Money Marketing interview with Jan

Profile: Jan Oliff on tragedy that led her to ethical investments

By Amanda Newman Smith 5th November 2018

Jan Oliff on changing the sector’s gender profile and how personal factors led her to be an ethical specialist

Sometimes the reasons people do the jobs they do or hold certain views are intensely personal.
That is the case with Jan, director, Jan Oliff Financial Planning.

Since establishing her own business in 1992, Jan has built a reputation as an ethical investment specialist.

Like many advisers in the field, Jan has generated business through a genuine interest in helping others and aiming to create a better world. But ask her why she became interested in socially responsible investment in the first place and it becomes clear it was for personal reasons rather than business ones.

“My mother died in 1986 at a young age.
Nobody had told her smoking was dangerous and she had lung cancer. I wanted to invest some money that she had left me into something that avoided tobacco. Only the Stewardship fund offered that at the time, so I invested in it and that was my way into the SRI* marketplace,” she says.

Jan believes the SRI* market has gained many supporters as a result of the 2008 financial crisis.

How to get started with ethical investing

“Clients felt let down by financial services around the time of the crisis and people are becoming increasingly aware of issues such as damage to the environment.

“Everyone has their own story and their own values based on personal experience. Some are more interested in governance issues than the environment and vice-versa,” she says. “I have one client who is in her 80s and she wouldn’t invest in gambling because, as a young teacher in Glasgow, she was seeing children coming to school with no shoes on because daddy had spent all the money in the betting shop.”

Five questions

What is the best bit of advice you’ve received in your career?

Don’t retire. It came from my 92-year-old neighbour, a district nurse who retired at 72 and thought it was far too soon.

What keeps you awake at night?

Nothing to do with work. If it was, I’d give it up.

What has had the most significant impact on financial advice in the last year?

Increasing awareness of values and governance.

If I was in charge of the Financial Conduct Authority for a day I would …

Listen to a representative sample of workers as the go-to people for ideas to improve the system and culture.

Any advice for new advisers?

Use your brain and your emotional intellect. Together they are powerful.

Jan was drawn to the financial services world following some tragic personal events that really brought home to her the need for people to plan their finances.

Her sister was widowed at the age of 29 and she sadly lost a friend in a car crash. At the time, her friend had everything to live for; he and his wife had just had a baby and were in the middle of renovating their home. “His wife had to return home to her parents because they had no life insurance,” says Jan .

Wanting to get the message across to people that it was important to be financially resilient, just in case the worst happened, Jan joined Barclays Life in 1981 and stayed there for 11 years. However, by 1992 she had become disillusioned and it was then she decided to set up her own financial advice firm.

“It had become clear that banks were giving priority to selling contracts that made money for them. I left Barclays early in 1992, at a time when the country was in deep recession and jobs were scarce. I’d relocated to Bristol, I had just got married and everything combined to say it would be better to create something,” she says.

So what has it been like for her to do that as a woman in financial services?

“It’s been largely amusing and sometimes frustrating. At times, my physical appearance is the only thing that seems to matter,” she says.

“My frustration comes in at the lack of understanding about the insight and intellect that women can bring to the industry. As head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde recently said if it had been Lehman Sisters rather than Lehman Brothers, we would have avoided the crash. I’m not going to argue with that.”

Jan thinks getting more women into the industry will happen naturally, once men with old-style, sexist attitudes have left.

“The industry will get rid of the wrong type of bloke and more women will come in once they’re gone. Things are a lot better now, but the bad attitudes are still there. Even women have that bad attitude at times. The whole culture in financial services has been one of bullying and disrespect. You have to stand up to it,” she says.

For some women, perhaps the misconception that financial advice is all about facts and figures rather than building relationships and finding solutions to problems puts them off it as a career choice. Jan points out the fact many advisers rely on their para-planners for the more technical side of the job.

“The para-planners are the ones doing the numbers; they do most of the technical stuff. Take a lot of IFAs away from their para-planners and they’d be lost.”

Trust and transparency are things Jan works hard at in relation to her clients. She is a member of Soroptimist International, a global volunteer organisation that has more than 75,000 members in 120 countries. With human rights and gender equality at its heart, the aim is to make women’s voices heard and help fund local causes.

However, Jan believes any sort of volunteering – whether it is charitable work or providing pro bono advice – should be for the right reasons and not to promote a professional service. Her thoughts on creating more widespread consumer trust in advisers are as simple as starting with the way you treat your colleagues and clients.

Should financial advisers be volunteers?

“I truly believe if every practice has a culture of respect for clients and colleagues, so it becomes unacceptable to say abusive or unkind things, if you do that, you gain trust,” she says.

“We are moving forward, as there are many good advisers who are great for the profession. But we need to get rid of the ugly ones as they cost the rest of us a lot in terms of our reputation and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme levies. I’m still confronted by people at conferences that make me think ‘what on earth are you still doing in this profession?’.

“Every profession has this, but I wonder why we tolerate it. We need to encourage those individuals to get out and earn their income elsewhere.”

.

* SRI – Sustainable Responsible Investing

Ever Present Danger, and more

Ever Present Danger

I once asked a friend if the widow of his next door neighbour would receive a life assurance payment.

He, my friend Ernie, was a bit shocked at the question.  It is not something you generally ask the recently bereaved.

It is however something the family care about.

Will we be able to pay the bills this month, this year, in the future?

I know it sounds a tad un-British to ask about money at such a time but here is what I know.  Death or major illnesses intervene when not expected. Having a safety net can make a difference in how you recover from the loss of a loved one or the shock of sickness or injury.

If your busy life has contributed to a heart attack then money at the right time can pay the bills, stopping much of the stress. It can give time for recovery.

In my 35-years career, I have experienced late night calls from worried clients asking “will I be able to pay the mortgage this month. Will I need to sell my home?”

Sickness and death are not just for the elderly but they are an ever-present danger. Most of us, mercifully, will never be harmed at the hands of a terrorist but never the less life rarely treats us kindly.

ISA

I return to the subject of ISAs.

Why? Because I am still hearing people complain about the low interest they are getting on cash ISAs. Apart from it being frustrating to overhear this, it occurred to me that people have stopped listening to advice.

Cash ISAs lose money, as inflation is higher than the annual interest rate, FACT

As an independent adviser, each client is different and gets treated differently.

But if you want a simple, do it yourself solution, check out some of the on-line offerings, watching out for charges and historic volatility: Both Prudential and Royal London have funds that are designed to minimise risk.

If you want an opportunity to do good as well as making a better return then find an Ethical or Socially Responsible Solution:  www.uksif.co.uk

And if you would prefer to accept and pay for valuable good professional advice . . .

Paid for Advice?

Why pay for advice when you can find insurance cover and/or ISAs on line?  Whether you pay for the advice or pay for the product, you still pay.

The advice is there, as an option.

To discover the full range of available solutions, you will need independent advice.

Is price the only thing that matters?     When it comes to your family probably not.

Climate Change

As the world fails to act water will become a weapon and a cause of war.

Regimes that control water will hold a powerful weapon.  You can ensure that the world harvests, recovers and maintains its quality, by investing in commercial businesses whose products do just that.

The Women’s Institute is having a week of action on Climate Change in July.

Please support them.

Digital disruption: connected world

 Internet of Things to reconfigure business, consumer and investment landscape

Reproduced by courtesy Pictet Asset Management
This is interesting but does not constitute advice.
If you are interested in sustainable or less ‘traditional’ investment please talk to Jan.

Eleven inches tall with shiny blonde hair, the iconic American doll Barbie made its debut at the New York Toy Fair in March 1959.

Just over half a century later in 2015, the same toy fair unveiled a new prototype of Barbie. And this version could not be more different from the original.

Called ‘Hello Barbie’, the wi-fi-enabled doll uses artificial intelligence to connect to a cloud server, which allows children to interact with her through a microphone and speaker built into her necklace.

Hello Barbie is just one manifestation of the burgeoning world of the Internet of Things (IoT), a platform of interconnected devices and machines built on cloud computing and network sensors.

The IoT is becoming a bigger part of our daily lives – we now have smart fridge that ping us when we’re low on milk, wearable devices that offer personal health and fitness advice and connected cars which shares traffic information with other vehicles.

In the not too distant future, smart energy or water meters powered by IoT sensors will send real-time information to providers which can better manage their production or distribution network; retailers can adjust their warehouse inventories based on round-the-clock demand data coming from IoT devices.

But this is only the beginning of the IoT revolution: the number of connected “things” could reach 50 billion by 2020 while the IoT market is expected to double to USD3.7 trillion by the end of this decade.1

This is an incredible opportunity for all of us and something we should take very seriously. And frankly the question you’ve got to ask is: ‘is there anything in the world that won’t be touched by the Internet of Things?’” says Sanjay Sarma, professor at the MIT and one of the world’s leading experts on the IoT.2

“Is there anything in the world that won’t be touched by the Internet of Things?”Sanjay Sarma

The IoT will change the rules of the game; enterprises are already under pressure to abandon old business models and adopt a new approach.

And as companies are disrupted, new investment opportunities should emerge.

“Every time there has been a new class of computing, the total revenue for that class was larger than the previous ones. If that trend holds, it means the Internet of Things will be bigger yet again,” observes University of Michigan professor David Blaauw.3

Significant evolution in technology since the 1960s
Each new computing cycle equals around 10 times the installed base than the previous cycle (1960s-2030e)

evolution of technologies

Source: Morgan Stanley, April 2014

From living rooms to assembly lines

The IoT began life as smart home technology in the shape of AI-powered, voice-activated personal assistants such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home.4

Today, however, it is expanding into factories, where a new generation of smart industrial robots now perform repetitive, strenuous and increasingly complex tasks without the need for human intervention. What is more, these connected robots communicate with each other in what is known as machine-to-machine (M2M) communication.

For example, Japanese robot maker Fanuc has developed technology that connects the brains of more than 400,000 of its industrial robots so that they can learn from each other and improve performance on manufacturing lines.

In working with Cisco, US factory automation systems maker Rockwell Automation and Preferred Networks, a Tokyo-based machine learning start-up, Fanuc says its M2M network will improve equipment efficiency and increase manufacturing profitability.

Fanuc is not alone – its German rival Kuka is working with Chinese telecoms company Huawei to link up its industrial robots in much the same way.5

An industrial-scale version of the IoT is certain to reconfigure manufacturing, ushering in what experts are calling the next Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0.

The first industrial revolution, which began in Britain in the mid-18th century, took about 100 years to spread as the use of machines gradually replaced human labour in Europe. Industry 4.0 should evolve at a pace faster than any of the previous breakthroughs.

Accenture estimates that Industry 4.0 could add at least USD14 trillion to the world economy by 2030, while PWC expects more than USD900 billion will be invested in technologies and businesses related to Industry 4.0 every year until 2020. More than half of the world’s major firms surveyed by the consultant expected a return on investment within two years.

How Industry 4.0 creates value

internet of things

Source: McKinsey, August 2016 

Industry 4.0 and M2M networks are beginning to transform manufacturers’ strategic priorities. Germany’s Audi plans to develop a “smart factory” which makes cars with robots working together with human colleagues, 3D printers that print complex metal parts and drones carrying steering wheels. Audi has even piloted cars driving themselves off the production line.

“Automobile production as we know it today will no longer exist in the future,” Hubert Waltl, member of Audi’s Board of Management for Production, told the automaker’s magazine. “It will become more connected, more intelligent and more efficient… New specialists such as network architects will increasingly move into our industry.”

IoT powers platform economy

Like Audi, manufacturers will no doubt reap the benefits of Industry 4.0; costs for inventory holding are likely to fall by up to 50 per cent thanks to the real-time warehouse management enabled by IoT devices while total machine downtime will also halve as factories use machines more efficiently thanks to information coming from IoT sensors, McKinsey expects. Several other studies have shown the IoT will boost manufacturing productivity by as much as 50 per cent.

But it won’t be just manufacturers; consumers and investors are set to enjoy the perks; Industry 4.0 will not only drive production costs down but also allow factories to produce goods which better reflect the trend and preferences of consumers.

This means we will be able to buy highly-customised IoT objects at cheap prices. The more people that use a given IoT object, the greater its network effect, a mechanism that rapidly magnifies the value of the object to each of its users.

Platforms have completely changed the nature of competition across many industries. – Austan Goolsbee, professor of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Companies like Apple, Uber and Amazon are already exploiting the network effect by building a complex web of interactions between consumers, suppliers, entrepreneurs and developers on “platforms”, digital marketplaces through which businesses offer a range of goods and services to consumers.

The platform economy built on IoT devices is beginning to disrupt the functioning of marketplaces and transform the investment landscape.

“Platforms have completely changed the nature of competition across many industries,” Austan Goolsbee, professor of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, told a recent conference organised by Pictet Asset Management.

“(Successful investing) is not really about figuring out what is the most exciting technology… it’s also about asking ‘could that thing be a platform that prevents the next guy from coming into the market?’”

New Year’s Resolution – 2017 and beyond

2017withchristmasball02Not so much a New Year Resolution as an affirmation of our business principles. Principles that, unlike the usual resolutions, will last an entire year and beyond.

1        A commitment to good client outcomes. Ensuring that clients benefit first, the firms interest taking second place

2        Clients have an opportunity to make a difference as well as make money.

3        Our fees are good value. Clients get what they pay for and their expectations are exceeded

4        We support women.

5        We stand up to the bullies.

A commitment to good client outcomes, unlike some other organisations who still work to targets meaning that the selfish adviser is rewarded, even when they can damage the firm’s reputation and disregard the best outcome for clients.

We match the clients principles and values, by taking time to understand them. Profit comes from sustainable business models. 

All fees are agreed in advance.

We believe that, in a male dominated sector, women bring a different perspective.

We are brave enough to challenge the received wisdom. 

Whilst being a small firm, we achieve better outcomes by tailoring our advice to the client’s needs and wants.

Simple!

Jan

The PFS Annual Conference

In any profession is important to share with other professionals, exchange ideas and learn … Read more…

Have we been Trumped on climate?

UKSIFlogoYesterday we learned that the new President of the United States is to be Donald Trump – the candidate who called global warming ‘fictional’ and threatened to ‘cancel’ the Paris Agreement so many of us have worked hard to achieve. But is all lost for our transition to a low carbon global economy? We don’t think so.

The unprecedented international co-operation on climate change has seen a booming low carbon economy.  Key points: renewables have overtaken coal, electric vehicles are the auto growth segment and ‘clean’ jobs are being created faster than any other. This is all happening globally and in the US.

Conservative strongholds and Trump states, such as Texas and North Carolina, are developing clean energy industries attracting new investment and jobs. They are unlikely to wave all that goodbye.  In 2015, the clean energy industry brought $6.96 billion to North Carolina, boasting more than 26,000 full time jobs, 3,150 of which were created in 2015 alone. In Texas, more than 100,000 people are now working in the renewables sector. Of Trump’s voting public, 70% consider it a ‘high priority’ to cut greenhouse gas emissions with 40% of Republicans worried about climate change.

We don’t know yet how Mr Trump will act on climate policy, but we think the progress achieved to date is irreversible.

 

Contact Charlene Cranny at UKSIF for more information and resources around climate action.