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.
The events of the 9 days have shaken our faith in them to the foundations.
For those unfamiliar with Analytics it’s a service whereby we record our clients investment portfolios over time, including all the changes made. Some of our records go back to 2008 and would have dozens of changes over the following 11 years. Being a cloud based service there is no way, that I know of, that WE can back up the data. We are reliant of FE to have a robust process in place.
On Monday 18th February we noticed some of our portfolios (i.e. client records) had gone missing so we raised a support call. Cutting a long story short, FE’s response since then has been shockingly bad, with next to no feedback at any time. It wasn’t until Tuesday 26th that we had any degree of confidence that they could actually recover the data. Only this afternoon, 27th February have they restored our data.
Since that original support call FE made next to no progress at all last week, causing much stress for my team as they knew they would have to tell me about the problem when I got back from holiday and, understandably, had hoped it would have been resolved before then.
FE initially suggested WE had deleted the data but I know my team and it’s very unlikely we would have randomly deleted a thousand or so records (each portfolio change is a separate record and to delete the entire portfolio, you need to delete each record. Deleting one portfolio might be as many as 20 records, which is probably 30 or 40 mouse clicks. With 250 or so portfolios lost, that’s an awful lot of mouse clicks).
They set deadlines to provide updates and missed them. They didn’t respond to our seemingly sensible suggestion to simply restore the backup from Monday 11th February – when we know the data was there because we used it. We were happy to ‘lose’ any changes we had made since 11th February, as we could look back at our work logs and redo them.
I’ve read our contract with them and am intrigued that it makes reference to us establishing a reasonable back up. I’ve spoken to a few other Analytics users that I know and none of us make backups ourselves, and none of us think it is possible to do so. I await with interest to hear what FE have to say about clause 14.7!
As the data has only just been restored, they have not yet commented on what happened to our data, why it took so long to recover or indeed why the communication between them and us has been so abysmal for the last week. With the data back, we can pick the bones out of the mess and learn from it but I wanted to highlight our plight to fellow users because I can assure you, it has been a distinctly unpleasant experience.
Rather naively I had assumed a business that appears to be well run and hi-tech would have a disaster recovery plan in place and I now realise with hindsight we should have asked about their backup process and procedures before now. We’re a tiny business but our Azure (i.e. cloud) database is backed up 3 times by Microsoft over multiple physical locations and the core data a further time via Deposit. We regularly test the backups and can restore data in minutes. I can’t imagine any scenario that would take us 8 days to restore and if we did have some sort of major disaster that needed a full rebuild of our data, then we wouldn’t leave clients in the dark about what was happening nor when normal service would be resumed.
This has been a real shock and we wanted to share our pain with other Analytics subscribers so that you can consider what you might do if one day you find all your portfolios have disappeared too.
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.
I wasn’t entirely surprised the Surface didn’t wake up from its sleep as, like all computers, from time to time it throws a wobbly and needs a reboot. However, a few minutes later it was still lifeless with not a flicker on the screen or a whir of the fan.
Trying the obvious
I know the various reboot methods off by heart as all our team have Surfaces, as does my brother and father so you just get to know these things. Nothing. Nada. Dead. Even Google couldn’t point me towards a solution at which point I knew it was bad.
A Surface is a wonderful bit of kit but it’s stuck together with glue and if it goes wrong out of warranty, like mine, you’re stuffed. Microsoft offered to sell me a refurbished replacement, via an exchange programme, for £400 but couldn’t make it clear what warranty the new unit would have. I suspected not a lot!
Researching the alternatives
Other refurbished units are available for around £600 from places like e-bay but there’s always the risk they came via Del Boy down the pub. A brand new one, admittedly the newer spec 4, is about £1,000 and, via john Lewis, has a three year warranty too (against MS’ 2). The cost of a simple ‘oh it won’t turn on’ has quickly shot up.
As portable access to work is crucial to me I must replace it. I toyed with other brands but the best bit of the Surface for me is using it as a notepad in meetings because the built in stand is absolutely perfect. Nothing else offers the digital pen, the stand, the size and weight. The Surface also has Windows Hello iris recognition and a magnesium case and therefore holds its own against MacBook users in cafes. Important stuff I am sure you’ll agree.
I’ve also got multiple chargers, a docking station, a wireless connection to our TV at home (which is brilliant for streaming films) and of course I know how it works. These add-ons would cost hundreds of pounds to replace if I went down the Lenovo or HP route. I need Windows as an OS, so Apple’s stuff is out of the question before anyone asks.
With some hesitation therefore, I’ve replaced the brick / table mat that is now my old Surface with a new one. I’m not happy about it and can only hope this one lasts more than 26months. I’ve used it more or less every day during that time, it’s travelled a lot of miles and been an invaluable business tool
I wonder if Mr Gates might read this and send me a credit note?
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.
Yesterday Philip Hammond, delivered his first and last Autumn Statement. Much has been written since about his attempts to ensure Britain is – in his words – “match-fit” in time for the triggering of Article 50 early next year. And while we all hope that the Great British economy is more Andy Murray than Wayne Rooney on that fateful day, rather less has been written about how the announcements might affect your finances.
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!
Financial planning doesn’t have to be daunting. Framed the right way, it can be incredibly intuitive. When working with our clients we find out three important things from them:
- What do you have?
- What do you want?
- When do you want it?
Sound financial planning is tailored to the individual. You will know when you’ve found a good financial adviser because before they event start thinking about investment options, tax or estate planning, they will ensure they have a sound understanding of your answers to these three questions.
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.
As you know, we are big fans of recycling here at Gibson Lamb. We like to do our bit to help the environment.
We have been recycling for many years and are always surprised when Paper Round provide our yearly statistics every January.
The last 12 months have been exceptional and we thought we would share the results with you in the below infographic!
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.
I’m sure we all receive post that, open, think ‘I need to keep that’ and place it in a pile labelled ‘things I need to deal with/file later’.
Now whilst I do not read every financial publication, I do like to scan the headlines in case anything of interest appears.
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!
Having worked in the Financial Services industry for 28 years, I have seen how technology has progressed and how beneficial it can be.
Looking back to when I first started work in 1987, there was no computer in the department I worked in and only two phones. Even in my second job we shared computers!
Nowadays I’d imagine this would be unheard of as we tend to take technology for granted.
Starting at Gibson Lamb in June this year, I didn’t enter as a complete newbie, having already worked in insurance and at another financial advisers in the City.
But coming into a new company that’s had all the same staff since before I even took my GCSEs has been a hugely enjoyable challenge; as eye-opening as it has been refreshing.
I think of it like learning a new language.
Everything is done in a very particular way; either slightly or, more often, extremely differently to the way I was used to.
As with any job there’s a ton of both industry and company-specific language unique to any company.
I had built up skills and habits that were transferable, and others that were simply incomprehensible to those around me. Learning which is which comes with practice.
The important thing to remember is that there’s also a structure and a reason behind everything we do. It isn’t always obvious, but as a firm these practices stem from both our history and our culture.
These are the things that come naturally to the others, that I am still building into habits
- Filing: It’s hard to imagine two systems designed to do essentially the same thing being as different as Adviser Office (used at the place I used to work) and CCD (used at Gibson Lamb). A lot of the crutches I could rely on with the old system to keep things structured are simply no longer there. And everything is now filed in an entirely different way.On the plus side, and from the client’s point of view, we have a handy way of keeping everything paperless and efficient with “Virtual Cabinet” and “Portal” – see Vicky’s blog on this very topic!
- Structuring client letters: Starting out, even things like making sure I formatted my letters with the various rules that Gibson Lamb have relied upon for decades could trip me up.This invariably takes more concentration and double-checking than anything I end up putting in the letter itself. I like to think it’s finally become second nature to me. We shall see!
- Meeting preparation: Luckily this didn’t take me as long to learn as I had relevant experience before. Gibson Lamb has over the years developed some sensible methods (including, of course, clever use of technology!) to make this take a lot less time than where I used to work.
Learning from experience
Training brings its own set of challenges for the existing team almost as much as me (at times) as they try to explain to me something that for them is as instinctive as riding a bike.
With this I’m lucky that everyone’s been so welcoming.
I’ve quickly came to see why Gibson Lamb has managed to hold on to both the same core team of staff for so long, as well as many of its clients for even longer.
At this early stage, I just like to think I’m starting to make their lives easier rather than harder (!) and on a personal level that I leave the office every day having learnt as much as I can. From there I can look to the future with a company that I already look forward to being with for many years to come.
[by Emma McMahon]
When I tell people I have worked for the same Company for over 17 years the most common response is “are you kidding me”?
I think the concept of working in the same place, for the same people, and for such a long period of time does not appeal to the masses.
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.