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.

Water – Invest Now for a Better Future

 When I talk about ethical and sustainable investing what does that mean? Sometimes that depends upon the client who may have special preferences.

For me it can mean a wide variety of options and opportunities and, to the surprise of many, it also means serious investment.

This article, kindly provided by Pictet Asset Management gives the story of water investment. You can see this as purely an investment opportunity, as an opportunity to use your investment monies for a better world; or you can also see the human and social benefits.

This is also an invitation to think more creatively about how you invest and to do that all you need to do is talk to Jan.

This is what Pictet is involved in . . . . .

The private water supply sector consists of companies serving the population through the supply and storage of drinking water.

By 2050, up to 4 billion people across the world could be living under ‘severe’ water stress, up from 1.2 billion today.

Economic growth is exacerbating the water shortage as it boosts personal wealth, leading to increased consumption of products that require more water to produce, such as animal protein.

For example, producing a kilogram of beef requires 15,000 litres of water, six times more than is needed to produce the same amount of rice.

Governments are increasingly unable to maintain supply due to tight budgets and ageing infrastructure.

This means that private companies will play an ever-more important role throughout the human water cycle, especially in North America and Central & Eastern Europe, where they are expected to increase their market share by more than 10 per cent between 2013 and 20253.

With other regions, such as South America and Asia, requiring up to USD 14 trillion of investment by 2030 to secure their water supply, there will be countless opportunities for companies involved in innovative water supply solutions, such as water recycling and desalination, to profit.

Water treatment
The water technology sector consists of companies developing the tools and systems to improve the efficiency with which we use water.

For instance, as much as 75 per cent of the world’s available freshwater supply is unsafe for consumption due to contamination or pollution.

Governments can enact measures to safeguard water sources from pollutants, but it is private companies involved in the development of innovative filtration systems, such as permeable membranes or UV filtration, that will provide solutions to these issues.

Leakages
In developing countries, more than 45 million cubic metres of water are lost through leaks every day. The cost of improving existing public infrastructure globally is predicted to exceed USD20 trillion between 2005 and 20304.

Companies producing innovative water technology solutions, such as next-generation sensors and monitoring equipment that can increase the efficiency of water usage and help avoid wastage through leaks, represent compelling investment opportunities.

Irrigation
With 70 per cent of the world’s available freshwater used to support agricultural production, governments are now tackling the wasteful use of water in this sector, such as through the fines California has imposed on those who irrigate their crops in daylight hours during droughts.

This focus on waste is creating opportunities for companies making advances in agricultural water technology, such as drip irrigation, which only intermittently wets the soil that is closest to the crop, and thus provides higher moisture levels while using less water.

Waste management
There is growing awareness, especially within developing countries, about the need to deal with the water supply problems arising from improper solid waste disposal, which in China has led to nearly 60 per cent of the country’s underground water and a third of its surface water being classed as ‘unfit for human contact’.

The Chinese government is determined to improve this situation, with its 2015 ‘Water Ten Plan’ putting in place tough targets on polluting industries to provide ecological and environmental protection. With industrial wastewater treatment in China reaching around 90 per cent penetration, the focus will shift to tackling the rise of domestic waste output.

Companies operating in the environmental services sector and providing solutions to waste water collection and its treatment are predicted to benefit.

 

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.

Good Money Week Campaign

goodmonetwseekpiggybank2014Good Money Week is the campaign to raise awareness of sustainable, responsible and ethical finance to help people make good money choices.

Good Money Week aims to ensure that everyone knows they have sustainable and ethical options when it comes to their financial decisions.

Good Money Week takes place this year from 30th October- 5th November.

During this annual event we make it a focus for the financial editors of national papers to publish real life stories about people who make the choice to invest in Socially Responsible Investments, (SRIs). The important thing is that they are not odd or extreme in their principles but normal people who take the time to consider the potential outcomes of investing.

If you can invest and get the same, or better, return on your investment and be certain that the investment meets your ethical values, then surely that’s a win-win.

There are of course the cynics who question those good intentions.  In the same way that a driver of an electric vehicle is challenged over the source of the electricity they charge the vehicle with.  Most of us ensure it’s from either wind or solar but it does not stop the cynics.  Somehow doing thoughtful things, like using alternative energy or composting garden waste and not burning it is still considered odd!

Someone please explain it to me?

You might want also to explain why some prefer to drive a mile rather than walk.  Walking restores your energy levels and keeps you fit, driving causes pollution, outside the school, in green spaces and around your homes!  It’s a responsible life-style choice.

So therefore, if investing in thoughtful and responsible ways provides good returns and respects your values, what stops you?

Is it a lack of understanding, a question of not knowing where to find responsible investments or preferring to leave money with your bank so they can do irresponsible things with it?

To find out more about Good Money Week – goodmoneyweek.com

Or talk to me?