A Financial Planner’s Insight - Working through a Pandemic

We thought it would be interesting to ask our advisers some questions to get their perspective on events over the last few months, how they are each finding providing financial advice through a global pandemic and why it makes sense to work with an adviser on your financial planning if you can.

In connection with Covid-19, what sort of support are clients looking for and how are they feeling?

Graeme Melrose:  Generally, the feeling I get from most clients at the moment is that they are pleasantly surprised by the performance of their investments in comparison to the current climate and are optimistic about the future.  They have indicated that this is mainly due to the help and support offered by the team at McCreas.

Grant Sneddon:  Clients are happy to know that we are available to speak to them if required – they know that markets can be volatile but as they have adequate “rainy day funds” which we advise them to have.  Having a reserve/rainy day fund means you are not forced to change anything and can monitor any impact before making decisions.  Our clients appreciate the regular email communications we send them, especially earlier on in the pandemic.

Chris Bain: Clients are understandably nervous about the current market conditions, but on the whole, I think that they understand the position and are willing to ride it out. I tend to find that if the plans have been properly explained at outset, then clients are less likely to make any rash decisions and our job is to help avoid that happening.

Are there any specific trends you are noticing amongst your clients? 

Graeme: The trend I have noticed most is optimism that things are and will get better. Our job is to listen to our clients as they outline their aims and objectives and manage through the current situation to keep them on track.

Grant: Most clients have been through many investment cycles and know it’s best to turn off the TV and the headlines and instead focus on doing things they enjoy and work with us to mitigate concerns.

Chris: Despite the lockdown, people are still trying to plan for their future and still require advice and so we continue to work with existing clients as well as receiving enquiries from those considering their retirement plans or starting out on their long-term financial planning.

Graeme, you’ve been with us for a few years now. Chris & Grant, what's it been like starting a new job that is traditionally very face to face when you've not been able to be in the same office as any of your colleagues, let alone clients?

Grant: I was lucky as I had a few weeks in the office {before lockdown} so had established colleague relationships to a degree – I have found that clients have reacted well to having the contact albeit using the phone or zoom so it’s still the same role but conducting it via a different medium.

Chris: It’s been interesting to say the least! I’m looking forward to meeting everyone properly and putting faces to the names but it’s amazing how quickly you adapt. I was able to get setup very quickly and thanks to all of the friendly and helpful staff at McCreas, I feel like part of the team already.

Can you tell us a bit about your own background and experience in Financial Services?

Graeme:  I’ve worked in financial services for 13 years now and gained experience with a number of different companies which stood me in good stead when joining McCreas.  I have now been with McCreas for 2 years however the principles are generally the same- protect yourself, your family and your dreams whilst building sufficient savings, investments and pensions to allow you to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle in the future. 

Grant: I’ve worked in financial services for over 30 years and although products and processes change, the fundamentals are still pretty much the same as they always were – regular savings and reinvesting the returns are still pretty much the best way to go if you haven’t got a lump sum to save. It’s amazing how quickly it accumulates.

Chris: I have been giving financial advice for nearly 25 years and have dealt with Private and Public Sector pensions for over 20 years and so know these schemes very well.

How do you feel remote working has affected what you do, day to day?

Graeme:  Should I take into account having a livewire of a 2 year old?! Generally, it has worked well and the job itself hasn’t changed.  Things may take a little longer than usual and I miss the interaction of the office.  If I had to choose office or remote working, I would definitely prefer the office.  However, a mixture would also provide a little flexibility from time to time if needed.

Grant: We are doing very well serving the needs of our clients. While our role is still the same – trying to help clients achieve their objectives - we are engaging with clients without being in the same physical space, although using the technology we have is allowing us to continue to help. Working remotely does have its challenges although cutting down on travel helps where other things may take longer! It all balances out.  However, as we are a people business there is nothing I like better than speaking with clients face to face. 

Chris:  Technology is a wonderful thing and remote working via videocall comes a close second to face to face meetings. The systems and controls in place mean that all staff have access to the resources that they need and can ensure that business can continue as close to normal as possible.

Where do you think we might be post-Covid-19 (whenever that is) – and how might things look?

Graeme:  I don’t think things will look very different. As advisers and a firm, we need to adapt to changes in markets/products/climate- whatever may come.  We have done that for years and will continue to do so as clients, existing and new, will always need our help and guidance.

Grant: I think that we will see businesses and people developing new ways of working and I expect that some businesses will find it difficult and perhaps fall by the wayside but there will always be room for innovation and new ways of delivering what consumers want. I don’t think it will all be easy and there will be challenges along the way. This may be the opportunity for some individuals to rest and perhaps makes changes in their lives following this pandemic – some will be voluntary and some forced but either way there can be a number of options with their finances to help them through.

Chris: Video calls have become normalised now and I can see these forming a part of the process going forward. There is no substitute for face to face advice but for keeping in contact, particularly when people may prefer not to travel long distances or have moved away or even abroad, it could be very useful.

What are your thoughts on the company’s plans for growth whilst others are postponing any recruitment activity?

Graeme: I think this provides a sense of certainty we will still be here for years to come and are going from strength to strength.  This is fantastic for clients to see as we are expanding at a time when a number of companies are cutting costs (and unfortunately jobs).

Grant: It’s good to see we are continuing to grow and develop – clients will always benefit from specialist financial advice.

Chris:  It is testament to the strength and commitment of McCreas that the company is growing in the current economic climate. People are more in need of sound financial advice than ever before and the steps taken to expand have been thoroughly considered and measured accordingly.

To round up our chat today, can you finish by telling us what general advice you are giving your clients right now?

Graeme:  It is all about having a robust and long-term plan and approach in place which suits your own individual circumstances and sticking by it.  Don’t panic at the wrong time.  Don’t try to time the markets.

Grant: Complete a budget planner and cut out anything you don’t need – try and save a rainy day fund and make sure you have adequate cover for unexpected things that might happen (illness, death, critical illness) and then make use of tax allowances and reliefs.

Chris: Generally, the advice is to stay calm and not make any decisions without discussing it first with your adviser.

For any questions you have relating to your financial plans and investments as we begin to move out of lockdown, it may help you to seek specialist advice. Our team of advisers at McCreas can support you on all aspects of financial planning including mortgages and protection, retirement planning, pensions and investments. If you'd like to find out more about how we can help you, please browse some of our information here or contact us here.