Pension Perspectives: Gary Singh, Financial Advisor at Sigma Wealth Limited

27 Nov 2014 | COMMENTS: 0 | Author: Ryan Smith | General

Seeking professional advice is essential when you’ve got a big financial decision to make. Local Financial Advice works with a network of advisors from around the UK and can get you in touch with an FA in your local area. By introducing you to some of the advisors in our network you’ll understand more about their background and expertise, and discover how they can help you with whatever financial needs you might have.

Gary Singh is an advisor at Sigma Wealth Limited in Staffodshire. He specialises in retirement advice and lives in Womborne, Wolverhampton.

LFA: Hello Gary, can you tell us a bit about your background?

GS: I’ve been an advisor for almost 15 years now. Like many people it was just something I fell into by accident. A friend of mine used to work at the Co-Op and said “Why don’t you come and do this?”. So I tried it, liked it and then just wanted more professionalism and to focus more on the investment side, so I became an advisor and never looked back. We [Sigma Wealth] are a small, private practice – maybe a few hundred clients – so it’s a very personal level of service. Most of the people we work for, probably the bulk of the clients I’ve worked with for 7 or 8 years. The other aspect that’s a plus is, when you’ve worked with people for as long as this you get to know them very well through longevity with the relationship. But that’s obviously born out of the professionalism that you offer clients, otherwise they’d move to somebody else. It’s not short term, it’s always for the long term.

LFA: Who should be seeking advice?

GS: Everybody has a financial need. As we grow older our needs change and our wants change; for example, if you’ve got somebody who’s under 40 protection is a very obvious requirement for them, be it for debts, mortgage, liabilities, income protection etc.
I’m primarily focused around pensions and as clients get older you see their needs change: protection becomes less relevant as their lifestyle changes; savings, investments, retirement planning, they come more to the fore.

LFA: Why should they seek advice over making a decision themselves?

GS: What the financial advisor brings is expertise and experience. You can learn to swim by reading about it, but there’s a big difference between theory and practice. [There are many] pitfalls and a good advisor will help navigate you around them [by bringing] experience from working with lots of clients. Especially when a client retires, that is the first time a client has retired.

I essentially hold their hand and lead them through the retirement process. When you do it near enough day in, day out, you see certain trends and patterns emerge and can bring in that expertise. An awful lot of it is reassurance. The things that a client might be feeling – the emotions, the insecurities – you’ve dealt with countless times over. It comes down to reassurance, expertise and confidence that you can help them avoid any pitfalls and maximise the benefits.

These things are also applicable to those that [are younger]. Because there are so many things out there in the marketplace, we get the information from the client and use our expertise and experience to distil it down to make sure that the solutions we come up with are tailored specifically to the client.

LFA: What financial pitfalls might people come across?

GS: The biggest pitfall that you have with financial services is the complexity of the topics and the choice. You can pick any area – from protection to savings to investments to retirement – there is an absolute Universe of options out there. Some will be suitable for you, some will not. Where an advisor comes in is using their judgement through experience and expertise to ensure the client realises that it’s not about a one-size-fits-all mentality. Everybody’s individual so the solutions that they require have to be tailored to their needs.

What you do find is that the clients say “Oh, I’ll just use the internet”, and they can read a very broad brushstroke and they can go into something that they think may fit them, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty the specifics don’t suit their circumstances. That’s what people are paying [an advisor] for.

LFA: Can you explain the process of receiving financial advice?

GS: With the first meeting it’s all about the client. We let the client set the agenda. You let them define their objectives before asking “How can I help? “What can I do?” to help achieve them. People usually get in touch with an advisor like myself if they’ve got a specific need or a goal they’re wishing to achieve. They provide us with an outline and then, especially with something such as retirement planning, we need to go away, look at the client’s existing holding and then come back to them and present a case of how to achieve their objective.

Most of the time [clients] don’t understand their holdings, they don’t really know what they have so we have to do the research in order to assess their current standing. That then gives us the foundation to take things forward. A good advisor will make sure they always listen clearly to their client’s objectives. Sometimes a client may have an objective, but may not know how to vocalise it, so using your experience, your skills and your encouragement to almost pry out of them what that goal is. Sometimes they might say “I want this”, and once you’ve pried a little further you may find there are other underlying issues there.

A lot of the time I find with more senior clients, when it comes to pension planning they don’t want to look long term, even though you’re trying to plan out a retirement for 20 years. They’ll come and see me at 65 and men on average live ‘til they’re about 84, women ‘til they’re 85, so retirement lasts a very long time, and at that age this is likely to be the last big financial decision they’re ever likely to make, if not the biggest financial decision they’ll ever make. We only get one chance to get it right, hence you’ve got to know your stuff and be really diligent with the work you do so the client can be reassured that the solutions you’ve provided for them and based on the specifics of their circumstances and their individual objectives.

LFA: Do you find that a client’s initial objective changes following their first meeting with you?

GS: It’s very rare. The moment a client gets in contact with an advisor they recognise that there’s a need there. It’s then on the adviser to use their skills to make sure they identify what those needs are but that they are specific and relevant to that client. Once we’ve identified the need, we can then highlight the benefits of that need, whether the client has identified it themselves initially. You can then start to develop it further and start encompassing other areas.

The most common need for somebody retiring is protection planning for expenses on death, wills, trusts, so then it can expand to incorporate all of these issues because they’re interlinked, they all impact different aspects of the client’s life. Its highlighting areas using your expertise that the client hasn’t necessarily thought of.

LFA: How much does advice cost?

GS: Generally Sigma Wealth Limited will work on a fixed fee [pricing may vary depending on which advisor you choose] so it depends on the nature of the work. With investments up to a quarter of a million it’s about 3.5%; anything beyond that we’ll sit down and negotiate. For most clients there is an awful lot of work to do. It isn’t 5 minutes anymore; we’re very highly regulated, most advisors are very highly skilled and well educated. The service we provide is reflected in the fee – you get what you pay for essentially.

LFA: Isn’t it a catch-22 situation to be spending money to find out how to save money?

GS: With good financial advice it shouldn’t cost you anything: you should get the return back. It shouldn’t cost you anything at the end of the day because if you employ an advisor to make money he should use his expertise to provide you with positive returns. Alternatively, if you’re using them for other services that should save you money. Ultimately, use your advisor to make you money or save you money. Either which way, you should always benefit. You’ll pay for it initially, but you should recoup that.

LFA: How often do you review the financial situation with your clients?

GS: I’m available to clients on tap but we get together at least once a year. Normally it’s a telephone review once every 6 months and a face-to-face review every 12 months. So again, it’s very hands-on and very personal.

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