I was privileged to host my first GROW event this month and I’m delighted with the positive feedback we have received on the content, the speakers and the level of interaction that took place on the day!

If you missed it, here’s a rundown of what went on…

First up was our very own Alanis, talking about creating a world-class file. One of the key principles of the GROW events is shaping the content based on feedback from our clients. On a daily basis, we are asked for help and guidance in this key area so, in the session, Alanis helped us understand what makes a good file, what the FCA is looking for as well as dispelling some common myths with regards to suitability reports. One stat that stood out for me is that in the FCA’s 2017 assessing suitability review, 93.1% of cases were suitable in terms of the advice being provided yet only 52.9% assessed were deemed so when it came to disclosures. Our belief is this hasn’t improved over the last four years and with the next review by the regulator pending, it was great to hear Alanis give examples of what the FCA is looking for in terms of initial, specific and product disclosure. One comment that struck a chord is that ‘advisers are more comfortable with figures than soft facts’ and Alanis stressed the need for the client’s objectives to be personal and in their own words.

Next, we had Louis Stevens from Lion Trust who presented on sustainable investing. There continues to be some scepticism surrounding ESG and it was particularly refreshing to hear Louis talk about the positive relationship between ESG management and stronger levels of investment performance. He highlighted that sustainable companies are more resilient than the market gives them credit for and by supporting these firms, we can accelerate environmental and social improvements. We know from speaking to clients that whilst they are aware of the importance of having an ESG offering as part of their investment proposition, they often struggle with the types of conversations that should take part in the first meeting. Louis was able to offer advice on tools and specific word patterns that can be used to improve these discussions. He finished by talking about the importance of promoting corporate diversity and ensuring worker wellbeing whilst stressing that sustainable investing is here to stay and will likely become the way we invest as opposed to a way to invest.

The final session from Stuart Podmore of Schroders was a commentary of our times focusing on markets, business and behaviour. One thing the pandemic has highlighted is how companies’ actions impact society beyond financial statements, continuing the discussion from the previous session about the need for firms to focus on both employees and clients, communities and suppliers. The FCA’s 2020 Financial Lives Survey focussed on the importance of more people investing and with savings balances increasing to £250bn by June 2021, the opportunity has never been greater. Stuart commented that clients need a story – it is not just coming up with ways to help them save money but it is about allowing them to dream and then making this become a reality. Stuart finished by talking through a recent poll that stated regulation as the number one business concern for advisers in 2021 followed by finding new clients and personal indemnity cover.

Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to the session. Following a number of requests, we will be running a MASTER event on ‘Creating a World-Class File’ – details to follow soon!

Paul Sylvester-Evans