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Why White Oak Financial Planning doesn't outsource investments

The decision not to outsource investment gives Tom Wilcox-Jones, director of White Oak Financial Planning, the freedom to choose the products that best suit each individual client

Why White Oak Financial Planning doesn't outsource investments

One of Tom Wilcox-Jones’s top tips is to go to others for help. ‘I ask old colleagues and friends for advice all the time,’ the Chester-based White Oak Financial Planning director said. ‘My experience is people are happy to help and want to see you succeed.’

This is one reason the 33-year-old got on his feet so quickly after launching his own business in June 2017. It is also why the firm can already offer a relatively diverse investment proposition, despite being a ‘team’ of one.

White Oak is an affiliated representative of London-based Blackstone Moregate, where Wilcox-Jones previously worked. Blackstone Moregate directors Richard Hopkins and Vijay Thakkar allowed Wilcox-Jones to take 18 clients with him when White Oak was set up. These clients remain on Blackstone Moregate’s investment proposition.

Intelligent decision

But, for White Oak’s 19 new clients, Wilcox-Jones provides 10 risk-rated model portfolios across several platforms. These are replicas of the model portfolios produced by research company Rayner Spencer Mills, which Wilcox-Jones has access to through his membership of compliance and support group Sifa.

White Oak’s clients typically have around £300,000 to invest. But Wilcox-Jones is working with software provider Intelligent Office to build an automated online service for lower-value clients (those with up to £50,000 to invest).

This will have no implementation fee, a risk-profile questionnaire, and pre-made model portfolios on the Cofunds platform. It will produce automatic reports and valuations and offer access to White Oak’s client portal, which is also provided by Intelligent Office.  

‘I know it’s in vogue to outsource to a discretionary fund manager, but then you have the added charges,’ he said. ‘What really works well is having the independence to say which product most suits a client and not be tied to a platform or product.’

Focus on flexibility

The Rayner Spencer Mills medium risk model portfolio has outperformed the Investment Association Mixed Investment 40%-85% Shares benchmark, by 11.6% versus 9.2% over one year. The JPM Japan fund, managed by Citywire A-rated Shoichi Mizusawa, AA-rated Miyako Urabe and A-rated Nicholas Weindling, has been a good contributor in the short period White Oak’s model portfolios have been running. The Japan fund is ranked 25th out of 134 in its sector for its 23.9% total return in 2017.

The First State Asia Focus fund, managed by A-rated pair Martin Lau and Richard Jones, has been another good contributor. Lau has held a Citywire rating every month since 2016, bar September and October last year. A third notable performer in the portfolio is the Old Mutual UK Mid Cap fund, managed by AAA-rated Richard Watts.

For Wilcox-Jones, though, matching asset allocations to the risk profiles of clients is more important than fund selection. White Oak’s model portfolios are aligned to Dynamic Planner’s asset allocations and risk profiler.

The ability to change allocations if necessary is equally important. ‘Things go bad for clients when they don’t have the flexibility to change and have to make wholesale switches,’ he said.

Cherry picking

Wilcox-Jones’s focus on risk profiling and asset allocation has led to a preference for active management. Indeed, active funds make up 90% of his model portfolios.

‘My personal view is selecting those actively managed funds that perform better [than passive funds] isn’t particularly hard.’ But he conceded, having been running his own model portfolios for less than a year, the key will be sticking with funds that continually do better. ‘But that’s where using research companies helps,’ he pointed out.

‘I also think we’re approaching what will be a fairly volatile time in the markets,’ Wilcox-Jones added. ‘We’ve had a bull run for so long now that things could start to get dicey. So having actively skilled, actively managed funds will bear fruit compared with being in broad brush passive investments.’

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