A word from our conference chair … Steve Hennessy FPFS, Beeswax Wealth Management
It is still early days, but I think this year’s conference will be looked back at as a pivotal moment for our growing community of specialists.
First and foremost, after a four-year break it was a real pleasure to get back in the same room. We are a relatively close-knit and friendly bunch, and there was a real sense of encouragement and support amongst delegates. We are all looking forward to this conference becoming a regular fixture in the calendar.
We were blessed with an exceptional array of speakers from a wide range of professions – financial planners of course, but also a family law solicitor (Alison Bull reminding us of the value we can add as financial planners), a barrister (Rhys Taylor has forgotten more about pensions on divorce than I’ll ever know!), an actuary (I mean, who better to talk about the Galbraith Tables than Jonathan Galbraith!), and the multi-talented Dr Supriya McKenna.
If the conversation in the bar was anything to go by, the notes and slides will be referred back to for a long time to come.
As I said in my opening remarks, devoting oneself to any specialism can sometimes be a bit of a lonely slog, and so networking and building relationships with peers is key to feeling part of something bigger.
People’s motives for being at the conference varied – some were looking to explore a new niche, others were experienced practitioners seeking to deepen their expertise in a technically diverse field. Everybody left with what they came for, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
This has always been my motivation in putting the conference together – to get us talking to each other and, importantly, to other family justice professionals, so that we can better assist the families we all serve.
What a pleasure and privilege to speak at and be a delegate at this conference, attended by about 30 Resolution specialist accredited financial advisers and 50+ interested or aspirant specialists.
Conference chair Steve Hennessy introduced the conference, welcoming everyone battling the train strike, the latest banking crisis, the previous day’s fairly significant budget, and the impending tax year-end. Steve’s enthusiasm for being specialist in this area was palpable – and it was good to hear how lovely he regards all the people who work in this area. The theme was collaboration – working with each other – so that everyone, especially our clients, benefits.
The first speaker – introduced as the opening number akin to the Eagles opening at Wembley with Hotel California (no pressure) – was Tamsin Caine, award-winning financial adviser (at the Resolution awards in 2022). Tamsin set up her specialist financial advisory business Smart Divorce in 2019, and produces the very well regarded Smart Divorce podcast. She talked very engagingly about “Marketing your Divorce Business”.
Her tips included identifying your USP, immersing yourself in the world of divorce, learning everything you can, and identifying your ideal client and how you can help them. Will they recognise themselves from your website, blogs, social media? Have a marketing plan – schedule posts weekly and monthly. Keep a record and reuse them. From one blog you should be able to get multiple pieces of content for elsewhere on SM. Be consistent and keep going. Have an opinion and be who you are. Join Resolution. Talk the language (jargon).
Next up was “Pensions on Divorce post-PAG” with the well-known Rhys Taylor, Paul Cobley, and Jonathan Galbraith (a delegate and commandeered from the audience to speak re his tables).
Excellent as always, there were learning points for everyone and a plug for the upcoming PAG2 report, which should address apportionment, offsetting and the Galbraith tables to value DB pensions; and possibly not now the LTA, although there no doubt will be all sorts of questions arising from the announced budgetary changes. The focus was on flagging the points being discussed by family lawyers, and the recent cases. Far too many to cover here!
If you haven’t seen Paul Cobley’s pictorial representation of the divorce process showing the timing of transfer day, start of implementation period, valuation day etc, then check it out on his website. Paul also showed a graph demonstrating the market turbulence over recent times. It very obviously demonstrated the uncertainties of the Ukraine war, Liz Truss’s short premiership etc, and he emphasised the importance of just settling on a figure in times of huge uncertainty. The numbers will change by the implementation date – that being the only real certainty in relation to them! Ironically DB scheme values have not changed so much due to the increase of annuity rates.
Jonathan then spoke about offsetting and the Galbraith tables; check these out if you haven’t already on the Mathieson Consulting website. Almost all negligence cases involve offsetting – where no PODE report and CEVs were used.
Rhys reviewed numerous cases, including W v H (Divorce financial remedies)  EWFC 810 and CMX v EJX (French marriage contract)  EWFC 136, and emphasised the importance still of having a PODE report even in cases that do not meet the High Court allocation criteria.
I then spoke about how solicitors and financial advisers work together to help separating families in divorce cases. The delegates were very helpful in explaining their experience – being a mix of those advisers who work regularly with divorcing clients and couples to advise in mediation, the collaborative process, and now “one lawyer, two clients”, as well as in support of solicitor negotiation and court proceedings, and some delegates who are starting out on the advisory journey in this area or are undecided as to whether to commit to it.
I gave some context to the legal background, and then we held a discussion on what assistance is likely to be needed, as well as how, when and why we should work together more. Work to be done here!
Lottie Kent of True Financial Design then gave a very well-received talk about “Completing the IFA accreditation – the reality”. Her many practical tips will be hugely valuable to those embarking on what is a very demanding process – some of these tips are set out here.
After lunch we heard from Dr Supriya McKenna on “Narcissism and divorce” and if you haven’t heard her or Karin Walker speak on the subject then you should definitely read one of their books – Divorcing a Narcissist (for clients) or Narcissism and Family Law (for family lawyers). She explained that narcissistic personality disorder is a common occurrence in the general population and more prevalent in relationship breakdown. Caused by low self-esteem, those with NPD have a lack of emotional empathy (although can feign it), a sense of entitlement, and a feeling that rules and laws do not apply to them. They have to be in control and regularly gaslight. They have many other unpleasant traits and will employ them all with their former spouse – and quite likely also their legal or financial adviser. Find out more from the podcast “Narcissists in divorce – the lure, the loss and the law”. Supriya also offers online courses and 1-2-1 support – see www.doctorsupriya.com and www.thelifedoctor.org
Mark Penston then spoke about “Developing a pensions sharing service that supports family lawyers and their clients”, explaining his journey from starting doing PODE reports when pension sharing first become possible (in 2000) to what is now a very successful practice with two accredited specialists and three other Resolution financial adviser members, producing PODE reports and advising divorcing couples. Again, joining Resolution was one of his tips and tricks – of which there were many. Mark sets out more detail here.
“Financial neutrals and PODEs – a joined up approach to assisting clients” was next, from Ian Hawkins of Southdown Consultants Ltd & Oculus Wealth Management (Wombourne) Ltd, explaining what a financial neutral is, how it differs from being a PODE, and how a financial neutral may be able to assist potentially with needing a PODE report, or perhaps by just asking the “1% question” – if there is a PSO of 1% against a DB scheme, what would the reduction to the pension member be at age 67 and benefit for the other at age 67? See here for further thoughts from Ian.
Last, but certainly not least, was “Cash flow modelling in divorce” by Tom Farrell of Tom Farrell Financial & Mediation, demonstrating how cash flow modelling can be used, with particular tips about how to set up a model case to facilitate plugging in the numbers when meeting with the clients. He also talked about how to manage Duxbury assumptions in this setting, and how to coach clients separately on how a different outcome may be produced by using arguably more realistic assumptions.
All in all, a fantastic conference with a great bunch of people. Here’s hoping that family lawyers, financial advisers and therapists team-working together becomes far more common in the very near future.