Many thanks for your comprehensive response to my query regarding data management procedures.
I am satisfied with your processes and procedures as you have explained them. I note the steps you have taken to identify any weaknesses and address them in a thorough way.
When potential failures of process around data management are identified in a business, the mitigating factor is always the way in which the business addresses the failure and rectifies processes. I would have to say that your actions here are exemplary.
I would always be happy to assist, by conducting a review of your data management practices, but currently I don't feel that this is necessary. However, please feel free to call on me at any time, if such a review would give you comfort.
'My frustration expressed came from the experiences I have when dealing with IFA's and the lack of activity when it comes to pensions and divorce. Nicola is a breath of fresh air because she gets stuck in, gives sensible and authoritive advice and then converts advice into action.'
Andrew Christmas, Partner, Downs Solicitors & Notaries, Dorking
It has been a real pleasure to be part of the journey that Nicola and the team here are on. From my first meeting I have felt comfortable and informed, indeed the journey for me has been made quite special by the way the team have made my journey, theirs. The professional advice has always been spot on and has left me feeling excited and looking forwards to the next phase of my, and my family's life. Long may the business and the people of Trentham Invest prosper and grow. May I finish by thanking Nicola and the team.
I just want to thank you, and also Vicki, for meeting with me yesterday to go through the options for my pension. I'm really pleased with the annuity that's been identified, and considering it only constitutes three-quarters of my 'pot', it's a very good result - more than I had expected. Thanks for expertly guiding my funds to this scenario, and also to Vicki and the team for working so hard on my behalf.
What is it that you have achieved that makes you feel so good?
In 2005 I was feeling rather undervalued at work and so took the option for redundancy. I enjoyed a short "rest" and was unable to find any employment that would have stimulated me (age discrimination existed)!
Short-term income was in place (all debts had been deliberately cleared over the preceding years) but being able to take my company pension without having crippling penalties was years down the road.
I wanted to ensure our family quality of life was not drastically impacted and so experimented with income generating schemes (Stock Market investments, Spread Betting etc.). At first, the experiment was strictly controlled, enjoyable and generated some income. However, I soon realised the magnitude of risk that would have to be taken to attain the income I required; this was a major gamble.
I wanted to solidify my investments and survive financially through to pension age; generating a sufficient income in the interim. All this during a severe economic down-turn.
Well, to date, despite consuming some £160,000 as income and transfer of capital to ISA's in wife's name, my funds have crossed a significant boundary for the first-time. I understand they will likely slip below and bounce-back a number of times yet but the overall trend against all the headwinds impresses me and lets me sleep soundly at night!
What have we done to help you get there?
My meetings with Trentham Invest in 2006-2007 helped me explore how I could attain my financial aims (without jeopardising my family's future). They mapped out a safe and secure financial pathway to maintain the lifestyle I desired.
Firstly, after unravelling all the details and possible incomes at different ages from the main company pension rights (and additional AVC's I had made) plus a transferred-in pension fund, we found my ex-employer totally inflexible to my situation. All or nothing basically. No halfway houses, no splitting out AVC and transferred-in funds. It was surprising to me that they took this approach despite promising to underpin the generous benefits from my previous employer.
In subsequent discussions with Trentham Invest we decided to transfer the whole pension out to a personal pension plan. 25% Cash was taken from the pension fund and invested separately and is subsequently being used to generate a future tax-free income by feeding into ISA funds for me and my wife. All this with a single admin centre which gives a plethora choice of investment funds.
Trentham Invest manages the admin centre for me, frequently discusses my attitude to risk and regularly reviews my portfolios. And at any time I can review my financial affairs on the admin centre web-site, discuss my attitude to risk with Trentham Invest and tailor the recommended portfolios as required.
What is it that makes you stay with us and ignore the temptations of others who say ‘we can make better performance at less cost’?
I have discussed my financial set-up with a few ex-colleagues, some of whom have joined me at Trentham Invest. Initial reactions of us all have been an adverse reaction to charges of all of the Financial Industry; introductory fees, management fees of administration and fund managers, bid and offer spreads on individual investments.
The latest Government review has blown away some of the sharper practices and dragged into daylight the charges that were being made. Some are unavoidable whether as an individual investor or as a client of a financial advisor. Overall, the temptation is to eliminate the financial advisor.
However, as I found early on, the time and attention that would have to be given to monitoring markets, keeping up to date with Government and pension legislation and political "intentions" - all of which influence sentiment and, hence, move markets world-wide - is hugely time consuming and incessant.
The fear of "taking time out" and missing a market turn that could cause catastrophic damage to wealth does not induce a feeling of well-being and contentment. (Consider a drop of 15% in either Government Bond Prices - could happen if inflation kicks-off - or Equity Markets slump due to EURO crisis or US slipping back into recession. That would need a bounce back sometime of 30% to get back to where Portfolio's values were.)
The message at my time of life is "get a life and enjoy it"! Let someone else who is good at their job do the hard work and worrying for you. Sure I will set personal targets and monitor performance but when I choose to do so! I have flirted with other "Financial Managers". Their advertising is enticing and headline returns are magnificent. But on exploration of one I found that they were mostly actively trading Equities, based in the US with subsequent time lags and were exposed to currency swings. Additional services, such as drawdown facilities, were sub-managed, and at additional cost.
We bother to insure the major assets in our life (house, cars, etc) and happily pay a premium. Consider your financial advisor's fees as such. They will not prevent all losses but should prevent a financial wipe-out!
Existing client of 7 years.
"We had a problem which was beyond our expertise, in fact probably the biggest quandary of our married life. It was causing friction between us and one which would materially affect our financial standing for the rest of our lives.
I had a reasonably sized Final Salary Pension (like most, unfortunately, now shut), and a pretty ordinary replacement Occupational Salary version. We were informed by the Trustees of the Pension Fund (eventually) that the Company was behind on the payments that should have been made to the Final Salary Pension, and that the likelihood of these arrears being made good in the next few years was uncertain.
Did we hope against hope that things would be 'alright' within the next five years before my retirement, (and just carry on worrying and bickering) or withdraw the greatly diminished value and invest elsewhere? What if the Company went under? We soon learnt that the much trumpeted Government Protection Legislation in place was not a solution.
We weren't qualified to make a decision either way. We needed help.
In addition to the above, both of us had had our hours reduced and were struggling to meet our financial commitments which was having a detrimental effect on our quality of life.
We did fairly extensive research and started making enquiries; we quickly found that many financial advisors were reluctant to advise regarding transferring out of a company pension scheme. However, Trentham Investment kept surfacing as a possible solution. We made contact with Nicola Downs, the Principal, and immediately felt we had a 'fit', someone who almost innately understood our predicament, our fears and our hopes for the future. Ms Downs has an awesome CV that can only be achieved by somebody extremely highly regarded in her field of expertise, (wonderful thing is Google) and if such a thing as an 'holistic' approach to Finances exists, she has it.
We spoke to existing Clients who all echoed what we believed; the gut feelings we had when we first approached Ms Downs. We spent many hours in her offices in Surrey on a beautiful day in July, exploring options, desires and expectations. The weather was propitious! Our final decision as to the way we chose to proceed is irrelevant to anyone else; however, we obviously believe we made the right decision both for now and for the future, and would never have been able to reach that decision without her valued input.
We are now feeling positive about our retirement again, and with the help of Nicola have also been able to rearrange our financial commitments resulting in a massive improvement in our quality of life.
We now value Nicola as our Financial Investment Advisor totally and absolutely. The added bonus is we feel very fortunate that we have made a lasting friendship with a person of great personal integrity."
A valued client of Trentham Invest. Manchester.
"The journey! Well this year 2008 has been in two parts for me.
The first half was increasingly frustrating not only losing money faster than I could replenish it, but actually faster than I could earn it. I have many other things to worry about and my attitude to my pension has always been relatively 'hands off'. The frustration came from being able to see - on a daily basis almost - how the portfolio was performing. It was bombing in the face of blind optimism.
It has been a relief, therefore, to come into the second half with your full explanations and advice which is tailored to what I might want and need even when I was not sure what I needed. From the outset I have used the 'steady as she goes' analogy, and feel comfortable that that is what we are achieving now. And all this with minimal involvement from me which is what I need! I'm better at my job than pension planning.
In spite of the continuing roller-coaster ride for stocks and shares, my portfolio has been steadied and I am now pretty much able to put my head back in the sand and leave you to run it for me, with confidence that I won't lose my shirt."
"I value your care, your willingness to listen; to accommodate 'difference'. Your patience with me as I struggle to comprehend what you do for me, the results, the language, the nature of your business (my awful spelling!) Your patience with me Nicola in trying to help me to understand your work; and the numbers involved, which as you know, always cause me confusion. Thank you."
"From the start of my involvement with Trentham Invest I have been delighted by the personal service I have received. I had never consulted professionals regarding financial matters before, and the whole subject of financial management filled me with dread as I knew absolutely nothing about it. It was vital that the right decisions were made for me, and Nicola's calm, reassuring and professional manner, meant I was able to leave the problem with her, which was a great relief.
I do feel Trentham Invest are a great team, and Vicki did a wonderful job chasing my ex husband's pension fund providers. I feel well supported and confident that you are all trying to do your best for me."
Claire Fulston, Reigate
"You often wonder what motivates people to write testimonials until you find yourself in such a position.
I've been a client of Trentham Invest now for the past 18 months having had two disappointing IFA experiences over the course of the past five years.
It was immediately obvious from my first meeting with both Nicola and Vicki that this was a business built with first class, professional client service in mind.
In fact over the course of the past 18 months they have delivered and done everything they said they would (a rare thing these days), which as a result has spurred me on to dealing with my finances far more effectively.
With Nicola's help I'm financially now in far better shape and genuinely feel that she'll be there to work with me to help me achieve my goals.
If you're looking for an adviser that understands the true spirit of partnership, who's professional, knowledgeable and places you at the centre of her business then look no further than Trentham Invest."
Julian Hince, Gartmore Investment Management Ltd
"Thanks again for all the hard work
you and your team are undertaking on my behalf and I am very
pleased to have taken the opportunity of asking you to handle
my pension investment."
Morton Corbitt, Civil Engineer at Costain
"Having carefully considered whether
to engage the services of a large well established company
of Financial Advisors, which were recommended to me by my
bank, or to come to Trentham Invest, I am delighted that I
chose you. Trentham has made the whole minefield of pensions
and the passing through A day both understandable and much
easier than originally expected. The efficiency and care shown
to bring about a satisfactory conclusion has been appreciated,
as has the fun element along the way."
Hugh Evans, Evans Autos
"I am writing to formally thank
you for taking over the administration of my pension scheme
which, prior to your controls, was difficult to understand
and manage. I congratulate you that your estimates both, financial
and in timing of completion of the first part of the scheme,
have been accurate. I look forward with confidence to the
smooth, successful running of the ongoing aspects of my pension."
Richard J Evans, Evans Autos
"I just wanted to say I have just
spent the last hour reading that one inch thick document that
you sent to me. I just want to say how thoroughly impressed
I am with you. You get better every moment. I loved what I
read. Thought it was clearly written. You are a most fantastic
woman, nice and clear and to the point."
Raymond King, Leadership Management (UK) Limited
"We came to you because we wanted
a local adviser who has a proactive approach and knows what
she is doing in the complex world of pensions. Each of the
Partners had their own IFA adviser from the past, but none
of us felt that any had the right mix of skills and approach.
We have been particularly impressed by your professional knowledge
in the pensions field, but even more so by your ability to
communicate complex issues clearly and in a human way, treating
each of us as individuals. Getting six lawyers to move in
the same direction is not easy, and you have just the right
mix of assertiveness, determination and grit to take our project
forward to a successful conclusion, at the same time looking
after each of our individual interests."
Christopher Shipley, Downs Solicitors
"Thanks to Nicola’s input,
I now have a pension plan and structure that deals with most
of my concerns. I now have the confidence that the funds are
being tended by someone with experience and expertise and
who will be proactive in reviewing my pension planning in
Graeme Jones, Chasophie Ltd
"Pensions have become so complicated
that I have erred on investing in things I understand. Since
my discussions with Nicola, overall I feel much clearer about
my general financial picture."
Rick Parish, Ellis Atkins Accountants
"I knew my pensions were in a mess
and that something needed to be done, but I was disillusioned
about the whole process. My main concern was that each pension
used different jargon. I could not really make any sense of
what it would mean to me at age 60 or 65. I needed someone
who engaged in the process of support, and could give me a
clear view as to what can be achieved in language I could
understand. I am now feeling very confident that for the first
time in years I know exactly where I am and what I need to
do to achieve my personal financial goals."
Andrew Sales, Bettamark Ltd
"From my initial meeting with Nicola
12 years ago, a good working relationship has developed. I
have no hesitation recommending Nicola to friends and colleagues.
I do this knowing she will provide a knowledgeable first class
Michael Cross, Miguel X Enterprises Ltd
"Meeting you was the turning point
for me and I have taken all your advice. You were very inspirational.
A big thank you for your time."
Sue Redmond, Wandsworth Borough Council
"We were introduced to Nicola by
a client of hers that had spoken highly of her work. Due to
her wide ranging knowledge we consider ourselves to be very
lucky in working with an IFA that can provide extensive advice.
We are extremely pleased with Nicola and would recommend her
Richard Parsons, De-Ann Kember, BJK&E, HSBC
"Over the past couple of years since
you have been helping and advising us, our financial affairs
have been very much simplified and now also gives us a far
better return than we had before. You always manage to explain
what you are proposing in words that we can actually understand!
For this we are most grateful and look forward to many more
fruitful years from your advice."
Richard & Janet Punnett, The Visionary Company
"We felt that our investments were
not being reviewed, so therefore not realising their full
potential. We were recommended to Trentham Invest and found
someone we could trust, a true “Independent Financial
Adviser”. We came out of our first meeting with Trentham
Invest and both remarked “What a breath of fresh air!”.
Our investments have only been with Trentham for 4 months
and already we can see the financial rewards for making our
David and Elaine Pierce, Pierce & Street Car service
“I recently approached Nicola to
review my own pension arrangements. I found her to be extremely
competent in her subject. With her in depth knowledge of both
the pre and post A-Day regulations, she was able to rearrange
my pension policies to take maximum advantage of the rules
in order to provide better benefits on my retirement. Everyone
should have their pension arrangements reviewed to see if
any action is required now. I can thoroughly recommend Nicola
for the job."
Arthur Ives, Ellis Atkins Accountants