I am an early riser and as usual, I was at my desk for around 7am. I am on my own at present as the other two members of my team are furloughed. This decision was taken because one of my twins has been asked to self-isolate for two weeks due to a positive COVID-19 case in his class. It seemed to me that I might be needlessly endangering my two employees because of this.
Not only that it seems impossible at present to obtain any information from the large pension offices.
Once I have sorted out and replied to emails and listed who I need to phone, I make a start on my pensions admin work – chasing companies for information and dealing with pension scheme administration, re enrolment and declarations of compliance with the Pensions Regulator.
My business was founded on this work and it remains the backbone of the company.
I move on to my Zoom calls with clients discussing DB transfers in the main.
I reflect on how this has become the primary communication vehicle, replacing face-to-face meetings, at least for the time being.
Every other Tuesday I join a networking group – remotely at the present time – during which we take it in turns to present our business to the others in the group. It is my turn and I am delighted with their enthusiastic response.
The networking group has been a source of great support during lockdown, when I am working in isolation and not able to bounce ideas off anyone. It is also quite a social thing. In fact, we recently participated in Race for Life raising funds for Cancer Research by running 5K. I hadn’t even completed the couch to 5k despite trying on numerous occasions and was more than a little apprehensive. However, after successfully completing this challenge, we are now upping the anti and have raised the bar to 10K which we will undertake in February 2021.
As our last effort raised £2,500 we are hopeful we will exceed this next time around.
I have to admit that I found the training for the last one so invigorating and would find that running before work, would set me up for the day ahead.
Yes, it is hard getting motivated at 6am especially with dark, cold mornings, but I take my Labrador ‘Rose’ with me and go where there is street lighting and am embracing the training like never before.
When I get back into my work routine, I start to wade through some DB cases and then finally get into some studying. I am taking AF7 in April 2021.
Wednesday provides an opportunity to complete a few compliance requirements from my network, pi financial. They still have a skeleton team in the office and file checkers working from home. They have asked to check a recent pension case so I need to submit the complete case file. They ask their advisers to complete two compliance tests every month, so I plough through both of those. Pi set their own exercises to make sure that all their advisors will easily clear the minimum continued professional development (CPD) and structured CPD limits.
Having completed the tests, the rest of the day is a bit mad as I have three client calls back-to-back. The first is an existing client who has his pension investments with us in a portfolio with a Discretionary Fund Manager. He’s reviewing everything in light taking an income for his retirement. It’s going to take a bit of analysis though so I promise to get back to him later in the week. The second is a new investment case that has been referred to me via an existing client. The final call is an annual review for an existing client.
After another early morning run, I am back at my desk. I have noticed that I am getting more DB cases from outside my catchment area. I am thankful for Zoom, which means that I can have a meaningful virtual face-to-face meeting without having to drive for hours.
I have been getting a lot more protection cases and even more people looking to retirement. Perhaps lockdown has led to more people taking stock of their situation and perhaps becoming more introspective.
I definitely feel that this area of business is up by as much as 50 per cent on last year.
I get a call from Toni Sheen at pi in response to a query I had on a DB case, that means I can progress matters this afternoon.
Unfortunately, the afternoon is full of frustration as I struggle to get hold of pension providers. And, I thought they would be geared up for home working!
Frustration again as I try to get through to a few providers who are all now working from home so there are massive delays. I have to go on ‘Live Chat’ with one which is fair enough but then my frustration mounts as I contact other providers and hit a brick wall with one which states they will only take calls if there has been a bereavement.
I can’t help thinking that there hasn’t been yet but there could be if I ever get hold of anyone!
If that wasn’t bad enough I was on hold to HMRC for an hour trying to contact them with a query!
On the plus side, I find that all the clients I have contacted today have been remarkably up-beat and I think I am blessed to have such lovely, decent clients. It is so important to invest and establish a good relationship with them. Despite the uncertainties of 2020, it has actually been my best year to date.
It’s Friday night, no better way than to end the week in the garden (rain or shine) with a chilled bottle of Prosecco and my family. This year has made me realise how grateful I am for small pleasures in life…