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Stephen Womack: Advisers should stop moaning and count their blessings


Plenty of things have been winding me up this week. The ridiculous degree of complexity the lifetime and tapered annual allowances have introduced to the advice process, for example.

I have just spent half an hour writing a response to a client – a hospital consultant in his early 40s – to reassure him that the buzz among his fellow medics about ‘acting before April to preserve a better pension’ was not something that would apply in his case.

I have also been involved in a lengthy session of email ping-pong with another client to eventually agree we would cease his regular pension contributions this month to ensure he stays on the right side of the annual allowance in 2016/17.

Neither of those conversations would have been necessary in the simple days before greedy chancellors started dipping their paws into the pensions honey pot.

It would also be easy to bang on about the latest questionnaire landing in the office from our friends in Canary Wharf. It will mean more time-consuming data gathering and report writing about one specific aspect of our business to reassure the FCA that we and many other advice firms are advising our clients responsibly.

But rather than have a moan, I think it is important for advisers to occasionally stop for a moment and count our blessings – because I truly believe we are working in a great profession at a great time.

Boom times are back

Our business has never been busier and the hunger for our services never greater. Be it helping with auto-enrolment, creating IHT-efficient investment strategies or guiding clients through the maze of long-term care funding, opportunities abound.

We, like many other advice firms, are able to recommend more transfers away from historical defined benefit arrangements than we might have done in past years. Full inheritability of your fund by a spouse or family plus elevated transfer values have completely changed the dynamic in this area.

Where the circumstances are right, we are seeing some transfer values that are genuinely life transforming, opening up a host of opportunities for people in early retirement that would never have come their way otherwise.

But it is not only about bringing in new clients. I can think of two meetings in the past week alone where, thanks to advice that a colleague and I have given over the years, I have been in the happy position of exhorting the clients to go out and enjoy their wealth. The warmth and friendship of these relationships are deeply rewarding, as I am sure many of you will recognise.

Last week I attended the latest edition of Invesco Perpetual’s excellent Investment Intelligence briefings. I sat down next to an adviser who I had not met before and we chatted over our cups of coffee. He too was full of positivity, enthusing about the ideas he had to move his firm to the next level.

So let’s keep cheerful. Yes, there will be hard work and some road bumps along the way. But the rewards – both personal and financial – are more than worth it.

Stephen Womack is a chartered financial planner and a director at David Williams IFA



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There are 7 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Bless you Stephen. I felt the same way about this industry when I had been in it for only “5 minutes” too

  2. I think we will look back in 5 years and with..

    -higher rate tax relief
    -pensions freedom
    -very high db transfer values

    Think of it as a great time to do financial planning..

  3. Refreshing attitude. I agree this is the best time I’ve had in the industry. It’s all about your attitude to things as with everything in life. Stephen seems to focus on the positive aspects, as do I. Show me a way of earning such a good living and with so many positive aspects to it without having to work hard (sometimes) and without any annoyances and irritations and I’ll change career straight away.

  4. It is really refreshing to hear something positive about our industry. I think we work in a great industry and am bemused why people who work in it are always moaning about it.

  5. Well said Stephen
    It is a privilege and a pleasure to genuinely help clients and their families over many years
    Just had a meeting with parents and their three children re IHT and gifting
    To see the lights go on as you explain how you can help them all
    is truly gratifying
    We make asignificant difference in people’s lives – not many can say that

  6. You make an observation with regard to the ‘Full inheritability of your fund by a spouse or family’ being a good thing, which it ‘can’ be and of course it is only one of many aspects to consider when looking at whether to transfer a pension fund (probably one of the last!), but it is still a double-edged sword and actually lays open the potential for retrospective judgements.

    I actually feel that, for the advice sector and practice owners in particular, pension freedoms bring with them more problems than solutions and I make no apology for being negative here.

    What if the funds are moved from a defined benefit scheme and into drawdown and the investor spends a big chunk of their fund, doesn’t tell their family and passes away, leaving them with only a small percentage of their ‘pot’, rather than a 50% spouse’s pension from the original scheme? Who is to blame then?.. Possibly the person who put them in that position, even though you may have informed everyone at outset as to the rationale behind your recommendation; one thing is for sure, it may actually have you ruing the day you got involved in the first place, the public have a way of biting you just where and when you least expect it!

    I respect your enthusiasm and it is infectious, but please don’t be too quick to question the prudence of viewing matters with one’s cup half empty, customers can behave in the most unexpected of ways and CMCs’ can often press all of the wrong buttons in the right order!

  7. I really don’t dispute, that as advisers, we really do love our job and care a great deal for our clients, I know I do

    As for blessing or being blessed ? I am not quite so sure about that one !
    I am 4 months in to my 26th year as an adviser, the very one thing that has not changed is the consumer and or my clients, to that end, I really don’t think you will find any adviser who moans about their clients (if you do you have the wrong clients for you and your business), legislation change is not an issue for me, its having to constantly be made to use the A & B roads when we have perfectly good motorways, now the question is…… because these motorways are ignored, by your (not mine) friends in Canary Wharf (as you put it) most of the time, the pile ups and casualties from the boy racers cause us and our clients the harm, now there is something to truly moan about.

    RE-: boom times are back…….. I find that a bit crass.
    I prefer to think more about the Quality rather than the Quantity.

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