2018 Newsletter August

Plastic in our bins, our homes and the environment, we all know it does harm but despite our best efforts it is everywhere.

In Bristol on our allotment, plastic was worse than the weeds. Each week we arrived to find discarded bags, blown by the wind, causing a hazard to the wild life and a mess for us to clear.

Here in Worcestershire plastic is less obvious but still there.

We have more wildlife and therefore more vulnerable birds and animals. We can make a difference by encouraging the banks and institutions we invest with to use our money to support alternatives to plastic.

Does it work?
Logically if you invest in good business ideas rather than those that do harm, it works, as long as the demand is there and profit achievable.  In my experience legislation can only help but providing funds to support product development and science is powerful.

In October we celebrate the 10th Good Money Week organised by UKSIF, the Ethical Investment Association, an organisation I have subscribed to since its beginnings.  You are no doubt aware that Julia Dreblow, also a member, has been a good source of ethical investment research and someone I fully support and rely on.

I provide below an article written by Julia on this hot topic of Plastics:

What role can individual investors play in addressing the plastic problem?

“Most retail investments (eg ISAs) invest in funds which ‘pool’ people’s money together. As a result, each individual (you or I) indirectly owns a small share of a large number of companies. This pooling of money into ‘collective’ funds is regarded as good practice as it helps to reduce risk and keep costs down.

“From the many thousands of funds that are available, there is a vast array of approaches to environmental issues. These range from indifference to a devotion to helping to solve such issues.

“The ‘good guys’ in this regard are those who have well thought through and clearly articulated environmental policies and strategies.

“Strategies vary but these funds can often be identified by their use of the terms such as ‘environmental’, ‘ethical’ or ‘sustainable’ – although ‘responsible’, ‘stewardship’ and ‘ESG’ are increasingly common also.

“Want to know more about returns from ethical and sustainable funds? Download the Good Investment Review

“Plastics present a growing and also rather complex range of challenges for these fund managers as benefits and challenges are often intertwined.

“To explore ‘leading edge’ investment management practices, I asked some fund managers who excel in environmental issues to explain their current thinking.

“The results were interesting in part because of their diversity but also because this area is still evolving.

“In brief – everyone I spoke to confirmed that plastics were on their radar and ‘work in progress’.  Most warned that plastics have brought many benefits (eg. reducing food waste) and that we need to be careful not throw the baby out with the bath water.

“Many cited the benefits of engagement – where investment managers express their concerns to companies and request changes within the context of encouraging a financially sound ‘replace, reuse, refine’, circular economy type ethos.

“LionTrust for example referred to plastics as a 2018 engagement priority – noting that this was now a common concern amongst their clients.

“Sarasin & Partners commented that this fits within their across-the-board environmental research that is integral to all their investment analysis and Aviva Investors commented that this sits within their extensive Sustainable Fisheries programme.

“With regard to specific individual funds, LionTrust’s Sustainable Futures analyst Mike Appleby explained that they “continue to hunt for companies making alternatives to plastic (biodegradable and other materials) that work well that could substitute out some of the plastic use, but so far have found either the companies are too small or are a smaller division within a conglomerate that has exposure to other plastics.”

“He further explained that the search goes on – and that their focus remains “to find solutions companies” adding that they do not own drinks companies, oil companies or refiners – and that when they invest in packaging companies they aim to skew their investment towards companies with higher levels of recycled material. Supermarkets are also on their ‘plastics’ engagement radar.

“Pictet Asset Management explained the strategy in their Global Environmental Opportunities fund; “There are two types of companies in our GEO portfolio which can be seen as providing solutions to the plastic issue. First there are those water treatment companies which through advanced technologies (membranes and advanced oxidation) can remove plastic particles and breakdowns leaked chemicals from plastics in drinking and wastewater treatment processes. Companies such as Xylem, Danaher, Pentair, Suez, etc can provide such solutions. Then we also have companies specialised in cardboard boxes and paper-based packaging often using recycled wood fibres, a much more sustainable material than plastic based packaging. Companies such as Smurfit Kappa or Mondi are examples.”

“WHEB Investment Management’s head of research Seb Beloe explained that they “strongly welcome a focus on cleaning up plastics that are in the environment. The vast majority of this plastic waste is linked to packaging which has a very short useful life (as packaging) and is then discarded”. But added that “there are of course other plastics that serve very important roles – including in helping to reduce environmental impact – for example in reducing weight in cars that we do invest in.  When it comes to plastic packaging, our view is that it can play an important role but must be in largely closed-loop systems and these basically don’t exist currently at a scale that is investable for us. Our main exposure today therefore is either through companies that collect and recover plastic waste (for example through recycling or energy from waste) or through our investment in Smurfit Kappa which makes recycled cardboard packaging as a preferable environmental option.”

“Pointing to the direction of travel for this area Charlie Thomas head of Environmental & Sustainable Investment at Jupiter Asset Management added: “In the near-term, proven steps such as introducing bottle return schemes have a high impact by upping recycling rates, and we are encouraged this will now arrive in the UK, reflecting growing public awareness around plastics and waste more widely. We don’t think this is a fleeting concern, so the opportunities in the longer term will focus more on replacing plastics. Our experience of how themes like this evolve tells us to expect an acceleration of innovation and investment in this area from here.”

“These commentators were of course not chosen at random. All are relatively rare in the investment world as they have longstanding and profound commitments to offering investments that help solve environmental challenges. Other examples of funds that take environmental and social issues seriously can be found on my free the use web tool.

“Needless to say, funds such as these exist to meet the needs of ‘good men’ (and women!) for whom doing nothing is not an option.

“It may not be possible – or even desirable – to avoid all forms of plastic when investing, but as these examples illustrate – taking a more ‘plastics aware’ investment approach is entirely possible for those who wish to do so.

Julia Dreblow is director SRI Services, founder www.FundEcoMarket.co.uk

L0ng Term care

According to the Times, A green paper is expected to limit how much people need to pay for social care.

Pensioners will not be forced to sell their homes to pay for social care under plans being drawn up by the government.

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is understood to favour a ceiling as well as a floor on social care costs.

This is expected to feature in a green paper on social care, to be published in the autumn at the time of the budget.

This is the third green paper I am aware of, let’s hope it stands a chance of becoming an implemented policy.

There seems to be a limited understanding that direct payers, that’s the people who do not get local authority support, can find better solutions than simply draining their bank accounts.  Take a look at the Just Retirement website

Estate Distribution

Bitcoin. Ripple. Ethereum. Litecoin. Dogecoin. To some, these words look like gibberish but the reality is, they are all different types of cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency is digital money which uses encryption techniques to generate currency and verify the transfer of funds. It has been designed to be quicker, cheaper and more reliable than our regular government issued money, removing the middleman in all transactions.

Through specialised exchange sites, like Coinbase, you can buy and sell cryptocurrency i.e. Bitcoin, using traditional currency (GBP). These exchanges have inbuilt virtual wallets to store your purchased cryptocurrency, acting in the same way a traditional ‘pocket’ wallet would.

As an individual, one of the many advantages of cryptocurrency is that ownership can be pseudonymous, meaning it’s possible to send and receive cryptocurrency without giving any personal identifying information. As one of the UK’s leading estate administration providers, these ever-growing digital currencies have us wondering about the many ways cryptocurrencies could impact an estate.

1. If ownership is pseudonymous, how do you know when someone owns cryptocurrency?

There is no way of knowing when someone owns cryptocurrency in the same way that there is no way of knowing someone has a bank account with Barclays; you won’t know unless they tell you. In order to gain access to someone’s wallet, you will need to know the public and private keys. These keys are essentially the code, or passwords, that log you into the virtual wallet to buy and sell the cryptocurrency from the exchange. Without this information, the cryptocurrency wealth is unreachable. It’s worth noting, there are some exchanges who have policies in place to transfer cryptocurrency to the next of kin.

2. Could cryptocurrency impact the amount of inheritance for an individual?

Even though cryptocurrency isn’t yet an official currency of any country, it is widely accepted as a money in various countries. In the UK, you can hire a private jet or buy a round of beer with your cryptocurrency. In the United States, you can even pay for a funeral using Bitcoin.

It is theorised that cryptocurrencies will become the norm with the question being when, rather than if. As reported in January this year, HMRC treats cryptocurrencies as all other currencies stating that it is an intangible asset for capital gains tax purposes.

Cryptocurrency needs to be seriously considered when writing Wills to avoid hefty Inheritance Tax bills.

3. What would happen to the owned cryptocurrency should the owner die, intestate or testate?

As we now know, cryptocurrencies are stored in a virtual wallet. Each wallet uses a string of random characters called a “public key,” visible to anyone, as an address for sending and receiving the cryptocurrency. A separate “private key” allows the owner access to the money in the wallet. If an owner dies without passing on the private key, the wallet may be discovered only to realise that they will never gain access to the wealth inside. To prevent this, the owner has to ensure that someone knows about the currency and gets a copy of the private key.

In both instances of an intestate or testate estate, the owner must share the private key for others to access the wealth in the wallet. If a Will is written, the cryptocurrency will be distributed as per the wishes written. If there is no Will and the private key is known, the cryptocurrency will be added in with the total value of the estate and distributed following the rules of intestacy.


My eldest niece Dawn spent a June Sunday on a walk to support MIND the mental health charity.  She was motivated by the recent suicide of a work colleague.  I wondered if either his employer or he had Income Protection policy and if it could have helped him?  Why an insurance contract?  Simple they do not just pay out on claims but it’s in their interests to help you recover and return to the workforce.   To do this many offer counseling sessions and support here are examples of what some offer as support:

Protection Policies Supporting

  • AEGON    loss of a family member or friend;
  • diagnosis of a medical condition;
  • emotional issues;
  • marital and relationship concerns;
  • family concerns, for example childcare;
  • work-related concerns, and
  • consumer rights, legal and debt issues.

Member Care Line   LV

The Member Care Line offers three very different services.

Members can get free and confidential legal advice, ranging from how to challenge a parking ticket to advice on how to resolve a neighbourhood dispute. Thousands of members have found this facility extremely useful and reassuring.

The Care Line also allows members to speak to medical staff if they are worried about a health condition and they can even talk to a counsellor if they are experiencing emotional distress and need a sympathetic ear.

Completely free and open 24 hours a day.

Aviva Member Care Line

The Member Care Line offers three very different services. Members can get free and confidential legal advice, ranging from how to challenge a parking ticket to advice on how to resolve a neighbourhood dispute. Thousands of members have found this facility extremely useful and reassuring. The Care Line also allows members to speak to medical staff if they are worried about a health condition and they can even talk to a counsellor if they are experiencing emotional distress, and need a sympathetic ear.

Completely free and open 24 hours a day.

Good News for With-profits Policyholders

Equitable Life has made plans which we believe will not only secure the 35% capital distribution currently given when with-profits policy benefits are taken, but we also believe would enhance those benefits.

This has been made possible by an agreement to transfer the Society and all its policies to Reliance Life.

Our proposal is to:

  • Increase the current 35% capital distribution to a level expected to be between 60% and 70%
  • Close the with-profits fund, which means the guaranteed investment return would end
  • Convert with-profits policies to unit-linked
  • Transfer all policies to Reliance Life

With-profits policyholders will be asked to vote on this proposal before it can go ahead. Our proposal will be reviewed by an Independent Expert, who will consider it through the eyes of policyholders. The Independent Expert’s report will be made available to policyholders before they vote.

Our current thinking is that the vote will take place in mid-2019, and our proposal will then be put before a High Court Judge for approval. The policy enhancement, and the removal of the guarantees, would take place towards the end of 2019, and the transfer of newly converted unit-linked policies to Reliance Life would follow immediately afterwards

Reliance Life is part of Life Company Consolidation Group, a specialist European life assurance group. Its principal businesses are Reliance Life and Utmost Wealth Solutions, which are responsible for in aggregate £24bn of primarily unit-linked policyholder assets for more than 250,000 customers.

Reliance Life’s stated strategy is to continue to grow through further acquisitions of life business in the UK thereby protecting policyholders from the diseconomies of reducing scale in a stand-alone run-off environment whilst securing the highest standards of service and broadest fund choice.

There is no action for policyholders to take now. More information will be provided in October.


I would like to share a philosophy with you, in the past the choices have been between state provision and charity, to fund for the less able and vulnerable.  Today we have a third way.  Social impact investing.

If you want to find out more ask me.

Enjoy your summer and I look forward to seeing you soon