The linguists amongst you will spot straight away that this week’s Update comes from the remarkable islands of Orkney, the scene of the Polson clan Easter holidays. ‘Orkney’ itself is an interesting word, coming from the Norse ‘Orkneyjar’ which supposedly has something to do with small pigs but which I am pretty convinced means “By Odin, Ragnar, it’s extremely windy here, let’s row back to Stavanger sharpish”.

At the risk of sounding like the tourist board, this is a fantastic place as long as you’re not bothered about your hair, or wind burn. You should really visit.

Last week I quoted a piece from Malcolm Kerr which suggested that IFAs could and should do more in the field of inter-generational planning, which the Dr Who geek in me always reads as ‘inter-dimensional planning’. I think we can all agree that this sort of planning would be awesome, and probably even worth 1% of whatever Galactic Credit type currency pan-dimensional clients might use.

I got some nice comments, which always happens when I say nice things about IFAs – the nice things this time were that I reckoned wealth managers have fewer and fewer advantages over IFA/planner/adviser/whatever businesses. I still think that’s true (it’s only a week later and I’m not that flighty) but I thought it was worth diving a bit deeper. I’ll admit to another agenda here, as I’ve signed up to do a talk on this subject in a few weeks and am eager not to sound like as much of a schlub as I normally do.

The long and the short of it is that – PROD alert – it depends what you mean by wealth management services. The wealth management sector does some clever stuff for very, very rich people. If you’re looking for ‘true’ family office offerings, with dedicated staff, segregated custody, multi-currency, access to private and illiquid investments and so on, there aren’t many IFAs who can help you out. After all, financial planning for someone who, let’s say, can pledge a couple of hundred million quid to help rebuild Notre Dame is always going to be part of the answer at best. The Bettencourt Meyers family may not be all that interested in the cashflow planning graph which tells them when they can retire; they’re more likely to buy the country in which you live and tell you when to do so.

But underneath that there are lots – I don’t know how many, working on it – of affluent clients who can be served by either group. These clients may or may not need the cool stuff the super-wealthy expect, but they are much more likely to respond well to good financial planning, and there are those who might suggest that a simpler investment approach for many of these clients might not be the worst thing in the world.


There are some gaps, and some of them matter, but nothing that can’t be closed by a well-thought through, collaborative and targeted proposition. There’s one thing, though, that I think wealth managers have which few IFAs/planners do – and that’s what I’m going to call ‘conspicuous longevity’.

There’s a reason those wealth management firms work hard to afford high-ticket addresses on well-known streets in London, and why they list on the stock exchange when they might well be better served by staying private. It’s because when you’re dealing with folk who genuinely have assets to transmit down the generations, you want your trusted adviser to also be in a position to stick with the family money. It follows that you want your adviser to be a firm, not an individual, and one which has a chance of being around for a while.

I’ve seen a lot of meme-y financial planning presentations which have to do with ‘too much life at the end of the money’ as opposed to ‘too much money at the end of your life’; both of which are, I think, meant to be undesirable. Not if you’re one of these clients. The former isn’t a problem; the latter is something to be worked on.

I wonder how many IFA/planning firms are genuinely in a position to look a wealthy scion in the eye and say “my succession plans are in place; we will be here indefinitely to look after you and your kids, grandkids and beyond.” Maybe that’s one of the reasons clients do like the big names – conspicuous longevity can be simulated, perhaps, by the usage of really nice embossed paper stock.


  • I like this bit of research from Octopus; basically suggesting that advisers can and should plunder the world of robo for stuff that will help. Couldn’t agree more.
  • Big news in platform tech as Bravura sidled up to GBST (disclosure: GBST is a client of the lang cat) and said “pssst, how’s about it?”. Whatever the merits or otherwise of the deal, that’s an interesting prospect in terms of who supplies the £400bn advised platform market in the UK.
  • Got a space in the diary on 30 May? Fancy a Top Class conference in Edinburgh with a beer and a barbie after? Of course you do.
  • Predictable Orcadian theme for the music slot this week: check this out from The Magnetic North’s psychogeographic album “Orkney: Symphony of the Magnetic North”. I’ve got wind burn just listening to it.





P.S. the title this week means “don’t be grumpy like a little child, here’s the Top Class Wednesday Update”. Now you know.