Darren looks back on 2018 and considers what may come in 2019 for our firm and our clients.
Katy returned to the team from maternity leave in June and within days it was as if she had never been away! Her knowledge and personality make her a huge asset to our clients. Meanwhile, Emma was making her way through all six of the CII financial planning exams at a remarkable rate. Weekends were forgotten as she proceeded to pass one exam after another. We end the year now with three qualified financial planners in our business. This is very exciting.
Our annual investors masterclass was a real highlight of 2018. We invited our clients to our Georgian Mansion offices for a morning of presentations. The level of knowledge was inspiring as accountants and solicitors talked alongside fund house representatives and our own team. Lisa rose to the challenge with an outstanding array of cakes and hospitality. This year we ran podcast sessions from the day and put them on our website so our clients everywhere could enjoy them. We continue to attract new clients solely through recommendation and we have now moved through the 200 client mark – with over £40 million of combined funds under management. Growth is exciting, but I have always firmly felt that it must be manageable – I will not compromise on our good name.
At the start of the year we had won three National Awards in 11 years. In 2018 we actually won four in one year!
In January, we won ‘New Model Adviser Firm of the year’ for Wales. This was the third time we have won this prestigious award which is very close to our hearts.
In September, Lisa and I travelled to the Schroders UK Platform Awards where we picked up ‘Leading Adviser Practise’. This was a huge achievement against some very strong UK finalists in a very desirable award. Lisa and I literally floated back from London!
Then in October I was awarded ‘Impact Champion Individual Adviser of the year’ by the Worthstone Impact Awards. This award was being launched for the first time and it meant a great deal to be a first time winner at such a meaningful event.
Finally, in November, our ‘Pro-Ethical’ Portfolios actually won the Investment Week ‘Sustainable and ESG Investment Awards’ (Portfolio Innovation Category). This was a staggering achievement as our ethical portfolios went up against finalists such as Barclays and Financial Express. Here is a link to the finals: http://events.investmentweek.co.uk/sustainableinvestmentawards/static/finalists
It was a tough year for investors as all major markets floundered. We seemed to have to adjust and readjust client portfolios to meet the ever changing backdrop of uncertain and troubled markets. Whilst our client portfolios did lose money throughout 2018 – every portfolio ended the year in a better position than the FTSE 100 benchmark. This comfort did not come without a considerable amount of effort throughout the year.
However, no one likes to ‘lose’ money, even if it is only temporary. As 2018 comes to a close, I believe we can take some lessons from this year and project them forward into 2019.
2019 Markets – Gathering Storm or Rare Opportunity?
In 2012 I wrote an article about China’s global importance, I predicted its growth above that of the United States in the coming decade. I received some healthy ‘kick back’ from some of my clients and colleagues alike as they pointed out to me the issues that China faced with corruption and debt.
I still haven’t changed my mind.
I believe that western economies have long passed their best days. Five decades of credit fuelled ‘boom’ in the west actually ended with the Great Financial Crash of 2008. We can kid ourselves that ‘Quantitative Easing’ and ‘Fiscal Policy Stimulation’ will bring back the good old days if we like.
However, the fact is that the west is now borrowed to the hilt with high asset prices hurting the very people who needed help. It is extremely unlikely that UK, US and European markets will see the heady economic growth of days past.
‘When money goes out the window – love walks out the door’. This was a saying that my History teacher passed on to me in sixth form – and it has stayed with me ever since.
The widespread political trauma that we now see in the west is the symptom of much greater underlying social problems. It will take decades to sort this out. In the meantime, we can expect much of the quagmire we saw in Japan throughout the twenty-year period after it first embarked on almost identical policies in the 90’s.
I know I seem about as cheerful as Ebeneezer Scrooge this Christmas! However, there is some really positive news in all of this that I can see.
The Emerging Market and Far East sector is better positioned for success. In China and India, there are still huge economic opportunities to invest in communities that don’t even have a car yet – let alone a credit card. These sectors have been temporarily brought down by Trump’s trade tariffs and a strong US dollar – but this is only temporary and represents the possible end of US economic domination.
The Ethical and Impact Investment space is also buzzing with new opportunity as investors finally lose faith in politicians to deliver on their promises and decide to cut straight to the issue that concerns them. Contrary to current US policy – many investors are now backing renewable energy investments.
The world has a real shortage of food. Investors are cottoning on to this and far more capital is being deployed into food and agriculture. For example, there are now tractors that can cover a field from a satellite image and just target-spray the one weed – rather than carpeting the whole crop with weed killer. This technology has a value.
These are just a few of the opportunities that we can see for clients as we head into a new year.
There is a brave new world out there to invest in. The big question is when to invest into it? We believe that 2019 could start as a politically unstable time. This is why we have recently boosted our clients lower risk ‘Proactive’ and ‘Pro-Ethical’ portfolios with short dated bonds. I remain fairly certain that the US good news story will come to an end – but it could be another year or so before this occurs.
As with all things, timing and diligence is crucial. I am really confident and excited about the long term future for our client portfolios. I think that 2019 will have a tough start, but market prices now make for a compelling argument to invest for the long term.
Throughout 2019, we will be attempting to ease away from Western Equity funds and re-boost Emerging Market and Asian holdings where sensible to do so. We also continue to believe in the Ethical investment story and see this as cutting across political boundaries to deliver in spite of political attempts to prop up the old world of fossil fuels.
Like any football manger – we are keenly watching both our defence and our attacking options.
As a firm, we will be looking to build Emma’s client bank with more straight forward client matters and also we will be looking out for a trainee paraplanner to join us in time.
The media are loving the current uncertainty and are prospering from it. Articles telling everyone to ‘stay calm’ wouldn’t sell! We believe the current doom and gloom predictions are overdone and I personally can’t wait for 2019.
We are always here for you. If you need anything at all – just ask.
Every best wish.