Our mission is to help our clients and their families achieve more with their resources, positively impacting their own lives and the lives of their loved ones and creating a better future in a world worth living in.

For more than 20 years we have been helping clients and their families accomplish their dreams. Through developing meaningful and enduring relationships, we are able to help our clients consider their true aspirations and then create a financial roadmap to help them reach those goals. Our strategies reflect our understanding that no two clients are the same and each financial plan is tailored to individual needs, underpinned by our desire to support our clients live happy and fulfilled lives.

Meet the Team

“Having the right team is fundamental to us delivering a service beyond our client’s expectations. Every one of our team is a specialist in what they do but most importantly, they are specialists in people.” David Penney, Chief Executive

David Penney

CEO & Founder

David Penney

CEO & Founder

David was just 28 when he became one of the youngest Partners with St. James’s Place. In the two and a half decades that followed, he created a responsible small business that became carbon neutral in 2021 and cares about the communities that it serves. The Penney team now look after £300m of investment for more than 700 families. His personal expertise is Intergenerational wealth, tax and estate planning and ensuring the well-being of all his clients. David is also a staunch advocate for better financial education in schools, in order for young people to learn good habits early in life. Outside of work he is a keen supporter of many charities and has raised thousands of pounds alongside his wife Beverley for Supporting Nepal’s Children.

Will Harrison

Senior Financial Consultant & Director

Will Harrison

Senior Financial Consultant & Director

Will is a proud Yorkshireman who started his career with one of the large life insurance companies before working for an IFA as a stepping-stone to establishing his own business in 2010 and aligning with St. James’s Place in 2012. The privilege of building potentially life-changing relationships with clients and helping to demystify complex financial situations is what makes Will tick. A Chartered Financial Planner, he will often draw pictures for clients as he helps them through their retirement planning, the latest pension legislation or effective tax strategies. His passion for providing clear and straightforward advice for his clients is matched only by his love of travelling with his young family and sport, having played cricket for Yorkshire and rugby for Sale and England Sevens in a previous life.

Sam Johnston

Financial Consultant

Sam Johnston

Financial Consultant

A graduate of the prestigious St. James’s Place Academy, Sam is passionate about creating effective, efficient and relatable financial plans for his clients. Based in our Cheltenham office, Sam has a particular focus working with contractors and helping them gain financial clarity, certainty and security in what can be an uncertain world. Passionate about sport and fundraising, he has helped raise more than £30,000 through numerous golf days and a white-collar boxing bout.

David Penney

CEO & Founder

David was just 28 when he became one of the youngest Partners with St. James’s Place. In the two and a half decades that followed, he created a responsible small business that became carbon neutral in 2021 and cares about the communities that it serves. The Penney team now look after £300m of investment for more than 700 families. His personal expertise is Intergenerational wealth, tax and estate planning and ensuring the well-being of all his clients. David is also a staunch advocate for better financial education in schools, in order for young people to learn good habits early in life. Outside of work he is a keen supporter of many charities and has raised thousands of pounds alongside his wife Beverley for Supporting Nepal’s Children.

Will Harrison

Senior Financial Consultant & Director

Will is a proud Yorkshireman who started his career with one of the large life insurance companies before working for an IFA as a stepping-stone to establishing his own business in 2010 and aligning with St. James’s Place in 2012. The privilege of building potentially life-changing relationships with clients and helping to demystify complex financial situations is what makes Will tick. A Chartered Financial Planner, he will often draw pictures for clients as he helps them through their retirement planning, the latest pension legislation or effective tax strategies. His passion for providing clear and straightforward advice for his clients is matched only by his love of travelling with his young family and sport, having played cricket for Yorkshire and rugby for Sale and England Sevens in a previous life.

Sam Johnston

Financial Consultant

A graduate of the prestigious St. James’s Place Academy, Sam is passionate about creating effective, efficient and relatable financial plans for his clients. Based in our Cheltenham office, Sam has a particular focus working with contractors and helping them gain financial clarity, certainty and security in what can be an uncertain world. Passionate about sport and fundraising, he has helped raise more than £30,000 through numerous golf days and a white-collar boxing bout.

Dan Salt

Financial Consultant

Dan Salt

Financial Consultant

Dan graduated from the University of Nottingham with a mathematics degree, before joining Penney Financial Partners as a Paraplanner in 2016, as a stepping stone to becoming a Financial Consultant. Since then, he has studied hard to become a Fellow of the Personal Finance Society,considered the most prestigious level of professional achievement for those working in the financial services industry.

When not thinking about his clients, Dan will be thinking about sport. If he’s not out on the road putting in the miles in preparation for various half marathons, he will be playing tennis or golf, taking part in Olympic Weightlifting, or spending time in his role as a volunteer football coach for Walsall Football Club.

Helping others is part of Dan’s DNA. He has raised considerable amounts of money for good causes over the years and is currently supporting the Shrewsbury based charity, Village Water, who aim to provide lasting, local solutions to reach everyone with water, sanitation and hygiene.

Ryan Smith

Financial Consultant

Ryan Smith

Financial Consultant

A graduate of the prestigious St. James’s Place Academy, Ryan is a self-proclaimed petrol head with a love for everything automotive. Having initially studied engineering, he brings that same analytical approach to financial planning, referring to it as ‘financial engineering’, the art of finding simple solutions to complex problems.

With his background in engineering and a passion for motorsport, perhaps it isn’t surprising to learn that if he had a super-power, it would be extreme speed – so he could play his guitar faster.

Becky Furber

Financial Consultant

Becky Furber

Financial Consultant

Rebecca is a talented and energetic financial consultant who is driven by a passion for empowering her clients. Having previously held senior roles over almost 20 years in hospitality sector before embarking on a career in financial services, Rebecca understands the importance of listening in being able to deliver the best possible outcomes for her clients.

Rebecca is particularly focused on supporting and encouraging more women to seek financial advice and providing them with the freedom, strength and security that can be achieved through the right guidance. She is also a specialist in issues around long-term care and later life planning.

Dan Salt

Financial Consultant

Dan graduated from the University of Nottingham with a mathematics degree, before joining Penney Financial Partners as a Paraplanner in 2016, as a stepping stone to becoming a Financial Consultant. Since then, he has studied hard to become a Fellow of the Personal Finance Society,considered the most prestigious level of professional achievement for those working in the financial services industry.

When not thinking about his clients, Dan will be thinking about sport. If he’s not out on the road putting in the miles in preparation for various half marathons, he will be playing tennis or golf, taking part in Olympic Weightlifting, or spending time in his role as a volunteer football coach for Walsall Football Club.

Helping others is part of Dan’s DNA. He has raised considerable amounts of money for good causes over the years and is currently supporting the Shrewsbury based charity, Village Water, who aim to provide lasting, local solutions to reach everyone with water, sanitation and hygiene.

Ryan Smith

Financial Consultant

A graduate of the prestigious St. James’s Place Academy, Ryan is a self-proclaimed petrol head with a love for everything automotive. Having initially studied engineering, he brings that same analytical approach to financial planning, referring to it as ‘financial engineering’, the art of finding simple solutions to complex problems.

With his background in engineering and a passion for motorsport, perhaps it isn’t surprising to learn that if he had a super-power, it would be extreme speed – so he could play his guitar faster.

Becky Furber

Financial Consultant

Rebecca is a talented and energetic financial consultant who is driven by a passion for empowering her clients. Having previously held senior roles over almost 20 years in hospitality sector before embarking on a career in financial services, Rebecca understands the importance of listening in being able to deliver the best possible outcomes for her clients.

Rebecca is particularly focused on supporting and encouraging more women to seek financial advice and providing them with the freedom, strength and security that can be achieved through the right guidance. She is also a specialist in issues around long-term care and later life planning.

Thomas Kelly

Head of Client Relationships

Thomas Kelly

Head of Client Relationships

Apart from some youthful fishmongery, Thomas has clocked more than 30 years in the financial services sector. In his early career Thomas worked in retail banking before working for an IFA where he was technical manager for 12 years. Prior to joining the practice, Thomas worked for a specialist pensions provider as its Head of Operations. Today Thomas is the engine room of our business – helping drive everyone towards the goals and targets that we set ourselves. Ensuring that every colleague has the right support – be it technical, practical or emotional – at the right time is what gets him out of bed in the morning. He is also a quiz stalwart and is a longstanding charity quiz night organiser and compere.

Rob Hawkins

Business Development Consultant

Rob Hawkins

Business Development Consultant

Rob is another colleague with a strong St. James’s Place Wealth Management pedigree having enjoyed a successful 23-year career at the firm. His most recent role at St. James’s Place was as Head of Division Private Clients but prior to that he held a number of positions across the business including in training & development and communications. A Cotswold resident for more than a quarter of a century, Rob has brought his extensive client experience and local knowledge to help develop our Cheltenham office, which was opened in 2019. Joining Penney Financial Partners was not the only exciting recent appointment for Rob having also secured a volunteering role at the Cotswold Wildlife Park where he is learning a good deal about lemurs.

Dave Lardner

Senior Technical Consultant

Dave Lardner

Senior Technical Consultant

Whether it’s cleaning his car (or his neighbour’s) or working with clients to help them meet their financial objectives, for Dave it is very much about the detail.

Over a career spanning almost a quarter of a century – including 16 years at St. James’s Place’s head office in Cirencester - Dave has developed a specialist skillset having worked in a range of areas and roles including product development, advice, compliance and operational management with a particular proficiency in Tax, Trusts and Estate Planning.

In his role with us at Penney Financial Partners, Dave supports the consultants in building and maintaining client relationships through his expertise in navigating complex technical matters and building advice for clients in line with regulatory and corporate principles.

Outside of work he enjoys nothing more than spending time with his son Dexter and walking his dog Norman – oh, and obviously keeping the car spotless!

Thomas Kelly

Head of Client Relationships

Apart from some youthful fishmongery, Thomas has clocked more than 30 years in the financial services sector. In his early career Thomas worked in retail banking before working for an IFA where he was technical manager for 12 years. Prior to joining the practice, Thomas worked for a specialist pensions provider as its Head of Operations. Today Thomas is the engine room of our business – helping drive everyone towards the goals and targets that we set ourselves. Ensuring that every colleague has the right support – be it technical, practical or emotional – at the right time is what gets him out of bed in the morning. He is also a quiz stalwart and is a longstanding charity quiz night organiser and compere.

Rob Hawkins

Business Development Consultant

Rob is another colleague with a strong St. James’s Place Wealth Management pedigree having enjoyed a successful 23-year career at the firm. His most recent role at St. James’s Place was as Head of Division Private Clients but prior to that he held a number of positions across the business including in training & development and communications. A Cotswold resident for more than a quarter of a century, Rob has brought his extensive client experience and local knowledge to help develop our Cheltenham office, which was opened in 2019. Joining Penney Financial Partners was not the only exciting recent appointment for Rob having also secured a volunteering role at the Cotswold Wildlife Park where he is learning a good deal about lemurs.

Dave Lardner

Senior Technical Consultant

Whether it’s cleaning his car (or his neighbour’s) or working with clients to help them meet their financial objectives, for Dave it is very much about the detail.

Over a career spanning almost a quarter of a century – including 16 years at St. James’s Place’s head office in Cirencester - Dave has developed a specialist skillset having worked in a range of areas and roles including product development, advice, compliance and operational management with a particular proficiency in Tax, Trusts and Estate Planning.

In his role with us at Penney Financial Partners, Dave supports the consultants in building and maintaining client relationships through his expertise in navigating complex technical matters and building advice for clients in line with regulatory and corporate principles.

Outside of work he enjoys nothing more than spending time with his son Dexter and walking his dog Norman – oh, and obviously keeping the car spotless!

Nina Sahota

Client Services Lead

Nina Sahota

Client Services Lead

Nobody can doubt’s Nina’s pedigree when it comes to understanding the business, having worked under the St. James’s Place umbrella since graduating with her Law LLB Hons degree from the University of Birmingham in 2000. She initially worked for another Partner Practice when the company had just changed from J Rothschild Assurance to St. James’s Place and two years later, she joined The David Penney Practice - and has been with us ever since. Nina is responsible for the overall delivery of client service and there is not a computer yet invented that will diminish her passion for interacting and assisting our clients. In short, if our clients are happy then Nina’s happy.

Megan Ward

Advice Support Lead

Megan Ward

Advice Support Lead

Megan was potentially destined to one day join the practice, having enjoyed a number of work experience spells during her school and college days. Although passionate about art, Megan decided a career in financial services was for her and having received the top grade for her paraplanning qualification, she now has her sights set firmly on joining the Consultant team.

Although she is currently working her way through the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning exams to be able to advise clients directly in the near future, she can still be found with a paintbrush and easel when winding down, or learning to play the electric guitar.

Linda Askey

Executive Assistant to David Penney

Linda Askey

Executive Assistant to David Penney

Linda has worked with David for 18 years in a variety of different roles and is currently acting as his Executive Assistant, where she is able to put all of her knowledge and experience to good use. The constant that runs through all of her roles is strong client relationships, making her an invaluable asset for the smooth running of the practice. In a previous life Linda worked as a legal executive with experience across a range of specialisms including family law, commercial law, wills & trusts. Outside work you will find her with the grandchildren, or playing golf, although unfortunately not yet at the same time.

Nina Sahota

Client Services Lead

Nobody can doubt’s Nina’s pedigree when it comes to understanding the business, having worked under the St. James’s Place umbrella since graduating with her Law LLB Hons degree from the University of Birmingham in 2000. She initially worked for another Partner Practice when the company had just changed from J Rothschild Assurance to St. James’s Place and two years later, she joined The David Penney Practice - and has been with us ever since. Nina is responsible for the overall delivery of client service and there is not a computer yet invented that will diminish her passion for interacting and assisting our clients. In short, if our clients are happy then Nina’s happy.

Megan Ward

Advice Support Lead

Megan was potentially destined to one day join the practice, having enjoyed a number of work experience spells during her school and college days. Although passionate about art, Megan decided a career in financial services was for her and having received the top grade for her paraplanning qualification, she now has her sights set firmly on joining the Consultant team.

Although she is currently working her way through the Diploma in Regulated Financial Planning exams to be able to advise clients directly in the near future, she can still be found with a paintbrush and easel when winding down, or learning to play the electric guitar.

Linda Askey

Executive Assistant to David Penney

Linda has worked with David for 18 years in a variety of different roles and is currently acting as his Executive Assistant, where she is able to put all of her knowledge and experience to good use. The constant that runs through all of her roles is strong client relationships, making her an invaluable asset for the smooth running of the practice. In a previous life Linda worked as a legal executive with experience across a range of specialisms including family law, commercial law, wills & trusts. Outside work you will find her with the grandchildren, or playing golf, although unfortunately not yet at the same time.

Sonia Choudhury-Mills

Advice Support Specialist

Sonia Choudhury-Mills

Advice Support Specialist

Sonia enjoys working for Penney Financial Partners so much, that she has recently returned for her second spell at the company! Sonia first worked in the client experience team before relocating to a different part of the country, safe in the knowledge that she would always be welcomed back to the Penney family.

In the intervening years, Sonia continued to work in financial services, including working with another St. James’s Place Partner Practice and then in 2021 Sonia returned to join the advice support team, based in our Cheltenham office.

Using her extensive experience working for both St. James’s Place and a number of independent financial advisors, Sonia’s day to day focus is identifying, targeting and managing advice business opportunities and ensuring that new and existing clients are receiving the high-quality advice that they need. When not working, Sonia can be found in the garden tending to her fruit and vegetables and staying away from all the distractions of modern technology.

JUDY DAVIES

Front of House & Client Services Specialist

JUDY DAVIES

Front of House & Client Services Specialist

In many ways, Judy is the face and voice of Penney Financial Partners as it’s often her beaming smile and dulcet Californian tones that will be the first thing visitors see and hear when they visit our Shrewsbury office. Having spent almost 30 years working for the Motion Picture Group at Universal Studios in the Golden State, Judy knows a thing or two about customer service and if her infectious warmth and good humour could be bottled then it would be a best seller. When she’s not facilitating a smoothly run practice, Judy is busy exploring the country she now calls home.

BEV PENNEY

Client Services Specialist

BEV PENNEY

Client Services Specialist

If you have an emergency, then look no further than Bev – as a former 999 operator she is well versed in getting to the nub of the problem and putting the wheels of a solution in motion. Thankfully emergencies are few and far between at Penney Financial Partners so she is able to concentrate her efforts elsewhere, such as assisting with events, seminars and financial education initiatives as well as supporting the development of the practice’s social media output. Outside work she is passionate about animals and is currently embarked on a lifelong mission to get the family dogs to do as they are asked.

Sonia Choudhury-Mills

Advice Support Specialist

Sonia enjoys working for Penney Financial Partners so much, that she has recently returned for her second spell at the company! Sonia first worked in the client experience team before relocating to a different part of the country, safe in the knowledge that she would always be welcomed back to the Penney family.

In the intervening years, Sonia continued to work in financial services, including working with another St. James’s Place Partner Practice and then in 2021 Sonia returned to join the advice support team, based in our Cheltenham office.

Using her extensive experience working for both St. James’s Place and a number of independent financial advisors, Sonia’s day to day focus is identifying, targeting and managing advice business opportunities and ensuring that new and existing clients are receiving the high-quality advice that they need. When not working, Sonia can be found in the garden tending to her fruit and vegetables and staying away from all the distractions of modern technology.

JUDY DAVIES

Front of House & Client Services Specialist

In many ways, Judy is the face and voice of Penney Financial Partners as it’s often her beaming smile and dulcet Californian tones that will be the first thing visitors see and hear when they visit our Shrewsbury office. Having spent almost 30 years working for the Motion Picture Group at Universal Studios in the Golden State, Judy knows a thing or two about customer service and if her infectious warmth and good humour could be bottled then it would be a best seller. When she’s not facilitating a smoothly run practice, Judy is busy exploring the country she now calls home.

BEV PENNEY

Client Services Specialist

If you have an emergency, then look no further than Bev – as a former 999 operator she is well versed in getting to the nub of the problem and putting the wheels of a solution in motion. Thankfully emergencies are few and far between at Penney Financial Partners so she is able to concentrate her efforts elsewhere, such as assisting with events, seminars and financial education initiatives as well as supporting the development of the practice’s social media output. Outside work she is passionate about animals and is currently embarked on a lifelong mission to get the family dogs to do as they are asked.

Di Harrison

Client Services Specialist

Di Harrison

Client Services Specialist

Di’s first career was as a marketeer in the financial and healthcare sectors, latterly as Marketing Manager at Allied Healthcare. Her second career has been to raise her two young children while also providing administrative support for the senior Consultant team at the practice. Her greatest desire is to develop the magic powers of her children’s favourite TV character Nanny Plum so she could swish her wand to tidy up, cook and clean. Until then however, the Consultants will have to continue to do it themselves.

Samantha Capener

Executive Assistant

Samantha Capener

Executive Assistant

Sam was a legal secretary before joining the Penney team and co-ordinating client meetings, managing busy consultant schedules, helping with research and running client events are all in a day’s work. To unwind she can often be found striding out across the mountains of Snowdonia or slightly less energetically, pottering in the garden. If the day is concluded with something French and a good bottle of Châteauneuf du Pape then you will hear no complaints from Sam.

Alun Thorne

Communications Consultant

Alun Thorne

Communications Consultant

Alun is an aging raver and former journalist who in a previous life edited some of the UK’s leading regional newspapers before embarking on a career in communications. After five years as global head of public relations for a major international architect’s practice, Alun established his own consultancy and now helps clients from across the public and private sector get their messages across. In his diminishing spare time, he is passionate about grassroots football, managing both a boys and girls team as well as being club secretary for Shrewsbury’s largest youth football club.

Di Harrison

Client Services Specialist

Di’s first career was as a marketeer in the financial and healthcare sectors, latterly as Marketing Manager at Allied Healthcare. Her second career has been to raise her two young children while also providing administrative support for the senior Consultant team at the practice. Her greatest desire is to develop the magic powers of her children’s favourite TV character Nanny Plum so she could swish her wand to tidy up, cook and clean. Until then however, the Consultants will have to continue to do it themselves.

Samantha Capener

Executive Assistant

Sam was a legal secretary before joining the Penney team and co-ordinating client meetings, managing busy consultant schedules, helping with research and running client events are all in a day’s work. To unwind she can often be found striding out across the mountains of Snowdonia or slightly less energetically, pottering in the garden. If the day is concluded with something French and a good bottle of Châteauneuf du Pape then you will hear no complaints from Sam.

Alun Thorne

Communications Consultant

Alun is an aging raver and former journalist who in a previous life edited some of the UK’s leading regional newspapers before embarking on a career in communications. After five years as global head of public relations for a major international architect’s practice, Alun established his own consultancy and now helps clients from across the public and private sector get their messages across. In his diminishing spare time, he is passionate about grassroots football, managing both a boys and girls team as well as being club secretary for Shrewsbury’s largest youth football club.

CREATING A BETTER FUTURE IN A WORLD WORTH LIVING IN

Join the Team

We want Penney Financial Partners to be a vibrant, inclusive community where difference is recognised as a strength. As part of this focus, we seek to foster an inclusive culture where everyone has clarity of purpose and feels valued as we all strive towards a common goal.

We strongly believe in investing in our people and nurturing talent and our training and mentorship is focused not just on driving your professional growth but also helping you explore the barriers to diversity in the workplace and how you can support us build an inclusive culture for everyone.

Join the Team

Experienced Financial Consultants

Candidates should be qualified to at least Diploma-level, possess a strong technical knowledge and have excellent client-facing skills. There is significant potential on offer for the right candidates with a competitive base salary plus performance related pay.

Contact us
Paraplanners / Trainee Consultants

Previous financial experience is required for potential candidates and you will be Diploma qualified or working towards. Key attributes include attention to detail, an aptitude for technical matters and a willingness to learn. Salary is negotiable depending on experience.

Contact us
Client Services / Administration

Ideal candidates will have strong people, computer and organisational skills. Experience in a professional office environment is essential and knowledge of the financial services sector preferable but training can be provided. Salary is negotiable depending on experience.

Contact us

PENNEYTALKS

When it comes to relationships, we believe communication is everything.

Connecting the Dots

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Connecting the Dots

Connecting the dots is a big deal for us at Penney Financial Partners. The dots are all the things that are important to you and only when we can draw lines between them are we able to reveal and then deliver the life that you want to live. As part of this philosophy, we are committed to providing you with regular, engaging, high quality and occasionally thought-provoking information that we hope will help you in your quest to connect the dots.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward

So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever

This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life

Steve Jobs

Connecting the Dots videos
Our Connecting the Dots videos are designed to support you along your life journey, whether that is providing practical issues to consider from a financial perspective, important new initiatives from the practice or more philosophical themes that might make you contemplate your outlook on life a little differently.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH MORE >

Webinars

Join our regular webinars where we aim to inform and inspire in equal measure.

More

Webinars

Join our regular webinars where we aim to inform and inspire in equal measure.
SOCIAL MEDIA

Follow us today for all the latest news, views and insights from Penney Financial Partners.

More

Social Media

As part of our commitment to continually improving our communication with clients we expanded our social media channels - so make sure to follow us for all the latest news, views and insights from Penney Financial Partners.

Connecting the Dots

Connecting the dots is a big deal for us at Penney Financial Partners. The dots are all the things that are important to you and only when we can draw lines between them are we able to reveal and then deliver the life that you want to live. As part of this philosophy, we are committed to providing you with regular, engaging, high quality and occasionally thought-provoking information that we hope will help you in your quest to connect the dots.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward

So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever

This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life

Steve Jobs

Connecting the Dots videos
Our Connecting the Dots videos are designed to support you along your life journey, whether that is providing practical issues to consider from a financial perspective, important new initiatives from the practice or more philosophical themes that might make you contemplate your outlook on life a little differently.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH MORE >

Webinars

Join our regular webinars where we aim to inform and inspire in equal measure.

Social Media

As part of our commitment to continually improving our communication with clients we expanded our social media channels - so make sure to follow us for all the latest news, views and insights from Penney Financial Partners.

The Dots

Some regular thoughts on things you might like to know.

Has the time come for us to siesta?

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Has the time come for us to siesta?

By David Penney

The meteorological events of the last week have been something of a wake-up call.

Regardless of your thoughts on how we reached this point, what is absolutely clear is that we should no longer be talking about climate change in the future tense. 

As has been well reported, on Tuesday we experienced the highest ever temperatures in the UK with England recording a temperature above 40 degrees for the first time - an increase of almost two degrees from the previous record. 

If you break this down across the regions, this week’s temperatures are even more remarkable, with the new record in Wales more than four degrees higher than the previous highest temperature. 

These temperature rises are the result of just an average one-degree global rise in temperatures and so even if humanity is able to keep global rises to 1.5 degrees as per the 2015 Paris Agreement - which will be a huge challenge in itself - we need to accept that the UK must now adapt to the reality of a much warmer future.

In terms of achieving the global temperature target of 1.5 degrees, we must all play our part and hopefully after the experience of this week, redouble our efforts.

I have talked before about our own commitment at Penney Financial Partners to reducing our carbon footprint as well as our own individual responsibilities when it comes to living more sustainable lives.

However, while businesses should be looking at every opportunity to become carbon neutral in the future as a bare minimum, we must also be looking at the best ways to mitigate the temperatures that are already here, and likely to increase in the years ahead.

There has not been any reliable data yet about the impact on productivity of the extreme temperatures from Monday and Tuesday, but I think we can safely assume that it fell off a cliff.

With less than five per cent of homes in the UK having air conditioning, those many millions still working from home either part or full time would have had had few opportunities to escape the worst of the heat.

Ironically, the best place to be on Monday or Tuesday was probably in an air-conditioned office but with melting tarmac, multiple car fires and buckling rail tracks, good luck getting into the office – or for many who did make it in, getting home.

An oft heard response to the general weather-induced chaos this week has been to bemoan our inability as a society to manage the challenges of extreme heat, when many of our European neighbours seem to manage just fine, never mind those living in further flung climes where extreme temperatures have long been the norm.

The reality is of course that we are not prepared for these temperatures because we have never had to. Our infrastructure is not built to withstand such heat and neither is our own physiology.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that humans do eventually adapt to hot climates as the blood concentrations of water and salt adjust to allow greater cooling but this happens over a period of weeks or months – if heatwaves come in short bursts then our bodies will continue to suffer.

It would seem that if we are going to manage the impact of climate change and these extreme weather events then we are going to have to consider practical changes to how we work otherwise accept productivity will suffer as a result – something that can probably be absorbed in the short term but not really a long-term solution.

The truth is that it may well be the time for us to consider switching to a more Mediterranean approach to working hours and working environments to ensure that we can properly function during the hot summer months.

Workplace design will become increasingly important with more trees and shaded spaces to keep people cool and hybrid indoor/outdoor spaces such as courtyards, verandas and colonnades that are a key aspect of continental office design.

Office air-conditioning is an absolute pre-requisite but with their high energy consumption, the argument for investing in renewable energy such as solar panels really has never been stronger. 

And when it comes to the working day itself, perhaps the time has come for us to consider the siesta model where people start work earlier, and often work later, but engage in restful activities during the hottest hours of the afternoon.

It may seem a little extreme to be thinking in these terms after just two days of extreme heat and considering the strength of the debate around working from home, the likelihood of employers buying into a work pattern where staff disappear for three hours for a lie down does currently seem a little fanciful.

However, if the next heatwave comes along and lasts for a week or two at temperatures even greater than we experienced this week, the wake-up call could be the ones we are giving our colleagues in the late afternoon to come back to work. 

We all leave a legacy – let’s make it a valuable one

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We all leave a legacy – let’s make it a valuable one

By David Penney

Over the coming weeks we are going to be hearing a good deal about legacy. You could hardly miss the wall-to-wall coverage of the England women’s football team or the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and yet much of the focus has not just been about success today but the contribution both will make to future generations. Indeed, it is interesting that while social media has been awash with clips and memes from the Lionesses’ superb semi-final win against the Swedes, the video that has gathered the most attention is of pundit Ian Wright talking about how the current tournament will only be viewed as a success if its legacy is more girls playing football at school. For the organisers of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the importance of legacy has been clear from the outset with the local council publishing a legacy plan in 2021 that detailed how the investment in the event would be used to benefit the people of the city for years to come. The truth is that legacy matters, whether for sporting events like the Commonwealth Games or for our own businesses and personal lives. Legacy is about putting a stamp on the future, and it is nothing more than human nature that we want to leave a legacy because we want to feel that our lives and the things that we did throughout it mattered. Legacy can mean different things to different people and every one of us has the opportunity to decide what we want our legacy to be. It could be something as unspoken as how we raise our children and watching them grow into fine upstanding citizens, leaving a financial legacy for future family generations or it could be something that has a far wider impact. However, at the heart of understanding how to leave a positive legacy, we first have to have a sense of purpose. Our purpose in life is as unique to us as our fingerprint and it is the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning, that thing that drives us forward. It is life’s long game rather than our short-term goals. Establishing a clear sense of purpose is not always easy and so often your purpose will be related to things that you are interested in and the things that bring you happiness. In Japan, this concept is known as ikigai, literally translated as following your joy, and is an increasingly important concept when it comes to understanding purpose and establishing what your future legacy could be. Without that clarity of purpose, it is easy to continue moving through life on autopilot and leaving your legacy to chance. By understanding your purpose, it is far more difficult to be knocked off course as you will always be clear which way is forward. By identifying, acknowledging and ultimately honouring your purpose, you have a far better chance to live the life that meets your own aspirations and provides you with the fulfilment that you crave – and ultimately the opportunity to create a meaningful legacy, whatever that might be. When it comes down to it, the harsh reality is that our legacy is all that we have. We cannot take our physical possessions with us and so people’s memories of us and the impact we have that persists beyond our physical existence is what will ultimately define us. The idea of legacy is a central theme within our own industry, working as we do with individuals and families to make intergenerational decisions that will provide a positive future legacy. It’s not always an easy process but we see time and again how people become much more comfortable with what the future may hold when they are committed to something positive that will live on after them. So whether your legacy is about your family, your business or a wider issue that you care deeply about, the process of leaving a legacy has to start now. Find your purpose and do those things that matter now rather than waiting for a more convenient moment – the old saying that we regret the things that we didn’t do rather than the things we did is often heard because it is true. Most importantly, follow your joy, whether that is in your personal or professional life – and if you are lucky it will be in both. Great legacies are not left by angry and unhappy people. Alfred Nobel, of Nobel Prize fame, only bequeathed his fortune to the celebration of innovation after a newspaper accidentally published an obituary about him rather than his recently deceased brother and described him as a ‘merchant of death’ for his work inventing dynamite. Unfortunately, none of us will get to read our own obituaries so in the coming weeks when you hear about the importance of legacy, think about what it is you want to be remembered for and take action to make it happen.

Leadership trumps all in the quest for success

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Leadership trumps all in the quest for success

By David Penney

The England cricket team is currently in the process of turning the sport on its head.

After years of slowly slipping down the world rankings and winning just one Test match in the last 17, they are currently looking like one of the most exciting teams to have ever played the game.

Today they have beaten India in a game in which they looked dead and buried after two days of play and over the last month they have whitewashed a New Zealand team who also just happen to be the current world champions.

To really understand how remarkable this turnaround in form and fortunes has been, one needs to just look at the records that have tumbled over the past month.

These include – and remember these records cover just short of 150 years of Test cricket – the second fastest century by an Englishman, the fastest ever opening century stand by England, the first time any team has successfully chased 250 in three consecutive matches (England have done it four times for good measure), the highest ever run chase by an England team and the ninth highest in the history of the game. 

There are even more records in terms of partnerships and speed of runs but I think the point is pretty well established – England have gone from a poor side who couldn’t buy a win to a team that is not just winning but setting new benchmarks that may potentially change forever how the game is played.

So the big question is of course, how have they done it?

Well the obvious and fairly straightforward answer to that question is leadership.

Two months ago the powers that be decided to bring in a new broom and replaced the team’s leadership, from the managing director of the England team, right down to the captain on the pitch, and from that moment on the records have not stopped tumbling. 

Whether we are talking about elite sport or a wealth management SME, the importance of mindset can never be under-estimated and the fact that the results of the last incredible six weeks have been achieved with those same players who have struggled for three years shows how important the right leadership can be. 

Central to this transformation has been the leadership of two men – the new England Coach Brendan McCullum and new England captain Ben Stokes. Both cricketers of the swashbuckling variety and certainly there was an assumption that England were likely to play a more expansive and aggressive brand of the game under their leadership.

But coming out and swinging the bat is hardly revelatory. Many teams have tried it before, and many teams have failed. Clearly, what has been instilled in this England team is much more than just the freedom to go out and play aggressively - they are playing with a confidence that suggests that they know they are going to win.

Through their actions and words, these leaders have created a mindset where their only thoughts are about winning. When asked about the fact that beating India would need the highest ever run chase at Edgbaston, Alex Lees said that this had never even entered the players’ minds.

As the great Roman poet Virgil so rightly stated, “They can because they think they can.”

What is clear is that first and foremost, McCullum and Stokes are people who lead by example. They are very much exponents of the ‘Be. Do. Say’ approach to leadership where talk alone is cheap, and actions have to match both your words and your underlying beliefs.

Through their leadership they have created an attitude where challenges are not things to be afraid of but opportunities to be faced head on – and that failure is not something to fear because it is not even being considered!

Strong leadership is a delicate balance between confidence and humility. People don’t tend to want to follow those who are weak or disengaged and are equally unlikely to want to follow those that are arrogant either.

In Stokes, the team have a leader who has what some might consider vulnerabilities, having taken time out of the team to manage his own mental health challenges, as well as the humility that comes from once being hit for four consecutive sixes in the final over to lose a World Cup final.

He has had to stand up and admit his own mistakes and shortcomings and this has enabled him to create an environment where those around him are able to do the same. Vulnerability is not a weakness when it comes to leadership but a superpower.

As leaders, Stokes and McCullum have also been decisive in their decision making and loyal to the existing team, breeding a confidence in the players that they can live up to new expectations. 

Just watching them in action, either on the pitch, on the balcony or in their media interviews, it is clear that they are genuine and authentic when it comes to other people’s success or failure, whatever the case may be. 

Every individual likes to feel seen and appreciated for the hard work they put in, even if they don’t achieve the results they desire. The players have all talked about the honesty of the conversations in the dressing room and the important feedback they receive, a vital trait in all strong leaders and a recognition that people can’t make the necessary change and improvements if they are not aware of their shortcomings.

Taking leadership lessons from the elite sports arena is certainly nothing new, indeed it was the former England cricket captain Mike Brearley who wrote the best seller The Art of Captaincy, which explored the principles of leadership and their relevance in both sport in business.

However, even Brearley may have struggled to envisage this monumental change in fortunes, a change that very clearly shows that with the right kind of leadership, whatever the arena, absolutely anything is possible. 

Has the time come for us to siesta?

By David Penney

The meteorological events of the last week have been something of a wake-up call.

Regardless of your thoughts on how we reached this point, what is absolutely clear is that we should no longer be talking about climate change in the future tense. 

As has been well reported, on Tuesday we experienced the highest ever temperatures in the UK with England recording a temperature above 40 degrees for the first time - an increase of almost two degrees from the previous record. 

If you break this down across the regions, this week’s temperatures are even more remarkable, with the new record in Wales more than four degrees higher than the previous highest temperature. 

These temperature rises are the result of just an average one-degree global rise in temperatures and so even if humanity is able to keep global rises to 1.5 degrees as per the 2015 Paris Agreement - which will be a huge challenge in itself - we need to accept that the UK must now adapt to the reality of a much warmer future.

In terms of achieving the global temperature target of 1.5 degrees, we must all play our part and hopefully after the experience of this week, redouble our efforts.

I have talked before about our own commitment at Penney Financial Partners to reducing our carbon footprint as well as our own individual responsibilities when it comes to living more sustainable lives.

However, while businesses should be looking at every opportunity to become carbon neutral in the future as a bare minimum, we must also be looking at the best ways to mitigate the temperatures that are already here, and likely to increase in the years ahead.

There has not been any reliable data yet about the impact on productivity of the extreme temperatures from Monday and Tuesday, but I think we can safely assume that it fell off a cliff.

With less than five per cent of homes in the UK having air conditioning, those many millions still working from home either part or full time would have had had few opportunities to escape the worst of the heat.

Ironically, the best place to be on Monday or Tuesday was probably in an air-conditioned office but with melting tarmac, multiple car fires and buckling rail tracks, good luck getting into the office – or for many who did make it in, getting home.

An oft heard response to the general weather-induced chaos this week has been to bemoan our inability as a society to manage the challenges of extreme heat, when many of our European neighbours seem to manage just fine, never mind those living in further flung climes where extreme temperatures have long been the norm.

The reality is of course that we are not prepared for these temperatures because we have never had to. Our infrastructure is not built to withstand such heat and neither is our own physiology.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that humans do eventually adapt to hot climates as the blood concentrations of water and salt adjust to allow greater cooling but this happens over a period of weeks or months – if heatwaves come in short bursts then our bodies will continue to suffer.

It would seem that if we are going to manage the impact of climate change and these extreme weather events then we are going to have to consider practical changes to how we work otherwise accept productivity will suffer as a result – something that can probably be absorbed in the short term but not really a long-term solution.

The truth is that it may well be the time for us to consider switching to a more Mediterranean approach to working hours and working environments to ensure that we can properly function during the hot summer months.

Workplace design will become increasingly important with more trees and shaded spaces to keep people cool and hybrid indoor/outdoor spaces such as courtyards, verandas and colonnades that are a key aspect of continental office design.

Office air-conditioning is an absolute pre-requisite but with their high energy consumption, the argument for investing in renewable energy such as solar panels really has never been stronger. 

And when it comes to the working day itself, perhaps the time has come for us to consider the siesta model where people start work earlier, and often work later, but engage in restful activities during the hottest hours of the afternoon.

It may seem a little extreme to be thinking in these terms after just two days of extreme heat and considering the strength of the debate around working from home, the likelihood of employers buying into a work pattern where staff disappear for three hours for a lie down does currently seem a little fanciful.

However, if the next heatwave comes along and lasts for a week or two at temperatures even greater than we experienced this week, the wake-up call could be the ones we are giving our colleagues in the late afternoon to come back to work. 

We all leave a legacy – let’s make it a valuable one

By David Penney

Over the coming weeks we are going to be hearing a good deal about legacy. You could hardly miss the wall-to-wall coverage of the England women’s football team or the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and yet much of the focus has not just been about success today but the contribution both will make to future generations. Indeed, it is interesting that while social media has been awash with clips and memes from the Lionesses’ superb semi-final win against the Swedes, the video that has gathered the most attention is of pundit Ian Wright talking about how the current tournament will only be viewed as a success if its legacy is more girls playing football at school. For the organisers of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the importance of legacy has been clear from the outset with the local council publishing a legacy plan in 2021 that detailed how the investment in the event would be used to benefit the people of the city for years to come. The truth is that legacy matters, whether for sporting events like the Commonwealth Games or for our own businesses and personal lives. Legacy is about putting a stamp on the future, and it is nothing more than human nature that we want to leave a legacy because we want to feel that our lives and the things that we did throughout it mattered. Legacy can mean different things to different people and every one of us has the opportunity to decide what we want our legacy to be. It could be something as unspoken as how we raise our children and watching them grow into fine upstanding citizens, leaving a financial legacy for future family generations or it could be something that has a far wider impact. However, at the heart of understanding how to leave a positive legacy, we first have to have a sense of purpose. Our purpose in life is as unique to us as our fingerprint and it is the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning, that thing that drives us forward. It is life’s long game rather than our short-term goals. Establishing a clear sense of purpose is not always easy and so often your purpose will be related to things that you are interested in and the things that bring you happiness. In Japan, this concept is known as ikigai, literally translated as following your joy, and is an increasingly important concept when it comes to understanding purpose and establishing what your future legacy could be. Without that clarity of purpose, it is easy to continue moving through life on autopilot and leaving your legacy to chance. By understanding your purpose, it is far more difficult to be knocked off course as you will always be clear which way is forward. By identifying, acknowledging and ultimately honouring your purpose, you have a far better chance to live the life that meets your own aspirations and provides you with the fulfilment that you crave – and ultimately the opportunity to create a meaningful legacy, whatever that might be. When it comes down to it, the harsh reality is that our legacy is all that we have. We cannot take our physical possessions with us and so people’s memories of us and the impact we have that persists beyond our physical existence is what will ultimately define us. The idea of legacy is a central theme within our own industry, working as we do with individuals and families to make intergenerational decisions that will provide a positive future legacy. It’s not always an easy process but we see time and again how people become much more comfortable with what the future may hold when they are committed to something positive that will live on after them. So whether your legacy is about your family, your business or a wider issue that you care deeply about, the process of leaving a legacy has to start now. Find your purpose and do those things that matter now rather than waiting for a more convenient moment – the old saying that we regret the things that we didn’t do rather than the things we did is often heard because it is true. Most importantly, follow your joy, whether that is in your personal or professional life – and if you are lucky it will be in both. Great legacies are not left by angry and unhappy people. Alfred Nobel, of Nobel Prize fame, only bequeathed his fortune to the celebration of innovation after a newspaper accidentally published an obituary about him rather than his recently deceased brother and described him as a ‘merchant of death’ for his work inventing dynamite. Unfortunately, none of us will get to read our own obituaries so in the coming weeks when you hear about the importance of legacy, think about what it is you want to be remembered for and take action to make it happen.

Leadership trumps all in the quest for success

By David Penney

The England cricket team is currently in the process of turning the sport on its head.

After years of slowly slipping down the world rankings and winning just one Test match in the last 17, they are currently looking like one of the most exciting teams to have ever played the game.

Today they have beaten India in a game in which they looked dead and buried after two days of play and over the last month they have whitewashed a New Zealand team who also just happen to be the current world champions.

To really understand how remarkable this turnaround in form and fortunes has been, one needs to just look at the records that have tumbled over the past month.

These include – and remember these records cover just short of 150 years of Test cricket – the second fastest century by an Englishman, the fastest ever opening century stand by England, the first time any team has successfully chased 250 in three consecutive matches (England have done it four times for good measure), the highest ever run chase by an England team and the ninth highest in the history of the game. 

There are even more records in terms of partnerships and speed of runs but I think the point is pretty well established – England have gone from a poor side who couldn’t buy a win to a team that is not just winning but setting new benchmarks that may potentially change forever how the game is played.

So the big question is of course, how have they done it?

Well the obvious and fairly straightforward answer to that question is leadership.

Two months ago the powers that be decided to bring in a new broom and replaced the team’s leadership, from the managing director of the England team, right down to the captain on the pitch, and from that moment on the records have not stopped tumbling. 

Whether we are talking about elite sport or a wealth management SME, the importance of mindset can never be under-estimated and the fact that the results of the last incredible six weeks have been achieved with those same players who have struggled for three years shows how important the right leadership can be. 

Central to this transformation has been the leadership of two men – the new England Coach Brendan McCullum and new England captain Ben Stokes. Both cricketers of the swashbuckling variety and certainly there was an assumption that England were likely to play a more expansive and aggressive brand of the game under their leadership.

But coming out and swinging the bat is hardly revelatory. Many teams have tried it before, and many teams have failed. Clearly, what has been instilled in this England team is much more than just the freedom to go out and play aggressively - they are playing with a confidence that suggests that they know they are going to win.

Through their actions and words, these leaders have created a mindset where their only thoughts are about winning. When asked about the fact that beating India would need the highest ever run chase at Edgbaston, Alex Lees said that this had never even entered the players’ minds.

As the great Roman poet Virgil so rightly stated, “They can because they think they can.”

What is clear is that first and foremost, McCullum and Stokes are people who lead by example. They are very much exponents of the ‘Be. Do. Say’ approach to leadership where talk alone is cheap, and actions have to match both your words and your underlying beliefs.

Through their leadership they have created an attitude where challenges are not things to be afraid of but opportunities to be faced head on – and that failure is not something to fear because it is not even being considered!

Strong leadership is a delicate balance between confidence and humility. People don’t tend to want to follow those who are weak or disengaged and are equally unlikely to want to follow those that are arrogant either.

In Stokes, the team have a leader who has what some might consider vulnerabilities, having taken time out of the team to manage his own mental health challenges, as well as the humility that comes from once being hit for four consecutive sixes in the final over to lose a World Cup final.

He has had to stand up and admit his own mistakes and shortcomings and this has enabled him to create an environment where those around him are able to do the same. Vulnerability is not a weakness when it comes to leadership but a superpower.

As leaders, Stokes and McCullum have also been decisive in their decision making and loyal to the existing team, breeding a confidence in the players that they can live up to new expectations. 

Just watching them in action, either on the pitch, on the balcony or in their media interviews, it is clear that they are genuine and authentic when it comes to other people’s success or failure, whatever the case may be. 

Every individual likes to feel seen and appreciated for the hard work they put in, even if they don’t achieve the results they desire. The players have all talked about the honesty of the conversations in the dressing room and the important feedback they receive, a vital trait in all strong leaders and a recognition that people can’t make the necessary change and improvements if they are not aware of their shortcomings.

Taking leadership lessons from the elite sports arena is certainly nothing new, indeed it was the former England cricket captain Mike Brearley who wrote the best seller The Art of Captaincy, which explored the principles of leadership and their relevance in both sport in business.

However, even Brearley may have struggled to envisage this monumental change in fortunes, a change that very clearly shows that with the right kind of leadership, whatever the arena, absolutely anything is possible. 

No time to ignore the ticking timebomb of an aging population

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No time to ignore the ticking timebomb of an aging population

By David Penney

This has been an exciting week for the number crunchers amongst us.

Almost a year after we all sat down and dutifully filled out our forms, the findings of the 2021 census have been published – and the results should give us all pause for thought.

At the risk of upsetting the history buffs, if we ignore the first census on these isles, which was the infamous Doomsday Book carried out by William the Conqueror in the years after 1066, the census on March 21st 2021 was the 22nd full census in England and Wales, having first been conducted in 1801. 

The first census revealed a population of around 9.4 million – the numbers were not exact due to the fact that military personnel and convicts were not included in the census itself. Fast forward 220 years and the population on England and Wales has risen to 59,597,300 – which in itself was a 6.3% or 3.5million increase on the previous census of 2011.

Breaking down the population increase nationally, the East of England has seen the most significant population growth with the smallest increase in the North East, while the West Midlands falls somewhere in between.

In Shropshire the population has increased from 306,100 to 323,600 over the past decade – an increase of 5.7% against a national average of 6.6%. Breaking that down across local authorities in the region, Rugby saw the biggest population increase of 14.3% whilst Hereford saw the smallest population increase of just 2%.

To put this into context, Tower Hamlets and Dartford saw the largest population increases nationally at 22.1% and 20% respectively. This means that in Shropshire, there is approximately one person for an area roughly the size of a football pitch whereas in Tower Hamlets, this number increases to 112 - if you are looking for solitude then Eden in Cumbria has around one person for around five football pitches!

So, for those that enjoy Shropshire’s green and pleasant land, the census suggests that it is not likely to be overrun any time soon. However, the data around the age profile of the population is much starker.

We all know that thanks to better diets, healthcare and other factors, we are all living longer but what the census shows us is that the demographics of our society are changing at breath-taking speed with serious implications for all of us.

Looking at all age groups, the largest cohort in England are those aged 30-34 but in the West Midlands the largest group is now those aged 50-54, which makes sense as in 2011 it was those aged 40-44. 

Nationally, there has been a 20.1% increase in people aged 65 and over but in Shropshire this figure rises to 29.5% and incredibly the numbers of those aged between 70 and 79 has risen by 45% and those living beyond 90 has seen a 41% increase in the last 10 years.

Now of course, the fact that so many people are living longer is undoubtedly something we should be celebrating – after all, every single member of this aging population is a beloved human who will be more than happy that their life expectancy has increased.

Happy that is if they have made the right preparations for living a long and happy life. However, the sad reality is that this is not always the case – and as the results of the recent census make absolutely clear, as the younger generations contract and the older generations expand, the responsibility for paying for retirement and potential care in old age is increasingly going to fall on the individual.

It is not something that any Government likes to publicly admit but if this current trend continues, there is going to be a time in the not-too-distant future when the maths are not going to add up – there just won’t be enough tax payers to sustain the needs of our rapidly aging population.

According to the latest figures, one in six over 55s still have no pension savings of their own and according to the most pessimistic estimate, as stated in recent UK government guidance, around three quarters of adults will face care costs in their lifetimes. 

There is no doubt that the introduction of auto-enrolment has significantly improved the overall situation but there is still huge amount of work to do to encourage people to take matters into their own hands, particularly women where a third of over 50s have no pension provision at all other than what the state will provide when they reach retirement age.

The situation around care costs is of equal concern and there remains a considerable head in the sand attitude with a significant percentage of people still wrongly under the impression that the NHS and local authorities will cover the cost of their care needs when this is far from the case.

The reality is even with the introduction of revised means testing rules and overall cap on self-funded care costs due to be introduced in 2023, the opportunity for families to pass on their wealth to the next generation will, in many cases, be severely restricted.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way and there are steps that everyone can take today to start preparing for those twilight years as well as managing your estate to protect those hard-earned assets.

It is never too late to take action and the latest census should be the signal for everybody to start taking this much more seriously. You don’t need to be a number cruncher to realise that our aging population is a timebomb and the ticking is getting louder by the day.  

The double-edged sword of rising house price

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The double-edged sword of rising house price

When it comes to how we fair in this rollercoaster we call life, the most important factors would seem to be the ones in which we have absolutely no control. 

Of course the environment in which we are raised, our propensity for hard work and probably some innate intelligence will all have their part to play.

But the biggest factors behind whether we are likely to enjoy a life of prosperity are where we are born and most importantly of all, when.

It is now a fairly well-established fact that for the first time in modern history, the youngest generations in our society are likely to be less wealthy than the generations that came before.

Indeed, the Millennial generation – those born between 1981 and 1996 – have been dubbed the ‘unluckiest generation’ of them all, having borne the brunt of the global economic catastrophe of the late noughties in terms of employment opportunities and wage growth, only to be hit again by the Covid crisis of recent years.

And things look no better for the Gen Zs coming after them, who will most likely enter the world of work heavily indebted from their education, they will earn less in real terms than their parents and grandparents and their chances of getting onto the housing ladder appear to be diminishing by the day.

It is that final point that really emphasises the generational gap that is widening in our society because home ownership is such an intrinsic part of our desire to provide security for ourselves and our families and also provides a vital mechanism for passing wealth from one generation to the next.

In the UK we often celebrate rising house prices and there is no doubt that there are significant economic benefits considering how closely linked the housing market is to consumer spending.

When people build up significant equity in their homes, they are more likely to borrow more to spend on goods and services and generally have a more optimistic outlook about the future, an important factor for any growing economy.

But the truth is that while rising house prices may have a positive economic impact at the most basic level, unfettered growth in house prices is creating a number of unintended consequences such as inflation, but also some challenges that we have never seen before in our lifetimes. 

According to the latest statistics, the average house price in the UK has now risen to £277,000 – an increase on £27,000 or 10% in the last 12 months. This is a record by some margin and represents some of the highest price to earnings ratios in the developed world.

Even with interest rates so low and a gentle loosening in lending criteria by the banks, the reality is that home ownership remains out of reach for very many Gen Zs and Millennials, creating a long-term structural divide between the property-owning class and those who don’t have property assets to pass on to their children.

In a world of supply and demand it would seem that the obvious solution to drive down prices and enable everybody the opportunity of home ownership and the possibility of passing down wealth to the next generation is to build more houses, but it’s clearly not as simple as that.

In the UK there is a projected increase in households of 250,000 a year, although new housebuilding has remained stuck between 100,000 and 150,000 despite various drives and initiatives to increase that number.

However, it is also argued that the biggest issue is not the number of houses but their distribution with may hundreds of thousands of vacant properties and many millions of people who are house rich with more space than they need while others struggle to a find a house they can afford.

When the housebuilders are making record profits and the government is taking record Inheritance Tax receipts – it took £10m more in April than the year before and predicts it will collect £37bn in IHT receipts over the next five years – then it is easy to see why action to rebalance the housing market may not have been as dynamic as we possibly need.

In a country where our national psyche is rooted in family, stability and social mobility, we need to find solutions that will provide the younger generations with the same opportunities we have enjoyed before it creates something of an existential crisis.

Already we will often see Gen Zs and millennials use the phrase “ok boomer” when dismissing or mocking the attitudes of older generations, but this is more than just another natural expression of difference, it is an accusation loaded in the resentment of finding themselves priced out of a world that older generations have for so long taken for granted. 

The irony of this situation is that millennials and Gen Zs are the most educated and most diverse generation in history, they spend within their means more than Gen X or boomers did at the same age and started saving earlier for their retirement than any generation in modern history.

And yet for no other reason than they were born at the wrong moment in history, we are seeing the creation of a ‘generation rent’ that has less stability, less security and less opportunity to pass on their wealth to the next generation.

Whatever the solution to this conundrum, it is time for us to better understand the unintended consequence that things like rising house prices are having and if life is indeed a roller coaster, to make it an attraction we can all ride.

Never underestimate the power of one per cent

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Never underestimate the power of one per cent

By David Penney

When it comes to the factors that influence the direction of our lives, there are few things more powerful than numbers.

Whether we are aware of it or not, numbers drive our decision making every day and are an important tool for us to make sense of everything that is going on around us. 

From dates to prices to times, numbers are the lenses through which we perceive the world and how we consider different numbers can induce a range of psychological responses. 

For instance, four weeks will feel less than 28 days, 99p seems like a much better deal than £1 and enough memory for 1,000 songs on our smart phones feels a lot better than 5GB.

When it comes to numbers, perception is everything and something that was well understood by psychologist and coach Dr Rob Yeung, who introduced us to the concept of the extra one per cent in his self-improvement book of the same name.

In his groundbreaking book, Yeung explores the power of making fractional and continual improvements and how it is often this commitment that differentiates exceptional people from the rest.

Yeung’s theory understands that we all want to be better, but it can be easy to be overwhelmed and to subsequently lose the impetus for change if our bar is set to high.

If we commit to becoming one per cent better at something, that feels eminently more achievable than if that improvement target is 25 per cent, 50 per cent or even 100 per cent – and yet the impact can be just as powerful.

Often, we will mentally dismiss one per cent as being statistically insignificant and yet across a range of real-world scenarios, that one per cent can be transformational.

Take investing as an example, with the miracle of compounding, an extra one per cent return every year for 20 years is potentially a small fortune while in elite sport, that extra one per cent is the difference between an Olympic champion and a talented club runner.

Indeed, one of the most famous proponents of the importance and value of fractional and continual improvements was (and is) Dave Brailsford, the man who transformed British cycling and led the team to incredible success at the London Olympics in 2012.

His ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ philosophy meant that was nothing was off limits and so every single aspect, no matter how small, was reviewed and where possible improved, whether that was the effectiveness of massage gels to the design of bike saddles.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear explores this area further and states that by aiming to be one per cent better every day, you can be as much as 37 per cent better at the end of the year.

The truth is that improving one per cent isn’t notable or even necessarily noticeable and yet over a period of time, the difference can potentially be outstanding.

According to Clear, there are four simple laws to changing behaviours – make the change obvious, attractive, easy to do and satisfying and in his book he cites the example of improving our health and wellbeing through working out more.

To make this more likely to happen we should schedule work outs in our calendar and put our work out clothes next to our keys, start doing exercises or movements that we enjoy and for just five minutes a day and then celebrate our exercise wins.

It is a formula that can be applied across all areas of lives, and it is amazing how little things can massively improve your day and that of those around you.

Something as simple as getting up just 30 minutes earlier has huge potential to improve both our personal and professional lives. That half an hour becomes 3.5 hours extra time a week or 26 days a year. Just think what you can do with an extra month a year!

Or perhaps something equally as simple as smiling more or challenging yourself to say something complementary to somebody every day, lifting them up and lifting yourself in the process.

One thing we should never under-estimate is the power of a smile as negativity breeds negativity and according to a fascinating study of baseball cards by Wayne State University, those smiling on the cards lived an average of seven years longer than those who weren’t!

All of us want to live better lives and perform better at work but things will never get better by chance, they only get better through change and we have more chance of being successful in this quest if our goals are psychologically achievable.

Through embracing the power of one per cent we can continue to grow and develop, often without even noticing, and hopefully make the changes to our lives that mean we are more than just a number. 

No time to ignore the ticking timebomb of an aging population

By David Penney

This has been an exciting week for the number crunchers amongst us.

Almost a year after we all sat down and dutifully filled out our forms, the findings of the 2021 census have been published – and the results should give us all pause for thought.

At the risk of upsetting the history buffs, if we ignore the first census on these isles, which was the infamous Doomsday Book carried out by William the Conqueror in the years after 1066, the census on March 21st 2021 was the 22nd full census in England and Wales, having first been conducted in 1801. 

The first census revealed a population of around 9.4 million – the numbers were not exact due to the fact that military personnel and convicts were not included in the census itself. Fast forward 220 years and the population on England and Wales has risen to 59,597,300 – which in itself was a 6.3% or 3.5million increase on the previous census of 2011.

Breaking down the population increase nationally, the East of England has seen the most significant population growth with the smallest increase in the North East, while the West Midlands falls somewhere in between.

In Shropshire the population has increased from 306,100 to 323,600 over the past decade – an increase of 5.7% against a national average of 6.6%. Breaking that down across local authorities in the region, Rugby saw the biggest population increase of 14.3% whilst Hereford saw the smallest population increase of just 2%.

To put this into context, Tower Hamlets and Dartford saw the largest population increases nationally at 22.1% and 20% respectively. This means that in Shropshire, there is approximately one person for an area roughly the size of a football pitch whereas in Tower Hamlets, this number increases to 112 - if you are looking for solitude then Eden in Cumbria has around one person for around five football pitches!

So, for those that enjoy Shropshire’s green and pleasant land, the census suggests that it is not likely to be overrun any time soon. However, the data around the age profile of the population is much starker.

We all know that thanks to better diets, healthcare and other factors, we are all living longer but what the census shows us is that the demographics of our society are changing at breath-taking speed with serious implications for all of us.

Looking at all age groups, the largest cohort in England are those aged 30-34 but in the West Midlands the largest group is now those aged 50-54, which makes sense as in 2011 it was those aged 40-44. 

Nationally, there has been a 20.1% increase in people aged 65 and over but in Shropshire this figure rises to 29.5% and incredibly the numbers of those aged between 70 and 79 has risen by 45% and those living beyond 90 has seen a 41% increase in the last 10 years.

Now of course, the fact that so many people are living longer is undoubtedly something we should be celebrating – after all, every single member of this aging population is a beloved human who will be more than happy that their life expectancy has increased.

Happy that is if they have made the right preparations for living a long and happy life. However, the sad reality is that this is not always the case – and as the results of the recent census make absolutely clear, as the younger generations contract and the older generations expand, the responsibility for paying for retirement and potential care in old age is increasingly going to fall on the individual.

It is not something that any Government likes to publicly admit but if this current trend continues, there is going to be a time in the not-too-distant future when the maths are not going to add up – there just won’t be enough tax payers to sustain the needs of our rapidly aging population.

According to the latest figures, one in six over 55s still have no pension savings of their own and according to the most pessimistic estimate, as stated in recent UK government guidance, around three quarters of adults will face care costs in their lifetimes. 

There is no doubt that the introduction of auto-enrolment has significantly improved the overall situation but there is still huge amount of work to do to encourage people to take matters into their own hands, particularly women where a third of over 50s have no pension provision at all other than what the state will provide when they reach retirement age.

The situation around care costs is of equal concern and there remains a considerable head in the sand attitude with a significant percentage of people still wrongly under the impression that the NHS and local authorities will cover the cost of their care needs when this is far from the case.

The reality is even with the introduction of revised means testing rules and overall cap on self-funded care costs due to be introduced in 2023, the opportunity for families to pass on their wealth to the next generation will, in many cases, be severely restricted.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way and there are steps that everyone can take today to start preparing for those twilight years as well as managing your estate to protect those hard-earned assets.

It is never too late to take action and the latest census should be the signal for everybody to start taking this much more seriously. You don’t need to be a number cruncher to realise that our aging population is a timebomb and the ticking is getting louder by the day.  

The double-edged sword of rising house price

When it comes to how we fair in this rollercoaster we call life, the most important factors would seem to be the ones in which we have absolutely no control. 

Of course the environment in which we are raised, our propensity for hard work and probably some innate intelligence will all have their part to play.

But the biggest factors behind whether we are likely to enjoy a life of prosperity are where we are born and most importantly of all, when.

It is now a fairly well-established fact that for the first time in modern history, the youngest generations in our society are likely to be less wealthy than the generations that came before.

Indeed, the Millennial generation – those born between 1981 and 1996 – have been dubbed the ‘unluckiest generation’ of them all, having borne the brunt of the global economic catastrophe of the late noughties in terms of employment opportunities and wage growth, only to be hit again by the Covid crisis of recent years.

And things look no better for the Gen Zs coming after them, who will most likely enter the world of work heavily indebted from their education, they will earn less in real terms than their parents and grandparents and their chances of getting onto the housing ladder appear to be diminishing by the day.

It is that final point that really emphasises the generational gap that is widening in our society because home ownership is such an intrinsic part of our desire to provide security for ourselves and our families and also provides a vital mechanism for passing wealth from one generation to the next.

In the UK we often celebrate rising house prices and there is no doubt that there are significant economic benefits considering how closely linked the housing market is to consumer spending.

When people build up significant equity in their homes, they are more likely to borrow more to spend on goods and services and generally have a more optimistic outlook about the future, an important factor for any growing economy.

But the truth is that while rising house prices may have a positive economic impact at the most basic level, unfettered growth in house prices is creating a number of unintended consequences such as inflation, but also some challenges that we have never seen before in our lifetimes. 

According to the latest statistics, the average house price in the UK has now risen to £277,000 – an increase on £27,000 or 10% in the last 12 months. This is a record by some margin and represents some of the highest price to earnings ratios in the developed world.

Even with interest rates so low and a gentle loosening in lending criteria by the banks, the reality is that home ownership remains out of reach for very many Gen Zs and Millennials, creating a long-term structural divide between the property-owning class and those who don’t have property assets to pass on to their children.

In a world of supply and demand it would seem that the obvious solution to drive down prices and enable everybody the opportunity of home ownership and the possibility of passing down wealth to the next generation is to build more houses, but it’s clearly not as simple as that.

In the UK there is a projected increase in households of 250,000 a year, although new housebuilding has remained stuck between 100,000 and 150,000 despite various drives and initiatives to increase that number.

However, it is also argued that the biggest issue is not the number of houses but their distribution with may hundreds of thousands of vacant properties and many millions of people who are house rich with more space than they need while others struggle to a find a house they can afford.

When the housebuilders are making record profits and the government is taking record Inheritance Tax receipts – it took £10m more in April than the year before and predicts it will collect £37bn in IHT receipts over the next five years – then it is easy to see why action to rebalance the housing market may not have been as dynamic as we possibly need.

In a country where our national psyche is rooted in family, stability and social mobility, we need to find solutions that will provide the younger generations with the same opportunities we have enjoyed before it creates something of an existential crisis.

Already we will often see Gen Zs and millennials use the phrase “ok boomer” when dismissing or mocking the attitudes of older generations, but this is more than just another natural expression of difference, it is an accusation loaded in the resentment of finding themselves priced out of a world that older generations have for so long taken for granted. 

The irony of this situation is that millennials and Gen Zs are the most educated and most diverse generation in history, they spend within their means more than Gen X or boomers did at the same age and started saving earlier for their retirement than any generation in modern history.

And yet for no other reason than they were born at the wrong moment in history, we are seeing the creation of a ‘generation rent’ that has less stability, less security and less opportunity to pass on their wealth to the next generation.

Whatever the solution to this conundrum, it is time for us to better understand the unintended consequence that things like rising house prices are having and if life is indeed a roller coaster, to make it an attraction we can all ride.

Never underestimate the power of one per cent

By David Penney

When it comes to the factors that influence the direction of our lives, there are few things more powerful than numbers.

Whether we are aware of it or not, numbers drive our decision making every day and are an important tool for us to make sense of everything that is going on around us. 

From dates to prices to times, numbers are the lenses through which we perceive the world and how we consider different numbers can induce a range of psychological responses. 

For instance, four weeks will feel less than 28 days, 99p seems like a much better deal than £1 and enough memory for 1,000 songs on our smart phones feels a lot better than 5GB.

When it comes to numbers, perception is everything and something that was well understood by psychologist and coach Dr Rob Yeung, who introduced us to the concept of the extra one per cent in his self-improvement book of the same name.

In his groundbreaking book, Yeung explores the power of making fractional and continual improvements and how it is often this commitment that differentiates exceptional people from the rest.

Yeung’s theory understands that we all want to be better, but it can be easy to be overwhelmed and to subsequently lose the impetus for change if our bar is set to high.

If we commit to becoming one per cent better at something, that feels eminently more achievable than if that improvement target is 25 per cent, 50 per cent or even 100 per cent – and yet the impact can be just as powerful.

Often, we will mentally dismiss one per cent as being statistically insignificant and yet across a range of real-world scenarios, that one per cent can be transformational.

Take investing as an example, with the miracle of compounding, an extra one per cent return every year for 20 years is potentially a small fortune while in elite sport, that extra one per cent is the difference between an Olympic champion and a talented club runner.

Indeed, one of the most famous proponents of the importance and value of fractional and continual improvements was (and is) Dave Brailsford, the man who transformed British cycling and led the team to incredible success at the London Olympics in 2012.

His ‘aggregation of marginal gains’ philosophy meant that was nothing was off limits and so every single aspect, no matter how small, was reviewed and where possible improved, whether that was the effectiveness of massage gels to the design of bike saddles.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear explores this area further and states that by aiming to be one per cent better every day, you can be as much as 37 per cent better at the end of the year.

The truth is that improving one per cent isn’t notable or even necessarily noticeable and yet over a period of time, the difference can potentially be outstanding.

According to Clear, there are four simple laws to changing behaviours – make the change obvious, attractive, easy to do and satisfying and in his book he cites the example of improving our health and wellbeing through working out more.

To make this more likely to happen we should schedule work outs in our calendar and put our work out clothes next to our keys, start doing exercises or movements that we enjoy and for just five minutes a day and then celebrate our exercise wins.

It is a formula that can be applied across all areas of lives, and it is amazing how little things can massively improve your day and that of those around you.

Something as simple as getting up just 30 minutes earlier has huge potential to improve both our personal and professional lives. That half an hour becomes 3.5 hours extra time a week or 26 days a year. Just think what you can do with an extra month a year!

Or perhaps something equally as simple as smiling more or challenging yourself to say something complementary to somebody every day, lifting them up and lifting yourself in the process.

One thing we should never under-estimate is the power of a smile as negativity breeds negativity and according to a fascinating study of baseball cards by Wayne State University, those smiling on the cards lived an average of seven years longer than those who weren’t!

All of us want to live better lives and perform better at work but things will never get better by chance, they only get better through change and we have more chance of being successful in this quest if our goals are psychologically achievable.

Through embracing the power of one per cent we can continue to grow and develop, often without even noticing, and hopefully make the changes to our lives that mean we are more than just a number. 

Earning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable

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Earning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable

By David Penney

There have been striking improvements in attitudes towards mental health in recent years.

The very concept of wellbeing was almost unheard of a couple of decades ago and yet today it is an inescapable movement that has penetrated all aspects of our lives.

From a workplace perspective, it has become a primary consideration for every reputable employer and has become as important as ensuring employees have the right tech, training and all the other things that are hopefully going to make them productive – and happy.

But when we talk about wellbeing in the workplace, there are clearly a number of facets to consider.

Creating the right physical environment is clearly hugely important with offices focusing on creating comfortable spaces to work and relax, with perhaps lots of greenery to create cleaner air and bring people closer to nature – a well established factor in creating good mental health.

But as important as it is, creating the right physical environment for people to work is just one part of promoting and supporting employee wellbeing.

Being fairly renumerated, respected and secure are also important aspects of creating a sense of wellbeing within the workplace.

And yet despite this major shift in emphasis from employers in terms of understanding the importance of wellbeing and taking positive action to promote good mental health, we remain in the grip of a mental health crisis that will affect one of four of us in our lifetimes and one in six of us during any given week.

The truth is that all businesses can tick the wellbeing boxes, but how people feel about their work may only play a small part in why people are having challenges with their mental health.

Paying above the market rate and filling the office with a pallet load of pot plants are undoubtedly positive, but happiness is something that comes from within and those who are struggling are not necessarily looking for a pay rise or a swanky new office.

For all the initiatives that businesses may consider when looking to support the wellbeing of their employees, the most important is creating a culture where people believe that it is ok not to feel ok.

The stigma of mental illness and has hugely dissipated in recent years, but it would be foolish to pretend that it has gone away.

One of the real challenges of poor mental health in the workplace is that in many ways it is self-fulfilling – the more unwell you feel, the more you worry about how it will be perceived, the more unwell you feel.

As the philosopher Immanuel Kant said, “Happiness is not an ideal of reason, but of imagination.”

Most people are aware of the many things that we can do as individuals to improve our mental health, such regular exercise, having a good diet, making plans and spending quality time with our friends and family.

But according to recent Danish research, one of the most important aspects of tackling poor mental health isn’t necessarily about taking the actions listed above – for many people they are easier said than done – but through just believing that things can be better, and being able to be honest about how you are feeling, particularly at work, is a big part of that. 

It is now more than a quarter of century since Bob Hoskins led the famous BT “It’s good to talk” campaign, a phrase which subsequently became a call to arms in the face of the growing mental health crisis and it is something that employers must embrace if they are really serious about wellbeing.

Creating a culture where reassurance, honesty and authenticity are prioritised and vulnerability is actually celebrated rather than condemned, are vital ingredients when we talk about promoting well-being in the workplace. 

It was the excellent author and thinker Brene Brown who first espoused the empowering benefits of vulnerability in the workplace in her famous Ted Talk (which has been a viewed a mere 57 million times) which explored among other things the positive impact of encouraging team members to bring their whole selves to work.

Not surprisingly people want to work in a place that acknowledges them as human beings, where their vulnerability won’t be perceived as weakness – a particular issue in performance-orientated cultures.

Creating this culture is not necessarily easy and it is important that the right balance is struck in terms of how much we share as leaders – Brown is clear that encouraging all out vulnerability can be as counter-productive as a culture where nobody is empowered. 

But as employers, we must have the courage to share ourselves and create the environment where employees are happy to reciprocate.

It may not always be comfortable and for some it may even be downright uncomfortable, but it is part of building those important relationships that more often than not will pay dividends in building a business.

We have come a long way in our understanding and acceptance of the challenges of mental health – now we need more words (remember it’s good to talk) rather than just actions to show that we are truly serious about wellbeing in the workplace.  

Don’t fake it if you want to make it

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Don’t fake it if you want to make it

By David Penney

There is no one single secret to success. 

Success – however you define it – is achieved through a combination of many factors.

For athletes it could be a combination of natural talent, determination and a smattering of good fortune around injuries.

In business those factors could be an unwavering optimism, resilience to disappointment and an appetite for risk.

However, one area that may not be the single key to success, but is an important trait in all successful people, is a respect for time. 

We often hear the phrase in business that time is money, but it is so much more than that. Time is our greatest asset and what we choose to do with our time will define what happens in our lives. 

It was William Penn, the founder of the American district of Pennsylvania, who said that “time is what we want most, but we use worst” and the truth is that for many of us, even though we don’t know how much time we have, we still waste it.

As somebody who has spent more than three decades working in financial services, I have had literally thousands of conversations about the importance of time when it comes to investing, but achieving success is not just about having that long term orientation, it’s about having a better relationship with time every day.

As a species we are great ones for marking and often mourning time’s passing and yet it is something that we seem to pay such little respect to in the present, particularly when it comes to work.

Even though we all feel that we are working hard – indeed possibly working harder than ever – the reality is that for all the effort that people put in, it could be that they are often actually achieving less. 

It is a decade since the author Brent Peterson coined the phrase ‘fake work’ – a phenomenon where people work hard but they mistake activity for results.

According to Peterson, this is caused when people are told to do something, or choose to do something, because they are rewarded for it, or when the desired results of that work are not properly articulated. 

Real work is that critical activity that explicitly aligns with goals and strategies, but how often do we step back and ask ourselves whether all the hard work we are putting in is creating results that measurably matter?

In short, are we using our time wisely?

When was the last time you reviewed all the repeat meetings in your calendar and questioned whether they were creating the desired results? All that information you shared today – did everyone really need it? Was that offsite meeting a good use of your time and energy?

More than 100 years ago the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of wealth in his country, observing that 20% of the people owned 80% of the nation’s wealth.

It is a principle that has since gone on to be applied in a range of studies – 80% of a company’s revenues are generated by 20% of its customers; 80% of complaints come from 20% of customers; or as the opposite rule, 20% of blogs generate 80% of traffic!

It is also a formula that can play a large part in helping with productivity at work – and developing a better relationship with time.

When you look at your ever-expanding ‘to do’ list, the chances are that only a few of the items on the list are tied to what would be considered important issues – those that are going to help achieve established strategic goals.

As nice as it is to cross off a large number of the smaller issues off the list, according to the 80/20 rule, by focusing on the most important issues on the list you are likely to generate much more valuable results, even if the list doesn’t get appreciably smaller. Your valuable time is being much better spent.

David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, found that somewhat alarmingly, we are actually only truly focused for six hours a week and so that the real challenge for us isn’t working out what we should do, but actually what we shouldn’t do.

The great thing is that when you stop doing the things that make you feel busy but aren’t getting results, the energy you have saved can be redirected into other important areas of your professional – and personal – lives.

By actually doing less and really focusing on the things that matter, we are clearing mental space for more creativity while also making more space for ourselves to enjoy all those other things in life that are important to us.

 So if you are working around the clock and regularly clocking up 60 or 70 hours weeks, there is a very good chance that the effort that you are putting in is not a means to accomplishment but potentially an obstacle to it.

So take a step back, assess whether the work you are doing is delivering the results you really want and revel in the joy of doing less – it might just be the secret to success that you’ve been looking for. 

Overcoming the three peaks challenge

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Overcoming the three peaks challenge

By David Penney

If there has been one major change to our lives following the pandemic, then it is undoubtedly around the way that we work.

For the best part of a century there has been a general acceptance that the convention of working 9 to 5 has served both the needs of the employer as well as the employee (although admittedly Dolly Parton was a little more sceptical).

First established by the great American manufacturers of the early 20th century such as Henry Ford, the 9-5 working day was something of a revelation after the punishing working conditions during the earlier industrial revolution.

As welcome as this change was to those standing on the production lines of the Ford Motor Company, it was not a move completely driven by altruism – Ford’s motivation was the idea that “leisure is an indispensable ingredient in the growing consumer market”.

In other words, people need to have enough free time to find uses for the products that they were buying – including Henry Ford’s cars. For both employer and employee, it was seemingly a win win. 

However, fast forward to the latest industrial revolution of ubiquitous tech and seamless global communications at our fingertips and the working day as we know it is evolving into something very different. 

Driven by the pandemic and enabled by the incredible advances in technology over the past decade, we are currently experiencing a seismic shift in where, when and how people want to work.

At the height of the Covid crisis, around two thirds of the workforce were working from home and despite the easing of restrictions, around 25% of workers plan to work from home permanently, although almost all knowledge workers now want to set their own schedule according to research by Future Forum. 

There are numerous schools of thought about what this desire for more flexibility means for businesses in terms of issues such as communication and culture, but from a pure productivity perspective, study after study suggests that flexible workers are providing employers with more bang for their buck.  

In a world very different to the one inhabited by Henry Ford, where both parents are often working and trying their best to juggle the challenges of raising a family and managing the increasing cost of living, the opportunity to work at a time that suits would seem to have clear benefits for all.

Nevertheless, the ability to work more flexibly does not come without its own challenges, as highlighted by a recent study by Microsoft of the changing working habits of its 180,000-strong global workforce.

The study found that the traditional 9 to 5 structure of the working day had completely changed and that working activity outside of this timeframe had become the norm.

Whereas the company had previously seen two clear productivity peaks – one before lunch and then another in the hours after lunch – there was now a third peak in the hours before bedtime.

The company also found that workers were now logged on for an average of 46 minutes more over a 24-hour period, while the number of messages being sent using Teams outside the traditional working day had increased by 42%. 

Microsoft put this down in part to the ability of workers to communicate across timezones, but this new spike in activity also correlates with people working after they have finished their domestic responsibilities and put the children to bed.

For many there is no doubt that this new-found flexibility has been literally life-changing – enabling them to embrace a home life that was noticeably absent in years gone by.

But it would also be foolish to believe that this change in working practice is all good news, particularly for employees themselves.

To achieve good work life balance it is important to have time for self-care and that means ensuring that you are able to ‘unplug’ from the working environment – flexible workers may be more productive, but people can only run so fast for so long. 

Some businesses have attempted to counter this with a range of initiatives such as recharge weeks, meeting-free Fridays and even additional holidays, but this feels more like damage control rather than resolving potential issues below the surface. 

Being able to shoulder a greater share of the domestic duties during the working week has an undoubted appeal for a more balanced family life, but the quid pro quo is that the previous boundaries between work and home become increasingly blurred. 

Companies that encourage a more flexible approach for their employees may believe they are doing what is best for them, but without proper management, they are in danger of alleviating one problem and creating another.

A more balanced approach that sits somewhere between the 9 to 5 and a general free for all is probably the answer, but whatever the solution, reinforcing the importance of work-free weekends and uninterrupted holidays is an increasingly important responsibility of every employer. 

What is certain is that the 9 to 5 day as we knew it is probably a thing of the past and that a more irregular approach to working hours will increasingly become the new normal.

As the great Dolly Parton said, working 9 to 5 is enough to make you crazy – but only if you let it. 

Earning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable

By David Penney

There have been striking improvements in attitudes towards mental health in recent years.

The very concept of wellbeing was almost unheard of a couple of decades ago and yet today it is an inescapable movement that has penetrated all aspects of our lives.

From a workplace perspective, it has become a primary consideration for every reputable employer and has become as important as ensuring employees have the right tech, training and all the other things that are hopefully going to make them productive – and happy.

But when we talk about wellbeing in the workplace, there are clearly a number of facets to consider.

Creating the right physical environment is clearly hugely important with offices focusing on creating comfortable spaces to work and relax, with perhaps lots of greenery to create cleaner air and bring people closer to nature – a well established factor in creating good mental health.

But as important as it is, creating the right physical environment for people to work is just one part of promoting and supporting employee wellbeing.

Being fairly renumerated, respected and secure are also important aspects of creating a sense of wellbeing within the workplace.

And yet despite this major shift in emphasis from employers in terms of understanding the importance of wellbeing and taking positive action to promote good mental health, we remain in the grip of a mental health crisis that will affect one of four of us in our lifetimes and one in six of us during any given week.

The truth is that all businesses can tick the wellbeing boxes, but how people feel about their work may only play a small part in why people are having challenges with their mental health.

Paying above the market rate and filling the office with a pallet load of pot plants are undoubtedly positive, but happiness is something that comes from within and those who are struggling are not necessarily looking for a pay rise or a swanky new office.

For all the initiatives that businesses may consider when looking to support the wellbeing of their employees, the most important is creating a culture where people believe that it is ok not to feel ok.

The stigma of mental illness and has hugely dissipated in recent years, but it would be foolish to pretend that it has gone away.

One of the real challenges of poor mental health in the workplace is that in many ways it is self-fulfilling – the more unwell you feel, the more you worry about how it will be perceived, the more unwell you feel.

As the philosopher Immanuel Kant said, “Happiness is not an ideal of reason, but of imagination.”

Most people are aware of the many things that we can do as individuals to improve our mental health, such regular exercise, having a good diet, making plans and spending quality time with our friends and family.

But according to recent Danish research, one of the most important aspects of tackling poor mental health isn’t necessarily about taking the actions listed above – for many people they are easier said than done – but through just believing that things can be better, and being able to be honest about how you are feeling, particularly at work, is a big part of that. 

It is now more than a quarter of century since Bob Hoskins led the famous BT “It’s good to talk” campaign, a phrase which subsequently became a call to arms in the face of the growing mental health crisis and it is something that employers must embrace if they are really serious about wellbeing.

Creating a culture where reassurance, honesty and authenticity are prioritised and vulnerability is actually celebrated rather than condemned, are vital ingredients when we talk about promoting well-being in the workplace. 

It was the excellent author and thinker Brene Brown who first espoused the empowering benefits of vulnerability in the workplace in her famous Ted Talk (which has been a viewed a mere 57 million times) which explored among other things the positive impact of encouraging team members to bring their whole selves to work.

Not surprisingly people want to work in a place that acknowledges them as human beings, where their vulnerability won’t be perceived as weakness – a particular issue in performance-orientated cultures.

Creating this culture is not necessarily easy and it is important that the right balance is struck in terms of how much we share as leaders – Brown is clear that encouraging all out vulnerability can be as counter-productive as a culture where nobody is empowered. 

But as employers, we must have the courage to share ourselves and create the environment where employees are happy to reciprocate.

It may not always be comfortable and for some it may even be downright uncomfortable, but it is part of building those important relationships that more often than not will pay dividends in building a business.

We have come a long way in our understanding and acceptance of the challenges of mental health – now we need more words (remember it’s good to talk) rather than just actions to show that we are truly serious about wellbeing in the workplace.  

Don’t fake it if you want to make it

By David Penney

There is no one single secret to success. 

Success – however you define it – is achieved through a combination of many factors.

For athletes it could be a combination of natural talent, determination and a smattering of good fortune around injuries.

In business those factors could be an unwavering optimism, resilience to disappointment and an appetite for risk.

However, one area that may not be the single key to success, but is an important trait in all successful people, is a respect for time. 

We often hear the phrase in business that time is money, but it is so much more than that. Time is our greatest asset and what we choose to do with our time will define what happens in our lives. 

It was William Penn, the founder of the American district of Pennsylvania, who said that “time is what we want most, but we use worst” and the truth is that for many of us, even though we don’t know how much time we have, we still waste it.

As somebody who has spent more than three decades working in financial services, I have had literally thousands of conversations about the importance of time when it comes to investing, but achieving success is not just about having that long term orientation, it’s about having a better relationship with time every day.

As a species we are great ones for marking and often mourning time’s passing and yet it is something that we seem to pay such little respect to in the present, particularly when it comes to work.

Even though we all feel that we are working hard – indeed possibly working harder than ever – the reality is that for all the effort that people put in, it could be that they are often actually achieving less. 

It is a decade since the author Brent Peterson coined the phrase ‘fake work’ – a phenomenon where people work hard but they mistake activity for results.

According to Peterson, this is caused when people are told to do something, or choose to do something, because they are rewarded for it, or when the desired results of that work are not properly articulated. 

Real work is that critical activity that explicitly aligns with goals and strategies, but how often do we step back and ask ourselves whether all the hard work we are putting in is creating results that measurably matter?

In short, are we using our time wisely?

When was the last time you reviewed all the repeat meetings in your calendar and questioned whether they were creating the desired results? All that information you shared today – did everyone really need it? Was that offsite meeting a good use of your time and energy?

More than 100 years ago the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto created a mathematical formula to describe the unequal distribution of wealth in his country, observing that 20% of the people owned 80% of the nation’s wealth.

It is a principle that has since gone on to be applied in a range of studies – 80% of a company’s revenues are generated by 20% of its customers; 80% of complaints come from 20% of customers; or as the opposite rule, 20% of blogs generate 80% of traffic!

It is also a formula that can play a large part in helping with productivity at work – and developing a better relationship with time.

When you look at your ever-expanding ‘to do’ list, the chances are that only a few of the items on the list are tied to what would be considered important issues – those that are going to help achieve established strategic goals.

As nice as it is to cross off a large number of the smaller issues off the list, according to the 80/20 rule, by focusing on the most important issues on the list you are likely to generate much more valuable results, even if the list doesn’t get appreciably smaller. Your valuable time is being much better spent.

David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, found that somewhat alarmingly, we are actually only truly focused for six hours a week and so that the real challenge for us isn’t working out what we should do, but actually what we shouldn’t do.

The great thing is that when you stop doing the things that make you feel busy but aren’t getting results, the energy you have saved can be redirected into other important areas of your professional – and personal – lives.

By actually doing less and really focusing on the things that matter, we are clearing mental space for more creativity while also making more space for ourselves to enjoy all those other things in life that are important to us.

 So if you are working around the clock and regularly clocking up 60 or 70 hours weeks, there is a very good chance that the effort that you are putting in is not a means to accomplishment but potentially an obstacle to it.

So take a step back, assess whether the work you are doing is delivering the results you really want and revel in the joy of doing less – it might just be the secret to success that you’ve been looking for. 

Overcoming the three peaks challenge

By David Penney

If there has been one major change to our lives following the pandemic, then it is undoubtedly around the way that we work.

For the best part of a century there has been a general acceptance that the convention of working 9 to 5 has served both the needs of the employer as well as the employee (although admittedly Dolly Parton was a little more sceptical).

First established by the great American manufacturers of the early 20th century such as Henry Ford, the 9-5 working day was something of a revelation after the punishing working conditions during the earlier industrial revolution.

As welcome as this change was to those standing on the production lines of the Ford Motor Company, it was not a move completely driven by altruism – Ford’s motivation was the idea that “leisure is an indispensable ingredient in the growing consumer market”.

In other words, people need to have enough free time to find uses for the products that they were buying – including Henry Ford’s cars. For both employer and employee, it was seemingly a win win. 

However, fast forward to the latest industrial revolution of ubiquitous tech and seamless global communications at our fingertips and the working day as we know it is evolving into something very different. 

Driven by the pandemic and enabled by the incredible advances in technology over the past decade, we are currently experiencing a seismic shift in where, when and how people want to work.

At the height of the Covid crisis, around two thirds of the workforce were working from home and despite the easing of restrictions, around 25% of workers plan to work from home permanently, although almost all knowledge workers now want to set their own schedule according to research by Future Forum. 

There are numerous schools of thought about what this desire for more flexibility means for businesses in terms of issues such as communication and culture, but from a pure productivity perspective, study after study suggests that flexible workers are providing employers with more bang for their buck.  

In a world very different to the one inhabited by Henry Ford, where both parents are often working and trying their best to juggle the challenges of raising a family and managing the increasing cost of living, the opportunity to work at a time that suits would seem to have clear benefits for all.

Nevertheless, the ability to work more flexibly does not come without its own challenges, as highlighted by a recent study by Microsoft of the changing working habits of its 180,000-strong global workforce.

The study found that the traditional 9 to 5 structure of the working day had completely changed and that working activity outside of this timeframe had become the norm.

Whereas the company had previously seen two clear productivity peaks – one before lunch and then another in the hours after lunch – there was now a third peak in the hours before bedtime.

The company also found that workers were now logged on for an average of 46 minutes more over a 24-hour period, while the number of messages being sent using Teams outside the traditional working day had increased by 42%. 

Microsoft put this down in part to the ability of workers to communicate across timezones, but this new spike in activity also correlates with people working after they have finished their domestic responsibilities and put the children to bed.

For many there is no doubt that this new-found flexibility has been literally life-changing – enabling them to embrace a home life that was noticeably absent in years gone by.

But it would also be foolish to believe that this change in working practice is all good news, particularly for employees themselves.

To achieve good work life balance it is important to have time for self-care and that means ensuring that you are able to ‘unplug’ from the working environment – flexible workers may be more productive, but people can only run so fast for so long. 

Some businesses have attempted to counter this with a range of initiatives such as recharge weeks, meeting-free Fridays and even additional holidays, but this feels more like damage control rather than resolving potential issues below the surface. 

Being able to shoulder a greater share of the domestic duties during the working week has an undoubted appeal for a more balanced family life, but the quid pro quo is that the previous boundaries between work and home become increasingly blurred. 

Companies that encourage a more flexible approach for their employees may believe they are doing what is best for them, but without proper management, they are in danger of alleviating one problem and creating another.

A more balanced approach that sits somewhere between the 9 to 5 and a general free for all is probably the answer, but whatever the solution, reinforcing the importance of work-free weekends and uninterrupted holidays is an increasingly important responsibility of every employer. 

What is certain is that the 9 to 5 day as we knew it is probably a thing of the past and that a more irregular approach to working hours will increasingly become the new normal.

As the great Dolly Parton said, working 9 to 5 is enough to make you crazy – but only if you let it. 

The Government seems all out of luck – now it needs some courage

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The Government seems all out of luck – now it needs some courage

The world of politics can be a particularly unforgiving place.

Like football managers, no matter how much success politicians might have along the way, the vast majority of their careers will ultimately end in failure. 

There are numerous factors that will impact the longevity of any political career, from the policies they stand for, through to how they present on television, but the one aspect they can seemingly do little about and yet seems to wield the greatest influence, is luck.

This week it was Rishi Sunak’s time to shine again as he delivered his latest Spring Statement and yet judging by the almost universal headlines in this morning’s newspapers, it would seem that the Chancellor’s luck is beginning to run out.

Less than two years ago the Chancellor was being hailed for his decisive action during the pandemic with the introduction of the furlough scheme and the billions of pounds of support that was provided to keep the UK afloat during the darkest days of Covid.

Sunak was being touted as a future leader of his party and potentially the country and ever since we have been treated to a steady flow of soft-focus shots of this new man of the people who wears hoodies and enjoys pizza as he prepares for his big day at the dispatch box.

But then Ukraine happened, energy prices soared, the cost of living crisis deepened almost overnight, and as we saw from yesterday’s Spring Statement, the Chancellor has been left with very few places to go.

As inflation hit a 30-year high of 6.2%, the Chancellor increased the National Insurance threshold by £3,000 to bring it in line with the basic rate of income tax, reduced fuel duty by 5p a litre and scrapped VAT on energy saving materials such as solar panels and heat pumps.

The impact of the announcements are unlikely to be felt to any great extent by those facing the greatest challenges in the months ahead, but the precarious state of the public finances meant he was never likely to be able to pull any particularly meaningful rabbits out of the hat.

While the thin gruel of yesterday’s announcements were not particularly surprising considering the Government’s current economic position, what was again most disappointing was what wasn’t said – particularly in light of the fact that energy is front and centre of the challenges the UK is facing today.

In the coming weeks we are expecting to see the publication of a new energy supply strategy, which is likely to include an uplift in nuclear, solar and offshore wind as we attempt to wean ourselves off Russian oil and gas imports and exposure to the highly volatile commodity markets. 

All of this is absolutely critical and should be wholeheartedly supported by all and yet once again, one has to question how much genuine political will there is to fundamentally change how we generate our energy, how we think about energy as consumers and how committed we are to taking the important steps needed to potentially save our planet!

The decision yesterday to remove VAT from solar panels, heat pumps and insulation could be seen as a step in the right direction, but in reality they were no more than a tiny step forward at a time fwhen only enormous strides will do.

Encouraging home-owners to go green is going to be the key to solving the UK’s long term energy conundrum, as well as reducing the country’s carbon footprint, but reducing the cost of 10 premium solar panels from £3,180 to £3,021 is unlikely to be the answer.

In the UK, more than a third of homes still have no insulation and yet for every four million homes that are insulated, the reduced carbon dioxide from lower energy use would be the equivalent if planting nearly 700 million trees, not to mention significantly lower household energy bills. 

The narrative around energy has to change – the renewable opportunity, providing genuine support for households to go green and having a grown up conversation about our own consumption must be front and centre of any future political discourse.

The Chancellor’s promise to reduce the basic rate of income tax by 2024 may be welcome, but is also nothing less than short term electioneering when we need a Chancellor and a Government that is prepared to look beyond the next electoral cycle.

In the words of the America actress Meryl Streep: “If you make the tough decisions, people will hate you today but they will thank you for generations.”

If we don’t start to make those tough decisions, we are in danger of sleepwalking into a dystopian future because the alternative was not cost effective and that really would be unforgivable.

Peace of mind – the most valuable commodity of all

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Peace of mind – the most valuable commodity of all

By David Penney

There is now barely a day in the calendar that hasn’t been earmarked to celebrate or remember one cause or another.

Some are of the more frivolous variety (who didn’t enjoy International Bagpipe Day at the beginning of March) while some are clearly much more meaningful.

One of the more important of these events, the significance of which has grown in recent years, is Stress Awareness Month, which has been held throughout April for the past 30 years.

Unfortunately the challenges that we all face in our everyday lives has created something of a modern stress epidemic, one that has been amplified and exacerbated by the Covid crisis of the last two years.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, three quarters of people have felt so stressed at some point over the past 12 months that they have felt like they are unable to cope. 

According to the same research, four out of five women admitted to feeling stress compared to three out of five men although that could have more to do about how comfortable people are about admitting to feeling stressed than suggesting that one gender is more predisposed to feeling stressed than another.

As the research clearly shows however, very few people are immune to stress. It is far from being fun but it is normal and what is important is that we continue to build awareness and understanding at a societal level so that we all do what we can to support ourselves and the people around us.

The causes of stress are myriad and can range from personal relationships to challenges around parenting, too heavy a workload to setting unachievable standards – and everything in between.

But every survey and every piece of research that has ever been done on this issue consistently comes to the same conclusion – the biggest cause of stress in our lives is money.

Money is what makes the world go round but it is also the thing that can bring your world grinding to a halt – whatever end of the wealth spectrum you may inhabit.

There may be a world of difference between those worrying about where the next meal is coming from and those who have seen the value of their investment portfolio fall, but both are feeling individual stress, even if their worst-case scenarios vary considerably. 

What unifies both is that they are each searching for reassurance – they are both looking for somebody or something that is going to enable them to look to the future with confidence and believe that everything is going to be ok.

A hugely important first step in tackling this stress before it even occurs is financial education – the provision of which remains somewhere between patchy and woeful when it comes to appearing on the school curriculum. 

Understanding basic financial principles and establishing good financial habits such as budgeting and saving from an early age can literally be life-changing and can go a long way to helping to alleviate money worries in later life.

Taking financial advice and creating a plan that provides a pathway for achieving our financial goals is also hugely important but not necessarily in a material way.

Research has found that while people seek out financial advice for practical reasons, what they are actually valuing more than anything else is the emotional reassurance that the advice process gives them.

The reality is that having that reassurance and confidence that there is a plan in place that will provide the security they are looking for is actually more important than more material considerations such as being demonstrably wealthier. 

Helping people protect and grow their wealth is central to the service that we provide our clients but the true value we provide is how this process makes people feel.

As much as anything else, we are very much in the peace of mind industry.

The truth is that we are never going to eradicate stress – it is a natural, and sometimes important, part of the human psyche.

But we can talk about it more, better understand its impact and potential seriousness and encourage and support those who are feeling stress, whether it is about money or anything else, to take the steps that are going to provide them with the peace of mind that all of us are searching for in our lives.

And for those on the look-out for some fresh stress-relieving strategies, you might also want to consider the opportunities around International Pillow Fight Day on April 2nd. 

Change your life but don’t forget your expectations

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Change your life but don’t forget your expectations

By David Penney

Trying to make the best out of a difficult situation is very much part of the human psyche.

Indeed, it is a fundamental part of our armoury as we navigate the trials and tribulations of life.

The truth is that very few people will go through life without facing struggles – it’s just not how the world is designed – but there is no doubt that events of the past couple of years has certainly added an additional level of challenge that have needed to be overcome.

As we watch the latest horror unfold in Ukraine on our TV screens and steel ourselves for the potential long-term ramifications of Putin’s aggression, it is sometimes easy to forget that the world remains in a pandemic.

However, with the news around infections and more importantly, hospitalisations, continuing to improve and restrictions on our lives all but lifted in the UK, we will undoubtedly soon be able to talk of the pandemic is the past tense, be it in hushed tones.

As such, we can now look back at the pandemic and begin to try and assess the impact it has had on our society and whether the raft of speculation about its transformational impact on how we live our lives has come to pass.

What is for certain is that from a lived experience, the pandemic is like nothing any of us has ever been through before. 

From lockdowns to furloughs, face masks to hand sanitizer, the experience of the last two years has been completely unique and will be remembered as a major event in the existence of the human race when the history of the 21st century comes to be written.

However, the experience of the pandemic was of course more than just a series of things that we had to do, it was also a moment in time that had a major impact on how we feel.

We mustn’t forget that for a significant period of the last two years, the pandemic was very much a story about life and death – it still is although thankfully on a considerably lesser scale than during the bleakest days of the last two years.

This changes people. It makes people question their priorities and examine what is really important and the result of this has been one of the most dramatic shifts in modern times in terms of how people work.

For instance, the rise of Covid since the beginning of 2020 has been mirrored by a wave of entrepreneurialism with an almost unprecedented number of new businesses established.

Each business will tell its own story as to the motivation behind it but at the heart of this significant increase (between 15 and 20% higher than an average year) will be an over-riding desire by many to recapture the work life balance that many were given a small and predominantly positive taster of during the first lockdown. 

In general terms this is something that should be celebrated. Taking decisive action to spend more time doing the things that are important in this short life we have all been blessed with certainly makes a lot of sense.

However, while we will look back at the reassessment of our lifestyles as one of the positives to have come from the pandemic, it will also be important to accept that as our reality changes, so must our expectations.  

That is not to say that we should lower them – far from it in fact. Expectations are a crucial part of our belief system and are fundamental in enabling us to stay focused on achieving our goals. 

But it was author Jonathan Lockwood Huie who said that “a wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect” and so while embracing positive change in our lives, it is also important to understand the associated quid pro quo. 

Just as the light fluttering of butterfly wings may cause unpredictable meteorological consequences, so it is also true that the changing of one integral thing can have non-linear impacts across that complex system we call life.

None of us can ever know our future – indeed it is this mystery that is one of life’s most effective motivators – but we risk a lifetime of disappointment if we expect outcomes that the lifestyle we have chosen cannot deliver.

There is nothing more liberating than the realisation that you are the architect of your own happiness and finding that sweet spot is often not about how well things are going in our lives but about whether they are meeting or exceeding our expectations. 

We all know that there are no guarantees in life but having the courage to reassess our expectations when our circumstances change is a hugely important part of ensuring that our lives are about so much more than merely trying to find the best out of a difficult situation. 

The Government seems all out of luck – now it needs some courage

The world of politics can be a particularly unforgiving place.

Like football managers, no matter how much success politicians might have along the way, the vast majority of their careers will ultimately end in failure. 

There are numerous factors that will impact the longevity of any political career, from the policies they stand for, through to how they present on television, but the one aspect they can seemingly do little about and yet seems to wield the greatest influence, is luck.

This week it was Rishi Sunak’s time to shine again as he delivered his latest Spring Statement and yet judging by the almost universal headlines in this morning’s newspapers, it would seem that the Chancellor’s luck is beginning to run out.

Less than two years ago the Chancellor was being hailed for his decisive action during the pandemic with the introduction of the furlough scheme and the billions of pounds of support that was provided to keep the UK afloat during the darkest days of Covid.

Sunak was being touted as a future leader of his party and potentially the country and ever since we have been treated to a steady flow of soft-focus shots of this new man of the people who wears hoodies and enjoys pizza as he prepares for his big day at the dispatch box.

But then Ukraine happened, energy prices soared, the cost of living crisis deepened almost overnight, and as we saw from yesterday’s Spring Statement, the Chancellor has been left with very few places to go.

As inflation hit a 30-year high of 6.2%, the Chancellor increased the National Insurance threshold by £3,000 to bring it in line with the basic rate of income tax, reduced fuel duty by 5p a litre and scrapped VAT on energy saving materials such as solar panels and heat pumps.

The impact of the announcements are unlikely to be felt to any great extent by those facing the greatest challenges in the months ahead, but the precarious state of the public finances meant he was never likely to be able to pull any particularly meaningful rabbits out of the hat.

While the thin gruel of yesterday’s announcements were not particularly surprising considering the Government’s current economic position, what was again most disappointing was what wasn’t said – particularly in light of the fact that energy is front and centre of the challenges the UK is facing today.

In the coming weeks we are expecting to see the publication of a new energy supply strategy, which is likely to include an uplift in nuclear, solar and offshore wind as we attempt to wean ourselves off Russian oil and gas imports and exposure to the highly volatile commodity markets. 

All of this is absolutely critical and should be wholeheartedly supported by all and yet once again, one has to question how much genuine political will there is to fundamentally change how we generate our energy, how we think about energy as consumers and how committed we are to taking the important steps needed to potentially save our planet!

The decision yesterday to remove VAT from solar panels, heat pumps and insulation could be seen as a step in the right direction, but in reality they were no more than a tiny step forward at a time fwhen only enormous strides will do.

Encouraging home-owners to go green is going to be the key to solving the UK’s long term energy conundrum, as well as reducing the country’s carbon footprint, but reducing the cost of 10 premium solar panels from £3,180 to £3,021 is unlikely to be the answer.

In the UK, more than a third of homes still have no insulation and yet for every four million homes that are insulated, the reduced carbon dioxide from lower energy use would be the equivalent if planting nearly 700 million trees, not to mention significantly lower household energy bills. 

The narrative around energy has to change – the renewable opportunity, providing genuine support for households to go green and having a grown up conversation about our own consumption must be front and centre of any future political discourse.

The Chancellor’s promise to reduce the basic rate of income tax by 2024 may be welcome, but is also nothing less than short term electioneering when we need a Chancellor and a Government that is prepared to look beyond the next electoral cycle.

In the words of the America actress Meryl Streep: “If you make the tough decisions, people will hate you today but they will thank you for generations.”

If we don’t start to make those tough decisions, we are in danger of sleepwalking into a dystopian future because the alternative was not cost effective and that really would be unforgivable.

Peace of mind – the most valuable commodity of all

By David Penney

There is now barely a day in the calendar that hasn’t been earmarked to celebrate or remember one cause or another.

Some are of the more frivolous variety (who didn’t enjoy International Bagpipe Day at the beginning of March) while some are clearly much more meaningful.

One of the more important of these events, the significance of which has grown in recent years, is Stress Awareness Month, which has been held throughout April for the past 30 years.

Unfortunately the challenges that we all face in our everyday lives has created something of a modern stress epidemic, one that has been amplified and exacerbated by the Covid crisis of the last two years.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, three quarters of people have felt so stressed at some point over the past 12 months that they have felt like they are unable to cope. 

According to the same research, four out of five women admitted to feeling stress compared to three out of five men although that could have more to do about how comfortable people are about admitting to feeling stressed than suggesting that one gender is more predisposed to feeling stressed than another.

As the research clearly shows however, very few people are immune to stress. It is far from being fun but it is normal and what is important is that we continue to build awareness and understanding at a societal level so that we all do what we can to support ourselves and the people around us.

The causes of stress are myriad and can range from personal relationships to challenges around parenting, too heavy a workload to setting unachievable standards – and everything in between.

But every survey and every piece of research that has ever been done on this issue consistently comes to the same conclusion – the biggest cause of stress in our lives is money.

Money is what makes the world go round but it is also the thing that can bring your world grinding to a halt – whatever end of the wealth spectrum you may inhabit.

There may be a world of difference between those worrying about where the next meal is coming from and those who have seen the value of their investment portfolio fall, but both are feeling individual stress, even if their worst-case scenarios vary considerably. 

What unifies both is that they are each searching for reassurance – they are both looking for somebody or something that is going to enable them to look to the future with confidence and believe that everything is going to be ok.

A hugely important first step in tackling this stress before it even occurs is financial education – the provision of which remains somewhere between patchy and woeful when it comes to appearing on the school curriculum. 

Understanding basic financial principles and establishing good financial habits such as budgeting and saving from an early age can literally be life-changing and can go a long way to helping to alleviate money worries in later life.

Taking financial advice and creating a plan that provides a pathway for achieving our financial goals is also hugely important but not necessarily in a material way.

Research has found that while people seek out financial advice for practical reasons, what they are actually valuing more than anything else is the emotional reassurance that the advice process gives them.

The reality is that having that reassurance and confidence that there is a plan in place that will provide the security they are looking for is actually more important than more material considerations such as being demonstrably wealthier. 

Helping people protect and grow their wealth is central to the service that we provide our clients but the true value we provide is how this process makes people feel.

As much as anything else, we are very much in the peace of mind industry.

The truth is that we are never going to eradicate stress – it is a natural, and sometimes important, part of the human psyche.

But we can talk about it more, better understand its impact and potential seriousness and encourage and support those who are feeling stress, whether it is about money or anything else, to take the steps that are going to provide them with the peace of mind that all of us are searching for in our lives.

And for those on the look-out for some fresh stress-relieving strategies, you might also want to consider the opportunities around International Pillow Fight Day on April 2nd. 

Change your life but don’t forget your expectations

By David Penney

Trying to make the best out of a difficult situation is very much part of the human psyche.

Indeed, it is a fundamental part of our armoury as we navigate the trials and tribulations of life.

The truth is that very few people will go through life without facing struggles – it’s just not how the world is designed – but there is no doubt that events of the past couple of years has certainly added an additional level of challenge that have needed to be overcome.

As we watch the latest horror unfold in Ukraine on our TV screens and steel ourselves for the potential long-term ramifications of Putin’s aggression, it is sometimes easy to forget that the world remains in a pandemic.

However, with the news around infections and more importantly, hospitalisations, continuing to improve and restrictions on our lives all but lifted in the UK, we will undoubtedly soon be able to talk of the pandemic is the past tense, be it in hushed tones.

As such, we can now look back at the pandemic and begin to try and assess the impact it has had on our society and whether the raft of speculation about its transformational impact on how we live our lives has come to pass.

What is for certain is that from a lived experience, the pandemic is like nothing any of us has ever been through before. 

From lockdowns to furloughs, face masks to hand sanitizer, the experience of the last two years has been completely unique and will be remembered as a major event in the existence of the human race when the history of the 21st century comes to be written.

However, the experience of the pandemic was of course more than just a series of things that we had to do, it was also a moment in time that had a major impact on how we feel.

We mustn’t forget that for a significant period of the last two years, the pandemic was very much a story about life and death – it still is although thankfully on a considerably lesser scale than during the bleakest days of the last two years.

This changes people. It makes people question their priorities and examine what is really important and the result of this has been one of the most dramatic shifts in modern times in terms of how people work.

For instance, the rise of Covid since the beginning of 2020 has been mirrored by a wave of entrepreneurialism with an almost unprecedented number of new businesses established.

Each business will tell its own story as to the motivation behind it but at the heart of this significant increase (between 15 and 20% higher than an average year) will be an over-riding desire by many to recapture the work life balance that many were given a small and predominantly positive taster of during the first lockdown. 

In general terms this is something that should be celebrated. Taking decisive action to spend more time doing the things that are important in this short life we have all been blessed with certainly makes a lot of sense.

However, while we will look back at the reassessment of our lifestyles as one of the positives to have come from the pandemic, it will also be important to accept that as our reality changes, so must our expectations.  

That is not to say that we should lower them – far from it in fact. Expectations are a crucial part of our belief system and are fundamental in enabling us to stay focused on achieving our goals. 

But it was author Jonathan Lockwood Huie who said that “a wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect” and so while embracing positive change in our lives, it is also important to understand the associated quid pro quo. 

Just as the light fluttering of butterfly wings may cause unpredictable meteorological consequences, so it is also true that the changing of one integral thing can have non-linear impacts across that complex system we call life.

None of us can ever know our future – indeed it is this mystery that is one of life’s most effective motivators – but we risk a lifetime of disappointment if we expect outcomes that the lifestyle we have chosen cannot deliver.

There is nothing more liberating than the realisation that you are the architect of your own happiness and finding that sweet spot is often not about how well things are going in our lives but about whether they are meeting or exceeding our expectations. 

We all know that there are no guarantees in life but having the courage to reassess our expectations when our circumstances change is a hugely important part of ensuring that our lives are about so much more than merely trying to find the best out of a difficult situation. 

Financial education: Helping to break the short-term mindset

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Financial education: Helping to break the short-term mindset

By David Penney

When it comes to planning for the future, evolution is not our friend.

As a species of hunter-gatherers that successfully combined the ability to forage for food while trying to avoid being eaten, our brains are very much hard wired to live in the moment.

Fast forward those few thousand years since we stopped living as hunter-gatherers and while society has clearly changed enormously, our brains are yet to catch up.

Indeed, if we look at the relationship we have with our smart phones – endless doomscrolling and notifications – it would seem that the need for instant gratification remains a powerful one.

Over-riding this natural urge to focus on the short term and look further into the distance is fundamental tenet of successful investing and in turn, achieving the financial security that we are all searching for. 

It is a message that we espouse to our clients, who will often become disciples themselves of the value of a long-term orientation once they begin to see the tangible benefits of that approach. 

Paradoxically it is a message that seems to resonate more, the older we get and yet the earlier this message is understood, the more beneficial it can be for those that hear it.

That, in a nutshell, is why financial education for everyone but especially young people, is so critical when it comes to enabling people to take control of their own financial futures and creating a more financially independent society generally.

For many years now I have been an Accredited Financial Education Specialist, sanctioned by St. James’s Place, and regularly run workshops with young people of various ages where we look a range of themes around money – a subject that remains woefully lacking on the school curriculum.

Each session is different and appropriate to the age of the group but central to each are three key themes that I believe get to the heart of achieving financial wellbeing – mindset, knowledge and good habits (although not always necessarily in that order).

Understanding some core financial principles has to be the starting point of any financial education – taxes, pensions, saving, interest rates and the power of compounding are all topics that will impact us all on our financial journey.

Developing sound financial habits is also a hugely important aspect of achieving financial wellbeing – whether that is setting budgets, avoiding consumer debt or establishing a regular saving strategy to name but a few.

But for all the benefits of understanding core financial principles and the importance of good habits, it really is that right mindset that underpins all else – and is ultimately the thing that is most difficult to create.

When it comes down to it, financial wellbeing can in many ways be seen as a choice. 

What it isn’t about is how much money you have – history is littered with people who had all the money in the world and then lost it. 

It also isn’t about how much you earn – more than a third earning more than £100k per year admit they couldn’t go three months if losing their job, only slightly fewer than those earning less than £15k.

Ultimately it is about establishing financial goals and then having a plan that will help you achieve them – perhaps not the core message for a group of seven-year-olds but essential messaging for my most recent session to young people who were about to head off to university or into the world of work. 

We live in an era where everyone is looking for shortcuts – whether that is fitness, relationships, life generally or making money. However, a key part of having the right mindset to achieve financial wellbeing is accepting that very few people get rich quick.

The lure of social influencers and following the crowd can be intoxicating – it is the petrol that fueled history’s most spectacular bubbles.

Today it is the explosion of digital assets such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs that promise easy returns and while they will undoubtedly continue to create significant wealth for some, in all likelihood there will be very many others where the outcome will be less favourable.

It was the peerless Steve Jobs who said that “overnight success stories take a long time” and it is this mindset that lies at the heart of achieving financial wellbeing.

In the real world, it is patience that pays and with knowledge, good habits but most importantly the right mindset, everybody has the opportunity to get rich slow.

It may not be as sexy as the idea of getting rich quick but it’s eminently more achievable – we just need to change millions of years of evolutionary development, one workshop at a time.  

Making a plan to protect your family wealth

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Making a plan to protect your family wealth

Inheritance Tax has something of an image problem.

It is often referred to as the most hated tax of all – most likely because it is effectively seen as a double tax as it applies to a person’s wealth even though they have already paid tax on their earnings.

It can also bring an additional level of stress at a time when a family least need it, not least because the high rate of IHT can come as something of a shock for those that have not previously taken steps to mitigate their potential liabilities.

The reality is that once the tax-free allowance of £325,000 – known as the nil-band rate – is taken into account, only a relatively small amount of people will actually pay any IHT and yet it still generated more than £3bn receipts for the Revenue in the third quarter of 2021, according to its latest available figures.

While the numbers that pay it are relatively low, IHT is the one tax that can potentially impact everybody and with IHT currently at 40%, it is certainly not a tax to be ignored. 

The good news is that IHT is in many ways a voluntary tax because of all the actions that can be considered to potentially negate it – with estate planning opportunities in every tax year that can be considered by those looking to minimize exposure to IHT and plan an effective estate distribution strategy.

The key to mitigating IHT is effectively creating a strategy where you can pass on your wealth in the most tax efficient way possible and one of the options to consider – particularly as we approach the end of the current tax year on April 5th – is through gifting.

There are various rules and limitations to what can be gifted, in what form, how and to who but there are a range of gifts that are completely exempt from IHT and with no survival window – meaning they will immediately be considered outside of your estate.

These include gifts to spouses and civil partners, small gifts of £250 and most importantly, an annual exemption of £3,000 per person or £6,000 between you and a partner every tax year.

This can also be carried forward for one year so the combined total could be as much as £12,000. 

Another option for passing on wealth in a potentially efficient way is via your pension, which are invariably held outside of an estate. With an annual limit of £40,000, paying any excess cash into your pension before the end of the tax year not only minimises your taxable estate but ensures that your money is working harder for you and your family.

There are a number of other options to consider when passing on wealth, not least trusts, which come in many forms but are principally used to provide a means of gifting whilst maintaining some control.

Advice here is important so the rules can be carefully managed and adhered to but also so you can truly consider the wide range of factors such as who the beneficiary and beneficiaries are, how and when they would like them to benefit from the trust and the level of control retained of the gifted asset.

So while IHT may be one of the more unpopular taxes, it can also be minimised through some forward-thinking and by taking advantage of the opportunities available every tax year.  

Start planning now as there will be a time when it will be too late to make a difference and unfortunately none of us know when that might be.

Inflation: Beware the invisible killer

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Inflation: Beware the invisible killer

By David Penney

Inflation is back.

Often one of the most misunderstood economic phenomena, inflation is difficult to forecast and even more difficult to control.

It can have a wide range of impacts on the economy, not all of them negative, but for the individual it can cause a serious pain in the pocket.

In the UK, the inflation rate is currently running at its highest rate for a decade, breaching 5% last November and it has been creeping north ever since. In the US it is running at an almost 40-year high at more than 7%.

And the truth is there is a significant possibility that inflation could continue to rise – or at the very least stay stubbornly high – before it starts to come down again.

It is impossible to point to a single factor that is driving up the cost of those 700 goods and services that are used in the UK to assess the rate of inflation but a combination of low interest rates, Covid, Brexit, supply chain challenges and increased energy costs are all now finding their way back to prices generally.

In terms of how inflation is calculated, it is something of a moveable feast – last year hand gel and men’s lounge wear were added to the inflation shopping basket and electric cars and smart watches are also recent additions and it is a basket that will continue to evolve in line with consumer trends.

However, regardless of what is in the nominal basket of goods, the upshot of this rising trend for the average man or women in the street is that it is starting to have a significant impact on the value of the pound in your pocket and its purchasing power.

And for those with savings, the former US President Ronald Reagan was pretty close to the mark when he described inflation as “a violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and a deadly as a hit man”.

One way that inflation has traditionally been held in check is through increasing interest rates, making debt more expensive and theoretically putting the breaks on consumer spending and business investment, each of which put upward pressure on prices.

We recently saw the Bank of England increase interest rates from its historic low by a quarter of one per cent and we should probably expect another increase in the not too distant future, both in the UK and the US.

However, with many of the problems fuelling price rises being supply side related, dampening demand is unlikely to deal with the core issues at play. As I read in a recent commentary about the issue, with interest rates at such a low base, it is akin to trying to spear a T-rex with a toothpick.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that we are a long way from when inflation peaked in the modern era at 18% exactly 40 years ago but the less favourable news is that this inflationary period is unlikely to go anywhere soon.

This means that those who do have cash in the bank should be seriously considering taking action to mitigate the impact of inflation because in today’s low interest rate environment, beating inflation with a savings account is an impossible mission. 

Indeed, in a period of high inflation and ultra low interest rates, you really don’t want to hold more cash than is necessary for any length of time and right now if your savings are in a bank or a building society then they are probably earning a real return of -4% and this is likely to be true for at least the rest of 2022.

Depending on risk profile, there are a number of opportunities to consider, from investing in stocks (the FTSE 100 and FTSE All-Share regularly delivers returns above the current inflation rate) to putting as much as possible into different tax shelters, be that an ISA or into a pension, both of which have significant tax benefits as well as potentially offering valuable long-term growth.

Inflation really doesn’t discriminate, impacting every one of us. It is a silent killer that can have a devastating impact over the long term. 

As author Venita Van Caspel said, “inflation takes from the ignorant and gives to the well informed” so it might just be the right time to take stock and consider taking action to maintain the value of those savings that you have worked so hard for. 

Financial education: Helping to break the short-term mindset

By David Penney

When it comes to planning for the future, evolution is not our friend.

As a species of hunter-gatherers that successfully combined the ability to forage for food while trying to avoid being eaten, our brains are very much hard wired to live in the moment.

Fast forward those few thousand years since we stopped living as hunter-gatherers and while society has clearly changed enormously, our brains are yet to catch up.

Indeed, if we look at the relationship we have with our smart phones – endless doomscrolling and notifications – it would seem that the need for instant gratification remains a powerful one.

Over-riding this natural urge to focus on the short term and look further into the distance is fundamental tenet of successful investing and in turn, achieving the financial security that we are all searching for. 

It is a message that we espouse to our clients, who will often become disciples themselves of the value of a long-term orientation once they begin to see the tangible benefits of that approach. 

Paradoxically it is a message that seems to resonate more, the older we get and yet the earlier this message is understood, the more beneficial it can be for those that hear it.

That, in a nutshell, is why financial education for everyone but especially young people, is so critical when it comes to enabling people to take control of their own financial futures and creating a more financially independent society generally.

For many years now I have been an Accredited Financial Education Specialist, sanctioned by St. James’s Place, and regularly run workshops with young people of various ages where we look a range of themes around money – a subject that remains woefully lacking on the school curriculum.

Each session is different and appropriate to the age of the group but central to each are three key themes that I believe get to the heart of achieving financial wellbeing – mindset, knowledge and good habits (although not always necessarily in that order).

Understanding some core financial principles has to be the starting point of any financial education – taxes, pensions, saving, interest rates and the power of compounding are all topics that will impact us all on our financial journey.

Developing sound financial habits is also a hugely important aspect of achieving financial wellbeing – whether that is setting budgets, avoiding consumer debt or establishing a regular saving strategy to name but a few.

But for all the benefits of understanding core financial principles and the importance of good habits, it really is that right mindset that underpins all else – and is ultimately the thing that is most difficult to create.

When it comes down to it, financial wellbeing can in many ways be seen as a choice. 

What it isn’t about is how much money you have – history is littered with people who had all the money in the world and then lost it. 

It also isn’t about how much you earn – more than a third earning more than £100k per year admit they couldn’t go three months if losing their job, only slightly fewer than those earning less than £15k.

Ultimately it is about establishing financial goals and then having a plan that will help you achieve them – perhaps not the core message for a group of seven-year-olds but essential messaging for my most recent session to young people who were about to head off to university or into the world of work. 

We live in an era where everyone is looking for shortcuts – whether that is fitness, relationships, life generally or making money. However, a key part of having the right mindset to achieve financial wellbeing is accepting that very few people get rich quick.

The lure of social influencers and following the crowd can be intoxicating – it is the petrol that fueled history’s most spectacular bubbles.

Today it is the explosion of digital assets such as cryptocurrencies and NFTs that promise easy returns and while they will undoubtedly continue to create significant wealth for some, in all likelihood there will be very many others where the outcome will be less favourable.

It was the peerless Steve Jobs who said that “overnight success stories take a long time” and it is this mindset that lies at the heart of achieving financial wellbeing.

In the real world, it is patience that pays and with knowledge, good habits but most importantly the right mindset, everybody has the opportunity to get rich slow.

It may not be as sexy as the idea of getting rich quick but it’s eminently more achievable – we just need to change millions of years of evolutionary development, one workshop at a time.  

Making a plan to protect your family wealth

Inheritance Tax has something of an image problem.

It is often referred to as the most hated tax of all – most likely because it is effectively seen as a double tax as it applies to a person’s wealth even though they have already paid tax on their earnings.

It can also bring an additional level of stress at a time when a family least need it, not least because the high rate of IHT can come as something of a shock for those that have not previously taken steps to mitigate their potential liabilities.

The reality is that once the tax-free allowance of £325,000 – known as the nil-band rate – is taken into account, only a relatively small amount of people will actually pay any IHT and yet it still generated more than £3bn receipts for the Revenue in the third quarter of 2021, according to its latest available figures.

While the numbers that pay it are relatively low, IHT is the one tax that can potentially impact everybody and with IHT currently at 40%, it is certainly not a tax to be ignored. 

The good news is that IHT is in many ways a voluntary tax because of all the actions that can be considered to potentially negate it – with estate planning opportunities in every tax year that can be considered by those looking to minimize exposure to IHT and plan an effective estate distribution strategy.

The key to mitigating IHT is effectively creating a strategy where you can pass on your wealth in the most tax efficient way possible and one of the options to consider – particularly as we approach the end of the current tax year on April 5th – is through gifting.

There are various rules and limitations to what can be gifted, in what form, how and to who but there are a range of gifts that are completely exempt from IHT and with no survival window – meaning they will immediately be considered outside of your estate.

These include gifts to spouses and civil partners, small gifts of £250 and most importantly, an annual exemption of £3,000 per person or £6,000 between you and a partner every tax year.

This can also be carried forward for one year so the combined total could be as much as £12,000. 

Another option for passing on wealth in a potentially efficient way is via your pension, which are invariably held outside of an estate. With an annual limit of £40,000, paying any excess cash into your pension before the end of the tax year not only minimises your taxable estate but ensures that your money is working harder for you and your family.

There are a number of other options to consider when passing on wealth, not least trusts, which come in many forms but are principally used to provide a means of gifting whilst maintaining some control.

Advice here is important so the rules can be carefully managed and adhered to but also so you can truly consider the wide range of factors such as who the beneficiary and beneficiaries are, how and when they would like them to benefit from the trust and the level of control retained of the gifted asset.

So while IHT may be one of the more unpopular taxes, it can also be minimised through some forward-thinking and by taking advantage of the opportunities available every tax year.  

Start planning now as there will be a time when it will be too late to make a difference and unfortunately none of us know when that might be.

Inflation: Beware the invisible killer

By David Penney

Inflation is back.

Often one of the most misunderstood economic phenomena, inflation is difficult to forecast and even more difficult to control.

It can have a wide range of impacts on the economy, not all of them negative, but for the individual it can cause a serious pain in the pocket.

In the UK, the inflation rate is currently running at its highest rate for a decade, breaching 5% last November and it has been creeping north ever since. In the US it is running at an almost 40-year high at more than 7%.

And the truth is there is a significant possibility that inflation could continue to rise – or at the very least stay stubbornly high – before it starts to come down again.

It is impossible to point to a single factor that is driving up the cost of those 700 goods and services that are used in the UK to assess the rate of inflation but a combination of low interest rates, Covid, Brexit, supply chain challenges and increased energy costs are all now finding their way back to prices generally.

In terms of how inflation is calculated, it is something of a moveable feast – last year hand gel and men’s lounge wear were added to the inflation shopping basket and electric cars and smart watches are also recent additions and it is a basket that will continue to evolve in line with consumer trends.

However, regardless of what is in the nominal basket of goods, the upshot of this rising trend for the average man or women in the street is that it is starting to have a significant impact on the value of the pound in your pocket and its purchasing power.

And for those with savings, the former US President Ronald Reagan was pretty close to the mark when he described inflation as “a violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and a deadly as a hit man”.

One way that inflation has traditionally been held in check is through increasing interest rates, making debt more expensive and theoretically putting the breaks on consumer spending and business investment, each of which put upward pressure on prices.

We recently saw the Bank of England increase interest rates from its historic low by a quarter of one per cent and we should probably expect another increase in the not too distant future, both in the UK and the US.

However, with many of the problems fuelling price rises being supply side related, dampening demand is unlikely to deal with the core issues at play. As I read in a recent commentary about the issue, with interest rates at such a low base, it is akin to trying to spear a T-rex with a toothpick.

The good news, if you can call it that, is that we are a long way from when inflation peaked in the modern era at 18% exactly 40 years ago but the less favourable news is that this inflationary period is unlikely to go anywhere soon.

This means that those who do have cash in the bank should be seriously considering taking action to mitigate the impact of inflation because in today’s low interest rate environment, beating inflation with a savings account is an impossible mission. 

Indeed, in a period of high inflation and ultra low interest rates, you really don’t want to hold more cash than is necessary for any length of time and right now if your savings are in a bank or a building society then they are probably earning a real return of -4% and this is likely to be true for at least the rest of 2022.

Depending on risk profile, there are a number of opportunities to consider, from investing in stocks (the FTSE 100 and FTSE All-Share regularly delivers returns above the current inflation rate) to putting as much as possible into different tax shelters, be that an ISA or into a pension, both of which have significant tax benefits as well as potentially offering valuable long-term growth.

Inflation really doesn’t discriminate, impacting every one of us. It is a silent killer that can have a devastating impact over the long term. 

As author Venita Van Caspel said, “inflation takes from the ignorant and gives to the well informed” so it might just be the right time to take stock and consider taking action to maintain the value of those savings that you have worked so hard for. 

Wealth: What’s in a word.

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Wealth: What’s in a word.

By David Penney

Language is a magnificent and wonderous thing.

It allows us to describe and make sense of our confusing universe, bringing order and structure to our lives through a common and shared understanding.

It is the most powerful tool that we all possess, enabling us through the careful choice of our words to inform, influence, persuade, coerce, deceive, manipulate, comfort, celebrate – the list goes on.

Every language has its rules, quirks and even eccentricities but it is the English language that stands apart as probably the world’s most nuanced with its million or so relatively commonly used words, many of which broadly mean the same thing.

I say only broadly the same thing as we know that there are many words that seek to identify the same thing but can convey a very different meaning.

For example, somebody who works for the local council may be described as a bureaucrat or as a public servant, both are technically correct but suggest something fundamentally different.

Or when we look at the conversation around the movement of people around the world, we will often see the use of the word migrant or immigrant when speaking of people from other countries but use the softer term ‘expat’ when describing migrants from our own country even when they are identifying the same thing.

We have a language that allows us to use a variety of different words to identify the same thing but to convey a very different message – often the choice of word will be subconscious but for the listener, the nuance will be clear.

And that is the fundamental thing about how we use language and words – it is often not the technical meaning of the word itself but what that word implies to those hearing or reading it that actually matters. 

It is an issue that has come into focus this week after St. James’s Place unveiled its plans to refresh its brand identity to coincide with its 30th anniversary this year.

The project will see an evolution of its visual brand, but it will also see St. James’s Place drop the ‘Wealth Management’ descriptor from its company name, a move the company believe is more in line with the structure of the business – its partners are the wealth managers while St. James’s Place is the engine that sits behind them in support.

Claire Blackwell, the excellent marketing director at St. James’s Place who has been leading this project, also described wealth management as “quite a loaded term”, potentially putting people off from getting advice because they don’t consider themselves wealthy.

It is an arguably brave position to take but also makes a huge amount of sense – and is a clear example of a word that will mean different things to different people and that the meaning of the word will change as the world changes around us.

When we look at the dictionary definition of the word, wealth is described as ‘an abundance of valuable possessions or money’ but the truth is that your abundance may be very different to my abundance.

According to a survey by a major US financial institution, respondents in 2020 believed that $2.6m of assets was needed to be wealthy while this fell to $1.9m in assets when surveyed again in 2021.

It is hard to argue that somebody with this level of assets was not wealthy and yet according to Ameriprise, just 13% of American millionaires consider themselves to be wealthy – ultimately then when it comes to what wealth means, it is very much a question of personal perspective. 

According to the latest available figures, around one in 10 adults in the UK had regulated financial advice related to investments, saving into pensions or retirement planning over the last 12 months.

There will be numerous and varied reasons why people do not seek out advice about their finances but what is clear is that with 90% of population not currently taking advice, there are many millions who are missing a clear opportunity to improve their financial wellbeing and from a business perspective, there is a huge market opportunity.

From St. James’s Place’s perspective, this is clearly well understood and believe that one way to access new market opportunities is to remove the ambiguity associated around the idea of wealth.

The reality is that in the UK there are a vast number of people earning middle incomes who will live in a nice family home with little or no mortgage, have ISAs for the kids and 25-years of solid occupational pension payments behind them who would certainly not consider themselves wealthy and yet would significantly benefit from engaging with a wealth manager. 

Of course the fact that St. James’s Place has decided it will drop wealth management from its business name is unlikely to immediately open the floodgates to a raft of new clients who were previously put off by the phrase – and it should be noted that there will be no obligation for its Partner Practices to drop the phrase from their names.

However, the decision is a great opportunity to elevate the conversation about the word wealth and what it actually means to people, particularly in the case of wealth management. 

It was the famed Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel who said that “Contentment is the only real wealth” and this for me gets to heart of what the term wealth management really means. 

As wealth managers, our job is to look at all aspects of a client’s financial situation and help create a plan that is as much about life as it is the accumulation of money – as important as this may be.

Worrying about money is the number one issue that keeps us awake at night and it is unarguable that society generally would be better off if more people were able to access the kind of advice that could literally change their lives – and help provide that contentment that we all seek.  

If we are to encourage more people to seek advice then we have to redefine what we mean by wealth and in turn change people’s perception of what the word means to them.

Wealth, as defined by Albert Nobel, is something that is available to every one of us and we need to spread this message in the clearest language possible. 

Don’t let bad advice define your future.

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Don’t let bad advice define your future.

By David Penney

We live in a world where there is no shortage of advice available.

In this increasingly connected world, there are a million and one sources to turn to when a decision has to be made. 

The trick of course is to be able to discern which advice is going to help you achieve your goals rather than hurt you – something that is not always that easy, as many of us will discover to our cost at some point in our lives. 

In the words of the playwright and tragedian Sophocles, there is no enemy worse than bad advice - it can stop you dead in your tracks, killing that all important momentum that you have been building.

As we have seen from the Conservative Party’s astounding loss of the previously safe North Shropshire seat in Parliament, by-election sparked by a chain of events that appears to have been initiated by some poor advice, there can be long term and potentially devastating consequences from listening to bad advice.

The truth is that not all advice is created equal and some of it is just downright bad and so when we are seeking advice there are a number of things that we should consider before acting upon it.

The first question we should always ask ourselves when seeking advice is whether the person we are asking has an ulterior motive for the advice they are giving.

Unfortunately, whether it is your career, your relationships or your finances that are being considered, not everybody is going to have your best interests at heart, be that consciously or subconsciously.

Even advice given with the very best of intentions, particularly from those very close to you such as a parent, partner or friend, may lack the necessary objectivity to be truly valuable.

The second question to consider when seeking advice is whether the person that you are speaking to is an expert.

Lots of people have opinions, in fact we all do, but very few of us are experts and in a world where we are bombarded with so many different voices and strident opinions, it is important not to confuse confidence with expertise.

As the Dunning-Kruger effect clearly demonstrates, one of the unfortunate frailties of the human psyche is that the less some of us know about a given subject, the more confident we are in our opinions.

Ultimately the best way to overcome this is by seeking advice from those that have done what you are trying to do, ideally multiple times. If somebody is just offering their opinion, then it is probably worth thinking twice about how much credence you give to what they have to say.

One of the great challenges for us all is that we are attracted to advice that reassures and confirms beliefs that already exist. 

As Francis Bacon, the 16th century statesman rather than the 20th century artist, said: “It is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human intellect to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than negatives; whereas it ought properly to hold itself indifferently disposed towards both alike.”

Good advice is often about being told what you need and that may not always align with what you thought that you wanted.

Taking advice on a given matter also invariably comes at a time of heightened anxiety about the issue at hand and repeated research has shown that anxiety has a significant impact on our ability to discern between good and bad advice.

This makes it doubly important to really understand from who you are taking advice as well as refraining from making major decisions until in a relaxed state and able to clearly reflect on the matter at hand.

In many ways it is a matter of self confidence and being able to monitor our own levels of anxiety and being able to recognise that worrying will make us more receptive to advice and less discriminating as to whether it is good advice or bad. 

When we allow fear to rule us, we gravitate towards advice that capitalises those fears – even if it is bad advice.

However, the worst thing that we can do is to stop taking advice, no matter what our previous experiences.

As we move through each stage of our lives, we will potentially seek lots of advice and some of it will be incredibly valuable, some less so.

There can be damaging and potentially long-term consequences of taking bad advice but there will always be a better way and through taking a more considered approach as to where you seek advice and how it is acted upon, the chances of achieving a more desirable outcome increase dramatically – even for Prime Ministers. 

Taking control of the habit loop for a better 2022

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Taking control of the habit loop for a better 2022

By David Penney

It would seem that new year’s resolutions are more popular than ever this year.

According to a recent poll by YouGov, 16% of us will be making at least one resolution for 2022 compared to just 11% last year.

Leading the way in their desire for the new year to be catalyst for personal change are young people with more than a third of 18–24-year-olds identifying something they want to achieve in the coming year compared with only 10% of over 55s.

The most popular resolutions are linked to losing weight, improving fitness and living generally healthier lifestyles and these are followed fairly closely by a desire to save more money.

Resolutions at the other end of the popularity scale include giving more money to charity, taking up a new hobby, spending less time on social media and surprisingly giving up smoking – once one of the most popular new year’s resolutions and hopefully a reflection of the decline in the habit generally.

The bad news however, according to YouGov, is that of the 11% of Britons who made new year’s resolution in 2021, more than a quarter failed to keep a single one of them.

The reality is that our habits are incredibly powerful and can be difficult to change - if they weren’t then there would probably be no such thing as new year’s resolutions.

As a species we are hardwired to develop habits – both good and bad – as scientists believe that the brain is continually looking for ways to save effort and become as efficient as possible.

Indeed, it has been a fundamental aspect of the successful evolution of the human race, as an efficient brain needs less room which means smaller heads and safer childbirth.

All habits are established by what is called the habit loop – a three step process that was first bought into the public consciousness by Charles Duhigg’s compelling The Power of Habit, which was first originally published almost a decade ago.

The habit loop consists of the cue (the trigger that tells the brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use), the routine (the action, which can be physical as well as mental or emotional) and finally the reward (the outcome which allows the brain to decide is this particular loop is worth remembering in the future).

Why understanding the habit loop is so important – particularly when it comes to changing behaviours as aspired to when setting your new year’s resolutions – is that it reveals a basic, if slightly disturbing, truth; when a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making.

So unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new routines – then the habitual pattern will unfold automatically and according to scientist Ann Graybiel, whose work at MIT helped to establish the existence of habit loops, the fact is that habits never actually disappear. 

Unfortunately the brain can’t tell the difference between good and bad habits and so if you have a bad habit, it will always remain in the darkest recesses of the brain just waiting for the right cues and rewards from the habit loop.

All this explains why it can be so hard for us to change our exercise, eating or financial habits once we have developed a routine, which will forever stay inside our heads. 

It is why the concept of the new year’s resolution is such an important one as it recognises in the simplest of terms that only through consciously creating a new neurological routine can we overpower these behaviours and take back control of the habit loop. 

It was the great Warren Buffett who said that the chains of habit “are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken but the chains you put around now have enormous consequences as you go through life” and he has not been wrong about too many things in his 91 years. 

Regardless of how long it takes – and powerful changes don’t happen overnight – tackling bad habits and replacing them with good ones really is essential if you want to live your best life.

Bad habits have a tendency to hold us back from achieving our full potential, even when we don’t know it, through making us unproductive, unhappy or unhealthy whereas good habits are so often a precursor to all around success.

And ultimately, even if we are unsuccessful in completely keeping our new year’s resolutions and creating those new habit loops that will cement behaviours that are more beneficial to our lives, just the act of making the resolutions can have incredibly positive effects on our lives.

A new year’s resolution reflects an honesty that there are things in life that could be better, and each resolution establishes a clear intent to do something pro-active to make an aspect of your life better and that is a hugely important first step on that journey to self-improvement.

New year’s resolutions are also about positivity. Considering changes to your life indicates that you believe that your tomorrow can be better than today. There is nothing negative about highlighting the old habits you would like change or the new habits you want to acquire – it reflects a fundamental optimism about your life and a positive view of the power that you have to achieve your goals.

New year’s resolutions are also inspirational – not just for you but also the people around you. Your efforts to break that habit that has held you back for years or damages your health not only indicates to others the kind of person you are but can also drive them to make a change as well. 

So good luck to all those who have made new year’s resolutions this year. Making meaningful change is never easy but is always worth the effort and if you aren’t quite able to achieve your goal then not to worry – there is always next year.

Wealth: What’s in a word.

By David Penney

Language is a magnificent and wonderous thing.

It allows us to describe and make sense of our confusing universe, bringing order and structure to our lives through a common and shared understanding.

It is the most powerful tool that we all possess, enabling us through the careful choice of our words to inform, influence, persuade, coerce, deceive, manipulate, comfort, celebrate – the list goes on.

Every language has its rules, quirks and even eccentricities but it is the English language that stands apart as probably the world’s most nuanced with its million or so relatively commonly used words, many of which broadly mean the same thing.

I say only broadly the same thing as we know that there are many words that seek to identify the same thing but can convey a very different meaning.

For example, somebody who works for the local council may be described as a bureaucrat or as a public servant, both are technically correct but suggest something fundamentally different.

Or when we look at the conversation around the movement of people around the world, we will often see the use of the word migrant or immigrant when speaking of people from other countries but use the softer term ‘expat’ when describing migrants from our own country even when they are identifying the same thing.

We have a language that allows us to use a variety of different words to identify the same thing but to convey a very different message – often the choice of word will be subconscious but for the listener, the nuance will be clear.

And that is the fundamental thing about how we use language and words – it is often not the technical meaning of the word itself but what that word implies to those hearing or reading it that actually matters. 

It is an issue that has come into focus this week after St. James’s Place unveiled its plans to refresh its brand identity to coincide with its 30th anniversary this year.

The project will see an evolution of its visual brand, but it will also see St. James’s Place drop the ‘Wealth Management’ descriptor from its company name, a move the company believe is more in line with the structure of the business – its partners are the wealth managers while St. James’s Place is the engine that sits behind them in support.

Claire Blackwell, the excellent marketing director at St. James’s Place who has been leading this project, also described wealth management as “quite a loaded term”, potentially putting people off from getting advice because they don’t consider themselves wealthy.

It is an arguably brave position to take but also makes a huge amount of sense – and is a clear example of a word that will mean different things to different people and that the meaning of the word will change as the world changes around us.

When we look at the dictionary definition of the word, wealth is described as ‘an abundance of valuable possessions or money’ but the truth is that your abundance may be very different to my abundance.

According to a survey by a major US financial institution, respondents in 2020 believed that $2.6m of assets was needed to be wealthy while this fell to $1.9m in assets when surveyed again in 2021.

It is hard to argue that somebody with this level of assets was not wealthy and yet according to Ameriprise, just 13% of American millionaires consider themselves to be wealthy – ultimately then when it comes to what wealth means, it is very much a question of personal perspective. 

According to the latest available figures, around one in 10 adults in the UK had regulated financial advice related to investments, saving into pensions or retirement planning over the last 12 months.

There will be numerous and varied reasons why people do not seek out advice about their finances but what is clear is that with 90% of population not currently taking advice, there are many millions who are missing a clear opportunity to improve their financial wellbeing and from a business perspective, there is a huge market opportunity.

From St. James’s Place’s perspective, this is clearly well understood and believe that one way to access new market opportunities is to remove the ambiguity associated around the idea of wealth.

The reality is that in the UK there are a vast number of people earning middle incomes who will live in a nice family home with little or no mortgage, have ISAs for the kids and 25-years of solid occupational pension payments behind them who would certainly not consider themselves wealthy and yet would significantly benefit from engaging with a wealth manager. 

Of course the fact that St. James’s Place has decided it will drop wealth management from its business name is unlikely to immediately open the floodgates to a raft of new clients who were previously put off by the phrase – and it should be noted that there will be no obligation for its Partner Practices to drop the phrase from their names.

However, the decision is a great opportunity to elevate the conversation about the word wealth and what it actually means to people, particularly in the case of wealth management. 

It was the famed Swedish scientist Alfred Nobel who said that “Contentment is the only real wealth” and this for me gets to heart of what the term wealth management really means. 

As wealth managers, our job is to look at all aspects of a client’s financial situation and help create a plan that is as much about life as it is the accumulation of money – as important as this may be.

Worrying about money is the number one issue that keeps us awake at night and it is unarguable that society generally would be better off if more people were able to access the kind of advice that could literally change their lives – and help provide that contentment that we all seek.  

If we are to encourage more people to seek advice then we have to redefine what we mean by wealth and in turn change people’s perception of what the word means to them.

Wealth, as defined by Albert Nobel, is something that is available to every one of us and we need to spread this message in the clearest language possible. 

Don’t let bad advice define your future.

By David Penney

We live in a world where there is no shortage of advice available.

In this increasingly connected world, there are a million and one sources to turn to when a decision has to be made. 

The trick of course is to be able to discern which advice is going to help you achieve your goals rather than hurt you – something that is not always that easy, as many of us will discover to our cost at some point in our lives. 

In the words of the playwright and tragedian Sophocles, there is no enemy worse than bad advice - it can stop you dead in your tracks, killing that all important momentum that you have been building.

As we have seen from the Conservative Party’s astounding loss of the previously safe North Shropshire seat in Parliament, by-election sparked by a chain of events that appears to have been initiated by some poor advice, there can be long term and potentially devastating consequences from listening to bad advice.

The truth is that not all advice is created equal and some of it is just downright bad and so when we are seeking advice there are a number of things that we should consider before acting upon it.

The first question we should always ask ourselves when seeking advice is whether the person we are asking has an ulterior motive for the advice they are giving.

Unfortunately, whether it is your career, your relationships or your finances that are being considered, not everybody is going to have your best interests at heart, be that consciously or subconsciously.

Even advice given with the very best of intentions, particularly from those very close to you such as a parent, partner or friend, may lack the necessary objectivity to be truly valuable.

The second question to consider when seeking advice is whether the person that you are speaking to is an expert.

Lots of people have opinions, in fact we all do, but very few of us are experts and in a world where we are bombarded with so many different voices and strident opinions, it is important not to confuse confidence with expertise.

As the Dunning-Kruger effect clearly demonstrates, one of the unfortunate frailties of the human psyche is that the less some of us know about a given subject, the more confident we are in our opinions.

Ultimately the best way to overcome this is by seeking advice from those that have done what you are trying to do, ideally multiple times. If somebody is just offering their opinion, then it is probably worth thinking twice about how much credence you give to what they have to say.

One of the great challenges for us all is that we are attracted to advice that reassures and confirms beliefs that already exist. 

As Francis Bacon, the 16th century statesman rather than the 20th century artist, said: “It is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human intellect to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than negatives; whereas it ought properly to hold itself indifferently disposed towards both alike.”

Good advice is often about being told what you need and that may not always align with what you thought that you wanted.

Taking advice on a given matter also invariably comes at a time of heightened anxiety about the issue at hand and repeated research has shown that anxiety has a significant impact on our ability to discern between good and bad advice.

This makes it doubly important to really understand from who you are taking advice as well as refraining from making major decisions until in a relaxed state and able to clearly reflect on the matter at hand.

In many ways it is a matter of self confidence and being able to monitor our own levels of anxiety and being able to recognise that worrying will make us more receptive to advice and less discriminating as to whether it is good advice or bad. 

When we allow fear to rule us, we gravitate towards advice that capitalises those fears – even if it is bad advice.

However, the worst thing that we can do is to stop taking advice, no matter what our previous experiences.

As we move through each stage of our lives, we will potentially seek lots of advice and some of it will be incredibly valuable, some less so.

There can be damaging and potentially long-term consequences of taking bad advice but there will always be a better way and through taking a more considered approach as to where you seek advice and how it is acted upon, the chances of achieving a more desirable outcome increase dramatically – even for Prime Ministers. 

Taking control of the habit loop for a better 2022

By David Penney

It would seem that new year’s resolutions are more popular than ever this year.

According to a recent poll by YouGov, 16% of us will be making at least one resolution for 2022 compared to just 11% last year.

Leading the way in their desire for the new year to be catalyst for personal change are young people with more than a third of 18–24-year-olds identifying something they want to achieve in the coming year compared with only 10% of over 55s.

The most popular resolutions are linked to losing weight, improving fitness and living generally healthier lifestyles and these are followed fairly closely by a desire to save more money.

Resolutions at the other end of the popularity scale include giving more money to charity, taking up a new hobby, spending less time on social media and surprisingly giving up smoking – once one of the most popular new year’s resolutions and hopefully a reflection of the decline in the habit generally.

The bad news however, according to YouGov, is that of the 11% of Britons who made new year’s resolution in 2021, more than a quarter failed to keep a single one of them.

The reality is that our habits are incredibly powerful and can be difficult to change - if they weren’t then there would probably be no such thing as new year’s resolutions.

As a species we are hardwired to develop habits – both good and bad – as scientists believe that the brain is continually looking for ways to save effort and become as efficient as possible.

Indeed, it has been a fundamental aspect of the successful evolution of the human race, as an efficient brain needs less room which means smaller heads and safer childbirth.

All habits are established by what is called the habit loop – a three step process that was first bought into the public consciousness by Charles Duhigg’s compelling The Power of Habit, which was first originally published almost a decade ago.

The habit loop consists of the cue (the trigger that tells the brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use), the routine (the action, which can be physical as well as mental or emotional) and finally the reward (the outcome which allows the brain to decide is this particular loop is worth remembering in the future).

Why understanding the habit loop is so important – particularly when it comes to changing behaviours as aspired to when setting your new year’s resolutions – is that it reveals a basic, if slightly disturbing, truth; when a habit emerges, the brain stops fully participating in decision making.

So unless you deliberately fight a habit – unless you find new routines – then the habitual pattern will unfold automatically and according to scientist Ann Graybiel, whose work at MIT helped to establish the existence of habit loops, the fact is that habits never actually disappear. 

Unfortunately the brain can’t tell the difference between good and bad habits and so if you have a bad habit, it will always remain in the darkest recesses of the brain just waiting for the right cues and rewards from the habit loop.

All this explains why it can be so hard for us to change our exercise, eating or financial habits once we have developed a routine, which will forever stay inside our heads. 

It is why the concept of the new year’s resolution is such an important one as it recognises in the simplest of terms that only through consciously creating a new neurological routine can we overpower these behaviours and take back control of the habit loop. 

It was the great Warren Buffett who said that the chains of habit “are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken but the chains you put around now have enormous consequences as you go through life” and he has not been wrong about too many things in his 91 years. 

Regardless of how long it takes – and powerful changes don’t happen overnight – tackling bad habits and replacing them with good ones really is essential if you want to live your best life.

Bad habits have a tendency to hold us back from achieving our full potential, even when we don’t know it, through making us unproductive, unhappy or unhealthy whereas good habits are so often a precursor to all around success.

And ultimately, even if we are unsuccessful in completely keeping our new year’s resolutions and creating those new habit loops that will cement behaviours that are more beneficial to our lives, just the act of making the resolutions can have incredibly positive effects on our lives.

A new year’s resolution reflects an honesty that there are things in life that could be better, and each resolution establishes a clear intent to do something pro-active to make an aspect of your life better and that is a hugely important first step on that journey to self-improvement.

New year’s resolutions are also about positivity. Considering changes to your life indicates that you believe that your tomorrow can be better than today. There is nothing negative about highlighting the old habits you would like change or the new habits you want to acquire – it reflects a fundamental optimism about your life and a positive view of the power that you have to achieve your goals.

New year’s resolutions are also inspirational – not just for you but also the people around you. Your efforts to break that habit that has held you back for years or damages your health not only indicates to others the kind of person you are but can also drive them to make a change as well. 

So good luck to all those who have made new year’s resolutions this year. Making meaningful change is never easy but is always worth the effort and if you aren’t quite able to achieve your goal then not to worry – there is always next year.

Tackling climate change is on us

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Tackling climate change is on us

By David Penney

As the final I’s are sotted and t’s crossed at the COP26 Climate Conference, it is hard to know whether this is a decisive moment in the fight against climate change or another exercise in can kicking that will be revisited in six years time.

There were certainly lots of important announcements aimed at providing succour to the global community that our world leaders are committed to tackling the greatest threat to humanity in a millenia.

We saw governments around the world commit to saving 85 per cent of the world’s forests – around 13 million square miles - by the end of the decade or ending the great chainsaw massacre as it was described by our Prime Minister.

There was an important commitment to reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 but the pledge was signed by just half of the world’s top 30 emitters with China, Russia, India and Australia keeping their pens firmly in their pockets.

The US came back to the table after four years of apparent apathy to the climate cause and recommit to the 1.5 degree aspiration first agreed at the Paris conference six years ago.

However, there was little or no reference to its military machine that emits more greenhouse gases than 100 countries combined and the President’s 85-vehicle entourage did little to encourage confidence that the US’s commitment is absolute.

We also had Amazon founder Jeff Bezos commit £1.47 billion towards land reclamation in Africa which should go some way towards offsetting the carbon emissions from his recent jaunt into space. 

In the final seven page draft agreement, countries have been given until the end of next year to submit their long term plans to reach net zero and phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies although again the agreement contains no firm dates or targets on this issue. 

For me, the great takeaway from the conference was that for all the worthy words from our elected leaders, it is becoming increasingly clear that when it comes to tackling the polluters, the mega carbon emitters and the environmentally profligate, there is a far greater power than any government and that power is us. 

It was Ronald Reagan who said that “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem” and I think when it comes to the challenges of saving the planet, the 40th President of the United States had a point.

The reality is that in our democracies, the primary aim of any government is to retain power and that is not always conducive to making those big transformational decisions, balancing as they are the court of public opinion.  

Relying on our governments to solve the problems of the climate emergency not only absolves us all of our own responsibilities in this fight but also underestimates the individual power that we all have to make a difference.

One of the strange facts that was doing the rounds at the COP26 conference, which stemmed from the local eateries labeling the carbon footprint of each dish on their menus, was that a croissant has a larger carbon footprint than a bacon sandwich.

Now I’m not sure how this was worked out but my guess it has something to do with all the butter in a croissant, but it did reinforce the inalienable fact that as consumers, we have choices that we can make every day that collectively will make a massive difference in the fight against climate change.

The bottom line is that for all the governmental targets and mandates, it is money that will be the deciding factor in whether we are going to restrict the rise in the earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees. 

While governments dance on a pin head and try and marry the competing demands of their difference constituencies, we are not encumbered by such considerations.

How we decide to use our own money is the most powerful tool at our disposal in the fight against climate change and it has the potential to be transformational.

Ensuring that we vote with our feet and only engage with businesses that share our sustainable values is the first step that we should all be taking but we can go much further by embracing the opportunities in responsible investing.

The majority of us are investors – some more overt than others but anybody with a pension scheme is a defacto investor, which means you have an important voice in how that money is invested.

Research by Nordea found that investing your pension responsibly can have 27 times more impact on your personal carbon footprint than flying less, taking shorter showers, eating less red meat and taking the train rather than the car combined. 

The reality is that responsible investing really is your most powerful weapon against climate change.

As part of the St. James’s Place Wealth Management family we are fortunate to be part of an organisation that understands the prize and has been proactively committing to a more sustainable portfolio. 

The company currently has £140bn funds under management managed by 40 fund managers, allowing us to hold the businesses we invest in to account. In turn the companies they engage with amounts to £60 trillion on the global markets, influencing them in turn to behave more responsibly. 

Governments come and go and only time will tell whether the commitments made in Glasgow will have the desired affect but if we really want to make a difference as individuals then understanding how our money is invested is potentially the most important step we can take today – and of course eating more bacon sandwiches.  

Believe in the power of experts

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Believe in the power of experts

Politicians, whatever their denomination, do have the occasional tendency to say things that they come to regret.

Indeed, just about every politician worth their salt has hit the headlines thanks to a slip of the tongue or a vocal misstep when the pressure is on.

One of the most memorable of recent years was Michael Gove’s claim in the run up to the Brexit vote that it was his belief that the good people of this country “have had enough of experts” when discussing the various predictions being made about the potential impact of a vote to leave the European Union.

It was a claim that made little sense when it was uttered and five years later, it is hard to argue that it has aged particularly well.

The truth is – regardless of the context – we dismiss the importance of expertise at our peril. 

Now many people will believe they are an expert in something but merely having experience and knowledge of a given subject does not automatically translate to expertise. 

To be an expert is to have gained more knowledge and experience than others – to have taken their learning to an advanced level and been validated through performance and potentially certification.

In the context of business, it is this expertise that often makes the difference between a good business and a great one.

Business owners and entrepreneurs, particularly those who have tasted some success, can easily believe that they know all there is to know about their chosen field but the reality is that there is always somebody out there who knows more.

Regardless of the industry, working with experts and ensuring that your business has the right technical expertise is absolutely critical, particularly in a trading environment where customers are demanding more and disrupters are emerging from every corner.

It may seem like such an obvious thing to say and yet there will be those in business who will always believe that if their customers are satisfied then so are they.

It was the mercurial Steve Jobs who said in one of his most famous quotes that at Apple they “hire smart people so they can tell us what to do” and he certainly knew a thing or two about stealing a march on his competitors.

By embracing the power of experts and focusing on continually improving your technical expertise, you are far more likely to provide better outcomes and so rather than just making your customers or clients satisfied, you are also going to make them loyal – something else Steve Jobs completely understood. 

In the financial services industry, it is hard to underestimate the importance of embracing and nurturing expertise as the advice that is being sought by clients really does have the potential to be genuinely life-changing. 

It is a heavily regulated industry and so thankfully the quality of advice generally will be at worst functional but to coin a phrase, there is always more than one way to skin a rabbit.

In wealth management we seek to overcome a wide range of pain points for our clients and there are so many potential outcomes – approaching these with the best possible technical expertise can never guarantee a better result but what is unarguable is that experts are more efficient, they generate better ideas and they can provide unique perspectives.

The result of this is a service that is not just about delivering continuous ‘wow’ moments that leave your clients clamouring for more – although that is certainly not an unhealthy aspiration.

It is about being completely dependable and consistent – ensuring that for every perfectly ordinary interaction with a client or customer, you are delivering a service of the highest quality that can be repeated again and again. 

In the end it is this belief in the power of experts that separates the great from the good – and it’s hard to believe that anybody has had enough of that. 

Business is a journey – have the courage to stay on track

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Business is a journey – have the courage to stay on track

By David Penney

There is a well-known saying that if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.

It is a maxim that appears to make perfect sense, with its suggestion to the reader that if a different outcome is desired then only through change can it be achieved.

However, from a business perspective there is a fundamental issue with the original premise of this oft mentioned phrase – it just isn’t true.

The reality is that by always doing what you have always done, it is actually highly unlikely that you will always get what you’ve always got.

Even for the most conservative of businesses, understanding and responding to everything from changing customer expectations to market trends has always been an essential ingredient for success – and this is something that is more important today than it ever was. 

At the beginning of 2020 companies embraced aggressive changes in order to respond to the realities of the pandemic and Penney Financial Partners was no different to many others.

We adopted different working practices, invested in the right technology and reassessed our approach to ensure that we were providing a service that not just responded to the physical challenges of the pandemic but recognised the changing needs of our current and future clients.

Across all sectors, businesses were making business critical decisions which in many cases fundamentally changed their companies forever, hopefully for the better although the process was never going to be an easy one. 

Today we can see the light shining ever brighter at the end of tunnel as the pandemic slowly but surely wanes although the challenges that this has created combined with other factors such has Brexit has taken a hammer generally to business confidence, as was highlighted in the most recent Institute of Directors’ sentiment survey.  

For any business that has enjoyed success over the years, there is always an undoubted temptation at times like these to believe that maintaining the processes and behaviours that historically served so well would be sufficient to maintain the required business performance.

And in a difficult market – and regardless of the sector, the trading environment over the past couple of years has been anything but straightforward – that back-to-basics approach has an undoubted appeal. 

But the mark of every successful business is their ability to innovate, adapt, evolve and have the courage to continue to challenge themselves - as difficult sometimes as that may be. 

We are currently living through what is being called the hinge of history, potentially the most influential moment in human history where the decisions we face around issues like AI, the internet and climate change will likely affect humanity far into the future - and the impact on every business will be huge.

How people live, how they interact and how they think is being transformed before our very eyes and so aspiring to nothing more than maintaining the status quo is no longer a realistic option, if it was ever thus. 

Disruption and disrupters are all around us and that is even before the full impact of the global covid crisis has truly played out in terms of how it will impact those complex yet fragile ecosystems that connect us all.  

Committing to continuous, if incremental, improvement will be absolutely key in maintaining relevance in an unpredictable future.

This means continuing to enhance capabilities through recruitment and training, investing in the talent that will carry your business through to the next generation and embracing the very best technological tools to enable the best possible customer experience. 

It also means developing a culture that is able to respond to a future as yet unknown, a culture where difficult questions are encouraged, initiative is the norm and colleagues have the courage to thrive when others are in retreat. 

Of course maintaining those core principles and values that form the DNA of every successful business should never change and committing to excellence as standard is an absolute pre-requisite.

But running a successful business is a journey where one should never believe they have reached the final destination, even if aspirations are limited to just getting what one has always got. 

As the celebrated author CS Lewis wisely said: “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird, but it would a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.” 

Tackling climate change is on us

By David Penney

As the final I’s are sotted and t’s crossed at the COP26 Climate Conference, it is hard to know whether this is a decisive moment in the fight against climate change or another exercise in can kicking that will be revisited in six years time.

There were certainly lots of important announcements aimed at providing succour to the global community that our world leaders are committed to tackling the greatest threat to humanity in a millenia.

We saw governments around the world commit to saving 85 per cent of the world’s forests – around 13 million square miles - by the end of the decade or ending the great chainsaw massacre as it was described by our Prime Minister.

There was an important commitment to reduce methane emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 but the pledge was signed by just half of the world’s top 30 emitters with China, Russia, India and Australia keeping their pens firmly in their pockets.

The US came back to the table after four years of apparent apathy to the climate cause and recommit to the 1.5 degree aspiration first agreed at the Paris conference six years ago.

However, there was little or no reference to its military machine that emits more greenhouse gases than 100 countries combined and the President’s 85-vehicle entourage did little to encourage confidence that the US’s commitment is absolute.

We also had Amazon founder Jeff Bezos commit £1.47 billion towards land reclamation in Africa which should go some way towards offsetting the carbon emissions from his recent jaunt into space. 

In the final seven page draft agreement, countries have been given until the end of next year to submit their long term plans to reach net zero and phase out coal and fossil fuel subsidies although again the agreement contains no firm dates or targets on this issue. 

For me, the great takeaway from the conference was that for all the worthy words from our elected leaders, it is becoming increasingly clear that when it comes to tackling the polluters, the mega carbon emitters and the environmentally profligate, there is a far greater power than any government and that power is us. 

It was Ronald Reagan who said that “Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem” and I think when it comes to the challenges of saving the planet, the 40th President of the United States had a point.

The reality is that in our democracies, the primary aim of any government is to retain power and that is not always conducive to making those big transformational decisions, balancing as they are the court of public opinion.  

Relying on our governments to solve the problems of the climate emergency not only absolves us all of our own responsibilities in this fight but also underestimates the individual power that we all have to make a difference.

One of the strange facts that was doing the rounds at the COP26 conference, which stemmed from the local eateries labeling the carbon footprint of each dish on their menus, was that a croissant has a larger carbon footprint than a bacon sandwich.

Now I’m not sure how this was worked out but my guess it has something to do with all the butter in a croissant, but it did reinforce the inalienable fact that as consumers, we have choices that we can make every day that collectively will make a massive difference in the fight against climate change.

The bottom line is that for all the governmental targets and mandates, it is money that will be the deciding factor in whether we are going to restrict the rise in the earth’s temperature to 1.5 degrees. 

While governments dance on a pin head and try and marry the competing demands of their difference constituencies, we are not encumbered by such considerations.

How we decide to use our own money is the most powerful tool at our disposal in the fight against climate change and it has the potential to be transformational.

Ensuring that we vote with our feet and only engage with businesses that share our sustainable values is the first step that we should all be taking but we can go much further by embracing the opportunities in responsible investing.

The majority of us are investors – some more overt than others but anybody with a pension scheme is a defacto investor, which means you have an important voice in how that money is invested.

Research by Nordea found that investing your pension responsibly can have 27 times more impact on your personal carbon footprint than flying less, taking shorter showers, eating less red meat and taking the train rather than the car combined. 

The reality is that responsible investing really is your most powerful weapon against climate change.

As part of the St. James’s Place Wealth Management family we are fortunate to be part of an organisation that understands the prize and has been proactively committing to a more sustainable portfolio. 

The company currently has £140bn funds under management managed by 40 fund managers, allowing us to hold the businesses we invest in to account. In turn the companies they engage with amounts to £60 trillion on the global markets, influencing them in turn to behave more responsibly. 

Governments come and go and only time will tell whether the commitments made in Glasgow will have the desired affect but if we really want to make a difference as individuals then understanding how our money is invested is potentially the most important step we can take today – and of course eating more bacon sandwiches.  

Believe in the power of experts

Politicians, whatever their denomination, do have the occasional tendency to say things that they come to regret.

Indeed, just about every politician worth their salt has hit the headlines thanks to a slip of the tongue or a vocal misstep when the pressure is on.

One of the most memorable of recent years was Michael Gove’s claim in the run up to the Brexit vote that it was his belief that the good people of this country “have had enough of experts” when discussing the various predictions being made about the potential impact of a vote to leave the European Union.

It was a claim that made little sense when it was uttered and five years later, it is hard to argue that it has aged particularly well.

The truth is – regardless of the context – we dismiss the importance of expertise at our peril. 

Now many people will believe they are an expert in something but merely having experience and knowledge of a given subject does not automatically translate to expertise. 

To be an expert is to have gained more knowledge and experience than others – to have taken their learning to an advanced level and been validated through performance and potentially certification.

In the context of business, it is this expertise that often makes the difference between a good business and a great one.

Business owners and entrepreneurs, particularly those who have tasted some success, can easily believe that they know all there is to know about their chosen field but the reality is that there is always somebody out there who knows more.

Regardless of the industry, working with experts and ensuring that your business has the right technical expertise is absolutely critical, particularly in a trading environment where customers are demanding more and disrupters are emerging from every corner.

It may seem like such an obvious thing to say and yet there will be those in business who will always believe that if their customers are satisfied then so are they.

It was the mercurial Steve Jobs who said in one of his most famous quotes that at Apple they “hire smart people so they can tell us what to do” and he certainly knew a thing or two about stealing a march on his competitors.

By embracing the power of experts and focusing on continually improving your technical expertise, you are far more likely to provide better outcomes and so rather than just making your customers or clients satisfied, you are also going to make them loyal – something else Steve Jobs completely understood. 

In the financial services industry, it is hard to underestimate the importance of embracing and nurturing expertise as the advice that is being sought by clients really does have the potential to be genuinely life-changing. 

It is a heavily regulated industry and so thankfully the quality of advice generally will be at worst functional but to coin a phrase, there is always more than one way to skin a rabbit.

In wealth management we seek to overcome a wide range of pain points for our clients and there are so many potential outcomes – approaching these with the best possible technical expertise can never guarantee a better result but what is unarguable is that experts are more efficient, they generate better ideas and they can provide unique perspectives.

The result of this is a service that is not just about delivering continuous ‘wow’ moments that leave your clients clamouring for more – although that is certainly not an unhealthy aspiration.

It is about being completely dependable and consistent – ensuring that for every perfectly ordinary interaction with a client or customer, you are delivering a service of the highest quality that can be repeated again and again. 

In the end it is this belief in the power of experts that separates the great from the good – and it’s hard to believe that anybody has had enough of that. 

Business is a journey – have the courage to stay on track

By David Penney

There is a well-known saying that if you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.

It is a maxim that appears to make perfect sense, with its suggestion to the reader that if a different outcome is desired then only through change can it be achieved.

However, from a business perspective there is a fundamental issue with the original premise of this oft mentioned phrase – it just isn’t true.

The reality is that by always doing what you have always done, it is actually highly unlikely that you will always get what you’ve always got.

Even for the most conservative of businesses, understanding and responding to everything from changing customer expectations to market trends has always been an essential ingredient for success – and this is something that is more important today than it ever was. 

At the beginning of 2020 companies embraced aggressive changes in order to respond to the realities of the pandemic and Penney Financial Partners was no different to many others.

We adopted different working practices, invested in the right technology and reassessed our approach to ensure that we were providing a service that not just responded to the physical challenges of the pandemic but recognised the changing needs of our current and future clients.

Across all sectors, businesses were making business critical decisions which in many cases fundamentally changed their companies forever, hopefully for the better although the process was never going to be an easy one. 

Today we can see the light shining ever brighter at the end of tunnel as the pandemic slowly but surely wanes although the challenges that this has created combined with other factors such has Brexit has taken a hammer generally to business confidence, as was highlighted in the most recent Institute of Directors’ sentiment survey.  

For any business that has enjoyed success over the years, there is always an undoubted temptation at times like these to believe that maintaining the processes and behaviours that historically served so well would be sufficient to maintain the required business performance.

And in a difficult market – and regardless of the sector, the trading environment over the past couple of years has been anything but straightforward – that back-to-basics approach has an undoubted appeal. 

But the mark of every successful business is their ability to innovate, adapt, evolve and have the courage to continue to challenge themselves - as difficult sometimes as that may be. 

We are currently living through what is being called the hinge of history, potentially the most influential moment in human history where the decisions we face around issues like AI, the internet and climate change will likely affect humanity far into the future - and the impact on every business will be huge.

How people live, how they interact and how they think is being transformed before our very eyes and so aspiring to nothing more than maintaining the status quo is no longer a realistic option, if it was ever thus. 

Disruption and disrupters are all around us and that is even before the full impact of the global covid crisis has truly played out in terms of how it will impact those complex yet fragile ecosystems that connect us all.  

Committing to continuous, if incremental, improvement will be absolutely key in maintaining relevance in an unpredictable future.

This means continuing to enhance capabilities through recruitment and training, investing in the talent that will carry your business through to the next generation and embracing the very best technological tools to enable the best possible customer experience. 

It also means developing a culture that is able to respond to a future as yet unknown, a culture where difficult questions are encouraged, initiative is the norm and colleagues have the courage to thrive when others are in retreat. 

Of course maintaining those core principles and values that form the DNA of every successful business should never change and committing to excellence as standard is an absolute pre-requisite.

But running a successful business is a journey where one should never believe they have reached the final destination, even if aspirations are limited to just getting what one has always got. 

As the celebrated author CS Lewis wisely said: “It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird, but it would a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg.” 

It’s never too early to talk about pensions

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It’s never too early to talk about pensions

By David Penney

We all have our memories from our school days.

A favourite teacher, the pain of cross country in the snow, the coagulated custard for school dinners, covering your maths textbook in pictures of Pink Floyd – to name but a few. 

One thing however you are unlikely to remember is ever talking about money - and I think I can say with some certainty that the word pension was not a word you are likely to have heard in the classroom.

The reality is that financial education has never been a priority in the UK and despite some improvements in recent years, its provision remains limited at best.

Even though the Money Advice Service, a Government-backed agency, claims that most children’s financial habits are formed by the age of seven, there remains no requirement to teach primary school children the basics of money management and secondary school children fair little better.

There is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that it really does matter. 

Academically, financial education can improve maths performance in key stage one and two as it provides children with a context when solving problems.

More importantly however, evidence from the United States shows that those states that include financial education in their curriculum have higher rates of saving which one has to assume will lead to high levels of financial security in adulthood.

It is an issue that was brought into sharp focus earlier this month during Pensions Awareness Week when we were reminded that while we may not be heading towards the pension timebomb once predicted, there are still many millions of people who are not properly considering how they will be supported in their retirement.

I say the timebomb is no longer ticking – well certainly not as loudly – as the introduction of auto-enrolment has brought an extra nine and half million savers into pension schemes so things are undoubtedly heading in the right direction.

However, this only tells half the story as low contribution rates, passive involvement and limited understanding of the opportunity provided by pensions means that balanced with increased life expectancy, the amount in your average defined contribution pension schemes is likely to fall some way short of providing that financial security that we all crave in later life. 

More worrying still is that according to a recent survey by Unbiased, one in six Britons over the age of 55 still have no private pension provision at all and that rises to more than a fifth when looking at the entire working age population.

In fact, despite being part of the auto-enrolment generation, nearly a quarter of adults under 35 have no pension savings at all. 

The plain fact is that as a society we just don’t do enough, early enough, to emphasise not just how important a pension is for long term financial well-being but what a fantastic opportunity they are for all.

In a world where everywhere we turn, somebody wants to relieve you of your hard-earned money, we should be shouting from the rooftops about how the tax relief makes a pension a more effective money grower than almost any other mainstream investment.

We should be doing more to encourage those millions of workers with workplace pensions to find out how much they can increase their own contribution by and whether this means their employer will increase theirs. They often will and that is fundamentally free money!

In the end it all comes back to financial education and developing a culture from the earliest age that embraces the concept of delayed gratification, where making a small sacrifice today can have significant benefits tomorrow.

Young people should be leaving school and heading off into the world of work with the seeds of financial capability already firmly planted, where they understand about budgeting, saving, pensions and that wonderful world of compounding.

Of course it is never too late to start saving for retirement but maybe in the future, rather than posters on a maths books, some Pink Floyd lyrics might be more appropriate. 

You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

Or to misquote another Pink Floyd classic, when it comes to financial education, we can no longer afford to leave them kids alone.  

In a world of change, not everything has to

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In a world of change, not everything has to

By David Penney

We are currently living in an age of technological revolution that is unprecedented in the history of mankind.

The sheer speed of change with billions of people connected by mobile devices, unlimited access to knowledge and emerging technologies ranging from artificial intelligence to 3-D printing is creating a future that even a decade or so ago was almost unimaginable.

For business owners, this so-called fourth industrial revolution will inevitably offer a wealth of opportunity as the next generation of technological innovation transforms how we work, live and almost certainly how we think.

We are living in an era where it is impossible to stand still with businesses having to work increasingly hard to stay at the right end of the curve and ensure they can continue to compete in an ever-changing world.

But for all the innovation and opportunity, one of the biggest challenges facing businesses is not exploring how it can change but understanding where it needs to stay the same.

The pressures to continually evolve is certainly nothing new – since the advent of steam, then electricity and most recently the computer, businesses have been successfully adapting to change.

Over its 20 years or so of existence, Penney Financial Partners has been through its own evolution and like many, our business today is very different to the one that first opened its doors two decades ago.

It has been a journey of change that has accelerated significantly over the past couple of years as we have responded to the challenges of the pandemic and embraced the digital reality of the modern world.

Over the past months we have launched a new website, sent almost 30 video updates to our clients and prospects, hosted or been involved in more than a dozen webinars, started our own podcast and posted more than 100 times with several thousand engagements across our social media platforms.

We have also launched a range of new digital tools to support enhance the client experience, from the Client Advice Portal that allows us to engage with our clients remotely to the use of cash flow modelling software that can be transformative for clients in helping them develop long term financial plans.

It has been an incredibly exciting period that has undoubtedly added a new dimension to our business and our brand, allowing us to remain connected to our clients during these uncertain times while also enabling us to get our message out to a completely new audience.

However, while we are continually looking at where the next opportunity may lie that will either enhance our client experience or help build our market presence, we are also conscious that there are some things that we do that remain as relevant today as they ever have, irrespective of their origins in a more analogue world.

For example, despite the huge increase in digital client communications over the past 18 months, we continue to send out our printed newsletter to clients twice a year.

In a world increasingly dominated by all things digital, the newsletter could easily have been seen to be surplus to requirements and there was certainly a debate as to whether it was compatible with our decision to become a carbon neutral business in 2021.

However, we have continued to send out the newsletter (on recycled and recyclable paper with plant-based ink) and each time we send the newsletter we get a fantastic response from our clients.

The newsletter’s success will certainly in part be down to the demographic of the recipients, but I really do believe that there is more to it than that.

Firstly, with so much of the world becoming increasingly paperless, our business included, receiving something of value in the post has become something of a comparative rarity.

The advantage of this is that most people will open every piece of post they receive and while it may not receive their undivided attention, it is always opened and for anyone who works predominantly in the virtual world, this is certainly half the communications challenge.

The reality is that even though many of us spend the majority of our time in the digital space, we do think differently about print than we do about digital.

According to a recent study by neuroscience researchers at Temple University, there is an undeniable difference in the way the brain processes advertising for instance, depending on whether it is delivered in print or digitally.

The study examined eye tracking and biometric measurements to gauge initial reactions and while digital adverts were processed more quickly and the same amount of information was absorbed from both adverts, there were significant differences in the lasting impact of each advert on the viewer.

Reviewed a week after seeing the adverts, the viewer had a greater emotional response to the physical advert, better recall of the detail and there was more brain activity in the areas of the brain associated with value and desire. 

In a world where what was once science fiction is rapidly becoming science fact, the printed newsletter may seem like something of an anachronism but for me it is a small but important example of the importance of ensuring that the tail doesn’t always wag the dog.

Technology has already transformed our business for the better and we are excited about how it can support us to become even more effective in the future but we must never forget that for all the rapid change, some things will always be better just as they are.

Paying the penalty of inconsistency

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Paying the penalty of inconsistency

By David Penney

The dust has now settled on the England football team’s latest ‘so near, so far’ moment at a major tournament.

After a steady rather than stirring journey through to the final, there was a certain inevitability that after failing to overcome the Italians in normal time, England’s quest for glory would succumb to the vagaries of the dreaded penalty shootout.

It was certainly a heroic effort to make it to a major final for the first time in more than half a century and in the end and there is certainly no shame in losing to a fantastic Italian side who had looked liked potential winners from the opening game of the tournament.

Afterall, when it comes down to a penalty shoot-out, the form guide often goes out the window and it all becomes something of a lottery – or so the prevailing narrative would have you believe.

In fact, while there are undoubtedly unique pressures that come with taking a penalty on which the hopes of a nation rest, the reality is that luck has very little to do with it.

Sir Clive Woodward, who managed the England rugby team to their World Cup win in 2003, said the issue was not necessarily temperament or technique but one of consistency – a word that comes up again and again when trying to understand the difference between good and great.

Sir Clive cites the example of the legendary Jonny Wilkinson who would practice his penalties aiming at just a single six-inch wide post and wouldn’t stop until he was hitting the post every time.

The mercurial George Best was undoubtedly one of the most gifted footballers of his or any era but he would apparently practice hitting the ball against the crossbar with each foot from the edge of the penalty area and then the half way line in every training session so that when it came to a matchday, his accuracy was a closed skill and seemingly instinctive.

As the great Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said, successful people aren’t the people who are motivated, but are those who have consistency in their motivation.

To be talented and motivated will take you so far but it is consistency that is key to really getting ahead of the competition, something that we certainly have seen in Gareth Southgate’s management style, which has been unwavering in its commitment to building a team based on key values such as respect and integrity. 

It is a lesson that is as important in business as in sport, and never more so as we continue to navigate the challenges of the pandemic.

Consistency is such an important concept when it comes to running a successful business and broadly speaking, a business of any scale will struggle to achieve its goals without a consistency in its strategy, its planning and in its execution. 

It is the desired panacea in all aspects of business, from creating a consistent brand that customers recognize and understand to ensuring a consistent approach to management that underpins rather than undermines all the hard work that goes into creating a winning culture.

Most importantly for a business like Penney Financial Partners, it is maintaining a consistency of service and ensuring the same client service every time – or better – regardless of whatever else may be happening in the business or the wider world.

This has been a huge challenge for many businesses through the uncertainty of the pandemic, particularly with many responding to the crisis by adopting new processes that are unfamiliar to both clients and colleagues alike. 

It was Thomas Edison who said that the value of an idea is in the using it but many a great idea has failed to live up to its promise through a lack of consistency in its application. 

However, the great thing about consistency – whether in sport or business – is that it is not a skill or a talent – it is something that we all have direct control over.

Leadership guru John Maxwell said that small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time, an understated but powerful mantra that really gets to the heart of what it means to be a successful business – and one that the England football team’s penalty takers might do well to take note of.  

It’s never too early to talk about pensions

By David Penney

We all have our memories from our school days.

A favourite teacher, the pain of cross country in the snow, the coagulated custard for school dinners, covering your maths textbook in pictures of Pink Floyd – to name but a few. 

One thing however you are unlikely to remember is ever talking about money - and I think I can say with some certainty that the word pension was not a word you are likely to have heard in the classroom.

The reality is that financial education has never been a priority in the UK and despite some improvements in recent years, its provision remains limited at best.

Even though the Money Advice Service, a Government-backed agency, claims that most children’s financial habits are formed by the age of seven, there remains no requirement to teach primary school children the basics of money management and secondary school children fair little better.

There is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that it really does matter. 

Academically, financial education can improve maths performance in key stage one and two as it provides children with a context when solving problems.

More importantly however, evidence from the United States shows that those states that include financial education in their curriculum have higher rates of saving which one has to assume will lead to high levels of financial security in adulthood.

It is an issue that was brought into sharp focus earlier this month during Pensions Awareness Week when we were reminded that while we may not be heading towards the pension timebomb once predicted, there are still many millions of people who are not properly considering how they will be supported in their retirement.

I say the timebomb is no longer ticking – well certainly not as loudly – as the introduction of auto-enrolment has brought an extra nine and half million savers into pension schemes so things are undoubtedly heading in the right direction.

However, this only tells half the story as low contribution rates, passive involvement and limited understanding of the opportunity provided by pensions means that balanced with increased life expectancy, the amount in your average defined contribution pension schemes is likely to fall some way short of providing that financial security that we all crave in later life. 

More worrying still is that according to a recent survey by Unbiased, one in six Britons over the age of 55 still have no private pension provision at all and that rises to more than a fifth when looking at the entire working age population.

In fact, despite being part of the auto-enrolment generation, nearly a quarter of adults under 35 have no pension savings at all. 

The plain fact is that as a society we just don’t do enough, early enough, to emphasise not just how important a pension is for long term financial well-being but what a fantastic opportunity they are for all.

In a world where everywhere we turn, somebody wants to relieve you of your hard-earned money, we should be shouting from the rooftops about how the tax relief makes a pension a more effective money grower than almost any other mainstream investment.

We should be doing more to encourage those millions of workers with workplace pensions to find out how much they can increase their own contribution by and whether this means their employer will increase theirs. They often will and that is fundamentally free money!

In the end it all comes back to financial education and developing a culture from the earliest age that embraces the concept of delayed gratification, where making a small sacrifice today can have significant benefits tomorrow.

Young people should be leaving school and heading off into the world of work with the seeds of financial capability already firmly planted, where they understand about budgeting, saving, pensions and that wonderful world of compounding.

Of course it is never too late to start saving for retirement but maybe in the future, rather than posters on a maths books, some Pink Floyd lyrics might be more appropriate. 

You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you

No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

Or to misquote another Pink Floyd classic, when it comes to financial education, we can no longer afford to leave them kids alone.  

In a world of change, not everything has to

By David Penney

We are currently living in an age of technological revolution that is unprecedented in the history of mankind.

The sheer speed of change with billions of people connected by mobile devices, unlimited access to knowledge and emerging technologies ranging from artificial intelligence to 3-D printing is creating a future that even a decade or so ago was almost unimaginable.

For business owners, this so-called fourth industrial revolution will inevitably offer a wealth of opportunity as the next generation of technological innovation transforms how we work, live and almost certainly how we think.

We are living in an era where it is impossible to stand still with businesses having to work increasingly hard to stay at the right end of the curve and ensure they can continue to compete in an ever-changing world.

But for all the innovation and opportunity, one of the biggest challenges facing businesses is not exploring how it can change but understanding where it needs to stay the same.

The pressures to continually evolve is certainly nothing new – since the advent of steam, then electricity and most recently the computer, businesses have been successfully adapting to change.

Over its 20 years or so of existence, Penney Financial Partners has been through its own evolution and like many, our business today is very different to the one that first opened its doors two decades ago.

It has been a journey of change that has accelerated significantly over the past couple of years as we have responded to the challenges of the pandemic and embraced the digital reality of the modern world.

Over the past months we have launched a new website, sent almost 30 video updates to our clients and prospects, hosted or been involved in more than a dozen webinars, started our own podcast and posted more than 100 times with several thousand engagements across our social media platforms.

We have also launched a range of new digital tools to support enhance the client experience, from the Client Advice Portal that allows us to engage with our clients remotely to the use of cash flow modelling software that can be transformative for clients in helping them develop long term financial plans.

It has been an incredibly exciting period that has undoubtedly added a new dimension to our business and our brand, allowing us to remain connected to our clients during these uncertain times while also enabling us to get our message out to a completely new audience.

However, while we are continually looking at where the next opportunity may lie that will either enhance our client experience or help build our market presence, we are also conscious that there are some things that we do that remain as relevant today as they ever have, irrespective of their origins in a more analogue world.

For example, despite the huge increase in digital client communications over the past 18 months, we continue to send out our printed newsletter to clients twice a year.

In a world increasingly dominated by all things digital, the newsletter could easily have been seen to be surplus to requirements and there was certainly a debate as to whether it was compatible with our decision to become a carbon neutral business in 2021.

However, we have continued to send out the newsletter (on recycled and recyclable paper with plant-based ink) and each time we send the newsletter we get a fantastic response from our clients.

The newsletter’s success will certainly in part be down to the demographic of the recipients, but I really do believe that there is more to it than that.

Firstly, with so much of the world becoming increasingly paperless, our business included, receiving something of value in the post has become something of a comparative rarity.

The advantage of this is that most people will open every piece of post they receive and while it may not receive their undivided attention, it is always opened and for anyone who works predominantly in the virtual world, this is certainly half the communications challenge.

The reality is that even though many of us spend the majority of our time in the digital space, we do think differently about print than we do about digital.

According to a recent study by neuroscience researchers at Temple University, there is an undeniable difference in the way the brain processes advertising for instance, depending on whether it is delivered in print or digitally.

The study examined eye tracking and biometric measurements to gauge initial reactions and while digital adverts were processed more quickly and the same amount of information was absorbed from both adverts, there were significant differences in the lasting impact of each advert on the viewer.

Reviewed a week after seeing the adverts, the viewer had a greater emotional response to the physical advert, better recall of the detail and there was more brain activity in the areas of the brain associated with value and desire. 

In a world where what was once science fiction is rapidly becoming science fact, the printed newsletter may seem like something of an anachronism but for me it is a small but important example of the importance of ensuring that the tail doesn’t always wag the dog.

Technology has already transformed our business for the better and we are excited about how it can support us to become even more effective in the future but we must never forget that for all the rapid change, some things will always be better just as they are.

Paying the penalty of inconsistency

By David Penney

The dust has now settled on the England football team’s latest ‘so near, so far’ moment at a major tournament.

After a steady rather than stirring journey through to the final, there was a certain inevitability that after failing to overcome the Italians in normal time, England’s quest for glory would succumb to the vagaries of the dreaded penalty shootout.

It was certainly a heroic effort to make it to a major final for the first time in more than half a century and in the end and there is certainly no shame in losing to a fantastic Italian side who had looked liked potential winners from the opening game of the tournament.

Afterall, when it comes down to a penalty shoot-out, the form guide often goes out the window and it all becomes something of a lottery – or so the prevailing narrative would have you believe.

In fact, while there are undoubtedly unique pressures that come with taking a penalty on which the hopes of a nation rest, the reality is that luck has very little to do with it.

Sir Clive Woodward, who managed the England rugby team to their World Cup win in 2003, said the issue was not necessarily temperament or technique but one of consistency – a word that comes up again and again when trying to understand the difference between good and great.

Sir Clive cites the example of the legendary Jonny Wilkinson who would practice his penalties aiming at just a single six-inch wide post and wouldn’t stop until he was hitting the post every time.

The mercurial George Best was undoubtedly one of the most gifted footballers of his or any era but he would apparently practice hitting the ball against the crossbar with each foot from the edge of the penalty area and then the half way line in every training session so that when it came to a matchday, his accuracy was a closed skill and seemingly instinctive.

As the great Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said, successful people aren’t the people who are motivated, but are those who have consistency in their motivation.

To be talented and motivated will take you so far but it is consistency that is key to really getting ahead of the competition, something that we certainly have seen in Gareth Southgate’s management style, which has been unwavering in its commitment to building a team based on key values such as respect and integrity. 

It is a lesson that is as important in business as in sport, and never more so as we continue to navigate the challenges of the pandemic.

Consistency is such an important concept when it comes to running a successful business and broadly speaking, a business of any scale will struggle to achieve its goals without a consistency in its strategy, its planning and in its execution. 

It is the desired panacea in all aspects of business, from creating a consistent brand that customers recognize and understand to ensuring a consistent approach to management that underpins rather than undermines all the hard work that goes into creating a winning culture.

Most importantly for a business like Penney Financial Partners, it is maintaining a consistency of service and ensuring the same client service every time – or better – regardless of whatever else may be happening in the business or the wider world.

This has been a huge challenge for many businesses through the uncertainty of the pandemic, particularly with many responding to the crisis by adopting new processes that are unfamiliar to both clients and colleagues alike. 

It was Thomas Edison who said that the value of an idea is in the using it but many a great idea has failed to live up to its promise through a lack of consistency in its application. 

However, the great thing about consistency – whether in sport or business – is that it is not a skill or a talent – it is something that we all have direct control over.

Leadership guru John Maxwell said that small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time, an understated but powerful mantra that really gets to the heart of what it means to be a successful business – and one that the England football team’s penalty takers might do well to take note of.  

The value of experience

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The value of experience

There are very few people who have not been impacted in some way by the recent pandemic.

Viewing through the prism of physical health, it has undoubtedly been the older generations that have borne the brunt, but it is young people that will face disproportionate economic and social challenges over the longer term.

Navigating through our teenage years to adulthood and finding a pathway to gainful employment and financial wellbeing has never been easy at the best of times and it is a process that has undoubtedly been made more difficult by the events of the past 18 months.

One of the most important routes into employment is the oft-maligned work experience placement, designed to provide young people with an insight into the world of the work and help that transition when the time comes to leave education and start earning a living.

However, according to a recent YouGov poll for the Sutton Trust, one of the significant impacts of the Covid-19 crisis has been a huge reduction in the number of businesses considering offering work experience placements.

The survey found that two thirds of the businesses surveyed had cancelled all their work experience and internship placements through the pandemic with a quarter admitting that the pandemic would make it more difficult to be proactive about social mobility in the workplace. 

With the downward pressure that is likely to see more graduates taking entry level jobs and the fact that many school leavers may be disadvantaged by not having taken exams through the pandemic, making that jump from education has never been more challenging. 

Thankfully there are signs that slowly but surely businesses are regaining the confidence necessary to begin welcoming young people back into their workplaces. 

However, ensuring that placements are properly planned and managed is absolutely critical – I described work experience as oft-maligned as we all have experience of those placements that are so bad that they can be counter-productive for both the candidate and the host business. 

There really is nothing worse then seeing a poor 15-year-old slumped in front of a computer screen with the only highlight they can look forward to is when it’s their turn to put the kettle on or pop out and get somebody a sandwich.

With the right attention and support, the transformational potential of a good work experience placement should never be under-estimated.

There is of course always a significant onus on the young person themselves to make the most of the experience before them - treating the experience with the respect it deserves by arriving on time and sporting the appropriate attire is always a great way to start on the right foot.

Being pro-active, asking questions and projecting a can-do attitude are all hugely important attributes when it comes to developing the kind of rapport with other workers that often leads to the kind of experiences that have the potential to be so valuable.

However, it should also be recognised that it is not every teenager that has the confidence to stroll into a workplace and create their own opportunities. 

At Penney Financial Partners we have recently started a new work experience programme where we are planning to run a minimum of six placements a year, allowing us to provide the appropriate level of support so that each placement becomes an event rather than an imposition. 

As well as providing the placement with a programme of meetings and activity that will provide insight into each aspect of the business, each candidate also has a real-life project to complete and then present to internal and external colleagues at the end of the placement.

Each candidate also has to complete a learning log which is reviewed every day, providing an insight into the areas of greatest interest and helping to shape further learning opportunities during the placement.

Having recently welcomed our first two placements since re-opening our offices, we have been absolutely blown away by the response of the candidates to the programme that has been developed by our business development consultant Rob Hawkins.

The level of engagement was outstanding and the final presentations made a hugely valuable contribution to some important issues facing the business and I am confident that both placements have taken significant knowledge and inspiration from their couple of weeks at Penney Financial Partners. 

Being able to provide this kind of platform for young people as they consider their next steps is a contribution that we are delighted to provide for our community but while the motivations for providing work experience are predominantly altruistic, there are also internal benefits that are equally valuable and potentially unexpected.

One of the great positives we found is that through their interactions with the placements, each colleague had to really think about their role, the best practice that they employ and the important part each colleague plays in the smooth running of our business.

The result was that our colleagues were able to remove the blinkers that we all wear as we focus on delivering our day to day responsibilities and remind themselves of how much they actually enjoy what they do and being part of a successful team.

The pandemic has been tough for us all and every one of our colleagues has continued to work through the uncertainty while adapting to the changing circumstances of work as well as the evolving needs of our clients.

Through our new work experience programme we hope that we can make a real difference to a handful of young lives every year but equally importantly, it is has already shown itself to be a great opportunity for the wider team to re-energise, reconnect and celebrate the wonderful things they do for Penney Financial Partners.  

It’s never too early to plan your succession.

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It’s never too early to plan your succession.

By David Penney

At the end of August this year Warren Buffett will be celebrating his 91st birthday.

A famously frugal man, Buffett is unlikely to make too much of a fuss of the occasion and despite his advancing years, he still has much to occupy him as CEO of the company he started more than half a century ago.

Buffett is a living legend and rightly considered one of the great investor minds of our times and through his leadership, Berkshire Hathaway Inc has grown into a $631bn conglomerate with major holdings in some of the world’s biggest companies including Apple, Coca-Cola and American Express.

However, as he moves further into his 10th decade (and his business partner and vice-chairman Charlie Munger moves closer to his 11th), the question about succession and who will take over the reins when he decides to step aside has become ever more pertinent.

It is a topic that has generated much recent conversation and speculation and this week it was confirmed that current vice president Greg Abel – a veritable spring chicken at the age of 56 - would become the next CEO.

Of course, Berkshire Hathaway is not your average company and the succession conversation is made all the more difficult due to the standing of Buffett, particularly with Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.

However, the fundamental necessity of having a good succession plan, whether for a business or a family that is looking to smoothly transfer its wealth to the next generation, cannot be underestimated.

History is littered with examples of financial empires that have crumbled in the face of change – when wealth is transferred without the requisite wisdom to match. 

The success of most corporations – Berkshire Hathaway included – derives from the successful transfer of knowledge and understanding so they can successfully protect and grow the company’s assets, a scenario that makes perfect sense in business, but surprisingly few people think like this when it comes to their personal lives.

More often than not, a wealth transfer will be in the form of a Will – a division of assets that is often little more than a divide and dump with no attempt to focus on the desires and beliefs that will help protect and grow assets in the future. 

From our experience dealing with many different families over the years, leaving the future to chance is a strategy that very rarely works. 

Families are complicated organisations – often more so than your average business – with second timers, step-families and multiple generations all scenarios that need to be considered. 

Unfortunately, it is often a crisis that initiates the first conversations about succession and while people like ourselves may be appointed to support the process, we don’t often meet them until the point of need and that can be too late to provide the best service. 

There has undoubtedly been a shift in attitude over the past decade, but the reality is that as a general rule, people are still not thinking about succession early enough to ensure that future generations reap the full financial and emotional benefits – indeed, half the population still does not even have an up to date Will.

There is roughly £11 trillion of wealth currently held in the UK and over the coming decades there will be the biggest transfer of wealth to the next generation in the history of mankind and yet too many people who intend to transfer their wealth don’t know when or how to do it. 

Succession planning is never easy, whether considering a business or a family. Those responsible for building the wealth may be reluctant to entrust the fruits of their many years of toil with others or be fearful of the impact of change, something Buffett intimated when he this week when he said “there are no perpetuities” even for a company as revered as Berkshire Hathaway.

Whether a family or a business, there is never a bad time to start to talk about succession. Ultimately it is both natural and a necessity and done in a structured and timely manner, it can have huge long-term benefits.

And of course, we would certainly recommend making succession a priority long before reaching your 91st birthday but then the great Sage of Omaha doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon. 

No future is worth more than your legacy

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No future is worth more than your legacy

I must confess, I am not a great football fan. 

I can easily be swept up in the emotional rollercoaster of a World Cup, but you are unlikely to find me at Stoke on a rainy Tuesday night.

Nevertheless, it is a sport (or should that be soap opera?) that is hard to ignore at the best of times and even more so in the last couple of weeks.

If we were all back in our offices, then it is a fair assumption that the rise and fall – for now - of the new European Super League would have been the talk of the water cooler.

There has been many a column inch written on the subject over the past week, very little of it in support of the now failed initiative although there has been something of a consensus of its inevitability in a sport where success is defined as much in monetary terms as it is in silverware. 

The protests that followed the announcement were laced with irony of course, particularly when led by players earning millions of pounds a year from clubs that are mired in hundreds of millions of pounds of unsustainable debt.

But regardless of the fact that football threw open its doors to unrestricted market forces a long time ago, when it came to the European Super League, there was a united feeling across football that a line had been crossed – it was a decision that had been made with absolutely no consideration at all for the respective club’s fans.

Well, I should actually clarify that – it was a decision that gave no consideration to the existing fans, or as the ESL described them, ‘legacy fans’.

Instead, it was a vision that was focused not on the fans that have supported the club and helped make it what it is today but was much more interested in what the ESL called ‘fans of the future’ – fans from around the world with disposable income and a thirst for European football.

Professional football is a business and always will be but there are those that will argue that the loyalty and tribal nature of its fans means that it is unlike a more conventional business.

Well, to a degree this may be true but the fundamentals about business and the relationship with what football clubs call fans and we would call customers or clients is far closer than one might imagine.

It is no coincidence that this provocative initiative has emerged at this moment in our history when so many industries have been savaged by the pandemic and yet the virtual opportunities have never been greater.

Football clubs are not the only businesses having to adapt and evolve to stay relevant in a fast-changing world – it is something we are seeing in many businesses in every conceivable sector. 

However, as we have seen so clearly in the last week or so, it is an incredibly delicate balance that has to be struck by any business that aspires to embrace the opportunities of the changing demographics in our society.

A business should never underestimate the value of those customers that have helped it to establish itself and they must never be forgone in the rush to win new business.

Well served customers are incredibly loyal – they may not wear a scarf with your company name on but they will be some of your most important advocates in an increasingly competitive world. 

They will be the customers who share your values and have kept you true to them over the years, the ones who stuck with you when times may have been tough. 

Now change is inevitable. Most successful businesses are continually changing and innovating to retain that competitive edge but to go on that journey without your legacy customers, as the ESL would describe them, is to undermine the very thing that gives your business its strength.

Every business needs ‘fans of the future’, they are the very lifeblood that drive growth and success but they should not be pursued at all costs, a lesson that the owners of the 12 breakaway clubs will have learned, potentially at some significant cost, in the last week.

The value of experience

There are very few people who have not been impacted in some way by the recent pandemic.

Viewing through the prism of physical health, it has undoubtedly been the older generations that have borne the brunt, but it is young people that will face disproportionate economic and social challenges over the longer term.

Navigating through our teenage years to adulthood and finding a pathway to gainful employment and financial wellbeing has never been easy at the best of times and it is a process that has undoubtedly been made more difficult by the events of the past 18 months.

One of the most important routes into employment is the oft-maligned work experience placement, designed to provide young people with an insight into the world of the work and help that transition when the time comes to leave education and start earning a living.

However, according to a recent YouGov poll for the Sutton Trust, one of the significant impacts of the Covid-19 crisis has been a huge reduction in the number of businesses considering offering work experience placements.

The survey found that two thirds of the businesses surveyed had cancelled all their work experience and internship placements through the pandemic with a quarter admitting that the pandemic would make it more difficult to be proactive about social mobility in the workplace. 

With the downward pressure that is likely to see more graduates taking entry level jobs and the fact that many school leavers may be disadvantaged by not having taken exams through the pandemic, making that jump from education has never been more challenging. 

Thankfully there are signs that slowly but surely businesses are regaining the confidence necessary to begin welcoming young people back into their workplaces. 

However, ensuring that placements are properly planned and managed is absolutely critical – I described work experience as oft-maligned as we all have experience of those placements that are so bad that they can be counter-productive for both the candidate and the host business. 

There really is nothing worse then seeing a poor 15-year-old slumped in front of a computer screen with the only highlight they can look forward to is when it’s their turn to put the kettle on or pop out and get somebody a sandwich.

With the right attention and support, the transformational potential of a good work experience placement should never be under-estimated.

There is of course always a significant onus on the young person themselves to make the most of the experience before them - treating the experience with the respect it deserves by arriving on time and sporting the appropriate attire is always a great way to start on the right foot.

Being pro-active, asking questions and projecting a can-do attitude are all hugely important attributes when it comes to developing the kind of rapport with other workers that often leads to the kind of experiences that have the potential to be so valuable.

However, it should also be recognised that it is not every teenager that has the confidence to stroll into a workplace and create their own opportunities. 

At Penney Financial Partners we have recently started a new work experience programme where we are planning to run a minimum of six placements a year, allowing us to provide the appropriate level of support so that each placement becomes an event rather than an imposition. 

As well as providing the placement with a programme of meetings and activity that will provide insight into each aspect of the business, each candidate also has a real-life project to complete and then present to internal and external colleagues at the end of the placement.

Each candidate also has to complete a learning log which is reviewed every day, providing an insight into the areas of greatest interest and helping to shape further learning opportunities during the placement.

Having recently welcomed our first two placements since re-opening our offices, we have been absolutely blown away by the response of the candidates to the programme that has been developed by our business development consultant Rob Hawkins.

The level of engagement was outstanding and the final presentations made a hugely valuable contribution to some important issues facing the business and I am confident that both placements have taken significant knowledge and inspiration from their couple of weeks at Penney Financial Partners. 

Being able to provide this kind of platform for young people as they consider their next steps is a contribution that we are delighted to provide for our community but while the motivations for providing work experience are predominantly altruistic, there are also internal benefits that are equally valuable and potentially unexpected.

One of the great positives we found is that through their interactions with the placements, each colleague had to really think about their role, the best practice that they employ and the important part each colleague plays in the smooth running of our business.

The result was that our colleagues were able to remove the blinkers that we all wear as we focus on delivering our day to day responsibilities and remind themselves of how much they actually enjoy what they do and being part of a successful team.

The pandemic has been tough for us all and every one of our colleagues has continued to work through the uncertainty while adapting to the changing circumstances of work as well as the evolving needs of our clients.

Through our new work experience programme we hope that we can make a real difference to a handful of young lives every year but equally importantly, it is has already shown itself to be a great opportunity for the wider team to re-energise, reconnect and celebrate the wonderful things they do for Penney Financial Partners.  

It’s never too early to plan your succession.

By David Penney

At the end of August this year Warren Buffett will be celebrating his 91st birthday.

A famously frugal man, Buffett is unlikely to make too much of a fuss of the occasion and despite his advancing years, he still has much to occupy him as CEO of the company he started more than half a century ago.

Buffett is a living legend and rightly considered one of the great investor minds of our times and through his leadership, Berkshire Hathaway Inc has grown into a $631bn conglomerate with major holdings in some of the world’s biggest companies including Apple, Coca-Cola and American Express.

However, as he moves further into his 10th decade (and his business partner and vice-chairman Charlie Munger moves closer to his 11th), the question about succession and who will take over the reins when he decides to step aside has become ever more pertinent.

It is a topic that has generated much recent conversation and speculation and this week it was confirmed that current vice president Greg Abel – a veritable spring chicken at the age of 56 - would become the next CEO.

Of course, Berkshire Hathaway is not your average company and the succession conversation is made all the more difficult due to the standing of Buffett, particularly with Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.

However, the fundamental necessity of having a good succession plan, whether for a business or a family that is looking to smoothly transfer its wealth to the next generation, cannot be underestimated.

History is littered with examples of financial empires that have crumbled in the face of change – when wealth is transferred without the requisite wisdom to match. 

The success of most corporations – Berkshire Hathaway included – derives from the successful transfer of knowledge and understanding so they can successfully protect and grow the company’s assets, a scenario that makes perfect sense in business, but surprisingly few people think like this when it comes to their personal lives.

More often than not, a wealth transfer will be in the form of a Will – a division of assets that is often little more than a divide and dump with no attempt to focus on the desires and beliefs that will help protect and grow assets in the future. 

From our experience dealing with many different families over the years, leaving the future to chance is a strategy that very rarely works. 

Families are complicated organisations – often more so than your average business – with second timers, step-families and multiple generations all scenarios that need to be considered. 

Unfortunately, it is often a crisis that initiates the first conversations about succession and while people like ourselves may be appointed to support the process, we don’t often meet them until the point of need and that can be too late to provide the best service. 

There has undoubtedly been a shift in attitude over the past decade, but the reality is that as a general rule, people are still not thinking about succession early enough to ensure that future generations reap the full financial and emotional benefits – indeed, half the population still does not even have an up to date Will.

There is roughly £11 trillion of wealth currently held in the UK and over the coming decades there will be the biggest transfer of wealth to the next generation in the history of mankind and yet too many people who intend to transfer their wealth don’t know when or how to do it. 

Succession planning is never easy, whether considering a business or a family. Those responsible for building the wealth may be reluctant to entrust the fruits of their many years of toil with others or be fearful of the impact of change, something Buffett intimated when he this week when he said “there are no perpetuities” even for a company as revered as Berkshire Hathaway.

Whether a family or a business, there is never a bad time to start to talk about succession. Ultimately it is both natural and a necessity and done in a structured and timely manner, it can have huge long-term benefits.

And of course, we would certainly recommend making succession a priority long before reaching your 91st birthday but then the great Sage of Omaha doesn’t appear to be going anywhere soon. 

No future is worth more than your legacy

I must confess, I am not a great football fan. 

I can easily be swept up in the emotional rollercoaster of a World Cup, but you are unlikely to find me at Stoke on a rainy Tuesday night.

Nevertheless, it is a sport (or should that be soap opera?) that is hard to ignore at the best of times and even more so in the last couple of weeks.

If we were all back in our offices, then it is a fair assumption that the rise and fall – for now - of the new European Super League would have been the talk of the water cooler.

There has been many a column inch written on the subject over the past week, very little of it in support of the now failed initiative although there has been something of a consensus of its inevitability in a sport where success is defined as much in monetary terms as it is in silverware. 

The protests that followed the announcement were laced with irony of course, particularly when led by players earning millions of pounds a year from clubs that are mired in hundreds of millions of pounds of unsustainable debt.

But regardless of the fact that football threw open its doors to unrestricted market forces a long time ago, when it came to the European Super League, there was a united feeling across football that a line had been crossed – it was a decision that had been made with absolutely no consideration at all for the respective club’s fans.

Well, I should actually clarify that – it was a decision that gave no consideration to the existing fans, or as the ESL described them, ‘legacy fans’.

Instead, it was a vision that was focused not on the fans that have supported the club and helped make it what it is today but was much more interested in what the ESL called ‘fans of the future’ – fans from around the world with disposable income and a thirst for European football.

Professional football is a business and always will be but there are those that will argue that the loyalty and tribal nature of its fans means that it is unlike a more conventional business.

Well, to a degree this may be true but the fundamentals about business and the relationship with what football clubs call fans and we would call customers or clients is far closer than one might imagine.

It is no coincidence that this provocative initiative has emerged at this moment in our history when so many industries have been savaged by the pandemic and yet the virtual opportunities have never been greater.

Football clubs are not the only businesses having to adapt and evolve to stay relevant in a fast-changing world – it is something we are seeing in many businesses in every conceivable sector. 

However, as we have seen so clearly in the last week or so, it is an incredibly delicate balance that has to be struck by any business that aspires to embrace the opportunities of the changing demographics in our society.

A business should never underestimate the value of those customers that have helped it to establish itself and they must never be forgone in the rush to win new business.

Well served customers are incredibly loyal – they may not wear a scarf with your company name on but they will be some of your most important advocates in an increasingly competitive world. 

They will be the customers who share your values and have kept you true to them over the years, the ones who stuck with you when times may have been tough. 

Now change is inevitable. Most successful businesses are continually changing and innovating to retain that competitive edge but to go on that journey without your legacy customers, as the ESL would describe them, is to undermine the very thing that gives your business its strength.

Every business needs ‘fans of the future’, they are the very lifeblood that drive growth and success but they should not be pursued at all costs, a lesson that the owners of the 12 breakaway clubs will have learned, potentially at some significant cost, in the last week.

What does good really look like?

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What does good really look like?

By David Penney

We are all about the future. Indeed, it is the very essence of the service we provide at Penney Financial Partners.

When we are working with our clients, we will often ask them what their ideal future looks like. We want to know what good looks like to them.

Only when we understand this can we help them build a plan that will allow them to achieve those future goals. 

It is a hugely personal process. Everybody’s aspirations and individual goals are different and as such, every financial plan is tailored to meet a client’s needs.

However, meeting a client’s needs is merely the starting point of the process. If we really want to understand what good looks like then we also need to talk about values, something that is becoming as important to our clients as it is to us.

There will be many consequences of the recent pandemic – both positive and negative – but one of the most important consequences of the past year is that it has allowed us all to reassess and examine who we are and where we stand on the biggest issues facing our planet today.

The writer and activist George Monbiot has described this moment as a time to rekindle our moral imaginations – a time when we need to understand the impact we each have on the planet and then take steps to reconnect with other people and the natural world.

Few of us now can be under any illusions about the crisis this planet faces if we fail to take measures now. The climate science is pretty unequivocal and the damage that is being done to the delicate eco-systems around the world by more than seven billion consumers is clear for us all to see.

As part of the St. James’s Place family, we are proud to be part of an organisation that has been responding to these issues for a number of years and responsible investing is not just a defining characteristic of our investment approach but is also a critical component in creating long term value for our clients.

Increasingly, the way a company approaches environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues will have a significant influence on its long-term prospects and as such, its appeal to its investors, suppliers and customer.

Responsible investing is now standard practice at SJP and its entire fund range meets high standards of responsible investing by integrating ESG considerations into all investment decision making and actively engaging with company decision makers. 

To coin a phrase that you may have heard me use before, when it comes to how and where you invest, there is no need anymore to put purpose before profit. 

But how and where we invest is just one part of the jigsaw. For us all to really make the difference that our planet desperately needs, it is not just important that we better consider how we grow wealth but also better consider how we then use it. 

Many or even most of us will already have taken some personal measures to live what we consider to be more sustainable lifestyles, from driving an electric car to ensuring we fulfill our recycling obligations once a fortnight. 

Both actions are important steps to lower emissions and minimise waste and yet there remains something of a disconnect between how we live our lives and the impact we have on the wider world.

According to research led by the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto, Japan, the average western consumer of coffee, chocolate, beef, palm oil and commodities is responsible for the felling of four trees every year – many in wildlife rich tropical forests.

In five G7 countries – UK, Japan, Germany, France and Italy – more than 90 per cent of their deforestation footprint was in foreign countries and half was in tropical nations. 

The situation in our oceans is equally as perilous – according to the new Seaspiracy show on Netflix, industrial fishing has already wiped out 90 per cent of the world’s large fish and is currently deforesting nearly four billion acres of the seafloor every year. 

These are undoubtedly alarming statistics, and they are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. This really does feel like the moment when we all have to take personal responsibility for our own impact on the planet. 

At Penney Financial Partners, we are on the beginning of a journey. This year we have committed to becoming a carbon neutral business and we are also partnering with the Everyday Plastic Project at the Cheltenham Science Festival later this year, a fantastic school initiative that highlights the unsustainability of plastic use in the UK, where we discard 35 billion pieces of plastic every year.

We feel that this is a really important step in the right direction towards our goal of being a voice for reflection and change around these hugely important issues - because what good looks like to us is creating a better future, in a world worth living in.

Penney lays new building blocks for the future.

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Penney lays new building blocks for the future.

Penney Financial Partners is delighted to welcome three new colleagues to the team to support its ambitious plans for future growth.

The new recruits include two new members of the advice team and one in a client support role, growing the overall Penney team to 20 across its two offices in Shrewsbury and Cheltenham.

Ryan Smith joins Penney as a Trainee Financial Consultant and he has now entered the prestigious St. James’s Place Academy to gain further knowledge and experience before helping expand Penney’s service offer from its headquarters in Shrewsbury.

Adam Carson is also a qualified financial adviser in the early stages of his career in the industry and he joins Penney as an Associate Financial Consultant where he will be joining the team in Cheltenham as part of plans to build the business’s reach across the Cotswold region.

Joining the Client Services team is Emily Pritchard, who previously worked as a customer advisor for Lloyds Bank and will work as part of the growing support team that ensures the highest possible service standards are maintained.

The new appointments are the first at the practice since the beginning of the Covid crisis and according the Penney Financial Partners CEO David Penney, reflect not just a confidence in future opportunities but are also part of the business’s long term planning.

He said: “It is fantastic to have Ryan, Adam and Emily join the Penney family at what is a really important moment for us at Penney Financial Partners.

“We are now more than 20 years old and have been on a fantastic journey to build the business over that period and it was in 2019 that we decided to take the next step and open our new office in Cheltenham.

“However, as we all know, the year or so that has followed has been unlike any other and so while last year was a successful year for us, it was also one of consolidation as we evolved and adapted to the realities of the pandemic and the changing needs and aspirations of our clients.

“As we move deeper into 2021, we feel there are major opportunities ahead of us as a business and we are incredibly excited about the potential for growth, particularly around the Cotswolds where we are working hard to build our presence and capabilities.

“What is most exciting is that Adam, Ryan and Emily are three ambitious and talented individuals who are at the beginning of their career journey with huge potential to be really important parts of the Penney story for years to come. 

“We are continually on the look out for the right people to join us at Penney Financial Partners to not only help us grow from a business perspective but also to bring the energy and ideas that I think is so important for the continuous development of any team.

“These remain unusual and often uncertain times so while our focus remains very much on ensuring our clients’ needs are met today we are also very looking to the what I am confident is a bright future, both for Emily, Ryan and Adam and the business as a whole.”

The art of decision making

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The art of decision making

By David Penney

In life, as in business, there are apparently three kinds of decisions that we have to make. 

There are those operational decisions that are taken multiple times a day to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible.

Then there are those tactical decisions – the decisions whose impact will be felt more over the medium term, something that needs to be planned for and factored into the future. 

And finally, there are those strategic decisions. These are decisions which will shape the long term, the ones that plot not just a direction of travel but also the desired destination.

The best way to come to those decisions has been a subject of conjecture and debate ever since we have been making decisions.

Clearly many of those decisions that we take every minute of every, from the words we say to what we have for breakfast, are so instinctive as to barely register on the decision-making scale, or certainly so we would imagine.

For those more tactical and strategic decisions that we make in our lives – those ones that we believe will have the greatest impact - one would assume that these are decisions that will be best made after a much more considered approach. 

It is an assumption that may not necessarily be correct. 

There are two points that should be considered here. Firstly around what part conscious decision making actually plays in determining the outcomes of our lives and secondly, does thinking differently about decision making depending on the situation actually make any difference to the overall outcome. 

A key point to recognise when considering our decision-making processes and capability is that our lives are actually dominated by decisions we take in almost complete ignorance.

Take having children for instance. We were of course all children once and most of us had the opportunity to study our parents growing up but we ultimately all become parents with no real knowledge of what it truly is to be a parent.

It is also a truism that many of those big decisions we make in our lives, those decisions that will have a profound impact on its direction and quality, are much easier to make than the smaller ones because very often they are not decisions in the most obvious sense at all. 

Many will have watched the film Sliding Doors where the life of the character played by Gwyneth Paltrow takes two fundamentally different courses dependent on whether she rushes to make it through the closing doors of a tube train.

The message of this film and ultimately the reality of life – and this is as true for business as it is for individuals - is that the decisions we make that have the potential to have the greatest impact are those multiple decisions we make every day without hesitation.

They are the decisions we take with little or no thought or consequence beyond the immediate even though every single one could have multiple unintended consequences that will shape the future direction of your life or your business.   

It is a liberating thought although it is not many of us who are prepared or mentally equipped to consciously leave our futures down to chance and so there remains value in having a better understanding of how and why we make the decisions we do. 

Whether it is a conscious process or not, what is clear is that we all have our own way of making decisions. 

Whatever the decision that needs to be made, some people like to react from the hip – it feels right, decision made. Others like to take a much more methodical and analytical approach. 

The second approach to decision making certainly seems like the most rational but does this necessarily lead to the best outcomes? The reality is that people often make decisions that are neither necessarily rational or even predictable and yet it doesn’t mean that those decisions they make are wrong.

If you dig a little deeper into the psychology of decision making, humans have a tendency to create mental shortcuts to simplify decision making using something called heuristics.

This can mean that decisions are influenced by a wide range of factors including how a question is framed, our tendency to ignore statistics and focus on stereotypes, our most recent experiences and our own prejudices, regardless or whether they are material to the matter at hand. 

So, when it comes to making the best decisions, which way is best?

Well the reality is that it actually both or neither – depending of how you frame the question!

What is clear is that if you understand heuristics and deliberately sidestep those mental shortcuts that simplify decision making, there stands a more than reasonable chance that the decision you make will be a better one.

However, there is also plenty of evidence that the brain is sufficiently evolved to process all the available information almost instantaneously to allow you to make a snap decision that will often lead to the most favourable outcome.

So, whether you are somebody who makes decision on the fly or likes to approach decision making in a much more methodical way, the most important thing ultimately is to make that decision.

If the decision turns out to be a poor one, that’s ok. It will immediately become part of your lived experience and will enter the psychology of your decision-making process in the future.

Procrastinating (as opposed to being deliberately thorough) undoubtedly has some advantages – it provides more time to gather evidence and it is said to potentially enhance creativity – but it can also become something of a habit.

In this one precious life of ours, taking action and living out the consequences would always seem a much more fulfilling existence than a lifetime of wondering. 

What does good really look like?

By David Penney

We are all about the future. Indeed, it is the very essence of the service we provide at Penney Financial Partners.

When we are working with our clients, we will often ask them what their ideal future looks like. We want to know what good looks like to them.

Only when we understand this can we help them build a plan that will allow them to achieve those future goals. 

It is a hugely personal process. Everybody’s aspirations and individual goals are different and as such, every financial plan is tailored to meet a client’s needs.

However, meeting a client’s needs is merely the starting point of the process. If we really want to understand what good looks like then we also need to talk about values, something that is becoming as important to our clients as it is to us.

There will be many consequences of the recent pandemic – both positive and negative – but one of the most important consequences of the past year is that it has allowed us all to reassess and examine who we are and where we stand on the biggest issues facing our planet today.

The writer and activist George Monbiot has described this moment as a time to rekindle our moral imaginations – a time when we need to understand the impact we each have on the planet and then take steps to reconnect with other people and the natural world.

Few of us now can be under any illusions about the crisis this planet faces if we fail to take measures now. The climate science is pretty unequivocal and the damage that is being done to the delicate eco-systems around the world by more than seven billion consumers is clear for us all to see.

As part of the St. James’s Place family, we are proud to be part of an organisation that has been responding to these issues for a number of years and responsible investing is not just a defining characteristic of our investment approach but is also a critical component in creating long term value for our clients.

Increasingly, the way a company approaches environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues will have a significant influence on its long-term prospects and as such, its appeal to its investors, suppliers and customer.

Responsible investing is now standard practice at SJP and its entire fund range meets high standards of responsible investing by integrating ESG considerations into all investment decision making and actively engaging with company decision makers. 

To coin a phrase that you may have heard me use before, when it comes to how and where you invest, there is no need anymore to put purpose before profit. 

But how and where we invest is just one part of the jigsaw. For us all to really make the difference that our planet desperately needs, it is not just important that we better consider how we grow wealth but also better consider how we then use it. 

Many or even most of us will already have taken some personal measures to live what we consider to be more sustainable lifestyles, from driving an electric car to ensuring we fulfill our recycling obligations once a fortnight. 

Both actions are important steps to lower emissions and minimise waste and yet there remains something of a disconnect between how we live our lives and the impact we have on the wider world.

According to research led by the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature in Kyoto, Japan, the average western consumer of coffee, chocolate, beef, palm oil and commodities is responsible for the felling of four trees every year – many in wildlife rich tropical forests.

In five G7 countries – UK, Japan, Germany, France and Italy – more than 90 per cent of their deforestation footprint was in foreign countries and half was in tropical nations. 

The situation in our oceans is equally as perilous – according to the new Seaspiracy show on Netflix, industrial fishing has already wiped out 90 per cent of the world’s large fish and is currently deforesting nearly four billion acres of the seafloor every year. 

These are undoubtedly alarming statistics, and they are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. This really does feel like the moment when we all have to take personal responsibility for our own impact on the planet. 

At Penney Financial Partners, we are on the beginning of a journey. This year we have committed to becoming a carbon neutral business and we are also partnering with the Everyday Plastic Project at the Cheltenham Science Festival later this year, a fantastic school initiative that highlights the unsustainability of plastic use in the UK, where we discard 35 billion pieces of plastic every year.

We feel that this is a really important step in the right direction towards our goal of being a voice for reflection and change around these hugely important issues - because what good looks like to us is creating a better future, in a world worth living in.

Penney lays new building blocks for the future.

Penney Financial Partners is delighted to welcome three new colleagues to the team to support its ambitious plans for future growth.

The new recruits include two new members of the advice team and one in a client support role, growing the overall Penney team to 20 across its two offices in Shrewsbury and Cheltenham.

Ryan Smith joins Penney as a Trainee Financial Consultant and he has now entered the prestigious St. James’s Place Academy to gain further knowledge and experience before helping expand Penney’s service offer from its headquarters in Shrewsbury.

Adam Carson is also a qualified financial adviser in the early stages of his career in the industry and he joins Penney as an Associate Financial Consultant where he will be joining the team in Cheltenham as part of plans to build the business’s reach across the Cotswold region.

Joining the Client Services team is Emily Pritchard, who previously worked as a customer advisor for Lloyds Bank and will work as part of the growing support team that ensures the highest possible service standards are maintained.

The new appointments are the first at the practice since the beginning of the Covid crisis and according the Penney Financial Partners CEO David Penney, reflect not just a confidence in future opportunities but are also part of the business’s long term planning.

He said: “It is fantastic to have Ryan, Adam and Emily join the Penney family at what is a really important moment for us at Penney Financial Partners.

“We are now more than 20 years old and have been on a fantastic journey to build the business over that period and it was in 2019 that we decided to take the next step and open our new office in Cheltenham.

“However, as we all know, the year or so that has followed has been unlike any other and so while last year was a successful year for us, it was also one of consolidation as we evolved and adapted to the realities of the pandemic and the changing needs and aspirations of our clients.

“As we move deeper into 2021, we feel there are major opportunities ahead of us as a business and we are incredibly excited about the potential for growth, particularly around the Cotswolds where we are working hard to build our presence and capabilities.

“What is most exciting is that Adam, Ryan and Emily are three ambitious and talented individuals who are at the beginning of their career journey with huge potential to be really important parts of the Penney story for years to come. 

“We are continually on the look out for the right people to join us at Penney Financial Partners to not only help us grow from a business perspective but also to bring the energy and ideas that I think is so important for the continuous development of any team.

“These remain unusual and often uncertain times so while our focus remains very much on ensuring our clients’ needs are met today we are also very looking to the what I am confident is a bright future, both for Emily, Ryan and Adam and the business as a whole.”

The art of decision making

By David Penney

In life, as in business, there are apparently three kinds of decisions that we have to make. 

There are those operational decisions that are taken multiple times a day to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible.

Then there are those tactical decisions – the decisions whose impact will be felt more over the medium term, something that needs to be planned for and factored into the future. 

And finally, there are those strategic decisions. These are decisions which will shape the long term, the ones that plot not just a direction of travel but also the desired destination.

The best way to come to those decisions has been a subject of conjecture and debate ever since we have been making decisions.

Clearly many of those decisions that we take every minute of every, from the words we say to what we have for breakfast, are so instinctive as to barely register on the decision-making scale, or certainly so we would imagine.

For those more tactical and strategic decisions that we make in our lives – those ones that we believe will have the greatest impact - one would assume that these are decisions that will be best made after a much more considered approach. 

It is an assumption that may not necessarily be correct. 

There are two points that should be considered here. Firstly around what part conscious decision making actually plays in determining the outcomes of our lives and secondly, does thinking differently about decision making depending on the situation actually make any difference to the overall outcome. 

A key point to recognise when considering our decision-making processes and capability is that our lives are actually dominated by decisions we take in almost complete ignorance.

Take having children for instance. We were of course all children once and most of us had the opportunity to study our parents growing up but we ultimately all become parents with no real knowledge of what it truly is to be a parent.

It is also a truism that many of those big decisions we make in our lives, those decisions that will have a profound impact on its direction and quality, are much easier to make than the smaller ones because very often they are not decisions in the most obvious sense at all. 

Many will have watched the film Sliding Doors where the life of the character played by Gwyneth Paltrow takes two fundamentally different courses dependent on whether she rushes to make it through the closing doors of a tube train.

The message of this film and ultimately the reality of life – and this is as true for business as it is for individuals - is that the decisions we make that have the potential to have the greatest impact are those multiple decisions we make every day without hesitation.

They are the decisions we take with little or no thought or consequence beyond the immediate even though every single one could have multiple unintended consequences that will shape the future direction of your life or your business.   

It is a liberating thought although it is not many of us who are prepared or mentally equipped to consciously leave our futures down to chance and so there remains value in having a better understanding of how and why we make the decisions we do. 

Whether it is a conscious process or not, what is clear is that we all have our own way of making decisions. 

Whatever the decision that needs to be made, some people like to react from the hip – it feels right, decision made. Others like to take a much more methodical and analytical approach. 

The second approach to decision making certainly seems like the most rational but does this necessarily lead to the best outcomes? The reality is that people often make decisions that are neither necessarily rational or even predictable and yet it doesn’t mean that those decisions they make are wrong.

If you dig a little deeper into the psychology of decision making, humans have a tendency to create mental shortcuts to simplify decision making using something called heuristics.

This can mean that decisions are influenced by a wide range of factors including how a question is framed, our tendency to ignore statistics and focus on stereotypes, our most recent experiences and our own prejudices, regardless or whether they are material to the matter at hand. 

So, when it comes to making the best decisions, which way is best?

Well the reality is that it actually both or neither – depending of how you frame the question!

What is clear is that if you understand heuristics and deliberately sidestep those mental shortcuts that simplify decision making, there stands a more than reasonable chance that the decision you make will be a better one.

However, there is also plenty of evidence that the brain is sufficiently evolved to process all the available information almost instantaneously to allow you to make a snap decision that will often lead to the most favourable outcome.

So, whether you are somebody who makes decision on the fly or likes to approach decision making in a much more methodical way, the most important thing ultimately is to make that decision.

If the decision turns out to be a poor one, that’s ok. It will immediately become part of your lived experience and will enter the psychology of your decision-making process in the future.

Procrastinating (as opposed to being deliberately thorough) undoubtedly has some advantages – it provides more time to gather evidence and it is said to potentially enhance creativity – but it can also become something of a habit.

In this one precious life of ours, taking action and living out the consequences would always seem a much more fulfilling existence than a lifetime of wondering. 

Positivity is nothing without optimism

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Positivity is nothing without optimism

By David Penney

By this Friday the sun will begin to rise before 8am – and by the following Friday the sunset will be closer to 5pm than 4pm.

Within a month we will begin to see the green shoots of spring flowers and the first bumblebees will emerge on sunny days, looking for untidy corners to start building their summer nests. 

These seasonal realities may seem relatively inconsequential against the seemingly perpetual stream of challenges many of us are facing at the moment, but how we view the former tells us a lot about how prepared we are to face the latter.

One of the most common refrains to be heard around the recent lockdown is about how much harder it will be to manage in the cold and dank winter months compared to the beautiful late spring and early summer weather of the first lockdown last March.

It is a completely understandable expression of pessimism in light of all our experiences over the past 10 months but also reflects a mindset that focuses on the challenges of today rather than the opportunities of tomorrow.

As the great Winston Churchill said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

To be an optimist is to look at the world differently. To be optimistic allows you to react to problems with a sense of confidence and often with an ability to overcome them.

Optimists have a strong belief and understanding that negative events are temporary, have limited scope to impact the long-term direction of their lives and that all issues that befall them can be managed. 

Of course, optimism can be repeatedly challenged – we are in a period that seems to be doing that on an almost daily basis – but by remaining optimistic is to look beyond events and focus on your assumptions that everything will work out in the end.

To be optimistic is linked to thinking positively but it is not the same. Thinking positively is undoubtedly the best way to live your life but there is a downside to always taking the positive view to the point of it being potentially destructive.

Being positive does not automatically make things ok – it can be a screen for challenges that are not being faced and can be a slippery slope to accepting mediocrity, both in our personal and business lives.

Indeed, being exceptionally positive is in many ways no better than being overly negative – we need to balance both extremes to live a life that has equilibrium and authenticity. 

When we always think that everything is going just great, we lose that all important motivation to improve. 

It is positivity that motivates us to respond to the moment, but it is optimism that provides us with the comfort and hope that there are better times ahead.

Positive thinking is about telling ourselves that everything is good even when it may not be whereas optimism accepts the truth of reality and looks forward to a brighter future.

The Four Pillars of Financial Freedom

It is this optimistic mindset that provides the fundamental underpinning of our four pillars of financial freedom – growing wealth, family, wellbeing and community.

Within each of these four pillars you can find a lessons that provide the support and reassurance that allow us look to the future with an optimism that invigorates our lives rather than leading to stagnation and paralysis.

Growing wealth

When investing to grow wealth, the prevailing view will always be to take a long-term view and look beyond short-term fluctuations as has been reflected in the bounce back in the markets over the past 10 months. 

By embracing a long-term orientation, we are reflecting an optimistic view of the financial markets, reinforced by experience and cold hard facts.

Wellbeing

When it comes to wellbeing, optimism is the very essence of personal well-being. Our own physical health and those around us is more important than anything else in our lives and having an optimistic mindset can have a hugely positive influence on this. 

Not surprisingly it is considered an important factor in the fight against depression and anxiety but there is also strong and credible evidence that it improves the immune system and can make you less likely to suffer from chronic disease. 

Family

Not everybody is naturally optimistic, but it is a state of mind that can be learned through a range of processes, not least by focusing on those important virtues of selflessness and a gratitude, virtues that are intrinsically linked to those other key pillars, family and community.

The dictionary definition states that to be to be selfless is to be more concerned about the wishes of others than one’s own, something we all do as parents or indeed as children, particularly as more of us join the so-called ‘sandwich’ generation.

While our feelings and actions towards our own families are often instinctive, we should also recognise in ourselves the effort and sacrifice we make to make their lives better. Serving other people, whoever they are, is inspiring, fulfilling and full of reward.

Community

Gratitude is something that we have all probably had much more of in recent times as we have focused on the importance of community and those who have been such a support throughout the pandemic.

Gratitude is such a fantastic initiator of optimism and when you look at all the things that you are grateful for in your life, it is difficult not to be optimistic. 

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to deal with the challenges in our lives but the benefits of approaching life with an optimistic mindset undoubtedly allow us to solve the problems before us in a more calm and courageous way.

So whatever challenges you are facing today, remember that we are another day closer to the bluebells and daffodils emerging to remind us that a new and wonderful year of opportunity is upon us. 

Neutral by name but not by nature

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Neutral by name but not by nature

By David Penney

You will often read that a company stands for something – indeed you will find it written on our own website.

But what does it actually mean?

The expression “what a company stands for” often relates to its core values and brand – for Penney Financial Partners these include trust, integrity, passion and innovation, ideals that underpin how we do business and all essential in delivering the service that our clients expect.

However, I am not sure that is what we actually stand for. For me, standing for something is more fundamental than what we do or how we treat our customers. 

Standing for something is about aspiring to make a positive impact that reaches beyond the expected, that transcends a business’s natural sphere of influence.  

In our mission statement we state our commitment to helping families achieve more with their resources, creating a better future in a world worth living in.

This is a mission that that has successfully guided us over the past 20 years although it is the final part of that statement that is the most important and the part that truly expresses what we really stand for – and what has driven us to make a key decision about our business for 2021.

The recent pandemic has been hugely disruptive to all of our lives, but it is climate change that is the great crisis of our age and will eventually have the greatest impact on all of our lives.

It is an issue that has to be everybody’s responsibility, particularly businesses that currently account for half of all carbon emissions in the UK. It is for this reason that we have committed in 2021 to become a carbon neutral business. 

In simple terms this means that as a business we will take responsibility for absorbing as much carbon as we emit.

Ultimately this will mean investing in technologies and mechanisms that offset the amount of carbon that we produce at Penney Financial Partners, but our commitment has to be greater if we are truly committed to creating a better future in a world worth living in. 

Becoming a carbon neutral business is not just about offsetting but about behaviour. Our goal is not to emit the same amount of carbon and then use the profits we generate to offset that carbon but ultimately to reduce our carbon footprint itself.

This means reviewing our energy use in our offices and switching to sustainable sources, reducing commuting by supporting a more flexible approach to office working and developing a best practice culture where colleagues are encouraged to question and challenge the sustainability of all our business activity. 

There is no doubt that it is an approach that is good for business as fewer costs means better efficiency and what business doesn’t want that - but it is about so much more. 

At the heart of the service we provide for our clients is to help them manage their wealth for today, for their future but also for future generations – if we don’t stand for taking clear action to provide a better future for all of us then supporting our clients pass on their wealth to the next generation becomes somewhat moot. 

Of course, we understand that our contribution to reducing overall emissions will be small but this is also about creating a platform to meet the information demands of our clients.

After all, it is our clients who are our partners in delivering our mission and if we can support them in considering a more sustainable future, then we will know that this was something that was really worth standing for. 

The sense in being a good business

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The sense in being a good business

By David Penney

When the history books are written about those individuals who helped shape the 20th century, very near to the top will be Steve Jobs.

As a founder of Apple, he can rightly be considered one of the pioneers of the technological age with a visionary approach that literally changed the world.

But of course, his successes were not down to him alone – something he readily admitted in one of his best-known quotes:

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They are done by a team of people.”

Indeed, no matter what the business, building the right team and creating the environment for them to thrive both collectively and individually is the fundamental base on which success is built. 

Of course, we are very much at the other end of the scale compared to a global giant such as Apple, but the principles remain the same whether you are a team of 20 or a team of 20,000.

And building a team who are engaged, committed and happy in what they do is not just good for business but it often has a wider positive impact beyond the office – I think most people’s experience is that if you are happy at work then you tend to be happier in other areas of life.

So, for all these reasons and more it was an incredibly proud moment earlier this month when Penney Financial Partners was accredited by the Good Business Charter in recognition of our commitment to good employment practice as well as our attitude towards tax, the environment, customers and suppliers.

The Good Business Charter, which has the support of both the CBI and the TUC, was established by the Good Business Foundation.

The charter consists of 10 components, more details of the which can be found at www.goodbusinesscharter.co.uk, but at the heart of the charter is a commitment to maintaining a fair and ethical approach in all aspects of our business.

This means ensuring equitable pay and conditions for all, providing clear and transparent policies that support wellbeing and committing to investing time and money in creating an inclusive workforce that recognises the importance and opportunities presented by diversity.

Our accreditation also recognises our work towards minimising our own impact on the environment, the fact that we are signatories to the government’s Prompt Payment Code and our commitment to upholding the standards in the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code. 

In short, it is an accreditation that recognises the responsibility we feel as a business both to our employees and also to the wider community, a responsibility we have felt particularly acutely during this recent period of uncertainty but for which we have also been richly rewarded. 

For while this accreditation is technically about how the business behaves towards its employees and other stakeholders, it is actually recognition for the team themselves.

They are the ones who are carrying our vision forward and creating the kind of business that is important to them and this very accreditation is the result of a huge amount of work led by our Head of Client Services Nina Sahota, a colleague for almost 20 years, which I hope tells a story in itself. 

To coin another phrase by Mr Jobs, “the only way to do great work is to do what you love.” I would not be so bold to suggest that every colleague does what they love but I can say with absolute certainty that they do great work.   

Positivity is nothing without optimism

By David Penney

By this Friday the sun will begin to rise before 8am – and by the following Friday the sunset will be closer to 5pm than 4pm.

Within a month we will begin to see the green shoots of spring flowers and the first bumblebees will emerge on sunny days, looking for untidy corners to start building their summer nests. 

These seasonal realities may seem relatively inconsequential against the seemingly perpetual stream of challenges many of us are facing at the moment, but how we view the former tells us a lot about how prepared we are to face the latter.

One of the most common refrains to be heard around the recent lockdown is about how much harder it will be to manage in the cold and dank winter months compared to the beautiful late spring and early summer weather of the first lockdown last March.

It is a completely understandable expression of pessimism in light of all our experiences over the past 10 months but also reflects a mindset that focuses on the challenges of today rather than the opportunities of tomorrow.

As the great Winston Churchill said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

To be an optimist is to look at the world differently. To be optimistic allows you to react to problems with a sense of confidence and often with an ability to overcome them.

Optimists have a strong belief and understanding that negative events are temporary, have limited scope to impact the long-term direction of their lives and that all issues that befall them can be managed. 

Of course, optimism can be repeatedly challenged – we are in a period that seems to be doing that on an almost daily basis – but by remaining optimistic is to look beyond events and focus on your assumptions that everything will work out in the end.

To be optimistic is linked to thinking positively but it is not the same. Thinking positively is undoubtedly the best way to live your life but there is a downside to always taking the positive view to the point of it being potentially destructive.

Being positive does not automatically make things ok – it can be a screen for challenges that are not being faced and can be a slippery slope to accepting mediocrity, both in our personal and business lives.

Indeed, being exceptionally positive is in many ways no better than being overly negative – we need to balance both extremes to live a life that has equilibrium and authenticity. 

When we always think that everything is going just great, we lose that all important motivation to improve. 

It is positivity that motivates us to respond to the moment, but it is optimism that provides us with the comfort and hope that there are better times ahead.

Positive thinking is about telling ourselves that everything is good even when it may not be whereas optimism accepts the truth of reality and looks forward to a brighter future.

The Four Pillars of Financial Freedom

It is this optimistic mindset that provides the fundamental underpinning of our four pillars of financial freedom – growing wealth, family, wellbeing and community.

Within each of these four pillars you can find a lessons that provide the support and reassurance that allow us look to the future with an optimism that invigorates our lives rather than leading to stagnation and paralysis.

Growing wealth

When investing to grow wealth, the prevailing view will always be to take a long-term view and look beyond short-term fluctuations as has been reflected in the bounce back in the markets over the past 10 months. 

By embracing a long-term orientation, we are reflecting an optimistic view of the financial markets, reinforced by experience and cold hard facts.

Wellbeing

When it comes to wellbeing, optimism is the very essence of personal well-being. Our own physical health and those around us is more important than anything else in our lives and having an optimistic mindset can have a hugely positive influence on this. 

Not surprisingly it is considered an important factor in the fight against depression and anxiety but there is also strong and credible evidence that it improves the immune system and can make you less likely to suffer from chronic disease. 

Family

Not everybody is naturally optimistic, but it is a state of mind that can be learned through a range of processes, not least by focusing on those important virtues of selflessness and a gratitude, virtues that are intrinsically linked to those other key pillars, family and community.

The dictionary definition states that to be to be selfless is to be more concerned about the wishes of others than one’s own, something we all do as parents or indeed as children, particularly as more of us join the so-called ‘sandwich’ generation.

While our feelings and actions towards our own families are often instinctive, we should also recognise in ourselves the effort and sacrifice we make to make their lives better. Serving other people, whoever they are, is inspiring, fulfilling and full of reward.

Community

Gratitude is something that we have all probably had much more of in recent times as we have focused on the importance of community and those who have been such a support throughout the pandemic.

Gratitude is such a fantastic initiator of optimism and when you look at all the things that you are grateful for in your life, it is difficult not to be optimistic. 

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to deal with the challenges in our lives but the benefits of approaching life with an optimistic mindset undoubtedly allow us to solve the problems before us in a more calm and courageous way.

So whatever challenges you are facing today, remember that we are another day closer to the bluebells and daffodils emerging to remind us that a new and wonderful year of opportunity is upon us. 

Neutral by name but not by nature

By David Penney

You will often read that a company stands for something – indeed you will find it written on our own website.

But what does it actually mean?

The expression “what a company stands for” often relates to its core values and brand – for Penney Financial Partners these include trust, integrity, passion and innovation, ideals that underpin how we do business and all essential in delivering the service that our clients expect.

However, I am not sure that is what we actually stand for. For me, standing for something is more fundamental than what we do or how we treat our customers. 

Standing for something is about aspiring to make a positive impact that reaches beyond the expected, that transcends a business’s natural sphere of influence.  

In our mission statement we state our commitment to helping families achieve more with their resources, creating a better future in a world worth living in.

This is a mission that that has successfully guided us over the past 20 years although it is the final part of that statement that is the most important and the part that truly expresses what we really stand for – and what has driven us to make a key decision about our business for 2021.

The recent pandemic has been hugely disruptive to all of our lives, but it is climate change that is the great crisis of our age and will eventually have the greatest impact on all of our lives.

It is an issue that has to be everybody’s responsibility, particularly businesses that currently account for half of all carbon emissions in the UK. It is for this reason that we have committed in 2021 to become a carbon neutral business. 

In simple terms this means that as a business we will take responsibility for absorbing as much carbon as we emit.

Ultimately this will mean investing in technologies and mechanisms that offset the amount of carbon that we produce at Penney Financial Partners, but our commitment has to be greater if we are truly committed to creating a better future in a world worth living in. 

Becoming a carbon neutral business is not just about offsetting but about behaviour. Our goal is not to emit the same amount of carbon and then use the profits we generate to offset that carbon but ultimately to reduce our carbon footprint itself.

This means reviewing our energy use in our offices and switching to sustainable sources, reducing commuting by supporting a more flexible approach to office working and developing a best practice culture where colleagues are encouraged to question and challenge the sustainability of all our business activity. 

There is no doubt that it is an approach that is good for business as fewer costs means better efficiency and what business doesn’t want that - but it is about so much more. 

At the heart of the service we provide for our clients is to help them manage their wealth for today, for their future but also for future generations – if we don’t stand for taking clear action to provide a better future for all of us then supporting our clients pass on their wealth to the next generation becomes somewhat moot. 

Of course, we understand that our contribution to reducing overall emissions will be small but this is also about creating a platform to meet the information demands of our clients.

After all, it is our clients who are our partners in delivering our mission and if we can support them in considering a more sustainable future, then we will know that this was something that was really worth standing for. 

The sense in being a good business

By David Penney

When the history books are written about those individuals who helped shape the 20th century, very near to the top will be Steve Jobs.

As a founder of Apple, he can rightly be considered one of the pioneers of the technological age with a visionary approach that literally changed the world.

But of course, his successes were not down to him alone – something he readily admitted in one of his best-known quotes:

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They are done by a team of people.”

Indeed, no matter what the business, building the right team and creating the environment for them to thrive both collectively and individually is the fundamental base on which success is built. 

Of course, we are very much at the other end of the scale compared to a global giant such as Apple, but the principles remain the same whether you are a team of 20 or a team of 20,000.

And building a team who are engaged, committed and happy in what they do is not just good for business but it often has a wider positive impact beyond the office – I think most people’s experience is that if you are happy at work then you tend to be happier in other areas of life.

So, for all these reasons and more it was an incredibly proud moment earlier this month when Penney Financial Partners was accredited by the Good Business Charter in recognition of our commitment to good employment practice as well as our attitude towards tax, the environment, customers and suppliers.

The Good Business Charter, which has the support of both the CBI and the TUC, was established by the Good Business Foundation.

The charter consists of 10 components, more details of the which can be found at www.goodbusinesscharter.co.uk, but at the heart of the charter is a commitment to maintaining a fair and ethical approach in all aspects of our business.

This means ensuring equitable pay and conditions for all, providing clear and transparent policies that support wellbeing and committing to investing time and money in creating an inclusive workforce that recognises the importance and opportunities presented by diversity.

Our accreditation also recognises our work towards minimising our own impact on the environment, the fact that we are signatories to the government’s Prompt Payment Code and our commitment to upholding the standards in the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code. 

In short, it is an accreditation that recognises the responsibility we feel as a business both to our employees and also to the wider community, a responsibility we have felt particularly acutely during this recent period of uncertainty but for which we have also been richly rewarded. 

For while this accreditation is technically about how the business behaves towards its employees and other stakeholders, it is actually recognition for the team themselves.

They are the ones who are carrying our vision forward and creating the kind of business that is important to them and this very accreditation is the result of a huge amount of work led by our Head of Client Services Nina Sahota, a colleague for almost 20 years, which I hope tells a story in itself. 

To coin another phrase by Mr Jobs, “the only way to do great work is to do what you love.” I would not be so bold to suggest that every colleague does what they love but I can say with absolute certainty that they do great work.   

Pivoting to success in a crisis

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Pivoting to success in a crisis

The impacts of the ongoing Covid crisis have been many and varied.

One of the more frivolous has been how it has introduced a range of new words and phrases into the everyday lexicon.

For the generation that has lived through this moment in history, words like lockdown, quarantine, furlough and even pandemic itself will carry so much more meaning than they did before we have ever heard of Covid-19.

In a business environment, one of the words we are hearing a lot at the moment is pivot.

It is far from being a new word and has long described that process when a business changes its direction or approach to respond to unfavourable economic conditions, a surge in competition or responding to a previously hidden opportunity. 

In a world where nothing is very certain and people are behaving and thinking differently to how they have ever behaved or thought before, it is no surprise that there is an awful lot of pivoting going on.

History is filled with companies and organisations that have successfully pivoted but it is also a process that is fraught with potential pitfalls, from undermining your hard-earned brand to alienating the customers who have been key to your success up to that point.

However, in times of adversity, being able to adapt and evolve may not just be the difference between survival and demise but in many instances, the outcome can be a business or organisation that is better than before.

As the saying goes, businesses are very much like relationships – bad ones fall apart in a crisis, good ones get by and great ones are better because of it. 

This is certainly the case for the Cheltenham Literature Festival, an internationally important annual event that celebrates the very best in global literature every October and one that we were privileged to be involved in this year.

The event is part of Cheltenham Festivals, which also includes the excellent jazz, science and music festivals and like for so many people and organisations, 2020 has not been a kind year.

However, having had to cancel the three previous events, the organisers developed a new hybrid approach so that while some of their 160 events would continue to be live to a socially distanced audience, all would be livestreamed for free to a new global audience or viewers could pay £20 and watch the events at their leisure over the next three months.

The response to this innovation, both from the literary world and its audience, was nothing short of outstanding. 

The packed festival programme included 290 authors and speakers and was full of great names from Malcolm Gladwell to Mary Beard, the venues were as full as guidelines permitted and the streaming figures beat even the most optimistic of expectations with more than 200,000 viewers. 

The organisation and commitment to changing the direction of the festival was a huge undertaking and relied not just on an incredible amount of hard work but also the belief of all involved that the event could not just be delivered but that it would actually create something that was better than before.

Through establishing a clear vision, supporting it with strong messaging that took their customers on their journey with them and then delivering an exemplary product that exceeded expectations, the festival managed to turn adversity completely on its head.

The approach was as brave as it was creative and the result is a template for a future that will enable the festival to reach into places that it was never possible before, opening an exciting new chapter where the sky’s the limit.

The impacts of the Covid crisis may be many and varied but there is no doubt that the experience of Cheltenham Literature Festival offers a fantastic lesson that we can all learn from as we pivot in our own ways to respond and overcome the challenges of today. 

Why Cheltenham?

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Why Cheltenham?

By David Penney

There are many attributes that combine to give a town its identity.

For some it could be a rich history for which it has become synonymous, for others it might be its distinctive architecture or perhaps an industry in which it excels. 

When it comes to Cheltenham, it is a little bit of all of the above – and a good deal more.

When I established my own practice in Shrewsbury more than 20 years ago it was always with the aspirations to one day expand beyond our Shropshire heartland. Cheltenham was on the radar for a number of years and when the time was right to open our second office in 2019, it just felt like the natural choice.

First and foremost, there are some clear synergies between Shrewsbury and Cheltenham that make it such an attractive proposition for a business like ours that aspires to work with successful individuals and families.

Agriculture and farming have long been an important staple of the local economy for both towns but they have both evolved to become increasingly dynamic hotbeds for a wide range of exciting businesses, from tech and e-commerce to the full plethora of creative industries – with plenty in between. 

Both towns are well connected into larger cities but are thriving hubs of activity in their own right, with Cheltenham acting as a natural gateway into all that is wonderful about the beautiful Cotswolds.

Both Shrewsbury and Cheltenham are also blessed with a host of excellent state and independent schools, indeed some of the best performing in the country, providing a fantastic local education service but also a real lure for those looking to relocate.

From a business perspective, Cheltenham is also within striking distance of St. James’s Place’s HQ in Cirencester and home to many of its senior team. It’s hard to think of a town with a richer pool of talent and experience to interact with and support our delivery of an exceptional service to our clients.   

But for all these exciting characteristics, there is something more about Cheltenham that is slightly more difficult to define – an energy and a vibe that is infectious.

It is from this energy that has seen the Cheltenham Festivals emerge over recent years to establish the town as a town right at the heart of the UK’s arts scene with a jazz and science festival to partner the literature and music festivals that were first established after the Second World War.

Make no mistake, these are wonderful events that over the years have attracted some of the biggest names on the planet, from ex-Presidents to multi-million selling authors, and I was delighted this year to get behind the festivals by becoming a patron.

These festivals have always led the way in terms of content and innovation and with the recent Covid crisis, the organisers have had to pull out all the stops for the forthcoming Literature Festival in October but what a job they have done in creating a hybrid physical and virtual festival which again looks like it will be absolutely world-class.

This year for the first time Penney Financial Partners will be supporting the festival and we are delighted that we will be sponsoring an event at the wonderful Everyman Theatre where the bestselling author and explorer Ben Fogle will be discussing his new book Inspire: Life Lessons from the Wilderness.

There are a huge number of events at this year’s festival but we felt the subject matter of Ben’s new book really talked to a subject that means so much to us at Penney Financial Partners – the concept of inspiration and where we find it.

Amongst other things Ben has climbed Everest, rowed the Atlantic, re-enacted the race to the South Pole between Scott and Amundsen, swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco and completed the six-day Marathon des Sables. I’m sure you’ll agree that the opportunity to listen at first hand from someone who has achieved all that will be pretty inspiring in its own right!

If you’ve never visited one of the Cheltenham festivals, I would highly recommend it and this year’s Literature Festival looks like it could be one of the best. As well as offering a great insight into the world of literature, it will also help you understand why Cheltenham is such a great place to be. 

Appointment marks new phase for Cotswold office

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Appointment marks new phase for Cotswold office

Rob Hawkins has joined Penney Financial Partners to help the practice grow its office in Cheltenham.

Rob has extensive experience working in the financial services sector having most recently been Head of Division Private Clients at St. James’s Place Wealth Management, where he enjoyed a 23-year career.

Before embarking on a career in financial services, Rob worked for a number of years in the travel & tourism industry, an experience that had strong synergies with his future career. 

He said: “The stakes may be very different but whether it is the travel industry or financial services, fundamentally it’s about people – delivering a great service that makes people happy.

“This was very much at the heart of my most recent role at St. James’s Place working in the private client space where our approach was always that there was no problem that couldn’t be solved. 

“Indeed, the fact that I found these values so clearly embedded at Penney Financial Partners become one of the key drivers for me accepting the opportunity to join the team.”

Rob has joined the Penney team as business development consultant for the practice’s Cotswold operation, which was established in 2019 with the launch of its new office in St George’s Road in the heart of Cheltenham.

West Country born and bred and having lived in the Costwolds for the past 25 years, Rob will work with the Penney team to help build relationships and support the practice’s ambitious growth plans for the region.

He said: “The experience and expertise that Penney bring in understanding the needs of clients from all backgrounds and circumstances and delivering fantastic outcomes provides them with a really strong opportunity to build something exceptional in Cheltenham.

“By supporting them through making connections, relationship building and driving initiatives to build the Penney brand in the region, I am thoroughly looking forward to being part of that journey.”

Penney Financial Partners CEO David Penney believes Rob will have a crucial role to play in helping the practice achieve its aspirations in Cheltenham and the wider area.

He said: “Rob is someone who had been on my radar for a number of years through his work with St. James’s Place and when he had decided that he was looking for a new challenge, he was clearly somebody who we felt could play a big part in supporting our next phase of development in Cheltenham.

“He has huge experience in the sector and is completely aligned with the beliefs that underpin our practice, from our commitment to excellence in everything we do to a belief in the importance of doing business with a smile on your face.” 

Pivoting to success in a crisis

The impacts of the ongoing Covid crisis have been many and varied.

One of the more frivolous has been how it has introduced a range of new words and phrases into the everyday lexicon.

For the generation that has lived through this moment in history, words like lockdown, quarantine, furlough and even pandemic itself will carry so much more meaning than they did before we have ever heard of Covid-19.

In a business environment, one of the words we are hearing a lot at the moment is pivot.

It is far from being a new word and has long described that process when a business changes its direction or approach to respond to unfavourable economic conditions, a surge in competition or responding to a previously hidden opportunity. 

In a world where nothing is very certain and people are behaving and thinking differently to how they have ever behaved or thought before, it is no surprise that there is an awful lot of pivoting going on.

History is filled with companies and organisations that have successfully pivoted but it is also a process that is fraught with potential pitfalls, from undermining your hard-earned brand to alienating the customers who have been key to your success up to that point.

However, in times of adversity, being able to adapt and evolve may not just be the difference between survival and demise but in many instances, the outcome can be a business or organisation that is better than before.

As the saying goes, businesses are very much like relationships – bad ones fall apart in a crisis, good ones get by and great ones are better because of it. 

This is certainly the case for the Cheltenham Literature Festival, an internationally important annual event that celebrates the very best in global literature every October and one that we were privileged to be involved in this year.

The event is part of Cheltenham Festivals, which also includes the excellent jazz, science and music festivals and like for so many people and organisations, 2020 has not been a kind year.

However, having had to cancel the three previous events, the organisers developed a new hybrid approach so that while some of their 160 events would continue to be live to a socially distanced audience, all would be livestreamed for free to a new global audience or viewers could pay £20 and watch the events at their leisure over the next three months.

The response to this innovation, both from the literary world and its audience, was nothing short of outstanding. 

The packed festival programme included 290 authors and speakers and was full of great names from Malcolm Gladwell to Mary Beard, the venues were as full as guidelines permitted and the streaming figures beat even the most optimistic of expectations with more than 200,000 viewers. 

The organisation and commitment to changing the direction of the festival was a huge undertaking and relied not just on an incredible amount of hard work but also the belief of all involved that the event could not just be delivered but that it would actually create something that was better than before.

Through establishing a clear vision, supporting it with strong messaging that took their customers on their journey with them and then delivering an exemplary product that exceeded expectations, the festival managed to turn adversity completely on its head.

The approach was as brave as it was creative and the result is a template for a future that will enable the festival to reach into places that it was never possible before, opening an exciting new chapter where the sky’s the limit.

The impacts of the Covid crisis may be many and varied but there is no doubt that the experience of Cheltenham Literature Festival offers a fantastic lesson that we can all learn from as we pivot in our own ways to respond and overcome the challenges of today. 

Why Cheltenham?

By David Penney

There are many attributes that combine to give a town its identity.

For some it could be a rich history for which it has become synonymous, for others it might be its distinctive architecture or perhaps an industry in which it excels. 

When it comes to Cheltenham, it is a little bit of all of the above – and a good deal more.

When I established my own practice in Shrewsbury more than 20 years ago it was always with the aspirations to one day expand beyond our Shropshire heartland. Cheltenham was on the radar for a number of years and when the time was right to open our second office in 2019, it just felt like the natural choice.

First and foremost, there are some clear synergies between Shrewsbury and Cheltenham that make it such an attractive proposition for a business like ours that aspires to work with successful individuals and families.

Agriculture and farming have long been an important staple of the local economy for both towns but they have both evolved to become increasingly dynamic hotbeds for a wide range of exciting businesses, from tech and e-commerce to the full plethora of creative industries – with plenty in between. 

Both towns are well connected into larger cities but are thriving hubs of activity in their own right, with Cheltenham acting as a natural gateway into all that is wonderful about the beautiful Cotswolds.

Both Shrewsbury and Cheltenham are also blessed with a host of excellent state and independent schools, indeed some of the best performing in the country, providing a fantastic local education service but also a real lure for those looking to relocate.

From a business perspective, Cheltenham is also within striking distance of St. James’s Place’s HQ in Cirencester and home to many of its senior team. It’s hard to think of a town with a richer pool of talent and experience to interact with and support our delivery of an exceptional service to our clients.   

But for all these exciting characteristics, there is something more about Cheltenham that is slightly more difficult to define – an energy and a vibe that is infectious.

It is from this energy that has seen the Cheltenham Festivals emerge over recent years to establish the town as a town right at the heart of the UK’s arts scene with a jazz and science festival to partner the literature and music festivals that were first established after the Second World War.

Make no mistake, these are wonderful events that over the years have attracted some of the biggest names on the planet, from ex-Presidents to multi-million selling authors, and I was delighted this year to get behind the festivals by becoming a patron.

These festivals have always led the way in terms of content and innovation and with the recent Covid crisis, the organisers have had to pull out all the stops for the forthcoming Literature Festival in October but what a job they have done in creating a hybrid physical and virtual festival which again looks like it will be absolutely world-class.

This year for the first time Penney Financial Partners will be supporting the festival and we are delighted that we will be sponsoring an event at the wonderful Everyman Theatre where the bestselling author and explorer Ben Fogle will be discussing his new book Inspire: Life Lessons from the Wilderness.

There are a huge number of events at this year’s festival but we felt the subject matter of Ben’s new book really talked to a subject that means so much to us at Penney Financial Partners – the concept of inspiration and where we find it.

Amongst other things Ben has climbed Everest, rowed the Atlantic, re-enacted the race to the South Pole between Scott and Amundsen, swam from Alcatraz to San Francisco and completed the six-day Marathon des Sables. I’m sure you’ll agree that the opportunity to listen at first hand from someone who has achieved all that will be pretty inspiring in its own right!

If you’ve never visited one of the Cheltenham festivals, I would highly recommend it and this year’s Literature Festival looks like it could be one of the best. As well as offering a great insight into the world of literature, it will also help you understand why Cheltenham is such a great place to be. 

Appointment marks new phase for Cotswold office

Rob Hawkins has joined Penney Financial Partners to help the practice grow its office in Cheltenham.

Rob has extensive experience working in the financial services sector having most recently been Head of Division Private Clients at St. James’s Place Wealth Management, where he enjoyed a 23-year career.

Before embarking on a career in financial services, Rob worked for a number of years in the travel & tourism industry, an experience that had strong synergies with his future career. 

He said: “The stakes may be very different but whether it is the travel industry or financial services, fundamentally it’s about people – delivering a great service that makes people happy.

“This was very much at the heart of my most recent role at St. James’s Place working in the private client space where our approach was always that there was no problem that couldn’t be solved. 

“Indeed, the fact that I found these values so clearly embedded at Penney Financial Partners become one of the key drivers for me accepting the opportunity to join the team.”

Rob has joined the Penney team as business development consultant for the practice’s Cotswold operation, which was established in 2019 with the launch of its new office in St George’s Road in the heart of Cheltenham.

West Country born and bred and having lived in the Costwolds for the past 25 years, Rob will work with the Penney team to help build relationships and support the practice’s ambitious growth plans for the region.

He said: “The experience and expertise that Penney bring in understanding the needs of clients from all backgrounds and circumstances and delivering fantastic outcomes provides them with a really strong opportunity to build something exceptional in Cheltenham.

“By supporting them through making connections, relationship building and driving initiatives to build the Penney brand in the region, I am thoroughly looking forward to being part of that journey.”

Penney Financial Partners CEO David Penney believes Rob will have a crucial role to play in helping the practice achieve its aspirations in Cheltenham and the wider area.

He said: “Rob is someone who had been on my radar for a number of years through his work with St. James’s Place and when he had decided that he was looking for a new challenge, he was clearly somebody who we felt could play a big part in supporting our next phase of development in Cheltenham.

“He has huge experience in the sector and is completely aligned with the beliefs that underpin our practice, from our commitment to excellence in everything we do to a belief in the importance of doing business with a smile on your face.” 

Events Calendar

Make sure you sign up for our upcoming events

Inspire: Life Lessons from the Wilderness with Ben Fogle

The Cheltenham Literature Festival
Friday 9th October, 3-4pm
Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

Ben discusses his latest book in an event supported by Penney Financial Partners.

Find out more
Succession Planning webinar with Farmer’s Weekly

Thursday 29th October, 5pm

Chief Executive David Penney joins a Farmer’s Weekly panel to discuss issues around intergenerational planning on the magazine’s popular webinar advice series.

Watch Now
The Secrets of Sleep

InspireMe webinar series
Wednesday 21st October

Penney Financial Partners CEO David Penney is joined by sleep consultant Dr Ari Manuel and life coach Laurence Udell for our latest Inspire Me webinar.

Watch Now
Planning for a successful 2021

Our Community series
Wednesday 27th January, 4pm

Join CEO David Penney and Will Harrison and Sam Johnston as they look at the lessons learned from an unprecedented year and what that could mean for the year ahead.

Watch Now
Take a step in the right direction – Part 1

Wednesday 10th February, 4-5pm

Penney Financial Partners' Director Will Harrison is joined by St. James’s Place’s Claire Trott to look at what action to take before the Budget and the Tax Year End.

Watch now
Take a step in the right direction – Part 2

Wednesday 24th February, 3-4pm

CEO David Penney is joined by Tony Wickenden and Claire Trott to discuss the optimal use of tax allowances with a focus on planning for the next generation.

Watch now
Budget review 2021

Our Community webinar series
Friday 5th March, 11am-12pm

Penney Financial Partners' Director Will Harrison will be joined by Obi Nnochiri from St. James’s Place where they will discuss the contents of the Chancellor’s latest Budget.

Watch Now
Life’s big questions and how coaching could help answer them

Thursday 6th May, 4-5pm

David Penney sits down with business coach Clare Downes to discuss the role of coaching in helping people take control of their lives.

Watch Now
In conversation with...

Our Community webinar series
Thursday 20th May, 4-5pm

David Penney will be joined by SJP Director of Marketing Claire Blackwell, to discuss the importance of a personal approach to building connections in business.

Watch Now

GALLERY

Look back at our previous events.

The Partner Practice is an Appointed Representative of and represents only St. James's Place Wealth Management plc (which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority) for the purpose of advising solely on the group's wealth management products and services, more details of which are set out on the group's website www.sjp.co.uk/products The 'St. James's Place Partnership' and the title 'Partner' are marketing terms used to describe St. James's Place representatives.

Penney Financial Partners is a trading name of Penney Financial Partners Ltd. Penney Financial Partners Limited is registered in England and Wales, Number 09964340. Registered Office: Kensington House, Knights Way, Battlefield, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, SY1 3AB, UK