60 second interview with Adam Benskin, Strabens Hall
Citywealth caught up with Adam Benskin, chief executive of Strabens Hall to find out how he is keeping the firm connected while staff continue to work from home, and finding solutions to clients’ challenges despite the market volatility.
Tell me about your role.
I am the chief executive of Strabens Hall, an independent Chartered financial planning and investment consultancy business I co-founded in 2007. I am responsible for managing the firm. My role requires me to engage with all aspects of our business, including advising clients, compliance, business development, mentoring staff, marketing, setting and implementing our strategy, recruitment, HR, finance, shareholders and our Board. Fortunately, I have a strong team to support me, which means that I am able to focus on areas at any given time where my attention is most needed. I thoroughly enjoy the varied nature of my role and the challenges it brings.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My typical day used to include a trip to our offices in Central London. However, since March last year, I have been ‘into town’ only four times and have been working from home. My typical day starts with coffee (a necessary morning fuel) and reviewing what needs to be achieved. I like to have a clear, prioritised list of tasks to focus on every day. At 9:00, we have a staff meeting for the whole firm three times a week (with an agenda that includes updates from different teams, compliance and a market update), a business development session (which includes reviewing our digital marketing strategy), and a management meeting. These meetings have become particularly important in the Covid world, because the natural office glue that used to help hold our business together has dissolved. We have found that our communication has improved as a result of remote working, although I miss seeing my colleagues in non-pixelated form. My days are quite varied, and usually include a client or prospect meeting, helping my team, reviewing and discussing advice, and attending to whatever challenges land on my desk! I generally keep my diary clear on Fridays for working on the business. And with the blurring of boundaries between work and home, I try to be disciplined about spending time with my family and taking regular exercise (I aim to run a minimum 100km this month).
Tell us about a recent client instruction.
I have enjoyed working with a lady who has recently been widowed and engaged us to help her with her late husband’s estate and how she should plan for her future. Her husband had managed the family finances, and she had limited knowledge about financial planning. Our advice included cash flow modelling to assess how much capital she needed to retain to support her expenditure, estate planning (through a combination of trusts and making gifts to her children), advising on her late husband’s UK and overseas pension arrangements, and recommending an investment strategy using third party discretionary managers. Over the past few months, her confidence has grown and she is no longer daunted at having to make decisions about her wealth.
What challenges do your clients face and how are you helping your clients to overcome them?
Many clients of ours are retired, and their challenges include protecting their capital and funding their expenditure. For example, through cash flow planning, we can help clients understand how much risk they might need to take to support their desired expenditure. Often, our clients can afford to take less risk than they might think. Moreover, funding expenditure through a combination of income and capital is generally more tax efficient than trying to use only income to support their cash flow. Our advice on how clients should structure their cash flows can result in significant tax savings, which in turn reduces the level of risk they need to take. We always advise clients to maintain a cash emergency fund (typically equivalent to 12 months’ expenditure), which has stood them in good stead during the market volatility of recent months, because they have not needed to draw from their investments at inopportune moments.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
Co-founding Strabens Hall and helping to build the business into the award-winning team that we are today.
Who do you most admire and why?
I admire many people for different reasons, such as for the personal sacrifices they make to help others, for their success in public life or business, for their artistic talents, or for their contributions to addressing the great challenges of our time (for instance, climate change, the global pandemic, and poverty, to name a few).
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Best piece of advice you have ever received?
Avoid unnecessary complexity – always try to find the simplest way to achieve your objectives or solve a problem.
If you weren’t in the wealth management industry, what else might you be doing?
I would be involved in an entrepreneurial business venture.