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

The Under The Radar Pension Tax Scandal

If you are an employer, could this apply to you?

Julia Dreblow
Founder, sriServices & Fund EcoMarket

Ros Altmann* writes in Money Marketing

 

“I want to highlight a major pensions injustice concerning employers who choose an auto-enrolment scheme administered on a net pay basis.

“Such schemes cannot add the 25 per cent bonus of tax relief to contributions of workers earning less than £11,500 a year from the employer.

“Auto-enrolling these employees – mostly women – into a net pay scheme forces them to pay extra for their pension. Every £10 that someone on more than £11,510 a year puts into a pension will cost only £8 but every £10 low earners contribute costs them the full amount. So the lowest paid are paying £2 more for the same pension.

“If their employer were to use a relief at source scheme instead, no one would have to pay more than £8 for their £10 of pension. But most would not understand the difference between choosing a net pay or relief at source scheme.

When discovering this as pensions minister, I tried desperately to address it. But nobody was interested in helping the low earners.Officials said “It’s not much money”, which I found unacceptable.

Firstly, it may not be much money, but it could and should be theirs if their employer had chosen a different scheme.

Scammers Beware

Can we count on your support?

This is from the PFS – Professional Finance Society – my professional body.
The proliferation of investment and pension scams have been a growing concern over the last few years, but since the introduction of pension freedoms unregulated activity has multiplied leaving consumers vulnerable to ever more sophisticated scams.

During 2015/16 more than 3,000 people reported being caught up in scams with an average loss of £32,000. As most scam losses go unreported the actual numbers will be much higher. It is clearly time to take further action and as a profession we have a vested interest in contributing to the wider effort of helping protect consumers.

The 15 minute commitment

I announced at our London Financial Planning Symposium in November that we had joined forces with the FCA in an effort to help protect growing numbers of consumers. Members have been asked to help raise awareness of scams amongst their clients and professional networks. But for personal finance professionals, scams and unregulated investment schemes with overblown promises are easier and quicker to spot than unsuspecting members of the public. We therefore need to mobilise as a united profession to help the authorities by sniffing out and reporting suspicious investments and potential scams.

The small commitment we are asking Personal Finance Society members to make is to spend just 15 minutes per month to help identify and report potential scams. As a profession we have the opportunity to make a huge impact in smoking out and helping close down investment scams before they do too much damage.

Visit the PFS website where there are ideas on how to spend 15 minutes. The website contains information and case study videos along with an overview of the tactics used by scammers. There is also a link to the FCA’s ScamSmart microsite where you can find the latest warning list and details of how you can report a potential scam.

Contact me about this if you wish

It’s not just inexperienced investors who are falling victim to scams; savvy investors are falling victim too and are the target for more sophisticated scams. Affluent retirees aged over 60 are now most likely to be victims.

Just a quarter of people seek the advice of a professional adviser prior to committing to an investment and one in eight people spend little or no time researching investment products before handing over the money. It’s time our profession played its part in demonstrating the value of professional advice and helping protect consumers from the unscrupulous.

The PFS Annual Conference

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

Majority Want Financial Advice to Deal with Retirement

upwardtrend200Recent research has shown that 86% of the population wants financial advice to help them prepare for their retirement, highlighting how many people do not feel confident in planning for this pivotal stage of their life.

The vast majority of people surveyed said that they want to ensure that they can financially support themselves during their retirement so that they do not become a burden to their loved ones.

However, due to a greater life expectancy, many clients are likely to experience a longer retirement than they had originally planned for.

This obviously means they will need access to more savings in order to support their lifestyle for a longer period, or reduce their expenditure during retirement.

One challenge which clients face is how to pass on their wealth without impacting on their own financial security during their retirement. Many people are actively looking for an adviser who has specialist knowledge on how to minimise the amount of Inheritance Tax (IHT) due on their estate and increase the amount they can leave for their loved ones.

Coupled with this, clients must plan for potential care costs which currently cost £29,000 per year on average, along with changes to tax or inflation which could dramatically affect how much they have to survive on during their retirement.

For many, retirement is a period of life to look forward to and enjoy after several decades of hard work.  However, these figures show how just many people feel overwhelmed with how to plan financially for this period of their life.

Tom Curran, Chief Executive of estate administration specialists Kings Court Trust, commented: “These figures highlight how the majority of the population is looking to plan for their retirement well in advance so that they do not become a financial burden to their loved ones.  Along with mitigating the impact of IHT and planning for care costs in later life, another element that clients need to consider is how their estate will be managed when they do pass away.

Estate administration can be a complex legal process, particularly for clients with a portfolio of assets and investments. Families will often turn to the financial adviser when dealing with the loss of a loved one, so a sound knowledge of the process is essential for an adviser to support their clients at this difficult time.”

We use sophisticated modelling to help our clients to see how their existing assets and financial planning can give them outcome they seek – or to show the expected shortfalls whilst there is still time to take action.

Your Residence And Inheritance Tax

BWhouseButton100The main residence nil rate band (RNRB) will be introduced on 6th April 2017 to apply to deaths on or after that date.

For those eligible to use it, it will be in addition to the standard nil rate band (NRB), currently £325,000 (and frozen at that level until April 2021).

In summary, the RNRB is intended to protect some or all of the value of the family home (or previous family home) from inheritance tax where the home (or, if the home has been disposed of, assets of equivalent value) is being passed on to children or grandchildren (or their spouses).

The RNRB will be phased in gradually from 2017/18 to 2020/2021 as follows:

  • £100,000 per person in 2017/18
  • £125,000 per person in 2018/19
  • £150,000 per person in 2019/20
  • £175,000 per person in 2020/21
  • and then increasing in line with CPI in subsequent years

The RNRB can be offset against the value of a property which has, at some time, been occupied as the family home as long as that home passes on death to the direct descendants of the deceased.

A direct descendant is defined as a child (including step-child, adopted child or foster child) or grandchild of the deceased. This includes the situation where the property is left to a direct descendant and their spouse or civil partner jointly, to a direct descendant’s spouse or civil partner solely, or to a direct descendant’s widow, widower or surviving civil partner who has not remarried or entered into another civil partnership at the time of death of the deceased.

The RNRB will be available when the individual dies on or after 6th April 2017. The transfer must be on death and can be made by will, under intestacy or as a result of the rule of survivorship.

An estate will be eligible for the proportion of the RNRB that is foregone as a result of downsizing or disposal of the property as an addition to the RNRB that can be used on death. In the Government Technical Note this is referred to as the ‘additional RNRB’. The qualifying conditions for the additional RNRB would be broadly the same as those for the RNRB.

Clearly there is a lot more to it than this so do take professional advice and not rely upon a limited knowledge of the rules. And ensure that you will including your living will, are up to date ~
oliff.info/your-financial-journey