Shop around before you choose

Shop around before you choose

Ian Halstead looks at the crucial steps to take when devising a wealth management strategy

Seduction is usually the greatest danger you’ll encounter; regardless of wealth, experience of the investment sector, or awareness about the products or potential options on offer.

If you don’t take care to beware of the power of eye appeal, it’s easy to be impressed by a glossy slickly-worded brochure, a glitzy office - or even a car park full of expensive metal.

Over the decades, there’ve been sufficient cautionary tales about wealth management strategies which go wrong for lack of research and planning, but it can still be easy to be sidetracked from your chosen course.

Just as you wouldn’t buy the first eye-catching property you spotted, as you passed by the first estate agency you saw when house-hunting, taking your time about identifying your wealth management advisor is crucial.

Ultimately, you have sole accountability for the investment decisions you make, whether it’s a single product or a sophisticated portfolio, so make sure you take a range of opinions as you search for an advisor you can trust.

Even before you start your research, set your ground rules for what you want to achieve and what level of funding you can reasonably commit.You might want to start thinking ahead about early retirement, to ensure that your mortgage is safely paid off, or to create a complex multi-tiered strategy including a global equity and bond portfolio.

Regardless of your targets though, assessing your advisor’s competence, expertise and track record is as important as understanding their fee structure. And for anyone imagining that they’re too astute and worldly-wise to be caught out by tricksters, putting ‘Barlow Clowes’ into a search engine will prove instructive. When you’ve established what you want to achieve, and settled down with an adviser with whom you feel comfortable, the work has only just begun though.

No matter how many instances of successful wealth management for other clients you might hear about, don’t forget that your asset allocation decisions must be fine-tuned to your precise needs.

If you’re happiest with a moderate approach to risk, keep it. Don’t be dazzled by the theoretical returns which might be available with an acceptance of greater levels of uncertainty. All good advisors will spend a significant time building up your risk profile, understanding your tolerances and identifying your medium and long-term requirements for cash flow.

However, once your profile has been researched and agreed, do then open your mind to all options which your adviser puts forward.

It’s likely that they’ll suggest asset classes you’d never previously considered, but do take time to reflect on their potential merit, rather than making a quick and instinctive decision.

Equally, if you’re looking to build a balanced equity portfolio, don’t rule out stocks which are listed in what you might consider unlikely countries, or companies in sectors you know little or nothing about.

The key to a successful wealth management strategy is developing a genuine two-way relationship with your advisor, so once you’re satisfied that they do have solid knowledge about the options they suggest, don’t shy away without giving their ideas proper thought.

If eventually, you really are happiest with a portfolio which is purely based on UK stocks, then fine, but don’t blanch if someone suggests considering a firm selling luxury goods in India, or a casino operator in South-East Asia.

Equally, you do need to have advisers who can access the latest market data from across the globe, and identify investment opportunities before they become evident to all.

Stock-picking overseas, particularly in niche sectors, may be somewhere between an art and a science, but it’s not something to rule out without serious consideration.

It may be, of course, that you’re in the later stages of a wealth management strategy, and your core aims are to ensure that your assets are passed on in the most tax-efficient fashion to your family.

Just as succession planning is critical in the corporate sector, especially for family firms and owner-managed SMEs, it is equally essential to take the long view about estate planning.

The creation of trusts and wills is just as sophisticated and complex as assembling an equity portfolio, and very much an area where nothing beats experience.

It’s also a niche where discretion is everything, but your chosen advisor still needs to be able to demonstrate a record of long-term and successful guidance.

Finally too, if you’re about to benefit from a maturing wealth management strategy, don’t forget to prepare for the opportunities which retirement will bring and also its challenges.

Inflation will inevitably erode the value of your savings and your projected income, and as life expectancy increases, it’s essential that you carefully dovetail your investment decisions to your expectations and needs and the future requirements of your family.

Puting your trust in SGH Martineau

Lesley Davis heads the highly-praised private client team at Birmingham-based SGH Martineau. The team, which sits within the private capital group headed by the well-known family lawyer Mary Kaye, handles work across the spectrum of private client work; including trusts, estates planning, wills and charities, at a regional, national and international level.

Lesley is regularly lauded for her skills in trust work and tax planning. The 2014 edition of Chambers & Partners - regarded as the legal industry’s bible - was fulsome in its praise, describing her as ‘a charming and efficient partner with a national reputation for excellence’ and ‘a talented lawyer with excellent relationship-building skills, which she blends perfectly with her knowledge of the law.’

Martineau’s team has a combined experience in private client work of more than 170 years, has been given a ‘Number One’ ranking for twelve successive years in the Legal 500 - which says the firm has ‘an outstanding reputation in this (private client) field’ - and includes members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, the Law Society Private Client Section, Solicitors for the Elderly, and the Country Land Owners and Business Association.

Creativity and quality at Grant Thornton

Dan Hartland is a tax partner in Grant Thornton’s Birmingham office, heading its highly-rated entrepreneurial and private client team. He joined in 2001, training in both the corporate and personal tax advisory departments, including a stint in the national tax office, before being made a partner in 2008.

He has built a reputation as a trusted adviser to a range of wealthy clients and private companies with complex, often with multi-jurisdictional and multi-tax issues, for providing clear, creative and commercial advice. Last year, Dan was included in Tax Journal’s ‘40 under 40’ based on client and colleague references, including:

‘Dan’s work is valued at the highest level. He places quality at the fore of everything he does, which resonates strongly within his team.’

‘Dan has a broad technical expertise and is one of the most creative tax practitioners I know. Many tax people are technically excellent, but the added ability to think outside the box is invaluable when seeking to solve complex client problems.’

This year, two of his team won similar plaudits. Manager Mike Hyland was among Private Client Practitioner’s ‘35 under 35’, and director Sue Knight was the only Birmingham-based professional in Tax Journal’s ‘40 under 40’.