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  • After the historic referendum on 23rd June which resulted in a decision to leave the European Union, the initial worries about the UK plunging into recession with stock market Armageddon have been unfounded.

    There may be difficult times ahead, but the actions taken by Government and the Bank of England to calm uncertainty have been effective.

    Whatever your political opinion on Brexit, financial decisions should be rational, not emotional. Actions taken now can have far-reaching consequences farther down the line. Our opinion has always been that investments should be made with appropriate time horizons in mind and always according to the amount of risk a client feels comfortable with.

    The UK and European markets are just one asset class that makes up part of a diversified portfolio that is designed to withstand shocks like this.

    We meet regularly with the fund companies we work with either in person or remotely so that they can keep us updated on any strategic changes to their funds and what is driving those decisions.

    When we think of investments, many people jump to the stock markets, but stocks and the economy are just one part of a complex jigsaw. Other factors include currencies, precious metals, oil and other commodities, government bonds, interest rates, politics and trade.

    Initial shocks to both the FTSE 100 and 250 have largely been short term so far, but the main factor in long-term buoyancy will be the nature of the trade agreements thrashed out with both the EU and the rest of the world. A lot hangs in the balance, and it will take time. Multi-asset diversified portfolios such as those we use are a great way to make sure you are protected.

    Analysists were surprised that in light of the referendum, Bond rates went down not up. Given the choice between Italian Government Bonds for example and UK Government Bonds, investors obviously thought the UK was a better bet.

    However, caution is generally being exercised. With interest rates currently so low, and global GDP so weak it doesn’t quite stack up. Some of these threats were here long before Brexit and in some ways have never left us since 2008. You could argue that the problems in the financial system contributed to the desire to leave the EU, rather than being a result of Brexit. In the interests of balance, it might be that some of the problems will be exacerbated as a result? Only time will tell.

    At FMB our approach to investment is that we leave decisions about what to invest in (and when) to expert fund managers in actively managed diversified funds. You are most likely invested in those kinds of funds from the selection on our investment panel.

    If you would like more information on how FMB selects funds and how our Investment Committee works, e-mail Rebecca for our free guide at

  • Trust… How do you earn it?

    Every day I see examples of someone wanting me to trust them when I shouldn’t.

    Spam e-mails are my first pet hate. Today’s beauty was “Helene is urging you to get the financial report done within this week. Here are some accounting data I have collected. Please merge it into your report. Best regards, Earl Watts” Who the hell are Helene and Earl?! These kind of lazy attempts to get me to open a virus laden attachment are so regular now I have become blasé to them.

    My next bugbear is awards. We would love to win a bone fide award and have recently dipped our toe into the water by applying for reputable awards such as those run by our professional bodies and local newspapers. However on a weekly basis I get this:-

    These awards are run by companies who charge you to enter and charge you for the award. So basically you can buy an award. A photographer friend of mine gets the same kinds of solicitations. So if a company is using an award in its marketing I am now beginning to question the value. It’s such a shame and cheapens all the brilliant efforts by people who have actually won an award through excellence.

    Trust is so important in our line of work. It takes years to build and can be broken in minutes. It is not something we take lightly. We work to high ethical standards and our recruitment process emphasises this so people we employ know what we expect. Our financial planners work hard to gain not just the minimum qualifications but beyond and engage with training and professional development to keep them at the top of their game.

    It was with complete dismay that I read not only in our local paper but in the national financial press that a financial advisor not a million miles away from here has been fined £110,000 by the FCA for lying about her qualifications and falsifying documents because she had not met the minimum standards to be authorised by them.

    It is a really sad day for Financial Services and means that we have to work harder than ever to gain the public’s trust.

    If you have any concerns about how to find a good financial advisor always get a recommendation from at least three sources, you can check their qualifications via the FCA website, this case shows that they do check and pick up on any advisors who are trying to buck the system.

    Click here for the FCA Register.

    Click here for advice from the Money Advice Service on how to choose a financial adviser.

  • Probate is "the legal process whereby a will is "proved" in court and accepted as a valid public document that is the true last testament of the deceased."

    Probate fees are due when the estate’s executor applies for a grant of probate; enabling them to collect the estate’s assets and distribute them to the beneficiaries as outlined in the deceased’s will.

    Probate fees set to rocket

    At present, probate fees are charged at a flat rate of £215 per personal application (£155 for applications made through a solicitor), regardless of the size of the estate. Fees can only be avoided when assets pass in their entirety from one partner to another, or the value of the estate is less than £5,000. However, under new rules proposed by the government, they intend to scrap the current flat fee and base the charge on the value of the deceased’s estate. See table below.

    Value of Estate Proposed Probate Fee
    Below £50,000 or Exempt £0
    Exceeds £50,000 but does not exceed £300,000 £300
    Exceeds £300,000 but does not exceed £500,000 £1,000
    Exceeds £500,000 but does not exceed £1m £4,000
    Exceeds £1m but does not exceed £1.6m £8,000
    Exceeds £1.6m but does not exceed £2m £12,000
    Above £2m £20,000

    As you can see; for larger estates, the proposed changes are enormous. Not forgetting that, in all cases, the fee is in addition to any inheritance tax (IHT) due.

    According to the consultation document, the proposals are intended to redesign the probate service to make the experience of the bereaved as easy and hassle-free as possible. Increasing the threshold for probate fees from £5,000 to £50,000 will result in approximately 30,000 more estates being exempt from fees. However, for the remainder, the proposed fee changes is set to raise an additional £256m a year for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service.

    One of the main issues with the way inheritance and probate works is; firstly, you are not able to secure probate until IHT and other taxes have been paid. This can be a big problem when beneficiaries are relying on the proceeds of inheritance to pay the IHT bill which they are unable to access until they receive probate; causing more stress and upset.


    Assets held as joint tenants transfer automatically to the survivor upon death. It must be noted, however, that joint assets removes the individual’s choice over who the beneficiary of the asset will be on death.

    Another possibility is to use a life assurance policy (subject to a trust) to cover the IHT bill and also avoid the need to apply and pay for probate. The policy can be set up either on an own life or, alternatively, with husband and wife as lives assured on a joint-life, last death basis with the sum assured set at the amount of IHT liability concerned. Placing the policy in trust whereby the settlor is not set to benefit from the proceeds, means that the sum assured can be passed to the beneficiaries without any liability to IHT. That means that the proceeds would be paid out without the need to apply for probate or borrowing funds to settle any taxes owed by the estate.

    The consultation period for proposals closed in April this year; however, final details of when the changes will be introduced have not yet been confirmed.

  • 24 August 2016

    Mind Full or Mindful?

    Unless you have been living in a cave without TV, radio or the internet, you cannot have failed to notice that the Olympics have just finished.

    In all seriousness, you cannot help marvel at the physical fitness and dedication of all those sports people (and horses!) who have taken part; many breaking personal, Olympic and world records.

    This lead me to think about another sort of fitness; one that most people do not even think about - the fitness of the mind. An important part of each and every one of us.

    Let’s just think about walking the dog; an activity that is encouraged, even if you don’t have a dog, as it gets you out for some fresh air, exercise, and some Vitamin D - when the sun is shining anyway.

    However, if you think about taking the dog out, it's most likely that it's only the dog that is mentally ‘in’ the park. The human will likely have their mind elsewhere; thinking about work, family, what's for tea even - thoughts racing about 100 miles an hour, potentially leading to feelings of anxiety, stress and possibly depression. So while the walk may be benefitting them physically; unless the human is able to free their mind, the holistic effect of the walk may well be lost.

    So, what is being mindful? Mindfulness is a thought process that allows us to pay attention to, and clearly see what is happening in our lives at present. While it cannot eliminate life’s pressures, it can be a good way to help you deal with them in a calmer manner that is beneficial to your overall well-being.

    There are numerous websites available that discuss and promote mindfulness and mindfulness techniques including meditation:

    NHS Website: Mindfulness

    Free Mindfulness

    So, if all the excitement of the Olympics has made you take up some extra exercise or take part in a new sport, great, but spare a thought for your mind too!

    Healthy Body + Healthy Mind = Happy Life!

  • Les Beavis (front right) collecting one of FMB's first IIP Awards
    Caption: Les Beavis (front right) collecting one of FMB's first IIP Awards
    Director, Gill Forrester and Practice Manager, Karen Dickinson, with FMB's new Silver awards (2016)
    Caption: Director, Gill Forrester and Practice Manager, Karen Dickinson, with FMB's new Silver awards (2016)

    Ahead of Our Game…

    In 1996, FMB’s MD, Les Beavis, read an article about the relatively new Investors in People framework. As his PA, he nominated me to be the “champion” and find out more about what we needed to do to achieve the award, and whether it was worth our time and effort.

    I attended a couple of seminars and found that the standard reflected the best practices in high-performance working and was recognised worldwide. It was evident that this was something FMB could benefit significantly from and so, we decided to enquire further.

    We eventually met with a trainer/assessor who helped us complete a “gap analysis” which was essentially a self-diagnostic on where we believed we compared against the standard. The results from this formed the baseline for our assessment.

    The next stage required us to produce a portfolio of evidence, which at the time was extremely time-consuming, but it was greatly beneficial as it made us analyse the business from many different perspectives.

    The final stage of the process was the actual assessment where our assessor reviewed our business, processes and our people. The assessor selected several members of staff and management to interview and also evaluated the evidence we had collected as well as other materials we had within the workplace. The idea being it’s a full 360 appraisal; it’s not just what the directors think or say, it’s how it is viewed at all levels so there is no faking it and isn't down to just being well-rehearsed on the day. We were elated to be accredited on our first attempt making us one of the first IFA's in the North-West to achieve the award, and we wore the IIP badge with pride!

    2016's Success…

    Investors in People believe that times have changed, and with this, they felt the need to reassess the standard. In September last year they launched the Sixth Generation Standard which comprises of a four stage performance model, and nine new indicators based on the features of organisations that consistently outperform industry norms - leading, supporting, improving and organisation ambition. They also introduced new levels of accreditation; Standard, Bronze, Silver and Gold.

    As with all other IIP accredited firms, we have to be reassessed every three years. This year, we were assessed in line with the new standard, and we are ecstatic to have achieved the Silver accreditation on our first attempt - and we were even close to achieving Gold! Amazingly, 2016 is also our 20th year of holding the IIP accreditation. We remain one of only 15,000 IIP accredited organisations across 75 countries worldwide.

    Investing in our staff’s training and development is essential for us to provide our clients with the best service possible. We believe that our IIP accreditation indicates to our clients that we are constantly looking at ways to better ourselves to, in turn, better their experience. IIP also highlights to prospective employees that it’s not just the Directors and managers that think we are a great company to work for, but so do all our people, and that's why it’s been endorsed as such.

    We are now a better business for having gone through this process. Yes we have learnt that we do a lot of things really well, and that was pleasing to see, but the real value was because we learnt a lot about what we could better, and already we are making even more positive changes in our business.

    For other businesses, I cannot recommend Investors in People strongly enough. The benefits are tremendous; we have learnt a lot about our business, our people and leadership and also how they are perceived by others. Perhaps you won’t learn anything new, or perhaps what you learn could make your business great!

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