Good morning and welcome to 2021, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and New Year and you are raring to go. There are three sections to my note to you today – looking back, looking forward and some potted thoughts…
Where to start? 2020. What. A. Year. Unprecedented.
By all accounts, we and you got through it relatively unscathed physically, emotionally, and financially. Unfortunately, it is not the same for many others.
My colleagues’ flexibility and dedication to the cause has been unerring. They kept their heads and got on with the job. I am hugely impressed with them as I am with you.
It is only when push comes to shove you really know the types of people you have as clients. None of you (bar two) panicked and ran screaming for the hills when investment values crashed. You stayed calm, you kept listening and you took our advice. As a result, your financial plans remain intact, they weathered the storm and will continue to provide the comfort and security that, together, we planned for you.
Unfortunately, two clients ignored our advice and demanded that we take action we could not agree with. When it was clear they could no longer hear us, they ceased to be clients. They have probably cost themselves hundreds of thousands of pounds. That is money they will never recover, the damage to their long-term plans is irrevocable. It is always a dark day when a client can’t hear us anymore.
TCFP is now a leaner business, in all the right ways. Lockdown afforded us the time and space to really think about what we did, how and why.
As a result, we no longer file paper, we do not need the office we have, we have realigned our roles to recognise better our skills, taken steps to reduce our regulatory costs, freed up time to look at doing more, better things to help you and your families, we’ve added AUDIO and VIDEO and GUIDES to our website, started having regular webinars, our communications are more efficient and we have reduced our outgoings in several simple ways.
Which leaves me wondering, does every cloud have a silver lining?
What beautiful things have the chaos of 2020 brought us?
My starter for 10 is the way we relate to each other, how we go about our work and family lives and our beliefs about what really matters. All seem to me to have changed for the better and I expect them to get better still.
Coupled to that are the plethora of life-enhancing discoveries, not yet in evidence, that are in the pipeline. Looking back over the last 150 or so years, we see a huge flourishing of human endeavour and improvements after each and every cataclysmic event.
When the chips are down, humans get busy solving problems, sometimes problems we did not know we had. As a result of those efforts, there is always a lurch forward for human progress and wellbeing.
I feel sure we will look back in 5 and 10 years’ time and say “wow”. I cannot prove it and do not need to; I just need to believe it.
Am I deluded?
Maybe, but I am happy to be deluded about the prospect of things getting better as they have done decade after decade. Optimism is our natural state; we have to fight ourselves to figure out how to be negative.
At TCFP there will be significant advancements.
The first is a new financial planner that will be joining us. The rest lead from there.
Dan and I have been friends for 20+ years since we first worked together at Aegon (previously Scottish Equitable). I like Dan and have every confidence in him. He is diligent, intelligent and has decades of experience in pensions and investments. He will be starting in April and will be introduced to those of you he will be working with in due course. For his first year he will be entirely under my wing (as Ian and Mark were previously) as he learns how we do what we do and why.
Dan joining allows me to give Ian a more prominent and responsible role in TCFP. It is an important and well-deserved step up for Ian at the right time for him and TCFP. And, in turn, it allows Mark to rationalise and improve on what he does.
Dan, Ian and Mark will undertake most of the client work going forward. For some of you they will be front and centre, as Mark and Ian are now. I will remain the lead financial planner for a significant number of you and in the wings for all of you as and when required. I will continue to lead and sit in on meetings. And in the background Sarah, Siobhan, Lainey, and Katie will continue to provide invaluable support for us all; they are the engine room we cannot do without.
In most ways you will not notice a difference. In my mind we are upgrading our operating software, making TCFP more robust and efficient which benefits us all.
Dan’s addition allows me to pass on less important tasks. This and other changes to how we work mean our capacity to both look after you and welcome new clients has expanded.
New clients find us naturally and we remain keen only to work with those that we can help, appreciate what we do and have compatible mindsets and temperaments. This is quite at odds with much of the financial planning world where new revenue at all costs is the key aim at the start of each year.
The time I gain from these changes will, I hope, be put to very good use.
The two projects I will immerse myself in are reaching out to your younger relatives and the TCFP foundation. I am very excited about both. They are good things to do and will help TCFP become more about partnership with you and less about commercial considerations.
I like the look of 2021.
Potted thoughts / observations
Imagine if I had told you this time last year exactly what was going to happen in 2020. A global pandemic that put the economy in the deep freeze, had us all consigned to barracks for weeks and global stockmarkets cratering. Plus, Trump losing the election and our civil liberties run roughshod over.
“Never!” you might have thought, or “You don’t quite seem yourself, Jeremy” or you might have simply smiled and nodded whilst making a mental note to look up other financial planners that might be available and less unhinged. No-one saw this coming; no-one can see what comes next.
In perhaps the least average of years, the US stockmarket (the S&P500) is up around 11%, which is its long-term average annual return.
30 years and four months ago a bright eyed, naïve farmer’s son set off to start his Financial Services degree in Bristol. His father’s advice was: “There will be women and drugs where you’re going, Jeremy, be careful of both.” He was correct on all counts. It has always amused me the order he chose…
At the same time, a certain Sarah Anderson (“our” Sarah) was setting off from Bromley, Kent. We don’t know what advice she was given; buy her a sherry next time you see her and you might find out.
Here’s to 2021, see you soon.
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