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Insider - March 2022

3 months ago

Just as we are starting to emerge from the fear and devastation caused by a global pandemic, war has broken out in Europe. This unthinkable situation is clearly causing extreme upheaval and suffering to the people either fighting in, or fleeing from Ukraine, and great distress to their loved ones watching events unfold from afar.

In contrast to this very ugly side of human nature, I am pleased to say that this issue of Insider contains a few small examples of how good can be achieved when people work together – as evidenced by the fantastic work of organisations like Smart Works, Snow Camp and Stop.Breathe.Think. More on that later.

Flexible ISAs

With effect from the start of the current tax year (21/22), any withdrawals your clients make from their AJ Bell Investcentre ISAs can be replaced with new subscriptions, without it counting towards their ISA subscription limit – just as long as both the withdrawal and the replacement subscription happen in the same tax year.

I’m sure you will agree that this is a positive move, but it does, of course, necessitate a slight change to our terms and conditions – namely the insertion of a new clause 8.9. Please also note that the AJ Bell Investcentre Lifetime ISA and Junior ISA do not operate under the flexible ISA rules.

Your Business Development Manager and Adviser Support Team can answer any questions you might have about the flexible ISA, and there’s also a useful technical article on the subject here.

ISA dashboard upgrades

In light of our move to flexible ISAs, you’ll notice that we have upgraded the ISA dashboard in the V2.0 area of our website.

In case you are not familiar with the dashboard, it’s a useful tool that displays an overview of all your clients’ ISAs, and how much they have subscribed in the current tax year. You can also use it to initiate a new ISA subscription.

Following our move to offering flexible ISAs, the dashboard now also shows any withdrawals that have been taken from a client’s ISA, and the total amount of subscription allowance they have remaining after taking those withdrawals into account.

You can also download a client’s ISA subscription and allowance information into a CSV file, which may prove useful if you want to ensure they are making the most of their ISA subscription allowances as we approach tax year end.

Faster Payments for ISA and GIA

We recently changed our default payment method from BACS to Faster Payments for all withdrawals from your clients’ ISAs and GIAs. This improved payment method comes at no extra cost and means that your clients will receive their funds within one working day of the payment being made.

Please note that any withdrawal requests over the Faster Payments threshold of £250,000 will be sent by CHAPs transfer, again at no additional cost.

Our withdrawal forms have been changed to reflect the new payment method. If you have any questions about this, or anything else, please contact the Business Development Team.

Tax Year End deadlines

We know how busy you are likely to be at tax year end, and I’m sure you’ll appreciate the same is true for us. To make sure everything runs smoothly for all concerned, we’d really appreciate it if you could build in as much time as possible for any work that you need us to complete in the run-up to 5 April 2022.

You can find detailed information about our deadlines for pension payments, transfers and tax year end payments here.

As usual, our Adviser Support Team will be extending its opening hours in the run-up to 5 April. Staff will be available between 8am and 7pm from 28 March to 1 April, and from 4 April to 5 April 2022. You can call them on 0345 83 99 060 or email enquiry@investcentre.co.uk.

AJ Bell Investments – inflation and market outlook

Russian equities are already down almost 40% this year at the time of writing, and European equity markets will, in all likelihood, continue to be affected. At the same time, inflation looks set to keep rising, with the pressure caused by western sanctions on Russia most clearly seen in the soaring prices of oil and gas.

Our Investment Management Team continues to follow developments closely and is ready to adjust our funds and MPS portfolios where necessary. Indeed, the inflation challenge was on their radar long before recent challenges. They have already taken the following steps to mitigate this:

  • Portfolios with higher equity weights use the iShares Energy ETF, which invests in the large oil companies; this is up 20% year to date (at the time of writing).
  • Lower-risk portfolios hold US TIPS, which bring some protection against inflation.
  • Holdings in equities that are less impacted by world events, such as consumer staples and health care, have fallen in value, but the move is less than that of the wider market.
  • The average maturity of our corporate bond holdings has been shortened, lowering the overall portfolio risk.

In the longer term, the team are comfortable with our positioning. The mantra being mentioned is one you will all be familiar with. It’s worth remembering that the best days for the markets often come shortly after the worst – so it’s important not to panic.

On the Road - regional seminars

Now that the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, we’re taking every opportunity to get back out and meet you face-to-face. So, as well as our main On the Road tour, we will follow that up with a string of smaller, regional seminar dates at Guildford, Brighton, Maidstone, Exeter, Reading and Bolton between 27 April and 10 May.

You will get to hear from our investment experts talking about the potential outlook for markets over the coming months. A member of our Technical Team will be there too, discussing the Government’s latest thinking on pensions.

We will also be joined by the Business Development Manager for each area, who will bring you up to speed on the latest platform developments.

Two hours of structured CPD will be available at the following venues:

Location Date Time Secure your seat
Guildford Wednesday 27 April 2022 8.30am Register for Guildford
Brighton Wednesday 27 April 2022 2pm Register for Brighton
Maidstone Thursday 28 April 2022 9am Register for Maidstone
Exeter Tuesday 3 May 2022 12.30pm Register for Exeter
Reading Wednesday 4 May 2022 9am Register for Reading
Bolton Tuesday 10 May 2022 9am Register for Bolton

Smart Works

We recently undertook an independent study which found that women in the UK have less than half the levels of savings and investments that men have. This has resulted in a ‘gender investment gap’ that currently stands at around £1.65 trillion. To try and help put this right, we launched our AJ Bell Money Matters programme.

Another organisation that aims to help women achieve financial independence is the UK charity Smart Works, and I’m proud to say that we have joined forces with them in a concerted effort to bring about real change.

Smart Works’ goal is to give women the confidence they need to secure employment and change the trajectory of their lives. Referrals to the charity are made from job centres, mental health charities, women’s refuges, homeless shelters, the prison service, care services and youth organisations. The team at Smart Works then provides a one-to-one session with an expert coach, during which each client receives valuable preparation to help her succeed at interviews. The charity also provides high-quality outfits to further enhance their chances of securing a job and gaining financial security.

The partnership between AJ Bell Money Matters and Smart Works will deliver a programme that includes in-person financial education, podcasts, webinars and volunteering by AJ Bell staff at Smart Works events. Our new chair, Baroness Helena Morrissey, is spearheading the AJ Bell Money Matters campaign, and had this to say about the partnership:

“The AJ Bell Money Matters and Smart Works collaboration is going to be a dynamic partnership and we’re already planning big things. To tackle the gender investing gap, we have to support women when starting their careers, which is where Smart Works make such a difference.”

I hope you agree that this campaign has the potential for enormous positive change. If you would like to support Smart Works, you can make a donation via their website.

Stop.Breathe.Think

I’m proud to say that we have recently donated £60,000 to a new long-term community partnership with Stop.Breathe.Think – a cause which offers free and confidential mental health support to young people aged 21 or under.

Stop.Breathe.Think was initially launched as a campaign by a charity called Switch180 that we have worked closely with for many years. However, it quickly became a fully-fledged service due to the sheer demand for their life-changing efforts during the pandemic. Shockingly, the charity found that the pandemic has made over 60% of the younger generation feel more anxious, with three out of five young people believing lockdown has negatively impacted their mental health.

Since launch, Stop.Breathe.Think has helped more than 800 young people through their counselling journey, with 91% reporting that they felt in a better place mentally following their counselling.

This new partnership and the £60,000 donation is part of our AJ Bell Wage War on COVID campaign, which in total raised more than £380,000 from the staff at AJ Bell to support people directly affected by the COVID crisis.

The AJ Bell 3 Valleys Rally

Entries are now open for the AJ Bell 3 Valleys Rally 2023, in aid of Snow Camp. As well as raising money for a great charity, this is also a fantastic excuse to have a lot of fun in the French Alps.

It’s going to take place between Thursday 2 February and Sunday 5 February next year and involves teams of four taking on challenges like ski orienteering, slalom racing, laser biathlon, a snowshoe hike, and a team-distance challenge – with medals and prizes up for grabs for the winning performances.

The entry fee is £500 per person (£2,000 per team), which covers all the costs associated with the event, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, access to all snow-sport activities and your two-day lift pass.

The fundraising target is £4,000 per team, which will go to help Snow Camp continue its fantastic work transforming the lives and prospects of inner-city kids from across the UK. You can find out more about their work here.

To see some of the action from the 2022 event in Crans-Montana, take a look at this article. And if you’re still undecided, maybe come along to a special open day hosted by Andy Bell and the Snow Camp team on Saturday 26 March from 1.30pm – 3.30pm at Chill Factore in Manchester. It will be a great opportunity to see Snow Camp in action, meet some of the young people the charity is currently supporting, and hear more about the plans for our 2023 fundraising event in the 3 Valleys. Just email info@summitspecial.co.uk to confirm your place.

Author
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Billy Mackay
Name

Billy Mackay

Job Title
Managing Director, AJ Bell Investcentre

Billy joined AJ Bell in June 2008, having previously worked for a major platform provider for over 11 years. He has been involved in financial services for over three decades in a variety of sales and marketing roles. Today, Billy is responsible for AJ Bell Investcentre’s development roadmap, marketing, distribution and adviser service proposition and also for the development and distribution of AJ Bell Custody Solutions.

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