All Time High Anxiety

Record High Stock Prices

Investors are often conflicted about record-high stock prices. They are pleased to see their existing equity holdings gain in value but apprehensive that higher prices somehow foreshadow a dramatic downturn in the future. And they may be reluctant to make new purchases since the traditional “buy low, sell high” mantra suggests committing funds to stocks at an all-time high is a surefire recipe for disappointment.

Financial journalists periodically stoke investors’ record-high anxiety by suggesting the laws of physics apply to financial markets—that what goes up must come down. “Stocks Head Back to Earth,” read a headline in the Wall Street Journal in 2012. “Weird Science: Wall Street Repeals Law of Gravity,” Barron’s put it in 2017. And a Los Angeles Times reporter had a similar take last year, noting that low interest rates have “helped stock and bond markets defy gravity.”

Those who find such observations alarming will likely shy away from purchasing stocks at record highs.  But shares are not heavy objects kept aloft through strenuous effort. They are perpetual claim tickets on companies’ earnings and dividends. Thousands of business managers go to work every day seeking projects that appear to offer profitable returns on capital while providing goods and services people desire. Although some new ideas and the firms behind them end in failure, history offers abundant evidence that investors around the world can be rewarded for the capital they provide.

Whether at a new high or a new low, today’s share price reflects investors’ collective judgment of what tomorrow’s earnings and dividends are likely to be—and those of all the tomorrows to come. And every day, stocks must be priced to deliver a positive expected return for the buyer. Otherwise, no trade would take place. It’s difficult to imagine a scenario where investors freely invest in stocks with the expectation of losing money.

Humans are conditioned to think that after the rise must come the fall, tempting us to fiddle with our portfolios. But the data suggest such signals only exist in our imagination and that our efforts to improve results will just as likely penalize them.

Investors should take comfort knowing that share prices are not fighting the forces of gravity when they move higher and have confidence that record highs only tell us the system is working just as we would expect—nothing more.

Equilibrium Markets in the Time of COVID

When it All Began

The pandemic snuck up on investors. On December 31, 2019, the government in Wuhan, China, confirmed that dozens of people were being treated for a new virus. China reported its first death from the virus on January 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared a global emergency on January 30, and the first death outside China occurred in the Philippines on February 1. Financial markets took this news in stride. The UK’s FTSE 100 fell 1%, for example, from December 31, 2019, to February 20, 2020, and the S&P 500 rose 5% over the same interval. Things changed quickly, however, after that. Over the next month, stock indices around the world plunged, with both the S&P 500 and the FTSE 100 dropping by a third.

The behaviour of the Cboe Volatility Index (VIX)—the index that measures the expected volatility of the S&P 500 index over the next 30 days—is particularly interesting. The index started 2020 at about 14, below its long run average of roughly 18.5, and it was still close to 14 on February 20. Then it exploded. The expected volatility of the S&P 500 rose by a factor of six in less than a month, to a high of over 85 on March 18.

COVID Volatility

Why did volatility go up so much? The short answer is, because there was so much to learn. This was a new virus that caused a new and potentially fatal disease. In early March, we did not know how contagious or lethal it was, who was most vulnerable, what one should do to avoid it, whether masks were an effective deterrent, or whether it would go away in the summer. Every day brought new information—some accurate, some not so accurate—that investors tried to interpret and project into the future. When the news was better than expected, prices would shoot up. And when it was worse than expected, prices would plummet.

With all this uncertainty, why didn’t everyone sell? Because no one can sell if no one is willing to buy. Market prices are constantly adjusting to keep the number of shares people want to sell in line with the number people want to buy. After bad news about future cash flows, many investors would have been happy to sell at the old prices, but few investors wanted to buy there. Prices had to drop to attract buyers. And after good news, prices had to rise to attract sellers. Prices fell by one-third from February 20 to March 23 because, overall, the news was bad.

The high volatility in February and March 2020 almost certainly pushed prices down as well. The evidence is not conclusive about the effect of such great uncertainty, because this high level of volatility is rare and because it obscures signals about expected returns, but both logic and experience suggest that expected returns go up when risk rises. Since the expected return is also the discount rate, a higher expected return lowers the present value of the future expected cash flows, which drives prices down further. In fact, the S&P index hit its low for 2020 only five days after the VIX hit its high.

In short, in the early months of the pandemic, financial markets struggled to understand how COVID-19 would affect the economy, and volatility went through the roof. Prices dropped by about one-third, both because the overall news was bad and, almost certainly, because buyers demanded higher expected returns as compensation for their higher risk.

Stockholders who did not sell in February and March would have been rewarded for their fortitude. Although the market remained turbulent, with the VIX in the upper 20s through June and above 20 for the rest of the year, uncertainty gradually declined and many publicly traded firms prospered.

Presumably driven by higher expected cash flows and lower required returns, the S&P 500 rose 70% from the low on March 23, 2020, to December 31, 2020. Investors who weathered the pandemic’s turbulent impact for all of 2020 would have been rewarded with a cumulative return of 18% on the S&P 500 and 24% on the broad US market.*

The Basics of Investing

What is an Investment?

To put it simply, investing is the act of buying assets, with the expectation that they’ll increase in value over time. For example, when you buy a portion of a company, you’re buying a ‘share’. Your investment can then go up or down in value depending on the amount of growth that company makes. You could get back less than you invested if that company makes a loss. You can invest in all kinds of things such as property, government bonds and even gold. You can buy shares in the financial markets, a place where people buy and sell investments.

Capital Appreciation and Income

The rise in the share price is the capital return investors get from investing in the shares of a company. Income and dividends are a source of return and are paid by companies to investors.

The FTSE 100 Index® contains the biggest 100 UK companies you can invest in and is known as being home to many big dividend-paying companies.

Understanding Risk

As with many things in life, the less risk you take, the smaller your potential reward. Savings are where most people start; putting any spare cash to one side to build up a short-term safety fund in case of emergency. The rate of interest paid on money held in deposit accounts tends to be relatively low but the amount of cash you have shouldn’t fall in value.

Investments are long term savings, five years or more, where different amounts of risk can be taken. Investing is about putting money away either as a lump sum or regularly, providing the opportunity for your money to grow in value over the long term.

There is a wide choice of investment types each with their own pros and cons. For example, investing in riskier investments, such as the shares of companies in less developed markets because of factors such as political risk, means that there could be more bumps along the way, although there is more potential for higher returns. Charges might also apply to investments. Remember the value of investments can go down as well as up and you may get back less then was invested.

Work with Risk Not Against it

You can manage risk to help your money work harder. For example, put your money into lots of different investments and you’ll ‘spread’ or ‘diversify’ your risk. Just like not putting all your eggs into one basket, you won’t have all your money invested in one company that could suddenly fall in value. You can also invest little and often to help smooth out the zigs and zags of the market.

Another good way to manage your risk is to invest for long-term goals instead of short-term ones. For instance, invest for a goal at least five years from now. That could be anything from a house deposit, university fees for children or simply to grow your own pension pot. If your investment drops in value in the short term, you’ll be less likely to panic sell before it has a chance to go up in value again.

To sum up, risk may sound scary at first. But it’s the reason you could get a higher return on your money to begin with. When you see it that way, risk is a good thing, so long as it’s carefully managed.

Don’t Panic, Remember The Long Term and Seek Help

At times of uncertainty, it’s understandable to have a sense of worry. But when it comes to investing, it’s helpful to not let worry become panic. Investment decisions made under stress are rarely good ones. It’s wise to not let short-term volatility dictate long-term investment decisions.

And finally, it’s often sensible to seek help. Unless you’re an experienced investor, you may choose to leave investment decisions to someone else. Lane Financial Management Ltd can help build a suitable investment strategy that marries with your financial objectives and tolerance for risk.

Global Economic Update

How is The Global Economy Looking?

Economic Growth

High-frequency indicators in the United States point to strong demand for goods and services so far in the second quarter, in line with our expectations for a quarterly growth rate that could approach double-digits and be the strongest this year. Vaccine distribution remains on a trajectory to cover about 65% of the population by the end of June, allowing for a substantial reopening of the economy more broadly. US real GDP increased at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.4% in the first quarter.

 

GDP in the euro area declined by 0.6% in the first quarter compared with the preceding quarter, marking an official double-dip recession after a 0.7% contraction in the final three month period of 2020. But more recent data alongside generally stronger sentiment indicates the economy is likely growing again. We expect growth around 4% for all of 2021, as several countries have announced steps for easing Covid-19 restrictions and for GDP to reach its pre-pandemic level in the first half of 2022.

 

In the United Kingdom, GDP declined by a less than-expected 1.5% in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the previous three-month period, with the monthly estimate for March, at 2.1%, showing the fastest monthly rate of growth since August 2020. The UK economy was hit harder than the euro area earlier in the pandemic but has since realised a more successful vaccine rollout. As a result, we expect its growth trajectory to overtake that of the euro area later this year. Given encouraging developments around virus transmissions, we now see the UK economy growing in a range of 6.5% to 7% for all of 2021 – a stronger pace than our previous forecast of around 6%. We also expect GDP to reach its pre-pandemic level around the turn of the year, a few months before the euro area reaches that milestone.

Monetary Policy

The US Federal Open Market Committee voted on 28 April to leave the target range for its federal funds rate unchanged at 0%–0.25% and its bond-buying programme unchanged. Chairman Jerome Powell emphasised that it remained premature to discuss a tightening in policy and that the Fed would communicate potential changes to its $120 billion-per-month bond-buying programme well in advance of any tapering of purchases. We expect such guidance to ramp up in the second half of the year, but we don’t foresee the Fed raising its interest rate target until the third quarter of 2023.

 

The European Central Bank (ECB) left its key rates intact at its 22 April policy meeting, holding its main deposit rate unchanged at a negative 0.5%. The ECB reiterated that it would continue asset purchases under its Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PEPP) at least through March 2022 and that purchases for the remainder of the second quarter would “be conducted at a significantly higher pace than during the first months of the year.” ECB President Christine Lagarde said discussion on the phasing out of PEPP purchases was “simply premature”. We nonetheless expect the ECB to gradually slow its bond purchases starting in the third quarter of 2021 as economic activity picks up.

 

The ECB’s caution is in marked contrast with the Bank of England’s acknowledgment that it would slow the pace of its asset purchases for the rest of the year. At its 6 May Monetary Policy Committee meeting, the Bank of England maintained its bank rate at 0.1% and left its target for government bond purchases unchanged at £875 billion but signalled that it would slow the pace of its purchases from £4.4 billion a week to £3.4 billion a week. The bank also increased its forecast for 2021 UK GDP to 7.25%.

Inflation

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in the United States rose by a greater-than-expected 0.8% in April on a seasonally adjusted basis compared with March. Sharply higher prices for airline tickets and used cars reflected both a recovery driven rebound in activity and the near-term challenge of supply not keeping up with emerging demand. Headline inflation was up 4.2% compared with a year earlier, also greater than expected. Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose by 3.0% compared with April 2020. We expect headline CPI to hover around 3% for the rest of 2021 before dropping back toward 2% for most of 2022, with core CPI falling back below 2% in the second half of 2021 before rising marginally above 2% toward the second half of 2022 and into 2023.

 

Headline inflation rose to 1.6% in the euro area in April on an annual basis, up from 1.3% in March. Energy prices, up 10.4% compared with April 2020, accounted for the bulk of the gain. Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, was estimated to have risen by 0.7% compared with a year earlier. We expect higher relative energy prices to push headline inflation above 2% in the second half of the year and core inflation to gradually rise to a range of 1% to 1.5% as the pace of economic recovery quickens. Underlying price pressures, though, remain subdued amid weak labour bargaining power and low inflation expectations.

 

Headline inflation rose by 1.5% in April in the United Kingdom compared with a year earlier, following a 0.7% rise in March. Utility, clothing, and motor fuel prices made the greatest contribution to the gains. We expect headline inflation to rise above the Bank of England’s 2% target in the second half of the year on higher relative energy prices amid a strengthening economy. We expect core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, to approach the BOE’s target.

Employment

The unemployment rate in the United States rose to 6.1% in April as only 266,000 non-farm jobs were created, far below expectations for more than a million. We expect a high degree of variability in jobs numbers in the coming months as a labour market that turned off all at once wrestles with how to turn itself back on. We do expect factors keeping some workers side-lined to dissipate over the next several months.

 

Unemployment in the euro area fell to 8.1% in March from a revised 8.2% in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, with furlough schemes continuing to support employment. The unemployment rate was 7.1% in March 2020, near where it was at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

The unemployment rate in the United Kingdom fell to 4.8% in the three months to March and, down slightly from 4.9% in the quarter ended in February and the third straight three month period with a decline. We expects employment to be supported by the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme through September as part of the UK’s recently announced budget.

 

Financial Lessons to Remember

Gambling is Not Investing, and Investing is Not Gambling

Gambling is a short-term bet. If you treat the market like a casino, and you’re picking stocks or timing the market, you need to be right twice, in an aim to buy low and sell high. Fama showed that it’s unlikely for any individual to be able to pick the right stock at the right time, especially more than once. Investing, on the other hand, is long term. While all investments have risk, there are things you can do as a long-term investor to manage those risks and be prepared. The famous Nobel laureate Merton Miller once said, “Diversification is your buddy.” Investing, to me, is buying a little bit of almost every company and holding them for a long time. The only bet you’re making is on human ingenuity to find productive solutions to the world’s problems.

Embrace Uncertainty

Over the past 100 years, the US stock market, as measured by the S&P 500, has returned a little over 10% on average per year but hardly ever close to 10% in any given year. The same is true of dozens of other markets around the world that have delivered strong long-term average returns. Stock market behaviour is uncertain, just like most things in our lives. None of us can make uncertainty disappear, but dealing thoughtfully with uncertainty can make a huge difference in our investment returns, and even more importantly, our quality of life.

The way to deal with uncertainty is to prepare for it. Without uncertainty, there would be no opportunity to do better than a relatively riskless return like that from a money market fund. We always emphasize that risk and expected returns are related, which means you can’t have more of one without more of the other. Make the best-informed choices you can, then monitor performance and make portfolio adjustments as necessary.

Tune Out The Noise

If an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When people ask us if were investing in the latest shiny investment idea, I tell them, “If I don’t understand something, I don’t invest in it.” That’s because we’ve seen a lot of fads come and go.

TV pundits handing out stock tips? Friends letting friends in on their next big investment? We see these more as entertainment than information. Stress is induced when people think that they can time markets or find the next winning stock, or that they can hire people who can. There is no compelling evidence that professional stock pickers can consistently beat the markets. Even after one outperforms, it’s difficult to determine whether a manager was skilful or lucky.

The good news is you can still do well without having to find what markets might have missed. While markets are unpredictable and may even seem chaotic at times, they have an underlying order. Buyers and sellers come together and trade, which is the activity that sets market prices. Unless each side agrees to a price, they don’t trade. New information and expectations about returns are quickly incorporated. Consistently finding big winners is difficult, but everybody can have access to the expected returns that a diversified, low-cost portfolio can generate.

Stick to The Plan

It can be difficult to stay the investment course during periods of extreme market volatility. At the end of March 2020, the S&P 500 was down nearly 20% for the year. Record amounts of money exited from equity mutual funds and went into money market accounts. Those investors who stayed out of the equity market missed out on the subsequent 56% gain in the S&P 500 over the next 12 months. We will all remember 2020 for the rest of our lives. It serves as an example of how important it is to maintain discipline and stick to your plan.

By learning to embrace uncertainty, you can also focus more on controlling what you can control. You can make an impact on how much you earn, how much you spend, how much you save, and how much risk you take. This is where a professional you trust can really help. Discipline applied over a lifetime can have a powerful impact.

 

 

The Crypto Bubble and Important Considerations

The Crypto Debate

Bitcoin and related cryptocurrencies (now numbering in the thousands) are the subject of much debate and fascination. Given bitcoin’s dramatic price changes, it is not surprising that many are speculating about its possible role in a portfolio.

In its relatively short existence, bitcoin has proved extraordinarily volatile, sometimes gaining or losing more than 40% in price in a month or two. Any asset subject to such sharp swings may be catnip for traders but of limited value either as a reliable medium of exchange (to replace cash) or as a risk-reducing or inflation-hedging asset in a diversified portfolio (to replace bonds).

Crypto Considerations

Assessing the merits of bitcoin as an investment can be problematic. Adding it to a portfolio could mean paring back the allocation to investments such as stocks, property, or fixed income. The owner of stocks or real estate generally expects to receive future income from dividends or rent, even though the size and timing of the payoff may be uncertain.

A bondholder generally expects to receive interest payments as well as the return of principal. In contrast, holding bitcoin is similar to holding gold as an investment. Even if bitcoin or gold are held for decades, the owner may never receive more bitcoin or gold, and unlike stocks and bonds, it is not clear that bitcoin offers investors positive expected returns.

Putting aside squabbles over the future value of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, there are other issues investors should consider:

 

  • Bitcoin is not backed by an issuing authority and exists only as computer code, generally kept in a so-called “digital wallet,” accessible through a password chosen by the user. Many of us have forgotten or misplaced computer passwords from time to time and have had to contact the sponsor to restore access. No such avenue is available to holders of bitcoin. After a limited number of password attempts, a user can permanently lose access. Since there is no central authority responsible for bitcoin, there is no recourse for the forgetful owner: a recent New York Times article profiled the holder of more than $200 million worth of bitcoin that he can’t retrieve. His anguish is apparently not unusual—a prominent cryptocurrency consulting firm estimates that 20% of all outstanding bitcoin represents stranded assets unavailable to their rightful owners.

 

  • Mt. Gox, a Tokyo-based bitcoin exchange launched in 2010, was at one time the world’s largest bitcoin intermediary, handling over one million accounts in 239 countries and more than 90% of global bitcoin transactions in 2013. It suspended trading and filed for bankruptcy in February 2014, announcing that hundreds of thousands of bitcoins had been lost and likely stolen.

 

  • The UK Financial Conduct Authority cited a number of concerns as it prohibited the sale of “cryptoasset” investment products to retail investors last year. Among them were the inherent nature of the underlying assets, which have no reliable basis for valuation; the presence of market abuse and financial crimes in cryptoasset trading; extreme price volatility; an inadequate understanding by retail consumers of cryptoassets; and the lack of a clear investment need for investment products referencing them.

 

The financial services industry has a long tradition of innovation, and cryptocurrency and the technology surrounding it may someday prove to be a historic breakthrough. For those who enjoy the thrill of speculation, trading bitcoin may hold appeal. But those in search of a sound investment should consider the concerns of the Financial Conduct Authority above before joining the excitement.

Spring Budget 2021

Spring Budget 2021 Summary

There is no doubt that this has been one of the most anticipated Budgets in recent times. After a year seeing unique and significant fiscal policies that have supported the economy throughout Covid-19, there was pressure to see how the government would pay back the large amount of debt incurred during the pandemic, while maintaining an economic platform for growth. In addition, there is the need to help businesses through the post-Brexit transition period.

The Chancellor announced his ‘Budget for recovery’ with a clear focus on continuing and enhancing the economic support for Covid-19 and the rebuilding of public finances to ensure a post-Covid-19 financial recovery and a stable economic future.

Below you will find a summary of the key areas of the Spring Budget:

Income tax

There are no changes to income tax rates for 2021/22. The personal allowance and basic rate band have been increased in line with CPI. The new personal allowance will be £12,570 with the basic rate band increasing to £37,700, meaning that the higher rate tax threshold will be £50,270. The personal allowance and higher rate threshold will remain fixed until 2025/26.

 

Capital Gains Tax

While there was much speculation ahead of the budget on possible changes to CGT, there were no changes announced to CGT rates or the annual exemption. However, the annual exempt amount will remain frozen at £12,300 for individuals (and personal representatives) and to £6,150 for trustees of settlements, until 2025/26.

The Government intends to publish further tax consultations on 23 March, and we wait to see if CGT changes are amongst them.

 

Inheritance Tax

Both the nil rate band and residence nil rate band will remain fixed at £325,000 and £175,000 respectively until April 2026.

With the bands frozen for a further five years, this will bring more estates into the IHT net and increase the demand for advice on estate planning. We wait to see if IHT is included in the tax consultations set to be announced on 23 March and, if so, how these may affect wealth transfer.

 

Pensions

There will be no inflationary increases to the lifetime allowance (LTA) – it will remain at its current level (£1,073,100) until April 2026.

A prolonged period of no inflationary increases will mean that more and more clients may face LTA charges.

There were no changes to pension tax relief in the Chancellor’s Budget.

 

Corporation Tax

Corporation tax is set to rise to 25% from April 2023. However, small companies with profits below £50,000 will continue to pay at the current rate of 19%. There will also be a reintroduction of tapering relief for businesses with profits under £250,000 so that they pay less than the main rate.

 

Stamp Duty Land Tax

The current SDLT nil rate band of £500,000 for residential property acquisitions in England and Northern Ireland will be extended from 31 March to 30 June 2021, with a reduced nil rate band of £250,000 for acquisitions between 1 July and 30 September, after which it will revert to £125,000.

This will be helpful to the residential market and will reduce the current pressure on conveyancers who may be finding it difficult to arrange completion of contracts by 31 March. Although there was no announcement of ‘grandfathering’ of contracts exchanged before the relevant time limit but completed after that time limit, the two-step approach should reduce the ‘cliff edge’ effect of a sudden drop-in nil rate band from £500,000 to £125,000.

 

Government Backed 95% Mortgages

The Chancellor also announced a new mortgage guarantee scheme to help first-time buyers get on to the property ladder. The scheme will involve the government guaranteeing 95% mortgages, giving lenders the confidence to reinstate the low-deposit deals which had been withdrawn since the start of the pandemic. The scheme will be available on new and existing properties priced up to £600,000 and will allow buyers to fix their initial mortgage rate for at least five years. It will apply throughout the UK and will run until 31 December 2022.

 

Opportunities for Environmental and Social Investors

The government announced the introduction of a new Green Savings Bond, which will be available through National Savings and Investments (NS&I). The product will give ordinary savers the opportunity to invest funds which will be earmarked for ‘green projects’ such as renewable energy. Further details of how the new product will operate, including rates, are expected to be announced over the coming months in advance of the product launch in summer 2021.

Financial Vulnerability Charter

 

Our Commitment to the Financial Vulnerability Taskforce Charter

Lane Financial Management Ltd is committed to providing the highest possible level of service to its clients.  This commitment forms the very heart of our ethos and business culture. To that end Lane Financial Management fully embraces the Financial Conduct Authority’s concept of ‘Treating Customers Fairly’.

To further enforce this culture and to support a great initiative from the Personal Finance Society, we have committed ourselves to the Financial Vulnerability Taskforce and its Charter. This will help us to further enhance our advice process, making sure that we can continue to provide sound financial advice to clients in a wide variety of circumstances.

The Financial Vulnerability Taskforce aims to promote a greater understanding of vulnerability, encourage appropriate behaviours and establish good practice amongst personal finance professionals. It aims to do this by setting out 9 core principles in its charter in which firms, like ourselves, embed into their culture.

Additional information on the Financial Vulnerability Taskforce and its Charter can be found in this user friendly consumer guide.

https://www.thepfs.org/media/10125457/financial-vulnerability-taskforce-consumer-guide.pdf

The Financial Vulnerability Charter

 

1.Safe Pair of Hands

We acknowledge that as our services often involve the application of specialist and technical financial knowledge, this places many clients in a position of dependency and as such imposes upon us a greater moral duty to act in their best interests and as a ‘safe pair of hands’, especially to those who find themselves in vulnerable circumstances.

 

2.Clients Interests Above Our Commercial Interests

We accept that our professional obligation to use ‘best endeavours’ and place our clients’ interests above our commercial interests have a greater significance to clients who are in vulnerable circumstances and, therefore, at greater risk of detriment.

 

3.Vulnerability

We recognise that vulnerability can manifest itself in either physical, mental or emotional form (knowingly or otherwise), is dynamic in nature (short-lived or longer term, sometimes permanent, transient, recurring or fluctuating over time) and may be hidden.

 

4.Avoiding Client Assumptions

When working with clients who seek to access our services, we treat all fairly, regardless of their identity, age, gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, gender reassignment, religion or belief and guard against making assumptions about individuals.

 

5.We Believe That Language and Terminology is Important

We believe that the consistent use of specific language and terminology is important. Vulnerability relates to circumstances and not a category of person. As such, descriptions such as ‘those in vulnerable circumstances’ should be used at all times instead of ‘vulnerable individuals’, except when only referring to individuals or groups of individuals where vulnerability is permanent.

 

6.Our Professional Obligation to Behave with Sensitivity

We recognise that people in vulnerable circumstances are often unaware of their vulnerability and, if they are aware, might not acknowledge it nor wish to be described as vulnerable. We, therefore, accept our heightened professional obligations towards clients in vulnerable circumstances; and the need for raised awareness, greater sensitivity, and additional technical competencies.

 

7.Adapting Processes to Maintain Confidentiality

We seek to recognise clients in vulnerable circumstances and encourage all to self-declare if appropriate, safe in the knowledge that we will:

1.adapt our business processes and professional services, so our clients do not suffer detriment at any point as we seek to deliver outcomes at least as good as for those who are not in vulnerable circumstances.

2.maintain confidentiality and ensure our behaviours are fully compliant with all relevant legislation including The Equality Act (2010), Consumer Protection regulations, The Mental Capacity Act 2005 and data protection including GDPR.

We see application of the above as ‘business as usual’, part of our raison d’etre and not part of a separate compliance or ‘stand-alone’ exercise.

 

8.Ensuring our Staff are Knowledgeable and Appropriately Trained

We seek to enable all members of our organisations to deal compassionately, empathetically and effectively with those in vulnerable circumstances by raising awareness of vulnerability and by providing training to all within our organisations in appropriate methods of engagement and the effective discharge of our professional services.

 

9.Immediate Support

When we encounter clients in vulnerable circumstances and recognise that they may be in immediate danger of significant abuse or harm, or may need immediate support, we will take action to contact the appropriate authorities to mitigate the risks they face.                                                                                                                                                                             

 

 

 

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