In January, when news started to surface in the UK of a potential global pandemic on the horizon, little did we know the profound effect this story would have on our lives less than three months later.
As we come to terms with both the short-term and long-term impact of the outbreak, I want to reassure you that Standard Life is here to support you and your clients during these very challenging times.
Since lockdown in the UK was announced, we've been closely monitoring the impact of the crisis and fully appreciate this affects everyone in different ways. Understandably, we've received a large number of telephone calls and we've been in touch with many of you with information about how to contact us online as an alternative.
Our continuity plans put Elevate in the best possible place to deliver against our commitments to you and your clients and have enabled us to stay open and accessible.
The challenges of volatility in the markets
Of course, market volatility will be of concern to many of your clients, particularly those in drawdown. Seeing the value of their holdings drop can be unnerving.
We're continuing to deliver on our 10% drop notification obligations but given the swings we've seen and how they may affect client outcomes over the longer term, we're waiting to see whether the regulator will undertake a formal review following the revised temporary guidance issued last month. Rather than notifications, the focus will perhaps be on capacity for loss. Take a look at my colleague Alastair Black's recent blog on capacity for loss for his insight on the subject.
We're seeing an increase in demand for outsourced Centralised Investment Propositions as the challenges of managing portfolios at times of stress become clear, especially regularly rebalancing portfolios at short notice.
Clearly there has been an increase in trading as portfolios have been repositioned but as always, the main priority is to remind clients of their investment fundamentals: what they're saving for, over what time period, and the level of risk they're prepared to take. But granted, this is not always easy!
Why you can rely on Standard Life Elevate
During this time of economic uncertainty, Elevate continues to be a financially secure platform with an A rating (Superior) from AKG for its financial strength. It means you can count on Elevate to continue to support your business and your clients, meeting their financial planning needs at a competitive price.
I'm also really pleased that we're continuing to implement updates to Elevate, and we successfully delivered Release 26 at the end of March. The release ensured you can keep trading with confidence and included the tax-year-end updates. We're already in the advanced planning stages for our next release and I look forward to sharing more on that with you soon.
Our aim with Elevate is to continue to provide leading functionality so that it's a very easy and efficient platform to use. The enhancements we've introduced have further improved the performance of the platform, providing continued scalability to support you and your clients.
Making income drawdown less confusing for clients
A part of Elevate's latest release due later this month, regulatory changes to our Key Features Illustration (KFI) for the platform's Pension Investment Account will be available.
The changes will give clients a summary of information to help make income drawdown less confusing and will encourage them to be more engaged with their pension pots. For example, the summary will give an overview of what the plan value might be at five years, ten years and at retirements as well as the impact of charges on the entire pot.
Adapting to working from home
The current government restrictions are of course having a significant impact on all of us, including parents and those caring for others.
As a working parent myself, I'm having to navigate a new way of working. In our household, we're ensuring we have a routine but I'm finding it's important to try and build in flexibility too. This has been invaluable when something unexpected happens, which is often the case with two pre-schoolers running around!
Having a desk space in the house helps to separate work and home life, but at the moment, just setting realistic expectations and staying in contact with colleagues and clients to maintain a sense of community should be the main goal for all of us.
We're here to support you
We have further information about our response to the COVID-19 crisis on our web pages, including more details of our business continuity measures, updates to our servicing and frequently asked questions.
When I started in this role at the end of last year, I made a commitment to you that, with your support, I'd drive a great Elevate proposition, delivering value and service to you and your clients.
None of us knew then what was around the corner and indeed, what is yet to come. I continue to be committed to driving a great Elevate proposition to you and your clients now in these unprecedented times, and in the future whatever that may look like.
The value of investments can go down as well as up and could be worth less than originally invested.
The views expressed in this blog should not be regarded as financial advice.