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Vouchedfor IFA

VouchedFor has revealed the UK’s most well-liked IFAs, based on those with the highest number of positive reviews from clients on its website.

Taking the top spot was Anthony Villis, managing partner at London-based First Wealth, who secured the most favourable feedback to pull away from the rest of the top IFAs with positive reviews within the last two years.

Advisers had to receive at least 28 reviews of 4 stars or more to qualify for entry in the list of top 250 UK advisers. They were also required to be using VouchedFor’s paid-for service, Professional Plan.

This is a membership plan costing £45 per month, with the Lite plan allowing advisers to be contacted up to five times a quarter, and the Professional plan incurring an additional charge each time an enquirer makes contact, with no limit how many times the adviser can be contacted.

Hearing the news through FTAdviser just before leaving on holiday on Friday, Mr Villis, who works with a staff of 17 including five advisers, said he was delighted his clients had recommended him.

“Great financial planning can change your life! We exist to inspire ideas, create confidence and give you the freedom to live,” he said.

Another well-known name in the top 10 was Jeremy Askew, managing director of Town Close Financial Planning.

He commented: “It’s testament to the excellent service the team has provided. We’re looking forward to getting even better.”

Mr Askew said the company is moving to larger premises in Loughton as part of expansion plans which has seen it take on a compliance director and office manager, with a fully-qualified adviser and trainee next on the agenda.

He said: “From a back bedroom and zero clients 30 months ago, we’ve expanded to £50m under advice and four permanent, including me, one part-time staff and three contractors. Revenue is up 50 per cent in the last 12 months.”

Also in the top ten were Neil Gilbourne from 3R Financial Services; Peter Emery from Emery IFA; Philip Hanley from Philip James Financial Services; Carl Melvin from Affluent Financial Planning; Andrew Finnie from Border Finance; Alan Powell from Elite Wealth Management; Paolo Standerwick from MLP Wealth Management; and Phil O’Connor from Whitewell Financial Planning.

VouchedFor said its top 250 list heralded a new era of transparency within the financial industry, giving great advisers the chance to demonstrate their value.

The full VouchedFor list, featured in the Sunday Times yesterday (10 April), gives details of the advisers’ local area, specialisms and number of reviews for a total of 875 professionals, including 250 IFAs, 250 mortgage advisers, 200 accountants and 175 solicitors.

Adam Price, founder of VouchedFor, said: “For years prospective clients have been in the dark about the quality of a professional’s work from their clients’ perspective. With the VouchedFor guide, both consumers and advisers can discover which professionals have the happiest clients.”

Credit: Financila Times
Relatives buy homes

A mortgage that enables families to raise funds from their existing property to help relatives buy a home has been launched by Nationwide.

The family deposit mortgage is available to family members who want to help their children onto the property ladder, as well as home movers and those wishing to help older parents to move. 

New borrowers can choose from a two-year fixed rate, five-year fixed rate and two-year tracker rate mortgage deals with a £999 fee or no fee, available direct from Nationwide or through brokers.

Rates start at 1.15 per cent for the two-year tracker and 1.2 per cent for the two-year fixed rate, both with a £999 fee - a discount of 0.09 per cent on the core product range.

Existing Nationwide mortgage members and those remortgaging to the building society from another lender can apply for the Family Deposit Mortgage, on condition that the buyer receiving the funds takes out a loan from the building society’s standard mortgage range.

All of the additional sum raised must be provided as a fully gifted deposit, with those gifting the money able to access up to a total mortgage borrowing of 80 per cent loan-to-value.

The scheme is also open to those with no current mortgage on their homes and those in receipt of retirement income.

With the average first-time buyer deposit currently stood at £28,200 in the UK as a whole and £65,600 in London, the product will help the growing number of buyers relying on other family members for assistance when purchasing a property.

Nationwide’s head of mortgages Henry Jordan said: “Our Family Deposit Mortgage range has been launched in recognition of customer demand for a flexible and accessible way to use the wealth tied up in people’s homes.

"The aim is to help not only first-time buyers but also home movers to secure their own property.

"We know that trying to raise a deposit can be the most significant barrier to becoming a home owner.

"This Nationwide range will enable families to give mutual support to each other and provide new options for home ownership.”

Tony Salentino, director at Southampton-based Complete FS, said: “Anything that helps first-time buyers get on the property ladder is a good thing.

“We have a nation now of people in their 50s that have high equity and good assets, but their poor kids can’t even get on the ladder - so anything ‘out of the box’ has to be encouraged.

“We need to get away from the old style of thinking about deposits. We are in a different world now and have to think outside the box.”

Credit: Financial Times
Hour Glass

Financial advisers predict they will, on average, continue to receive defined benefit pension transfer enquiries for a further nine years.

According to research carried out by Investec, which involved 108 advisers, two thirds of those surveyed expect client enquiries about transfers from DB to defined contribution schemes to increase over the next 12 months, with almost one fifth expecting a significant increase.

Only 2 per cent of advisers surveyed expected a fall in enquiries.

The survey also sought to find out why many advisers decline to give DB transfer advice.

The Investec data show 71 per cent of advisers consider the risks associated with historic advice are too high while 47 per cent say the process is complex and clients do not like paying the necessary fees.

Nearly half (45 per cent) of advisers consider there is a lack of regulatory support.

Investec Wealth and Investment intermediary services head Mark Stevens says: “DB scheme transfers have increased the opportunities for IFAs to advise new clients on their pensions and broader financial needs. However, it’s a fast-changing market and the complexities and risks involved mean that in many cases discretionary investment managers are integral to the effective management of client portfolios.”


Theresa May

Now the UK has started the legal process to divorce from the European Union, investment professionals and economists have outlined what this could mean for investors.

Prime minister Theresa May has triggered Article 50 today (29 March), which sets the ball rolling for the UK to unravel from the European Union.

Investment veterans have given their view on what the Brexit negotiations could mean for currency and assets.

Richard Stone, chief executive of the Share Centre, said he thought the value of the pound would continue to sag over the next two years, particularly if the Bank of England is tempted to keep interest rates low to support the economy.

He said keeping interest rates low should boost asset prices, including housing, as investors try to prevent the erosion of their cash.

Personal investors, Mr Stone said, should identify businesses likely to benefit from weaker sterling, such as FTSE firms that have large-scale overseas operations and which earn revenues in other currencies.

“For investors, now is the time for calm heads and a clear sense of purpose as we strive for the best deal possible with the EU and new beneficial deals with partners around the world.”

Michelle McGrade, chief investment officer of TD Direct Investing, said investors need to stop being blinkered by politics and should instead focus on the fundamentals, such as market confidence, unemployment, and inflation.

She pointed out that the recovery in Europe is gaining momentum and questioned whether the Dutch election is the catalyst European markets needed.

Research from TD Direct found investors were divided on whether triggering Article 50 will have a positive impact on their portfolios.

Ian Ormiston, fund manager of Old Mutual’s European Smaller Companies fund, said: “Investing in European equities is not the same as investing in Europe."

This comes as figures published yesterday (28 March) revealed that European equity funds had suffered the worst outflows in the nine months since the Brexit vote.

“No one knows how key political events are going to transpire, just as no one knows what the stock market’s reaction to those events is likely to be," Mr Ormiston said.

"As investors, let’s try to stick to the knitting and focus on company fundamentals.”

John Bennett, head of European equities at Henderson Global Investors, said a market shift towards value rather than growth stocks could work in Europe’s favour, particularly as the Continent is home to many value stocks.

He said he accelerated this tilt towards value in the second half of 2016.

Mr Bennett, who also runs the Henderson European Selected Opportunities fund, said he was particularly keen on European banks, despite the sector being “very easy to dislike”. 

“History shows that investing in European banks would have been a spectacularly wrong call from 2008 until recently, but we feel a combination of vastly improved capital ratios and a turning point in interest rate expectations has made the industry once again investable.”

Hetal Mehta, European economist at Legal & General Investment Management, said: “So far, Brexit has not been so bad for the UK economy.”

She said she thought it was unlikely that initiating the formal process would cause a material economic downturn, adding: “The main danger is around the nature of the negotiations, and the shifting risks around the UK. 

“However, if the discussions are well-mannered and make good progress, the risks should diminish and we believe that the BoE could turn markedly hawkish as a result.”

Yet Michael Stanes, investment director at Heartwood Investment Management, said the start of the negotiations means the hard work now begins for the UK.

“Triggering Article 50 no doubt marks a period of ongoing uncertainty for UK business and markets, but perhaps there is also some relief that the process is finally underway.” 

Mr Stanes said his firm continues to be cautious on UK assets and expects higher inflation to weigh on real income growth this year.

Credit: Financial Times
IHT Allowance

The residence nil rate band (RNRB), which comes into force over the next three tax years from 6 April, in a nutshell will enable couples with a home to pass on up to £1 million to their direct family free of inheritance tax. 

But a survey by Old Mutual Wealth found an alarming level of ignorance about the RNRB. Seventy per cent of respondents knew nothing about the new rule, and even among those who considered themselves knowledgeable got some of the details wrong.  

As things stand, the first £325,000 of someone’s estate is free of inheritance tax – an allowance known as the nil rate band (NRB). The new allowance will mean that someone who owns a home has an extra chunk of tax-free allowance. For estates worth more than £2 million the new allowance will be gradually tapered away

However, it’s not a straightforward increase, and the survey revealed confusion over a number of aspects of the RNRB. ‘The lack of understanding around the new rules could result in people not structuring their will or their financial affairs in the most effective way,’ commented Old Mutual Wealth financial planning expert Rachel Griffin. 

Here are the five areas of greatest misunderstanding: 


Forty-five per cent of respondents did not realise the RNRB can be applied to any property (in or outside the UK) that has been used as a home by the deceased. ‘However, it does have to be within the scope of IHT, and the property or the value from the property must be included in the person’s estate,’ says Griffin. 


Forty-five per cent did not know the RNRB can be set against the value of a home that has previously been sold. That means people who have downsized or sold out of the market altogether are not penalised, as the allowance can be used within their estate against the value of their former family home. 


‘The value of the home for RNRB purposes is the open market value of the property minus any liabilities secured on it, such as a mortgage,’ explains Griffin. Two fifths of respondents were not aware of this. 


More than a third (36 per cent) did not understand that the property must be inherited by the child, grandchild or other direct descendant of the person who has died, or a direct descendant’s spouse or civil partner. ‘It’s important to note that direct descendants don’t include siblings, nieces and nephews or other relatives,’ adds Griffin. 


Almost a third were not aware that the RNRB is set to increase from £100,000 per person in 2017/18, rising by £25,000 per tax year to £175,000 in 2020/21. 

Given the potential for confusion over the new allowance, and the amount of tax that could potentially be saved by applying it correctly, the finding suggest expert advice makes sense for anyone thinking about estate planning, writing a will or restructuring their financial affairs.


Credit: Money Observer
Reinvent the wheel on pensions?

Advisers are being warned to brace themselves for another year of disruptive pensions policy which could see the idea of long-term savings turned on its head.

Reform of pension tax relief is thought to be “almost inevitable” as the Government looks for substantial cost savings against the backdrop of Brexit negotiations and the potential impact on the UK’s growth prospects.

Mark Carney

The Bank of England no longer thinks Brexit is the largest domestic risk to UK financial stability, according to governor Mark Carney.

Carney told the Commons Treasury Committee yesterday that the main threat came from four areas: growing consumer credit, a weaker commercial real estate market, the fall in sterling and the deficit in current accounts.


Labour has pledged to uphold the state pension triple lock until 2025.

The commitment comes on the back of Office for National Statistics figures earlier this week showing that pensioner incomes rose significantly more than working population households since the financial crisis.

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