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A compilation of common questions we get asked, based on real enquiries and concerns.  Thanks to all the questions you ask,  keep them coming and if you don't see a question you need answering please get in contact. 

  • Are you independent ?
    Yes, at Big Picture Financial Planning, we offer independent financial advice. This means that we are not affiliated with any financial institutions or products, and we work solely in the best interests of our clients to provide personalised recommendations. We prioritise transparency and honesty in our services, and always strive to help our clients achieve their financial goals. When it comes to selecting financial products we research the whole of the market to ensure your objectives can be suitably met. Our goal is to help you achieve financial security and peace of mind, so you can focus on enjoying life to the fullest. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can help you navigate the complex world of finance. We are member of the Valid Path network, who exist solely to support independent financial advisers.
  • How Ethical are you ?
    We are all individuals and at Big Picture we pride ourselves on making sure our clients can have their voice heard and can achieve their financial aims whilst also expressing their ethical values free of internal conflict. It is at the root of everything we do at Big Picture, that every investment has an impact, like a drop of water into a lake, that creates its own ripple. If you would like to find out more about your current investments and would like to know how ethical they are or how sustainable they are please get in contact using the button at the bottom. Ethical investment is traditionally associated with excluding controversial industries, such as armaments, tobacco, alcohol, adult entertainment, gambling, animal experimentation and has its roots in faith groups such as the Methodists in the US and the Quakers in the UK who designed investment funds to prevent profiteering from activities that went against their values and making sure their investments did not support such activities in the first place. Ethical investing has expanded over the years to offer solutions that are screened for fossil fuel involvement and nuclear weapons. We are also pleased to be working with investment managers to provide sharia and suduk investments for clients who wish to apply principles of Islam to their investments. Ethical investing and sustainable investing are not the same, sustainable investing can include a zero tolerance to fossil fuels but also can include some fund managers who will include investment in oil companies in the hope they may become the renewable giants of the future. It is important to know the different fund manager approaches in order to make suitable recommendations. At Big Picture we talk to investment managers and research widely. It is also easy for clients to be seduced by advertising, greenwashing and inappropriately named investment funds and realise they are actually invested in companies whose business activities and profits are derived from practices that are at conflict with their own values. Again, it is important to have a conversation with an experienced adviser in this field who understands the nuances and differences and who will take time to get to know you and what is important to you. On this point as the director of Big Picture Financial Planning I am grateful for the pioneering advisers that have gone before me and for the community of ethical advisers and the UKSIF. Whilst we believe it is important to spend time in listening to and exploring our clients' viewpoints, we believe it is equally important to offer our guidance because it is too easy to neglect financial planning and investment fundamentals in pursuit of ethical goals.
  • What are your investment returns - say over ten years ?
    This can be answered in a number of ways. But first it is important to say here that Big Picture Financial Planning doesn't run its own model portfolios. We believe that our clients get better outcomes in terms of access to the markets, fund pricing, constant monitoring and another pair of eyes, if we partner with selected investment managers. ( maybe that will be a subject of another FAQ waiting in the wings ) Average annual returns will be different depending upon your attitude towards investment risk, your time horizon and the asset allocation of the portfolio. Returns in a portfolio are generally driven by the equity content ( ie the amount that is invested in company shares ) with bonds being there to give a cushion to the ups and downs of the stock market. In theory, according to modern portfolio theory, if you have a high equity content in your portfolio, the more you will be exposed to the ups and downs but over the long term you should be rewarded with greater returns. Volatility, or the ups and downs in the markets is not necessarily a bad thing. If you are making regular investments you will be buying in at different price levels. During a time of a fall in prices, you will effectively be buying more units in the fund or the portfolio for your fixed regular investment. When the fund or the portfolio goes up in value these extra units will add to your returns. Your returns will also differ depending on whether you hold a widely diversified portfolio across different sectors, geographies and market capitalisation or hold a concentrated portfolios with a narrow range of investments. The average annual returns will also differ dependent upon which ten year period is chosen. If we include the current market volatility and work backwards over ten years, this would make the average annual returns look very different. Over the years, I have met a number of advisers who chase returns because they see see their value in trying to outperform Jones & Co down the road and in doing so they are constantly open to selling out and buying in based on their own emotional decisions or because they hope they will beat Jones down the road. We do not compete with our peers for returns and believe that investment returns are created through having a clear and appropriate investment goal, making sure the asset allocation is suitable, diversification is as broad as possible, controlling investment costs and maintaining perspectives over the long term. The old saying, "it's time in the market not timing the market" that creates the long term returns. It is important to point out that deeply screened ethical portfolios will have a smaller investment universe and will have the potential for heightened volatility, ie greater ups and downs and this will effect returns. Part of the value of working with a financial planner, is making sure that tax allowances are used, assets are registered under the most appropriate name and in the right tax wrapper ( i.e. pension, bond, ISA ) and of course wills and lasting powers of attorneys are in place, this all adds to returns. Thanks to Julia and Ralph for this question and for allowing me to share the answer. The graph below has come from data compiled by one of our selected investment managers EBI and shows how returns vary throughout the journey from 2013 - 2023 and how the returns depend on the equity content - 100% equity is the red line.
  • How much does it cost ?
    It is impossible to answer this question until we understand the scope of the work involved. We work hard to make sure our fees are fair, offer value to you and take into account our time, responsibility, knowledge and the benefit of the advice offered as well as our business overheads, staff costs and regulatory licences. We are a chartered financial planning practice regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Our first meeting, a discovery meeting helps you decide if we are the advisers for you and what the scope of the work entails. No work will be undertaken before we have discussed and agreed a fee proposal. So that you know what to expect most work falls into: An initial one off onboarding fee for new clients An implementation fee for investing new money based on our tiered fee structure An ongoing advice service Typically this would be £750 for onboarding plus under our tiered fee scale, the implementation fee will be no more than 2% of the funds invested. Our ongoing advisory service is typically 0.8% per annum. We have a tiered scale for ongoing fees and funds over £250,000 are charged at 0.5%. We find a fixed fee for onboarding is a more cost effective way to work with clients rather than an hourly fee which apply when we are preparing work for solicitors and accountants. Our hourly fee is £238. Top ups add are charged cumulatively under the tiered scale, you are not starting over each time you make a top up. We also offer family linking, whereby family members can benefit from the cumulative sum of family money. For example if family money cumulatively is more than £500,000 the fee for new money will be 0.75% for all family members regardless of their individual contribution. Fees can be paid by separate invoice or from deduction of the funds before they are invested. Fees can be paid at once or paid over four monthly instalments. There are a number of studies that show the value of working with adviser, notably the International Longevity Centre UK study, sponsored by Royal London, showed this could increase assets by £43,245. In their last report "Why Advisors Have Never Been so Valuable - the 2017 Value of an Advisor Report from Russell Investments, they have identified five areas where advisers deliver value and have placed a worth to the investment portfolio of this value as follows. To put the percentage fees into monetary terms: A typical implementation fee for an investment of £150,000 Implementation fee = £100,000 x 2% for the first £100,000 = £2,000 plus £50,000 x 1.5% for the next £50,000 = £750 = £2,750 or an aggregate of 1.83% The ongoing advice service for an investment of £150,000 is £150,000 x 0.8% = £1,200
  • Do you do pension transfers ?
    Yes we do but there is a different process for money purchase personal pensions and defined benefit final salary schemes. We see many clients with old legacy personal pensions that simply can't offer the range of death benefits and flexible options to access your pension flexibly to fit your retirement needs. A switch to a new style personal pension offering all the flexible withdrawal options can be beneficial. We also see pensions where investments are in expensive funds, not as diversified as they could be or where a reduction in product charges could be made. We also help clients switch their investment strategies into ethical and sustainability focussed portfolios if their existing arrangements are not aligned with their ethical values or sustainability ambitions. Please note that the process is different for final salary or defined pension schemes. The regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, has a starting position that most people would be better off staying with their final salary pension and as such they have put a number of regulations in place for people with safeguarded benefits, ie the type of benefits that are guaranteed and are a part of final salary and occupational pension schemes. If you have a pension with safeguarded benefits and you want to look at the viability of transferring the benefits to your own personal arrangement we will need to appoint a defined benefit transfer specialist to undertake the more detailed and complex transfer analysis. There will be additional fees for defined benefit transfer analysis, which will become payable, regardless of whether the advice is to remain in the scheme. We often come across members of final salary schemes who do not like the way that their employer is investing the pension scheme money. Whilst I fully appreciate in a heartfelt way that this may go against the grain for you, there are a number of organisations set up to lobby big schemes. One of the better known organisations is Divest UK who have had some measured response from local authority schemes who are now divesting their pension schemes of fossil fuels. You may want to consider the power of lobbying for change, that will maintain your guaranteed benefits in a final salary scheme and give you the ethical and sustainability outcome you seek. If you want some clarity over the type of investment or pension that you have, or your would like an insight or an under the bonnet report as to how ethical or sustainable your pension or investment is, please get in touch using the button below.
  • What's ESG and what's it got to do with my pension ?
    ESG in simplicity stands for Environmental, Social and ( corporate) Governance issues and the material impact these issues can have on company performance and share price. Consideration and analysis of these issues, offers an extra layer of risk management and an opportunity to exclude or reduce investment in a company, where its inclusion may effect the long term stability of the investment portfolio or pension fund. The term ESG was first mentioned by Klaus Topfler, the Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme in the forward of the 2004 report, " The Materiality of Social, Environmental and Corporate Governance Issues to Equity Pricing" That states: "Too many analysts and financial institutions tend to insufficiently acknowledge and appreciate environmental, social and corporate governance issues. The results of this project show that such a bias may expose investors and companies to unnecessary risk. Environmental, social and corporate governance thinking must therefore be fully integrated into our market, investment and board room considerations by those that wish to create the foundation for, and then realise, long-term shareholder value". Topfler 2004 Ten years on from this pivotal report, investors are more engaged with ESG issues and companies are being asked for their environmental, social and corporate governance performance. Supporting this has been a growing ESG reporting ecosystem, which includes amongst many initiatives, organisations that are, collating data, developing reporting frameworks, setting standards, providing voting and engagement services. Whilst we wait for an international standardisation for ESG reporting, it is worth acknowledging the work of SASB. Formed in 2011 the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board is a non profit organisation that has helped to develop a set of standards for the disclosure of financially material information by companies to investors. SASB identified 26 broadly relevant issues under five areas, environment, social capital, human capital, business model and innovation, leadership and governance. The table below shows priority consideration for analysis under the E. S. and G heading and how these areas can effect long term shareholder value and thus the future value of your pension and investments. Failing to take ESG issues seriously, or more to the point investors concern over ESG issues, can have disastrous results for even the largest of companies. We don't have too far to look back to remember Volkswagen where $42.5 billion was lost in two months when they were found to be cheating in how they measured diesel emissions. Meta, the owners of Facebook experienced a 40% drop in their share price, estimated to be a $400 billion drop in value in a space of two weeks. The company's leadership may well have opted for money and growth but this backfired when advertisers judged the company to be far less attractive after serious data breaches and shortcomings in data security were disclosed. As data and information on companies becomes more available, investors can ask tougher questions, all with an aim of maintaining long term shareholder value. ESG investing is an investment-related activity that accounts for some type of ESG consideration. It is not a separate asset class, a single strategy or even a single type of action and importantly, the appropriate approach is not the same for all investors. ESG investing is primarily concerned with risk management and protecting investment returns, whilst there are some crossovers with ethical considerations for some investors, it is not the same as ethical screening. At the moment ESG has risen in recognition and is used as a popular acronym and an umbrella term for Sustainable, Ethical, Socially Responsible and Impact Investing, where there are overlapping issues. As a consequence it can be confusing and care must be taken to understand the type of ESG analysis that is employed by an investment fund or within a portfolio and whether the ESG analysis, actually does what it says on the tin. With this in mind, in November 2023 the financial regulator in the UK, the FCA published their policy report, "Sustainability Disclosure Requirements (SDR) and investment labels with the aim of making it easier for consumers to know how their money is being invested, to reduce greenwashing and unsubstantiated claims by pension funds and investment managers. Hope this helps you understand the background to ESG analysis and there's some links below to explore further. Do get in touch with your questions. Further resources : .
  • What do you mean by "Evidence Based Advice"
    This is an approach to investment advice is where investment strategies are based on the science of investing and academic study.

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