Financial planning: Eat, talk, drive - repeat each day

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The Independent Online
Breakfast at the Crest Hotel in Bristol is not quite the same as Breakfast at Tiffany's. This is the unglamorous side of life as an independent financial adviser (IFA). But, Roddy Kohn believes, it's all part of meeting his clients' needs.

It's 7.30am and the breakfast meeting is to see how suitable HSBC's two-year PEP would be for my clients. Robin Kemp, managing director of HSBC, obviously thinks it is, as it provides capital security with the prospect of 20 per cent growth and matures just after the planned introduction in April 1999 of Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs), Labour's new tax- saving scheme. Robin is persuasive and I'm inclined to support his view.

This is the hidden side of my "practitioner" role, meeting fund managers and company executives to keep abreast of product and market developments.

It falls into that category called "research" that appears on our fee notes to clients, to whom it must appear like a black hole into which they throw their money.

At 8.30am, I return to my office in Bristol. Twenty minutes later, I am in the Kohn Cougar offices, shouting out "Good morning" to the staff. My first job is to look at the post. Anything of relevance will be discussed with my colleagues, Neil and June, at 9.15am.

At 9.40am, I meet two new clients, Steve and his partner, who have travelled to see me from Oxford. I start with the regulatory formalities.

We rapidly move on to the main concern - should Steve transfer a pension he has with a past employer?

Although the fund is worth some pounds 40,000, he is startled to learn that it will cost between pounds 400 and pounds 800 to find out the best course of action.

Our fees include an allowance for professional indemnity, technical knowledge, regulatory fees, obtaining quotes, checking surpluses in any existing pension funds or whatever, and a whole host of other subjects concerning clients, including health and future prospects.

In the end, I tell the client to remember that there is pounds 40,000 at stake and that he has a lot to lose in the long run if he is poorly advised. He confirms he wants us to proceed with the research.

After they leave, it's 11.15am and I travel to Basingstoke for a client's annual review. Before arriving, there are phone calls to be made - I'm glad I've had a hands-free phone installed in the car. One of the calls is to a client in Bath to tell him he has his trustees' agreement to invest some pension fund capital in Europe and the emerging markets.

Another call is to a client in London who wants to arrange an income protection plan.

We talk about her likely income, what she needs to live on and what capital can be used before she would need to make a claim. I remind her about adding waiver of premium to her existing pension policy. This would take over the premium payments if she is ill for six months or more and will go on paying them until her selected retirement date or she returns to work.

This is something a permanent health policy will not do as the income it pays is not regarded as relevant earnings for pension purposes.

At 12.45pm, it's time to lunch with my client and we cover all his policies and investments. Some of his funds have done exceptionally well, showing returns of more than 40 per cent, while others have had mixed fortunes, especially his Johnson Fry Hy5 PEP and Hy1 single-company PEP. These are based on an American system of choosing the five highest-yielding shares in an index with a computer-driven "buy and sell" operation for regular changes.

Both PEPs are suffering from a range of factors including regulation and poor sector sentiment. I advise him to sit tight because we always encourage clients to take at least a five-year view with investments, to which he agrees.

Just after 2pm, lunch is over, man and car are refuelled, and I head to London and the excitement of the M25. Life doesn't get better than this. Once again, hands-free, I use the phone to call the office and check my messages. It may be a pain, but the mobile phone is probably the most effective new technology toy that I own.

Ian Bowden calls from the Personal Investment Authority, the financial regulator, to request confirmation that the minutes of the last Small Business Practitioners Panel, that I chair, can be approved. We also chat briefly about next month's agenda.

Arriving at my London destination, it's now 3.30pm and I meet one of my female clients. We complete a gift and loan trust application form for a pounds 100,000 investment.

This includes fielding the odd technical question from the company accountant, whose dry sense of humour and laid-back manner disguises a razor- sharp mind.

As the meeting ends, the rush hour has started. I use the slow journey home to make some useful dictation, warning clients about the dangers of high-income bonds. Among the phone calls that interrupt is one from the office to discuss tomorrow's agenda.

My day finishes when I arrive back in Bristol at 7.45pm. The night's my own, with no client meetings and no business dinners arranged - only tomorrow to look forward to.

Roddy Kohn is an IFA at Kohn Cougar of Wellington House, Wellington Park, Clifton, Bristol BS8 2UR (0117-946 6384).