I managed to tune out of work over the weekend, which is a skill I have learned over the years otherwise as a business owner, you run the risk of being too immersed in the situation, losing sight of what’s really urgent and also seeing productivity drop as you become too mentally exhausted to function properly
As well as reacting to the economic turmoil, we have to carry on running Gibson Lamb too. It’s our business year end on 31st March so I’ve been getting the accounts in order, and one of our crucial (and obligatory) insurances – Professional Indemnity – comes up for renewal on 31st March as well.
My legs ache, which means the new exercise regime associated with ‘stay at home living’ is reaching areas not usually reached!
Yesterday was the busiest day since this crisis started, with every email answered seemingly generating two new emails. The phone was ringing a lot too, and occasionally I struggled with ‘bandwidth’ on the office phone via my PC, but I reverted to using my traditional home phone instead.
I’ve just been out to post a tax year end letter and go for a jog in the sunshine, with the former being urgent work as far as I’m concerned and the latter my ‘out the house exercise’. Did I make a strategic error there, combining the two?
Boris has announced the inevitable shutdown, so I’ve collected a few bits from the office to make my home set up slightly better but I’m lucky to have a pretty good configuration already. I will miss my standing desk though, so need to work on a way to replicate it in a home environment.
I’m not one for blogging every day or every week, but the world has been turned upside down in 2020 and I thought it might be cathartic to write about the challenges we face.
Our clients are worried about their health, their families and their investments. We are worried about these things too.
I am also worried about my business, the impact this could have on my family, my employees and the viability of the businesses that we rely on to support us.
I was pottering around the M25 on Tuesday morning when the nice man on Radio 4 explained that National Savings rates were being reduced dramatically from May 2020.
Our office internet connection has just failed. I know it’s not “out fault” as other offices on the same floor are also down.
No big deal. I’ve turned on our mobile internet dongle which is basically a mobile phone pretending to be a WIFI connection and told the computers to look for that and not the “wired ethernet”. Once that is done, we connect to the VPN (a tool that gives us a secure connection to our database if we aren’t using the wired ethernet), and within 5 minutes we’re back up and running.
Okay, it’s a little slower, but it’s working!!
Time for a thank you to our IT Partners Advantage who helped us design and implement the system.
We are all becoming aware of climate change and we want to ensure our business is as responsible as practical.
We have no control over the energy tariff selected by our landlord, and therefore unlike our previous office, we cannot select energy generated from a sustainable source such as www.goodenergy.co.uk.
We are proud to announce that once again we have been awarded a Cyber Essentials Certification!
You will have heard me talk about Financial Express (FE) quite a lot, as they help us design and build our portfolios.
The other day we received an email from “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
This particular email came from a Savills email address with the subject “*********APPROVAL REQUIRED ACTION*********” and had asked me to download some attachments.
Answer: It is where companies use marketing to appear socially responsible
The Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin scheme was intended as a simplification, but has become a loophole
In the words of the UK’s energy regulator Ofgem, the ‘Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin’ (REGO) scheme is designed to “provide transparency to consumers about the proportion of electricity that suppliers source from renewable generation.”
One of our key suppliers was upset because they have a client who they like but who is consistently paying late and doesn’t like to be reminded.
We’ve been using FE’s Analytics software since 2007 and have always found them friendly, cooperative and easy to deal with and we love their software. We refer to FE as our ‘investment research partner’ and over the last few months have been working on a new project which will bring our firms even closer together.
There’s a lot for investors to worry about.
High market valuations, rising interest rates, the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and escalating trade tensions fuelled by Donald Trump all raise the likelihood of greater market volatility.
Larger estates face higher probate fees, in some cases many thousands of pounds more, following the confirmation of new tiered fees.
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed the new probate fees which will be introduced in April 2019 following a consultation last March, which was then postponed ahead of the general election in June. The fees have now however been confirmed as going ahead.
Yesterday’s budget took place on a Monday for the first time since 1962 and was delivered by ‘Fiscal Phil’ who seemed in a jovial mood. Here is our usual summary of the main changes that relate to individuals. As with every Budget, the devil is often in the detail. As more details come to light we will let you know.
With the UK’s deficit coming down and the government getting better at collecting tax, there was some room for manoeuvre. The reception in this morning’s papers is generally positive.
Life expectancy is always an important topic in the world of pensions and financial planning.
Considering how long we might live is an important assumption to make when creating a long-term financial plan. For the purpose of retirement planning, you need to be confident that you won’t run out of money before you run out of life.
Gibson Lamb Owner and Advisor Dave Lamb answers a few questions about the Cyber Essentials Certification award and why we went for it!
How did you hear about this accreditation/certification?
Our external compliance firm, CATS who mentioned it in April this year.
Choosing a residential care home for an elderly parent, relative or friend can be an emotional decision and when you finally make a choice, you expect the care home to treat you fairly as a consumer.
It was interesting to read that following a year-long market study, the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) is consulting on new advice to help care homes meet their consumer law obligations.
The study concluded that there is a risk care home residents are being treated unfairly, with some residential care homes potentially breaching consumer law.
There are plenty of ways to lose money to fraudsters. Keeping your money safe, especially online, is challenging when fraudsters use increasingly sophisticated ways to deceive investors.
Our regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), has issued a new warning over the growing threat of loan fee scams which specifically target borrowers. According to the FCA, more than £3.5 million was lost to this form of fraud during the last year.
Gibson Lamb recognise that businesses can have a negative impact on the environment. We are committed to find ways in which we can reduce the impact of our work both in and out of the office.
I was listening to the radio on the train whilst commuting into London earlier today, hoping I wouldn’t reach the part of the journey where the signal drops out just as the news broke, but fortunately I was able to listen live to the speeches made by Jean-Claude Junker and Theresa May. The terms of Britain’s exit from the European Union have been agreed.
Gosh it’s November!
For those who don’t know, we are forty odd years old and over the years have helped thousands of individuals, some who remain active clients and some who do not.
I will confess I was finding it hard to understand why President Trump was so keen to change or replace the healthcare provision put in place by his predecessor President Obama. One of our clients has family in America so as we were chatting one day, I asked if he knew what was happening and why? Here’s his answer, which I thought I would share with you as I found it very interesting. Naturally I have changed our client’s name.
We really liked a post we received via email from one of our favourite managers, Troy Asset Management, about the snap general election. It’s a bit too long to repost in its entirety but here as an extract.
Change: definition: To make something different.
Gibson Lamb’s raison d’être is to help people achieve their personal goals and it is only right and proper that the owners and team follow their dreams and aspirations too.
The Budget speech commenced with an explanation that the UK’s economic growth is confounding the experts and employment is at a record high. The Chancellor however continued to tighten the country’s belt as we prepare for Britain’s new global future.
There is quite a lot of talk in the press at the moment about the future viability of the State Pension, especially whether the costs are affordable over the longer term.
Last Thursday I glanced at the clock by my desk, flipped my Surface – a fancy pc tablet combo – closed and put it in the squishy travel bag before heading to the station to catch my usual train home. As I commute home early, I usually have lots of space on the train. Last Thursday was no different and I planned to finish off whatever it was I was doing to make good use of the travelling time.
This update initially started as a brief commentary following the US Federal Reserve’s decision to increase interest rates which was announced last week. However, we decided to provide a general update as well.
Wikipedia tells me that Yogi Berra, a Major League Baseball player in the post war years, was the first person to say ‘it’s déjà vu all over again’ and that phrase seems quite relevant this morning with another ‘shock’ election result, this time in America.
Financial advice is a fairly small profession and a relatively tiny proportion of an already small group choose to run their business as we run ours; on the whole what we do is all about getting you comfortable with your finances so that can enjoy not working anymore.
Just over a month has passed since the referendum result and I thought it might be interesting to reminisce about what it was like to co-own a small financial advisers during what has been the most incredible few weeks of my professional life to date.
This is a continuation of a blog posted previously about residential property prices in London and I want to take a look at the wider market in the South East.
As regular readers of our blog will know, until recently we were expecting the Chancellor to announce significant changes to pensions at the Budget, but thanks to a last minute change of heart, pensions escaped without any significant tinkering for which we are grateful. It’s likely George will return to pension legislation in the future, but for now at least tax relief and pension lump sums remain unchanged.
Following my previous blog post about how it seemed likely that higher rate tax relief would be removed at the Budget in a few days’ time, I now have an excuse to merge a blog post about technology and pensions! I know, terribly exciting isn’t it!
I was reading the London Evening Standard on the train home recently and an article about residential property development in Battersea caught my eye, so a quick mention for Chris Blackhurst the author who penned the article.
We would never normally consider trying to predict future legislative changes or to second guess the powers at be because politicians and policy makers can be unpredictable and ending up with egg on ones face would be all too easy.
A key part of any long term financial planning is making sure you’re invested in the right things at the right time.
Gibson Lamb is a small, privately owned business (and we’d say that is a significant reason why we remain successful 40 plus years after we started) but what this does mean is that we don’t have the budget to have an in house investment expert with the sole job of reviewing the economic outlook and deciding what to buy, what to sell and what to hold.
George Osborne has delivered his annual Autumn Statement today which was combined with the latest Spending Review which delivered £12bn of welfare spending cuts and slashed departmental budgets across Whitehall.
Our business is over 40 years old and our many of our clients have known us for a very long time; indeed it could be said we’ve matured together over the years. In practical terms this means quite a reasonable proportion of the work we do on a daily basis is helping people in the run up to one of their most important lifetime financial decisions, namely retirement.
It had to happen one day. I was driving home from a meeting when my phone beeped to tell me the team in the office wanted to talk. My Windows Mobile phone screens calls for me when I’m driving so I’m not tempted to talk on Bluetooth unnecessarily, get distracted and thus caught speeding or worse.
A few miles up the road I pulled over and called them back.
One of the team had pressed the wrong button at the wrong time and our database was no longer working quite as intended.
‘No trouble’ I said, that’s what we have backups for.
Log a call with support and it’ll be easy to fix.
It wasn’t as easy to recover the data as we expected
I wont bore you with the details but it wasn’t quite as easy to fix as I’d hoped and with hindsight the software house have said their actions and process to recover the data were far from perfect. However, despite it taking longer than we expected, we were able to recover the data and carry on business as usual.
Nevertheless without our backups we would have faced some serious challenges. We have over 1,000,000 client related documents on our server – we’ve been using document management services since 1998 so we’ve built up a lot of information over that time.
How do we backup our data?
They say data isn’t backed up properly unless it’s in three separate places. Therefore we backup overnight using two separate systems (plus the original copy in the office making three copies in total). The first is www.depositit.com which is a cloud based backup. It’s easy to use and not particularly expensive. However it’s limited by the bandwidth of our internet connection so in practice we cannot backup everything to depositit each night.
We therefore also run an old fashioned but robust, reliable backup to tape. The tape is collected by the specialist data security firm Iron Mountain every morning which means a complete copy of our server, emails, databases etc are stored away from our premises by around 9:30am.
It turned out last week we had to fall back on both backups. Initially we recovered a small file from the cloud which worked fine. We had it ready for use within minutes. The software people however decided we needed a lot more files and this was impractical over broadband so we ‘called’ the previous night’s tape back from Iron Mountain which arrived within 2 hours.
The software people then set about rebuilding the system and soon enough everything was running perfectly again.
Test your Disaster Recovery programme
There is nothing quite like testing your Disaster Recovery programme for real. It’s a bit of a nerve shredder to be honest and we could have done without the hassle but all is well that ends well as they say.
Our backups cost us money but, as we have just proved, are an invaluable asset that you hope you never need.
Our advice therefore is not only to back up your data but also to test whether the backups are actually working. We may have been posting a somewhat different blog if we were not so well prepared.
Spending time wisely
We’ve run this business for a long time and have picked up that small business owners skill of ‘just knowing’ how much to charge for whatever it is we are doing.
We recently had lunch with a key supplier who runs a small administration based business not dissimilar to ours in many ways and we were talking about time management. Richard from The Paraplanners has used time logging software for around 10 years and they have refined their process considerably over that period. They now use getharvest.com which is a website and app that allows both the logging and the all-important analysis of the data.
Fortunately for us as well as an endorsement from a trusted business associate, Harvest have a Windows Phone app.
As the in house gadget lover, I am one the few who use the much underrated operating system and this allowed us to sign up to the trial version of the software.
It’s early days and to be honest we’re still setting it up and understanding how it works but we wanted to share with you why we are doing it.
What we don’t want to know<
We really don’t have any interest on whether someone checks Facebook or has three cups of tea in the morning. We trust our incredibly hard working staff absolutely and we know they use their time to the best of their ability. All the data logging in the world won’t change that at all.
What we do want to know
We are keen to establish how long certain tasks take us and, crucially, how much of our individual and collective time is spent on ‘billable’ work as opposed to ‘non billable’.
We reconcile our bank accounts every morning and consider this a very important task as cash flow is king for all businesses, small ones especially. It also allows us to spot any fraudulent activity very promptly which is also very important for anyone using online banking.
Our accounts are important but they are not billable time – clients do not pay us to reconcile our bank.
Billable time is therefore time spent working for clients directly. Preparing for and travelling to and from meetings, answering emails and processing transactions are all examples of billable time.
Once we get the hang of logging time accurately we will be able to analyse all sorts of very interesting things which reminds us of a possibly apocryphal story of another firm who offered clients a chauffeur driven limousine to meetings so that they could take place in London and avoid the need for the business owner to travel, thus saving more time than the cost of the posh taxi!
It will take time (ironically)
We are only just starting this process and we know that there will be challenges ahead not least of which is remembering to log everything we do. Harvest’s software is excellent and we are already better at using it.
We will keep you updated with progress!
Yesterday was a routine, run of the mill day. A client meeting first thing and then a few tasks to complete in the afternoon. We didn’t think much when a client emailed in to ask for a valuation, via their Gmail account.
George Osborne delivered the first Conservative Budget in almost 20 years and took decisive steps towards cutting a further £12bn from welfare spending.
This was positioned as a Budget for working people. It carried three main themes of higher wages, lower taxes and lower welfare spending.
The Government’s stance is clear: the best way out of poverty is through work. He delivered on the Conservative manifesto pledge of a higher inheritance tax threshold for family homes valued up to £1m, which will be funded by cutting the tax relief on pension contributions for higher earners.
This is our understanding of the main announcements as they relate to personal financial planning and, as always, the devil could well be in the detail which hasn’t actually been published yet.
These days when you set up a new policy with your financial advisor the chances are they will recommend a wrap. Certainly the vast majority of new business transactions here at Gibson Lamb are conducted via a wrap.
Chicken and Bacon or Standard Life?
Clearly we couldn’t resist the obvious pun but needless to say a wrap is not a fancy name for a half filled sandwich from Eat or Pret (other high quality sandwich chains are available).
In this context a wrap is the industry name for having all of your investments wrapped up in one bit of software with one insurance company, or more accurately one platform provider because it is not just the historic insurers that offer wraps.
Others have said we’re good at what we do which is providing advice and guidance about pensions, investments and finance in general.
We have a confession to make. We’re not quite such a polished act when it comes to recruiting people. There is a good reason for that; we don’t do it very often.
Fifteen years with the same team
Prior to last year we hadn’t needed to recruit anyone as our team had remain unchanged for 15 years or so but that had to end one day. Just before Christmas 2013 Lisa left on maternity leave and some months later Lisa confirmed that looking after baby Sammy was far more fun than a 5 day a week commute to London. Professionally we were disappointed as Lisa was a wonderful employee but as her friends we were delighted that being a mum was indeed more fun than working at Gibson Lamb.
Welcome to our blog
We are delighted that we have launched our new look website which we hope you like and find both interesting and informative. Naturally we couldn’t have done it without the help of the wonderful design team at Top Left Design and I’m hoping I can negotiate a discount with that blatant plug.
I have, of course, known the business which was set up by my dad and Andrew Gibson all my life. I remember my mum bringing me up on the train when smoking was allowed and being astonished to see commuters opening the ‘slam doors’ as we arrived in Charing Cross and jumping off whilst the train was still moving! As a kid I remember being so proud of my Dad and the team he had working with him. Some of the client names I became familiar all those years ago are still clients now and if you are one of those, thank you for your support over the years.