Oakham based Independent Financial Planners, Efficient Portfolio, have won New Model Adviser’s Firm of the Year for the Midlands for 2020, beating all other firms in our area.
There are nine awards up for grabs: eight regional categories and a national title. The regions are: London, Scotland a& Northern Ireland, Wales, East of England, The Midlands, The North, The South East and the South West.
For a second year the shortlists were drawn up using submissions to the same questionnaire that generated their Top 100.
Charlie’s Acceptance Speech
“I am delighted and honoured to be given this award because it is testament to the culture we have built at Efficient Portfolio. Since I founded the company in 2006 we’ve tried to remain truly independent and deliver the best financial planning possible with the mindset of constant and never-ending improvement, so to be recognized as the best financial planning firm in the midlands is incredible, and shows that effort has paid off. A huge thank you to the incredible team EP, our clients and all of you at NMA for recognising our hard work.
“We say at EP we want to create a better future through inspirational financial planning. By that we mean a better future for our clients, our team and our industry. Hopefully by striving to constantly do things better we are achieving this aim. Thank you again NMA for this fantastic award.”
Key Statistics on Our Application
- Client numbers have shown consistent growth of approximately 150 each year for the last 3 years. Our funds under management have also grown in line with these figures;
- Employee numbers have grown by approximately 5% each year for the last 3 years;
- We are undertaking the British Standards certification, which demonstrates adherence to nationally recognised service and compliance standards;
- We are Chartered, placing us in the top 14% of all financial advisory practices in the UK;
- All of our advisers and paraplanners are fully qualified (with the minimum qualification of Dip PFS);
- We have undertaken various business development incentives, including collaborative webinars with local solicitors and accountants, various online tools via our websites; a new book (Entrepreneurial Happiness) and regular client educational and entertainment events;
- Our top priorities have been recruitment, education and development of our team and marketing (with a drive on client referrals, digital marketing and collaborative work with other industry professionals);
- We’ve offer paid GWPs (Graduate Work Placements) and non-paid work experience placements with local universities and schools;
- We’ve supported our local Foodbank by developing and executing a marketing strategy on their behalf. We also raised funds for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and SPARKS through various client events and sporting challenges. We also gave 1% of profit to charity;
- We offer various ethical investment solutions to our clients.
Why We Won
Each year our company aims to support one national registered charity and provide ad hoc support to an unlimited number of smaller, local causes. We are committed to gifting at least 1% of our profit on an annual basis to charitable causes, and will organise various fundraising activities throughout the year to support our chosen charities and causes. This includes, but is not limited to our Golf Day, Charity Ball, client entertainment events and individual endeavours (such as sports challenges).
When we select the causes we wish to support, we take into consideration any issues that may be affecting our team, clients or supporters. We always aim to help alleviate the problems faced by those in need and help to educate, raise awareness, fund research and provide direct financial support.
Supporting the Community
Our company may initiate and support community investment and educational programmes. For example, we actively welcome work-experience placements, utilise our experience and knowledge to directly assist charities (e.g. creating social media strategy for our local Foodbank) and we can provide support to non-profit organisations or movements to promote cultural and economic development of global and local communities.
As a firm we will actively promote and facilitate ESG investment options to our clients to enable them to invest in line with their own ethical standpoint. We work with Discretionary Fund Managers who are proactive in sourcing and utilising ESG options in their portfolios. We also use ESG options for our own investments, where possible.
Our Approach (Culture and Team Development)
We believe in providing our clients with not only the highest level of qualification and knowledge, but also a fresh, innovative and dynamic approach to financial planning. We have created a culture of constant and never-ending improvement, which is reflected through the ever-evolving training and learning resources we offer our team, by inviting our clients to give us regular face-to-face feedback, and by keeping a keen eye on developments in legislation, technology and opportunities. We are early adapters, so we are able to embrace and deliver change, thus creating a higher level of service to our clients.
Unlike most firms, we don’t just focus on our clients- we also place a huge emphasis on the continual growth of our team. Education, in terms of technical knowledge and overall wellbeing practices, ensure our team are at the top of their game and thrive in the workplace.
Our team are the backbone of our business, so we are continually looking for new and innovative ways to empower them and nurture their development. We operate a learning budget of £500 per person each year to cover exams, external courses and materials, and also offer inhouse weekly coaching sessions with our advisers and leadership team, to help expediate our team’s technical and industry knowledge. In addition, we have a Learning Library and a Learning Hub, which provide free books, webinars, podcasts and guides on a range of subjects such as mindfulness in business, marketing, leadership and financial specific topics.
The best way to deliver exceptional service is to ask our clients what they value and what could be improved. We hold an annual Client Feedback Lunch, where we invite a cross sections of clients to attend and provide their thoughts on the business. We also survey every single client within their first year. An example of our client testimonial is “I'm not sure Efficient Portfolio could have done anything better. When I was offered voluntary redundancy in 2018, they reworked my financial plan in double-quick time to map out the options available.” More examples can be found here: https://www.efficientportfolio.co.uk/testimonials/
We have a culture of taking on enthusiastic individuals who we can train in a truly independent environment. Our structured development programme leads employees through roles such as Client Relationship Manager and Paraplanner and cultivates high levels of knowledge and experience before they become a Financial Planner or Technical Manager. All of our team understand the whole process of offering sound advice and support and are exposed to a wide variety of complex scenarios and client needs. They are also able to learn and attain the right qualifications and experience.
We have a Trusted Team- a collaborative approach we take with solicitors, accountants and tax specialists, which means that our clients’ needs can be met by experts who we know to provide the highest levels of service. We meet regularly over morning workshops, where we share ideas and work to deliver the best possible service for our mutual clients.
Subscribe to our Friday Footnotes
Please find below a link to the Planning and Implementing a Successful Exit from Your Business guide from our very own Charlie Reading.
Please find below a link to the PMX guide where our very own Tom Senogles article 'How to grow your business during lockdown'
In July 2020, our Director, Charlie Reading, was once again asked to appear on the Clive Bull show on LBC Radio. Listen to the full broadcast here.
Winners of the Mercury Business Awards 2019 crowned at Greetham Valley with a celebration of the best in Stamford, Rutland and Bourne
The winners of the 14th annual Mercury Business Awards were crowned at a glittering awards ceremony tonight (Friday, September 20) at Greetham Valley.
After months of anticipation, the finalists, main partners, category and associate sponsors, judges and guests gathered at Greetham Valley to celebrate all that is great about business in the Stamford and Rutland area.
Hosted by Rutland Radio's Rob Persani, the winners in 10 categories each took home a trophy made from Lincolnshire Limestone which was kindly supplied by Clipsham Stone Cutting Company. There were 27 businesses represented with three shortlisted in each of the categories.
Addressing the audience of more than 260 guests, Rutland and Stamford Mercury editor Kerry Coupe said the evening was "about celebrating the best of our community" and said the standard of entries had once again been incredibly high.
The evening began with a drinks reception, kindly sponsored by Moore Thompson, and canapes, giving guests an early opportunity to network.
Before the meal, Claire Lomas, who was left paralysed from the chest down after a horse riding accident in 2007, talked about what gave her the motivation to battle back.
During a delicious meal, guests had the opportunity to enter a prize draw and donated generously to the Mercury's nominated charity The Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation - a charity close to Claire's heart. Prizes included a unique framed star-map of the night sky above Greetham Valley; two vouchers for Stamford Shakespeare Company's 2020 productions at Tolethorpe; and a golfing voucher. More than £1,300 was raised from the draw.
During the awards ceremony, videos produced by Leo Media, were shown throughout the presentation giving guests a flavour of each business or individual and why they deserved to be finalists.
The winners were:
- Best New Start-Up: Quibble Content (Uppingham)- Sponsored by Hegarty LLP
- Best Independent Retailer: Peters' Cleaners (Stamford) - Sponsored by Oldrids & Downtown
- Business Innovation: Pocket Sergeant (Market Deeping) - Sponsored by Alltech
- Best Social Enterprise: MindSpace Stamford - Sponsored by New College Stamford
- Customer Care: Emma Savage Travel Counsellor (Wittering) - Sponsored by Bluebird Care
- Great Taste: Knife Fork and Spooner (Ketton) - Judged by Richard Olsen, of Stamford Chamber of Commerce
- Employee or Team of the Year: Efficient Portfolio (Oakham) - Sponsored by MorePeople
- Businesssperson of the Year: Chris Needham, The Danish Invader (Stamford) - Sponsored by Duncan & Toplis
- Small Business of the Year: Old English Company (Uffington) - Sponsored by Greetham Valley
- Large Business of the Year: Urban Edge Architecture (Stamford) - Sponsored by Chattertons
Mercury editor Kerry Coupe said afterwards: "Once again the Mercury Business Awards were a tremendous success and we were delighted to share the amazing achievements of our winners and finalists, all of whom should be congratulated.
"My thanks also go to our sponsors and supporters - without you the event just would not be possible - and especially to Greetham Valley, who once again were fantastic hosts. It really was an amazing night."
Around the end of 2015, having not long completed the 142-mile bike ride through the Welsh mountains known as The Dragon Ride, I was looking for inspiration for my next challenge. Do I cycle longer, higher, or something else? I started to read Rich Roll’s ‘Finding Ultra’ an inspiring story of a mid-life crisis suffering 40 year old that is an overweight, unfit alcoholic, that ends up becoming a vegan and then an Ironman.
Could I do a triathlon in 2016? I hadn’t run or swam since school, and was pretty rubbish at both then, but having gained my confidence with cycling, why couldn’t I master them too. I dared to dream big, and I set myself the challenge of completing a ½ Ironman by the end of the following year, and so it was. I also set myself the 3-year goal of an Ironman, although that was something that I really wasn’t sure would ever be possible. It seemed so unattainable; I nearly didn’t bother writing it down. After all, running a marathon after 112 miles on the bike and a 2.4-mile swim. That is no mean feat!
Two times age group world champ, Roger Canham, had been helping get my training on track, and my race plan in order, and a final lunch meeting the Monday before had proved crucial in filling in some vital gaps. Who’d have thought that popping salt tablets before and during the race, elastic bands around caps and taking sponges into the portaloo would be a thing, but you would not believe how key little tips like that were to successfully finishing. I am a big believer that if you want to succeed at something, you need to find the best people you can and learn as much as you can from their experience.
At the airport I started to see other people pushing bike boxes too. The tribe was coming together. I felt like I looked the part, as Roger had lent me his bike box which was covered in stickers from world championship race after another. The flight was on time, which was a relief because only a few days before did I realise that the race briefing, where you find out some of the specifics of the race, was going to take place less and an hour after I was due to arrive, a day before I was expecting it. My ongoing hatred of car hire companies was then to be enhanced when, on arrival, they didn’t have a car for our booking. The 2-hour delay cost me the race briefing, but fortunately Mum and Dad had landed a day earlier, so they hot footed it down to the race village to record the briefing. I can only imagine the looks they got from my fellow competitors trying to work out which one was racing!
Registration was my first experience of the Ironman phenomenon. Into the village I went, collecting my race pack, my long-awaited Ironman rucksack, the envy of those that haven’t got one, and then into the Ironman store. Devoted fans queued to hand over their hard-earned cash in exchange for anything with the famous IM logo, many of which had already had this tattooed onto their calf muscles following previous events. I will know that Efficient Portfolio has made it when people are getting our logo tattooed onto their skin! I couldn’t bring myself to buy anything yet though, I didn’t want to jinx my race prematurely.
There were so many things going through my head. Will I be able to reconstruct my bike, will it be intact, what have I forgotten, and what are the unknown unknowns? The day before was about getting everything into the right race bags; 5 in all. One for before and after, one for the bike leg, one for the run leg, and 2 ‘special needs’ bags that would be placed on the course should I need additional supplies. I took the bike out for a half hour ride to check everything was in working order, including my legs! I tried for the first time to put my cycle shoes on whilst in motion on the bike, to save time in transition as with a 1km line of bikes to get through, I didn’t want to be doing that on tiptoes in my cycling shoes if I could help it. I failed tragically at that and resigned myself to having to put them on after crossing the bike mount line. Turns out that was the wrong call.
Next stop was back to Ironman village to rack my bike and hang up my bags ready for the early start the following day. Walking the 1km through transition, seeing some of the most impressive bikes I have ever seen, the nerves were jangling. I noticed some people had attached small elastic bands to the back of their shoes on the bikes so that they could easily pop their feet into them after already jumping aboard. That is where I had been going wrong. Too late now.
Leaving transition without bike or bags was both a relief and a worry. Nothing I could do now… except spend money on Ironman branded attire. The queue was longer than the before, and things were starting to run out. Forget jinxing the run, I needed Ironman branded stuff and now!
Dinner was tricky; I needed large amounts of pasta, which shouldn’t be difficult in Italy, but almost nowhere was serving food until 7. I didn’t want to wait, and we finally tracked down a local establishment that could deliver the huge helping of seafood pasta my final preparations required. Prego, I was ready to race!
After an early start, my usual breakfast with added beetroot juice and salt tablets, we jumped in the car at 6am. By 6.30 I was in transition getting my final bike checks done, applying body glide to avoid sores; no not where you are thinking, around my neck; and then donning my wetsuit.
I arrived at the beach to see a calm Adriatic Sea in front of me. Brilliant news, as only 2 days before the waves had been crashing in under a red flag. If they cancel the swim, they usually add more running, which is awful news; both because of the extra running, but because you can’t truly say you’ve completed an Ironman without getting into the water! The swim was on, and wetsuits were allowed. That was a relief, as I was already wearing mine! I was welcomed to the start line by the music from Gladiator… let the battle commence.
Once the pros were in, the rolling start of the age groupers (me and 3000 other people from around the world) commenced, with 6 athletes entering the water every 5 seconds. Quite a sight to see. It worked flawlessly. With Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes blaring away in the background, my time came at around 8am. I was in the water.
The swim went well. No major surprises. The high salt level of the water led to a numb tongue after just 15 minutes, a first for me, but I’d read about that happening to someone the year before, so it didn’t worry me. I didn’t want to push myself too hard. A 2.4-mile swim is no mean feat anyway, but as far as the day goes, this is the thin end of the wedge. I’d targeted 1 hour 15 minutes for the swim, so as I exited the water and saw 1 hour 5 minutes on my Garmin, I was delighted. And I felt good.
Through the shower to rinse off the saltwater, I headed towards transition, and was delighted to see Caryl and my folks shouting and cheering me on. Now I was feeling even better. In transition, I battled to put on my tri top; perhaps I should have swam in that too, I thought. I hadn’t been liberal enough with the body glide, and so I had a sore patch on my neck that screamed at me as I sprayed it with sunscreen. No time for pain now though. I have a bike to ride.
I didn’t quite get the bike element of the transition right and wasted a good couple of minutes faffing with gloves that I later concluded were not needed and not putting my helmet on soon enough. I do hope that doesn’t cost me a time landmark, I thought. People had kept asking me in the lead up to the event what time I was hoping for. I said 12 hours to some, and 13 to others, as I had no idea. One experienced running client looked in shock when I said 12 hours, and said that would be a struggle to beat, so I really had no idea, but in the back of my mind, I really wanted less than 12 hours.
The bike ride was a mostly flat 112 miles. We went out through the salt plains, where Flamingos were supposed to be; I’d been mis-sold, there were none. No time to worry about that now though. I’d targeted an average speed of 18mph for the ride, which would bring me in a little over 6 hours. After the salt plains we went through fruit farms followed by vineyards, through the beautiful town of Forlimpopoli with its stunning castle in the centre and then onto the one climb of the route. A long drag up to another beautiful town called Bertinoro, with its striking fortress and view back across to the Adriatic sea from which we had come. We did 2 laps of the route, and as I headed back towards Cervia after the second lap I was delighted to have maintained an average speed of over 20mph. Again, way ahead of my expectations and time wise meant I finished that leg in 5 hours and 35 minutes, over 30 minutes quicker than I’d expected.
Even better, I was still feeling good. I had spent the time on the bike loading up with energy bars and salt tablets, in preparation for a hot and long marathon. Bizarrely though, I was really looking forward to it. Transition from bike to run, or T2 as it is known, went more smoothly, and in no time I was out running down the streets of Cervia, along the coastline, weaving through tree lined avenues and through old market squares rammed full of enthusiastic supporters.
My only prior marathon had been in Brighton in April, when I came in after 3 hours and 57 minutes, but that wasn’t as part of an Ironman. I’d been told to assume that an Ironman marathon would take me ½ hour longer than one of its own, so I was assuming 4 ½ hours, but again, I’d never run anything like this distance in a multisport event, so you really have no idea.
Towards the middle of the first lap I first spotted my Dad, and then Caryl with my Mum. At an event like this, it is brilliant to have strangers cheering you on and shouting your name, but it is no comparison to seeing the faces of the people you love encouraging you to continue. I was in buoyant mood and bouncing along at a really good pace. Perhaps too good a pace, but my heart rate remained under 150, and that was my main focus for the first hour to ensure I lasted the distance!
My plan for the run included what is known as a Run/Walk/Run strategy. Having played around with it in Brighton and in training, I had concluded that it was the best way to maintain a good pace, and to reduce the risk of injury. My plan, as with Brighton was to run for 9 minutes, walk for 1 minute, then repeat. Whilst it makes you slower at the start of the run, in a marathon, and particularly in an Ironman it is more about slowing down less than other people, and so by the end of the race you are in far better shape to maintain a good pace.
My legs still felt good on the second of the four 6.5 mile laps, but my stomach was starting not to. All those energy bars, gels and isotonic drinks were starting to slosh around inside me, and it wasn’t comfortable at all. It was a fine balance between getting enough inside me to keep going, and not putting enough inside me to be ill. I could feel I was on the brink of both.
The third lap was when I started to hit some dark places. My stomach was feeling worse, and even flat coke, a good solution for an upset stomach, was making it worse. I concluded that my stomach was the biggest risk to me not finishing the race, so for the 4th and final lap I decided that I’d be better off not eating or drinking anything, and hope I already had enough fuel inside me to get me to the line. For the first 3 miles of this final 6.5-mile stretch, I started to feel better as my stomach eased. Then came the exhaustion, and instead of almost missing my 1 minute walks because I was happily bounding along as was happening at the start, I was now counting down each and every minute until the next one.
As I persuaded myself to run again with 2 miles to go after what seemed like the briefest of 1 minute walks, I resigned myself to now giving everything I had left to finish as quickly as possible. Unbelievably I wasn’t far off my 4-hour marathon pace, and with one last push, I may sneak under an 11 hour finish. That would be a whole hour better than I had dreamed of. I gave it everything I had, and as I crossed the finish line, my watch said 10 hours and 58 minutes. Amazing. Sadly, the official timing chip didn’t agree, and my official time was 11 hours and 1 minute! If only I hadn’t bothered with those blasted bike gloves!
All I could do at that point was to sit. I had given everything. There was a huge wave of excitement, exhaustion and achievement running through me, and I just needed 5 minutes to myself to collect my thoughts before I went off to celebrate with my loyal supporters.
Over the course of that weekend some 7000 competitors descended on Cervia to complete in either the Ironman, the half Ironman, an Olympic distance triathlon, a night run and even an Ironkids event. That is the largest of any Ironman weekend on the planet. The organisation, the spectacle and the people were just amazing. I couldn’t fault a single element. Every one of them had their own battle to fight. In the Ironman event we saw one competitor with one leg, and another with none. The strength in character of these people, and all of them for that matter, is something quite special.
When I set that goal 3 years ago, it seemed so unachievable that I nearly didn’t bother. It really is amazing what you can achieve with a clear plan in mind. By setting the goal, you make the commitment, and that gives you to courage to move forward. That courage allows you to find the way, the capability of how to achieve it, and that capability gives you the confidence to get it done. The question now is, what is next for my goals? Almost certainly, it will feature another Ironman at some point. This was too exciting a journey not to want some more!