of view. “It was rejuvenating to bring my son into the business as I am able to nurture his career path,” he says. “The plan is for Ross to develop his London connections – he’s looking at the Chamber of Commerce.  He wants to live in London and once he’s away, he will have more autonomy.”

Jefferies did not have the best induction into financial services back in the late 1970s. “I left school at 18 and had a job held for me in a French commercial bank working as a dealer. I was there three days and I hated it,” he says. The job had plenty of perks to make it attractive – a season ticket and lunch vouchers, as well as a good salary.

But, still in his teens, Jefferies did not fit in. “The youngest person there was 30 – I thought I’d found an old people’s home,” he quips.

Jefferies left to begin his financial services career in earnest as a management trainee at Norwich Union (now Aviva). This was on the general insurance side, so it took a later move as a broker consultant with Legal & General to pave the way for his financial planning career.

He established his own IFA firm in 1991, then became part of the now-defunct IFA network Park Row in 2004. Prior to Park Row closing in 2009, Jefferies moved to be an appointed representative of H&D Wealth. In 2015, he took the firm directly authorised and rebranded it as Panoramic. The firm is in the throes of rebranding through a new website designed to appeal to young and old, featuring caricatures of the team members. It fits perfectly with Jefferies’ sense of humour.

“One of my contacts is an artist and he did the caricatures. He was commissioned for the illustrations in the Dawn French book, Me. You. A Diary, and a mural at Tunbridge Wells railway station,” explains Jefferies.

He wanted caricatures on his website, rather than making a big display of his qualifications.

“That is one thing that annoys me about some websites – clients don’t care what qualifications you have. If you take your car in for a service, you don’t say to the guy at reception, ‘what exams have you taken to pump up my tyres?’ I will put my qualifications on the website but they’ll be on the back page,” he says.

That said, Jefferies – a former vice chairman of the Society of Financial Advisers, the predecessor of the Personal Finance Society – is a strong supporter of qualifications.

He is both chartered and certified, and says Level Six should be the benchmark, but that advisers should gain some life experience before rushing to be chartered.

CV 

2009-present: Director, H&D Wealth (Tunbridge Wells), then managing director following rebrand of firm to Panoramic Wealth Management

2004-2009: IFA associate, Park Row Associates

1991-2004: Director, Warwick Leigh Financial Advisers

1987-1991: Head of financial services, Cooper & Burnett Solicitors

1985-1987: Broker consultant, Legal & General

1983-1984: Regional broker specialising in funeral directors

1979-1983: Management trainee, Norwich Union

What’s really stopping partial transfers?

Although qualified to carry out pension transfers, his firm primarily deals with owner-manager businesses which tend not to have accrued final salary benefits.

Jefferies has made a decision not to go looking for pension transfer business.

“I don’t have DB transfer clients. I did in the past, but I saw the way it was being dealt with in terms of hindsight reviews and I could see problems recurring,” he says.

In Jefferies’ view, transfers are not wrong for the right clients, but the business risks make them something he would rather not get involved with.

He believes that some of the pressure would be taken off if people did not need to be all in or all out of their DB schemes.

“Split transfers should have been allowed,” he says. “As an example, someone in a scheme with £40,000 in benefits could maintain £20,000 in the DB scheme and put the rest into a defined contribution scheme. But, currently, it’s all in and based on getting clients to make a decision.”

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