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From our research, it’s clear why so many Financial Advisers fail to see a return from their use of Social Media

 Time and time again our research tells us that Financial Advisers want to use Social Media more effectively – yet they are failing to see the results they hope for because hardly any in the UK have a clear, written down Social Media strategy.  It’s as simple as that.  Well almost…

Without a Social Media strategy for your financial advice, financial planning or life planning business, any new clients you do see from Social Media will usually be by accident rather than design.

Yet when you write and commit to a plan, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.

So we’re delighted to announce that on Thursday 20th October advisers will join us from all over the UK at a unique workshop where we’ll write the Social Media strategy for your financial advice business from scratch!

This has never been done before in the UK, and advisers joining us will be in the unique position of being able to share Social Media best practice from financial advisers around the world who are seeing positive ROI from their use of online networking and ‘Social Selling’.

Free bonus!
We’re really excited about this full day central London workshop because it also coincides with the launch of Philip Calvert’s new book Social Media for Financial Advisers, and each attendee will receive a free signed copy.
 Your workshop will focus on five key areas:

 Blogging and Content Marketing – how and when to Blog, the tools you need and the key benefits to financial advisers (there are many more than you realise).  Including a little-known Blogging tool which will transform your success with Social Media

 Audio and Video – proven strategies to drive traffic to your website through YouTube video and Podcasting, including case studies from financial advisers who use these tools

 LinkedIn – what one IFA did to attract £100,000 in fee income purely from his use of LinkedIn, including networking techniques on LinkedIn which attracted new clients the very first time that two IFAs used them

 Twitter and Facebook – the pros and cons of using Twitter and Facebook, including tips used by Social Media professionals to drive traffic to their website

 Creating your Social Media strategy – hardly any financial advisers have a clear, written down Social Media strategy, so at this workshop we will literally write your own strategy from scratch – a document you can take away and put into action immediately.

In particular, we will reveal how to use Social Media to drive significantly more traffic to your website, including one financial planning firm which saw a 2,244% increase in website visits in just one week.

When you leave at the end of the day, you will have a completed Social Media strategy for your financial advice business.

“It was a BRILLIANT course on Tuesday, thank you so much!  I’m really looking forward to putting the action plan together.”  Jonathan Palfreyman, Financial Director, Hiatt Financial

In addition we will answer regular questions which financial advisers ask us, including:

  • “How many leads can I expect each week from using Social Media?”
  • “Should I blog on my website or on a specialist blogging platform?”
  • “What should I Blog about and how long will it take?”
  • “Are my target clients really on LinkedIn – isn’t it just a business audience?”
  • “Who should I connect with when I receive a connection request?”
  • “What are the compliance issues I should know about?”
  • “I’ve been on LinkedIn for seven years and haven’t found a single client!  What am I doing wrong?”
  • “What is a Podcast and do I need any special resources?”
  • “I only use Facebook for personal posts – should I really be using for business too?”
  • “I’ve heard about ‘Content Marketing’ – what is it and how can it benefit my IFA business?”
  • “How much time should I commit to Social Media?”
  • “Can I outsource my Social Media activity?”
  • “Should I pay for the premium version of LinkedIn?”

…and many more.

Pension Reforms and Industry Views

The Government announced at the 2014 Budget proposals that from April 2015 it would allow people aged 55 and above to access to their money purchase pension savings as they wish during retirement, subject to their marginal rate of income tax.
The development of the new reforms has impacted financial services significantly and almost a year on many retirees and advisers are sitting tight, waiting to see how new rules will affect the retirement marketplace before committing to any change to financial plans.
Additionally, in the recent budget the Chancellor launched a Green Paper to look at the pensions system as a whole, which could mean the system will be revolutionized further.
With the huge amount of changes going on, it is not only a challenging time for the adviser community but could also provide numerous opportunities for developing new business.
That is why Panacea Adviser are launching the first FREE virtual event for financial advisers and paraplanners in the UK.
Retirement Choices 2016 – a virtual conference
On 25th February 2016 you can log in and visit a number of stands, hear from a number of keynote speakers and watch virtual presentations on issues surrounding pension reforms.
Live text debates will take place after some of the sessions, giving you the chance to put your questions to the experts and speakers to get real-time answers – ideal for people who shy away from putting their hand up and raising a point in front of an audience.

How to use LinkedIn and Social Media to manage your Professional Reputation and attract Profitable New Clients

The Complete Guide for IFAs, Financial Planners and Financial Services Professionals

“One Adviser told us that LinkedIn has produced £100,000 of business for his practice. Discover how LinkedIn can work for you too.” 

From Facebook to Twitter and from YouTube to LinkedIn, Social Media has become a powerful tool to enhance the modern financial adviser’s visibility online.

Whether to manage your professional identity or to attract profitable new clients, today’s post-RDR adviser recognises that their website alone is no longer the be-all and end-all of their Internet presence.

And since 2010, more consumers visit Social Networking sites than search engines – what’s more, over 40% of people over age 35 actually prefer to use Social Media to conduct online searches.  So it’s essential that financial advisers can not only be found – but appear credible, professional, friendly and trustworthy.

Continue 2015 positively with a commitment to learning how to use Social Media more effectively in your financial advice business

During a conference speech early in 2014 on business networking, LinkedIn expert Philip Calvert asked the audience how many people present were on LinkedIn.  Not surprisingly, out of the thousand people in the conference hall almost everyone raised their hands.

Then Philip asked ‘how many of them knew why they were on LinkedIn?’  But this time the response was startlingly different, with only ten people raising their hands.

Philip has repeated this question at conferences and business events all over the UK and overseas.  And whatever the industry or business sector, the response has always been the same – managers, employees, senior executives, small business owners, company directors and financial services professionals everywhere are signed up on the popular networking site, but most have very little idea how to use it to attract new customers and to increase sales.

In short, they’re missing out on profiting from one of the most powerful online business tools ever created. 

The perception is that LinkedIn is little more than just a job site, and whilst recruitment services are a part of LinkedIn’s offering, the potential to use LinkedIn to attract new clients, increase sales and build relationships with professional connections is immense.  And the techniques to do it are little-known by most financial advisers.

But some do know how it’s done.  One adviser told us that with very little effort, his activity on LinkedIn has produced £100,000 of business for his practice.

Discover the secrets of how to use LinkedIn to build your reputation and attract new clients

So please join us on 17th September 2015 when we’ll reveal a wealth of little-known features which are guaranteed to help you to really leverage LinkedIn.

We guarantee no ‘theoretical fluff’ – just proven tips and techniques that will make an immediate and measurable difference to you, your visibility and your financial advice business.

We’ll answer the questions that IFAs and financial advisers consistently ask:

  • “Are my target clients really on LinkedIn – isn’t it just a business audience?”
  • “Who should I connect with when I receive a request?”
  • “What are the compliance issues I should know about?”
  • “I’ve been on LinkedIn for years and haven’t found a single client – what am I doing wrong?”

Everything you’ll learn really works, and like most people who’ve attended Philip’s workshop, you’ll wish you had learnt this months ago!

What’s more, when you leave the workshop, you’ll have a personalised, step-by-step plan for what to do next.  You can even make changes to your LinkedIn profile during the workshop and see an immediate difference to your visibility.

“It was a BRILLIANT course on Tuesday, thank you so much!  I’m really looking forward to putting the action plan together.”
Jonathan Palfreyman, Financial Director, Hiatt Financial (attended October 2014)

What will we cover and how will you benefit? 

In addition to being an amazing networking opportunity for attendees, here’s what you’ll learn on the day:

  • Why LinkedIn is a critical business resource – and how to make it work hard for your business
  • How to dominate search results on LinkedIn for your area of expertise
  • Simple adjustments to your profile page which will make an immediate and measurable transformation to your visibility on LinkedIn
  • How to dramatically improve your position in Google search results simply by using LinkedIn
  • Little known techniques that encourage people to read your LinkedIn profile
  • Who should I connect with?  How to handle connection requests from people you don’t know
  • Whether to connect with ‘everyone’ and build a large network – or build a small and niche network by connecting with just a few
  • A Five-Minutes-a-Day LinkedIn Workout that will get you results
  • Ten reasons why it’s vital that financial advice professionals learn how to master LinkedIn without delay
  • Forget ‘Social Media’ and focus on ‘managing your online identity’.  LinkedIn’s role in building your reputation and professional credibility
  • How and why your personal and company profiles on LinkedIn should be treated as valuable assets of your business – and not just as another social networking profile
  • How to create loyal advocates for your business on LinkedIn (even amongst people who aren’t yet clients)
  • The three single most important elements of your LinkedIn profile and why you should update them NOW
  • The one thing you MUST do before updating your LinkedIn profile
  • The right (and wrong) way to connect with people on LinkedIn
  • How to respond when complete strangers want to connect with you
  • A simple technique that is guaranteed to start gainful discussions
  • When you should (and should not) give Skills Endorsements
  • Why you should REMOVE some Skills from your LinkedIn profile
  • What to do next when someone endorses you for your Skills
  • Four hugely valuable features on your LinkedIn profile which you’re not yet using (and probably don’t even know exist)
  • Examples of outstanding LinkedIn profile pages and what you can learn from them
  • Little known mobile apps that can connect you with useful business professionals through LinkedIn
  • How to get found by potential clients on LinkedIn for your specific area of expertise
  • Discover how to make the most of each section of your LinkedIn profile – a step-by-step guide
  • The right (and the wrong) type of testimonials to include on your LinkedIn profile
  • An amazing and little known trick to find the right people to connect with on LinkedIn
  • How to make your LinkedIn profile client focused
  • One massive mistake that huge numbers of business professionals are making on LinkedIn and why it’s costing them dear
  • How to use LinkedIn to monitor key companies, organisations and topics of interest
  • LinkedIn tricks and tips that alert you to the most valuable connections for you
  • Should I pay to upgrade on LinkedIn?
  • Why it’s vital to personalise your LinkedIn URL
  • Why LinkedIn is a powerful option for building your newsletter list
  • How to use LinkedIn direct from within your email account
  • How to massively add value to your LinkedIn network through browser widgets
  • The single most powerful (but widely underused) feature on LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn is not just for people – discover how to create a compelling Company profile and why it’s a must do activity
  • How and when to use LinkedIn Showcase pages
  • Never be short of something to add to your status updates – a handy tool to make LinkedIn status updates easy
  • How to use LinkedIn to build Community around your Brand
  • How to massively increase engagement with your status updates on LinkedIn (by as much as 80%)
  • How to use LinkedIn groups to attract new clients/connections
  • Where to find free auto responders to drive traffic to your website from your LinkedIn group
  • Comparison of LinkedIn with other Business Social Networking tools such as Xing, SunZu, Viadeo and Google +

Plus – the single biggest mistake that almost all financial advisers make on LinkedIn – and how to fix it immediately

If you think this is a lot, you’re right!  And there will be a lot more besides because you, like us expect value for your investment. 

“A very interesting and informative day.  I have now managed to get my Linkedin profile to appear on the first page in a search for my keywords, and the only two above me are in Australia and Hong Kong!  Can’t be bad.” 

Your clients don’t value Financial Advice…

…so you need to tangibly demonstrate your worth to them, both visually and in monetary terms. The opportunity to do this will usually arise at your annual review meetings, where there are just two simple things you need to get right:

1.      ‘Show’ the client that everything is going to be alright (and if it is not going to be alright, tell them what to do about it).

2.       Politely remind the client what you have done for them lately (i.e. show them your value)


This is pretty simple stuff, but ask yourself the question; “Does my existing approach to client reviews achieve these two goals?”


In the video below I share my personal experience and tips for ensuring a great annual review process, which you’ll also find summarised below.


Out of the two  simple points above – showing everything will be alright and reminding the client of the value you deliver – point number 1 is more important by a factor of 10. If all you did at every review was show the client that everything was going to be alright you would have a great business and strong client relationships for life. Let’s call this the cake.


Point 2 is the icing on the cake and let’s face it, you wouldn’t open a shop that just sold icing. Icing without the cake would be weird. But the icing is the best bit, so it’s important.


Alternatively, selling cakes without icing would be alright, but not half as much fun for your customers.


To ‘show’ the client that everything is going to be alright requires something visual. Simply ‘telling’ clients that everything is going to be alright is not enough. It’s easy for you, you deal with this stuff day in and day out, but for your clients this is not the case. I don’t care how smart or sophisticated you think they are in their own profession, when it comes to money most people are just not in the same league as you.


Almost certainly that means using some sort of cashflow modeling software. Then you can ‘show’ the client that they will never run out of money. Job done.


To deal with the second point you need to understand one of the simplest ways to demonstrate your value is in cash.


What is value?


Let’s say you were paying an adviser £2,000 per year for services. Put yourself in the client’s shoes for a moment. How much value would that adviser need to deliver to you, in cash, for you to feel like they were fantastic?


How would you feel if they could demonstrate clearly that their advice had put £2,000 back in your pocket? So the fee they charged you was £2,000 but they had saved you £2,000 of tax (as an example) in another area.


In my experience whenever I could show that I had provided tangible value in cash of at least the client’s annual fee they were over the moon. Not just pretty happy, but ecstatic. Why?


It all goes back to the cake and icing analogy. Remember, the core stuff you do as an adviser (holding a review meeting, showing that everything is going to be alright, or advising them what to do if changes need to be made) provides them with support, comfort and peace of mind – the high value deliverables (the cake).


Whenever I could demonstrate that I had also paid them back in cash with some smart strategy work their words to me were, “I feel like I get you for free”. The subtext that they didn’t actually say was, “And I’m already as happy as Larry with the core stuff you do for me each year.”


What if your adviser added £10,000 of demonstrable value in cash? Or £50,000, or £300,000? Obviously you would be even more satisfied that you were in the right place.


But what if your adviser only added £500 of demonstrable value in cash? How would you feel then?


Based on the feedback I received clients were still very very happy because remember, the value added is only part of the story.


Dig out a file or two for some of your good clients and see if you can identify some tangible value added in cash from some of your financial planning strategies. Look for tax wins, pension savings, or any other area that you think has created a cash win for the client. Package it up and communicate to those clients at your next review meeting and see what happens.


What thirty five years working with financial advisers has told me about the relationship between IFAs and Providers

I started work in the Financial Services industry thirty five years ago today.  NEL (National Employers Life) was a great company based at Milton Court, a Tudor mansion just outside Dorking in Surrey.  UNUM, the eventual buyer of NEL’s PHI business are still based there. 

Pension administration work quickly turned out not to be my thing, and I was swiftly packed off to the City where I learnt my trade as a Broker Consultant – or Inspector as we called them then.

‘Training’ involved shadowing an experienced Inspector and seemed to involve mostly delivering quotations and commission cheques, picking up proposal forms, answering the occasional query, beer drinking and… well, not much else.  After a year of this ‘intense’ work I was given my own patches in and around London, and for the next eleven years at NEL I met between ten and twenty IFAs/Brokers every week.  

And the same then followed when I worked at Zurich Life, Permanent Insurance and Pioneer Friendly, albeit in more senior positions.  Good products and lots of face-to-face meetings was what brought in the the business time and time again.

When I eventually went self-employed ten years ago, I realised that I had met literally thousands of IFAs over the previous twenty five years.  I’d attended just about every industry conference, had been a speaker at many of them and seen many hundreds of IFAs come through my own seminars and workshops.  As a result I had amassed a huge collection of thousands and thousands of business cards.

Today, and for the last ten years, a big part of my relationships with IFAs has been online.  My wife Sarah and I founded IFA Life (now LifeTalk) in 2004, and since then the financial advice community has slowly but surely embraced online communication technology and Social Media.  Many are now looking at developing new online-only propositions, and it’s exciting to see IFAs’ imaginations working overtime as to the possibilities that exist in this exciting space.  Indeed some tell me that the future of financial advice is really online.  We shall see!

In the lead up to RDR, much of IFAs’ decision making processes as to new business models have been influenced by online discussions on LifeTalk, Panacea Adviser, more recently Adviser Lounge and increasingly on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and a seemingly never ending stream of blogs, webcasts, videos and articles aimed at financial advisers.  Never before has so much information, help and advice been available to financial advice professionals.

In the run up to RDR, many felt it was a bit over the top, but the ability for experienced financial advice professionals from around the world to share ideas and best practice has been invaluable to many UK advisers.

There’s no doubt that the Broker Consultant role has also changed and matured over the last thirty five years into a much more focused ‘consultancy-type’ role.   We also saw the introduction of telephone based Broker Consultants, who made a big impact on our sales figures when Zurich Life first introduced the concept – and in the process scaring the daylights out of many traditional face-to-face Broker Consultants who could see a potential threat to their jobs for all sorts of reasons.

But whilst IFAs have (for the most part) embraced online technology – whether to develop new online propositions or as a way to network and share best practice with other advisers – what’s very noticeable is the minimal (and in some cases non-existent) use of Social Media by larger Providers to enhance and compliment the traditional Broker Consultant or Key Account Manager role.

As a Broker Consultant I realised that there were a number of factors which would influence the number of proposal forms that I picked up from IFAs:

·        How visible I was to them – both in person or in other formats (mailings, emailings, fax shots etc).  There was a direct and proven link between the number of times I met with or contacted an IFA with the amount of business they gave us.  The more contacts I made, the more business I received.

·        Product quality and premium rates

·        My budget for lunch

To some, that might paint a slightly unflattering picture of financial advisers, but you have to remember that this was a long time ago and things have changed a lot since then.  You’ll also note that ‘commission overrides and uplifts’ tended not to be an influencing factor on business levels.  But the amount of visibility I had with IFAs was very much an influencing factor – and fortunately I realised this at an early stage in my career.  I still recall staying late in the office sending out multiple fax shots to my panel of IFAs, and the degree to which IFAs responded to them was only limited by my own imagination as to what I included in the faxes.

I would send pipeline updates, copies of articles in magazines that they might find useful, sales and marketing ideas, polls and questionnaires, answers to technical queries and much more besides.  The fax machine was my weapon of choice when I wasn’t visiting IFAs face-to-face.

And then I discovered seminars, which made things even more exciting.  I realised that seeing ten to twenty IFAs a week was a challenge, but when I started putting on seminars in the office or at local hotels, I had the potential to see between ten to twenty IFAs per day.  Not surprisingly this had a big impact on sales figures!

Fast forward to 2013, and it’s very obvious when I observe conversations between IFAs in the LifeTalk forums, that many of the interactions that would in the past have been held between IFAs and Providers now don’t take place.  Those Providers who had fostered great reputations with advisers would more often than not have been regarded as the IFA’s ‘help desk’ of choice.  A quick call to their local Broker Consultant and a question relating to anything and anything would be answered.

But today, many Providers are being sidelined, as advisers can get the answers to their questions online and from each other.  Indeed, when we set up IFA Life, we did so with the intention of replicating online what IFAs enjoyed doing face-to-face – networking and helping each other out.

But what really surprises me today, is the large scale absence of online interaction between Providers and IFAs.  When I was a Broker Consultant, had it existed, I would have killed to be able to use social media to engage with IFAs – yet, although we have many Broker Consultant and Provider members on LifeTalk, they rarely communicate with the IFA members.

My sales and marketing colleagues at NEL, Zurich Life and elsewhere completely relied on the intelligence that Broker Consultants brought back into the office about what IFAs were thinking, what concerned them, what products they needed etc  etc; and whilst I know that today’s Providers do indeed use LifeTalk and other sites to gather industry intelligence, the one thing you rarely see is Providers using Social Media to genuinely and proactively interact and engage with IFAs.

We see this happening (or not happening as the case may be) every day on our site, and I’m often surprised at the opportunities that Providers are missing to build relationships with IFAs.

I’ve enjoyed my thirty five years very much, and have relished in seeing financial advisers growing and adapting their businesses to change that has been imposed upon them.  But having come from a sales background within the industry, I often think that many Providers have ‘lost their way’ in their relationships with IFAs – and I know that many IFAs agree with me.  Many Providers regularly tell me that “they want to use Social Media to engage with and add value to IFAs”, but in the next breath give a string of reasons why they can’t.

In fairness, the new breed of micro and smaller Providers are working very hard at using new technology to engage with IFAs – David Ferguson and Nucleus immediately spring to mind, and larger Providers could very much learn from them.  We also see Poviders like Aviva seeking to add value through Social Media and others like Barnett Waddingham using high value content as part of their engagement strategy with IFAs.  There’s a new breed of Paraplanners too who are embracing Google+ and Hangouts to engage – Abraham Okusanya at FinalytiQ is leading the way. 


The future

An important project for LifeTalk now is to help Providers to better understand how collaboration and sharing of best practice can be of enormous value to them – just as it is to financial advisers.  The challenge for them is whether they are indeed willing and prepared to share ideas for the benefit of each other.  And that’s why we’ve launched both a LinkedIn group for Provider/suppliers and also the Provider Mastermind group (links below).

And as for IFAs and financial planners – after a very slow start embracing the Internet and Social Media, most advisers are now using it in some shape or form in their businesses.  Many still want to learn more about using Social Media in a strategic way, and that’s a good thing because without a solid plan, Social Media will only ever be a networking tool – whereas it has real value as a strategic communication tool.

My passion for the coming years is to help advisers to ‘think outside the box’.  That sounds such a cliché expression, but is very appropriate.  The Financial Planning model seems to be a preferred route for many, but for those looking for something more – something that can open up huge new opportunities, then there is a lot of good news ahead for financial advisers.  Not least of which is creating new business models and monetising the obvious expertise and experience that so many advisers possess.  If there is one thing that the (now) profession has got right, it has been the march towards greater professionalism through qualifications and exams – but with only a handful of exceptions, the profession is not yet monetising that immense knowledge, experience and expertise in new ways that are appealing to today’s Internet-savvy consumers (of all ages).

We believe that our new Business Development Programme will fill a lot of gaps for many advisers.  Indeed, one adviser said when he signed up to the programme a few days ago that this was just what he was looking for in his business right now.

As a Broker Consultant, Key Account Manager and Head of Sales for various Providers, nothing gave me greater pleasure than giving IFAs ideas that they could take away, adapt and then use immediately for the benefit of themselves, their businesses and their clients.  Our Business Development Programme continues that idea and I’m looking forward to working with those forward-thinking advisers and financial planners who have already signed up.

Very soon we will celebrate ten years of IFA Life and LifeTalk.  Coincidentally we will also reach the 10,000 member mark around the same time.  We are incredibly proud that almost 10,000 industry professionals have each taken the trouble to sign up on the site – proving that a combination of value through relationships is a powerful influencer.

We look forward to welcoming many more financial advisers and planners to our community – and indeed Providers who are looking to maximise technology to engage with and add value to them.


Why Smart IFAs should recommend VCS Carbon Credits

There are all sorts of stories out there about Voluntary Carbon Credits, and much of it is difficult to understand, so many conflicting messages. So let’s dispel the myths, and half-truths, and get to what this commodity actually is, where it comes from and why a client should consider it as part of a balanced portfolio. 

“Carbon Credits – it’s just fresh air isn’t it”?

Many I meet have a problem with the virtual nature of Voluntary Carbon Credits, but the reality is that the source projects that generate the credits are very real and very tangible such as Hydro-electric plants to reforestation and Methane capture.

Whilst a number of carbon credit verification ‘standards’ exist, the most prominent is the VCS (Verified Carbon Standard). In this article we’ll talk a bit more about VCS, which is a global standard programme based in Washington D.C. with over 750 worldwide projects in the scheme.

In order for a project to apply to the VCS for Carbon Credits it must be reducing or mitigating Carbon Dioxide, Methane or Nitrous Oxide. If the project can prove that it will achieve this, then, it will be taken through one of the several VCS methodologies by and independent Verification body. If at the end of that process the project has achieved and passed all the pertinent checks and balances and at the point where the project is commissioned and active, the verification body will calculate how many Carbon Credits that project will be able to issue over a specific time period. A Carbon Credit is a measurement of one metric tonne of Green House Gas (GHG) mitigated or removed from the atmosphere. In case you’re wondering what a metric tonne of say CO2 look like, it would be a cube 27 feet high by 27 feet wide by 27 feet deep.

Each carbon credit is uniquely serial numbered and held in the master VCS database, which is the master register of every VCS credit ever issued. The serial numbering of the credits is vital as it is this that allows the tracking of credits, more details for which are explained below.  

At the point at which the credits are registered in the VCS database the source project can sell the credits into the market, here is where AGT enters the picture. AGT sources VCS Carbon Credits directly from the projects through this database and offers them within two main markets;

1.      Private individuals wishing to purchase VCS Carbon Credits either directly or via their SIPP

2.      Corporate clients purchasing VCS Credits to then “retire” them in the process of offsetting their organisations’ carbon footprint.

“Why would a Private Individual buy VCS Carbon Credits”?

Individuals do this for one of two main reasons, to offset their own personal carbon footprint or to buy, hold and sell later after hopefully seeing some growth in the price.

As a commodity with HMRC approval, carbon credits can be purchased via a SIPP, with related tax advantages or dependent on the clients’ own position, they can be bought as a direct ‘spot’ trade. Over the past 2 years that AGT have been trading, the carbon credits market has shown real growth.

With a growing focus by organisations on their Corporate Social Responsibility, more companies than ever are purchasing carbon credits to offset their carbon footprint and in doing so driving significant demand for credits in the voluntary market, which is good news for those investing in carbon in the pursuit of a profitable growth in price.

The corporate client purchasing VCS Carbon Credits for Carbon Neutrality purposes is the reason why this is a good growth story for the private client. Within the VCS programme, there are only 621 projects globally that have been approved to issue Carbon Credits and since 2007 VCS projects have accounted for a total of 82 million credits issued.  Each time corporate organisations purchase a large quantity of credits as offsets to gain a partial or full carbon neutral status, they do what’s known as “retire” the credits. Retiring a credit means striking the credit off the register, rendering them worthless, never to be traded again and in doing so drives up the prices of the remaining credits, many of which are held by private individuals, left in the marketplace. More and more corporate clients are buying and “retiring” VCS Credits, fuelling demand and outstripping supply.

Chevrolet have recently announced they are to purchase 8 million VCS Carbon Credits over the next few years, along with those already buying such as HSBC, Barclays, Hi-Tec, Google and Emirates amongst a raft of other major brands.  In our view for the next few years at least the number of credits coming into the market from source projects will be outstripped by the demand, from both the growth in corporate offsetting, many of whom buy on an annual basis and subsequent investor interest.  

“But there’s no secondary market or exit strategy”?

Actually there is, especially with AGT, we consider this one of our many unique selling points. We have a global footprint with offices in 8 regions with lots of private individual clients and corporate clients buying from us across all our regions. We match buyers with sellers, from across the globe, providing a clear means of exiting your position when it’s right for you. This means we have a secondary market, and provable client returns. If you ever visit our website it tells you that clients’ who purchased in January 2011 and sold with AGT in the end of 2011 realised a 30.2% gain, fact!

“Where are the clients credits held? How do I know they are safe”?

There are 3 nominated registries worldwide that hold VCS Carbon Credits. It is in one of these three registries where a client’s credits are held. Once a client has made a purchase, the broker places the clients’ credits into one of the three registries. The registry holds the credits in an account for the client who has purchased via their SIPP or as a direct spot trade. The clients’ serial numbers are held within the registry account until the client decides to sell the credits at which point they instruct AGT to sell their credits. AGT simply match client A’s credits sale with client B’s purchase and the serial numbers are re-allocated to the new buyer, who may be a private individual making a trade or corporate organisation aiming to purchase and ‘retire’ those credits.  

The three registries holding credits are Caisse Des Depot Climate (CDC), NYSE Blue and MarkIT. In each case the registry integrates directly into the master Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) database, and therefore the registry can see every issued credit that is active and its corresponding serial number and every retired credit and its corresponding serial number. Processes governing this transparent database mean that serial numbered credits, once retired, cannot ever be re-activated and sold again to other customers.

“Who are Advanced Global Trading (AGT) and why would I trade with you”?

Advanced Global Trading (AGT) is a world leading VCS Carbon brokerage. AGT was founded 18 months ago in the UAE but has rapidly grown and has now established a presence in a number of countries globally including Spain, Switzerland and of course the UK.

As one of the largest brokers in the voluntary market, AGT has been active in creating the secondary market for VCS carbon credits and can now offer clients a clear exit strategy with a history of good growth rates on client positions.

AGT were nominated at the 2011 International Green Awards in the “Best Sustainable Investment” Category http://www.greenawards.com/winners/shortlist-2011 and have been instrumental in bringing Carbon Neutrality into Motorsport by making the Hope Racing Les Mans team the first Carbon Neutral car to enter and elite motor race: http://www.lemans.org/en/news/Hope_Racing_on_track_5493.html. More recently AGT have made Tom Walker Racing Carbon Neutral http://tomwalkerracing.co.uk/#/green-light-for-tom/4560904338. Tom is a driver in this year’s Renault Clio Cup, and is proud to be the first independent driver to be Carbon Neutral.

AGT are also active in the development of technology to provide the right tools and transparency to IFA’s and clients via our soon to be released iPhone & iPad app (due April ’12). The app will provide educational content on the market, keep you up-to date with what’s happening in the market and allow you to instruct AGT to sell or buy based on market sensitive information.  We see technology as real differentiator for us the app will be a free download from the Apple App-store.

So in summary, we have a relatively new market which at first glance can be confusing. But for the savvy IFA, it’s simply a matter of doing your homework on the best route to enter this alternative market on behalf of clients who are suitable investors and that have a portfolio where this type of commodity trade sits well, at the right level, alongside their overall mix. It’s certainly not a commodity that should be discounted in the blink of an eye, because after all, the returns AGT’s clients have made so far speak for themselves. Of course it is a relatively new market, but as Warren Buffett was once quoted as saying…”“Most people get interested in stocks when everyone else is. The time to get interested is when no one else is. You can’t buy what is popular and do well”

If you’re already advising appropriate clients to try carbon credits as part of their portfolio, then you should certainly, speak to us at AGT.

Banks will disappear soon – centuries of tradition to be replaced by Internet systems

People aged over 40 are often amazed by what is happening online. Sometimes they find it difficult to consider things the way those born in the 1970s do.

For instance, people under 30 tend to distrust corporates and they also seek the best solutions for what they want to achieve, regardless of brand. In spite of what you might think from media coverage, surveys tell us that the younger generations are not really that brand aware.


That’s a problem for traditional business which is geared around promoting brands. Indeed, it’s still the way that much business is generated online. But the world is changing fast.

For example, many business people – the younger ones – are avoiding banks altogether as a source of funding. Instead they are going to cooperative ventures such as Zopa, where you borrow money from other people, rather than banks.


Similarly, the polling organisations in the US Presidential Elections showed widely varying results because of the changed behaviour of younger people. Some pollsters only call landlines – but many younger people do not own landlines, using cellphones for all their communications. And that meant many members of one generation were excluded from polling, making some of the polls inaccurate.


Younger people really do think differently. And think about this. What if you construct your entire personal identity online using a range of tools such as social networking, Twitter, and various electronic “safes”. You might also have all your finances in PayPal. Guess what – you then do not need a bank account.


The problem with banks is that they are run by people over 40 (indeed many are run by people over 60). They don’t think in the same way as the under 30s – their potential future customers. These youngsters distrust corporates, like the banks, they have no need for a bank account and if they want to borrow money they can get it from their “friends” online in cooperative ventures. The banks are blind to the future whereby the way they have done business for the past 300 years is simply not going to wash with the younger generation.

Bank accounts as we know them will become obsolete for millions of people within a matter of a few years (for many they already are obsolete).


Yet, banks, like so many traditional firms, continue to plod on as though nothing much has changed. We are in the midst of a fundamental shift in business – where the old ways of doing things are disappearing rapidly, where brand means nothing and where cooperation is the order of the day. How ready is your business for this new way of doing things? If you don’t think about it now, you will be in trouble soon.


And if you don’t think that’s true, just consider the record industry. It was told several years back that online music would threaten its core income. The old “suits” who run the industry thought this was just teenage twaddle. Now who is red faced?

Dramatic change IS coming to your industry – faster than you can imagine. Better to make plans now, rather than be like the record industry constantly trying – and largely failing – to catch up.


Should IFAs and Financial Planners use Google+?

Google+ is the latest social networking site to come on to the scene. At first glance, it appears to blend the functionality of Twitter with Facebook. Google+ closely resembles Facebook in that the home page streams the feeds of information posted by people in your “circles” (think Friends on Facebook or Following on Twitter) in the form of rich content such as photos, images, text, videos and links. It is similar to Twitter in that anyone can add you to their circles and see what you are posting. The jury is still out on whether or not Google+ is going to be the next Facebook. So the question is “Should you use Google+?”

As far as I can tell, Google+ does not provide a solution or benefit that is notably different than what Twitter and Facebook currently offer. That being said, there will be a number of Google enthusiasts as well as the Facebook and Twitter detractors who prefer to use Google+. And of course, there will be the early adopters who will prefer Google+ just because it is new. But the majority of the population just recently became comfortable with the idea of having a Facebook page. It may be a while before they decide a Google+ page is a necessity as well.

There is a core group of financial advisors who will be early adopters of Google+. These are the same people who were active on Twitter two, three and even four or more years ago. These advisors are lovers of social media and are naturally attracted to this medium. However, if you are more like the average advisor who does not enjoy spending hours on social networking sites and trying every new tool, I recommend you wait on Google+. While the buzz is generally positive about Google+, there is no way to know if this new social networking site is going to gain the kind of popularity sites like LinkedIn and Facebook enjoy. Google has launched other social media tools like Google Wave, which never caught on, so it is a little early to get on the Google+ bandwagon. Many advisors are concerned about having time to dedicate to social media, or they are concerned their target demographic isn’t utilizing social media sites. At this current point in time, both of these are valid concerns with Google+.

Google+ is not to be ignored. After all, Google is the most popular website in the world, so it seems reasonable that their social networking site has the same potential for popularity. However, until it is clear that Google+ is going to be a leader in the social networking space, or until it is clear that the site will attract a different demographic than what is currently using Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, I’d say “wait..” You don’t have to be “first-to-market” in the social media space to be successful. You just have to engage in quality interactions once you are on a site to achieve success. So unless social media is an enjoyable hobby of yours, take a step back and see how Google+ develops. Don’t worry! You’ll have time to get on the bandwagon when all of your prospects, clients and centers of influence decide to do the same.


Are IFAs, Financial Planners and others kidding themselves that Social Media works in their businesses?

It’s fascinating to see how increasing numbers of Brands are now giving out their Facebook page on advertisements, posters, billboards and in other public places as their main online contact point.  More often than not they no longer even include their main website address in their advertisements. 

Even BBC Breakfast now gives out their Facebook page as the place to make contact and to ‘interact’ with the programme.

So what’s going on here?

Undoubtedly there are many brands who feel that their products will sit very comfortable amongst the Facebook demographic, or it could be that the functionality provided by the social networking site offers an exciting new way for customers to engage with them.  Or perhaps it’s simply because it feels like the ‘trendy’ thing to do to be seen to giving out your Facebook page instead of your main website address.  For sure, you don’t see too many Brands giving out any of their LinkedIn pages as their main contact point.

It could also be just plain laziness on behalf of some Brands, in that they can’t think of new ways to attract customers to and to retain them on their websites.  And after all, Facebook seems to offer something different, so why not just give it a try.

This brings up challenging questions for organisations:

·        Do you have a clear and robust enough Internet strategy that stands up in its own right, or are you just going with the flow?

·        What does the future hold for how a Brand or company (large or small) represents itself online?

Either way, by the way many firms use Social Media, it’s pretty clear to see that there is very little strategy behind their online presence.


Win a Radio Commercial for your IFA / Financial Planning Business!

What does your IFA business sound like?

Every time someone reads your marketing or advertising, visits your website, receives a letter, email or telephone call, watches a video you made, visits your social networking profile or generally comes into contact with your IFA business – they are exposed to your ‘company voice’.  Your company voice tells them a great deal about you and your business.

So have you ever stopped to think about what your company voice sounds like – perhaps a little dry, stuffy and lacklustre – or exciting, dynamic, vibrant, energetic and professional?  Ultimately it comes down to your company culture, your brand and the quality of your copywriting. 

Leading strategic sound expert and author of Sound Business Julian Treasure, says that sound is a great undiscovered country for business.  Most organisations are blissfully unaware of their sound – including both their company voice and the actual sound that their customers hear.

And yet sound affects people deeply; sound can change people’s behaviour in almost any commercial environment – including offices, shops, advertising, radio and on the Internet.

So just imagine the impact it would have if you could give your IFA business a real voice with real sound!

Now your IFA business could win an Audio or Radio Commercial with IFA Life!

The way an IFA sounds is now as important as the way an IFA looks.  And the Internet can give IFAs exciting new ways for people to learn and hear about you, your service and your reputation.

So IFA Life is delighted to announce an exciting and unique opportunity for IFA Life members to win an audio commercial for your IFA, Financial Planning or Financial Life Planning business.

Your commercial will be created by Airforce – one of the UK’s most well-known and established producers of radio commercials, jingles and advertising music.  Founded in the early eighties, Airforce helps advertisers large and small to make a noticeable improvement to their on-air sound and to maximise the effectiveness of every campaign.

How can I use my commercial?

You can use your prize commercial in a variety of ways, for example as part of a Podcast, as backdrop sound for your website, on your YouTube channel and other social networking sites, as background to a PowerPoint presentation or perhaps as part of a seminar, conference or networking event you are holding.  You can even approach your local commercial radio station with your advertisement and invest in an on-air advert package*.  It’s entirely up to you!

Your prize includes full production of your script by Airforce using selected professional voiceover(s), sound effects and library music plus approval by appropriate regulatory authorities as if for radio broadcast.  (Please note that the prize does not include an on-air broadcast package by a radio station)

Here’s what you have to do.

Simply write a script for your business which when read out, lasts no longer than 40 seconds.  The Airforce team will use a range of criteria to judge which script has the most potential to make a truly great commercial.  From there Airforce will work with you to adapt the script in order that it becomes an engaging radio commercial or audio soundtrack for your business.

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