As we approach the festive period, we wanted to reflect on the year that has just passed. Looking back at 2021, it has been an extremely busy year for the BlueSKY team.
2021 started in lockdown with all the team working from home (except for Jack, who has done a sterling job throughout the Covid period manning the phones and sorting out our post in the office).
As a team, our move to working from home over the last 21 months has been successful. We hope you agree that we have managed to maintain the high standards of customer service and response times that we pride ourselves in.
We are, however, a team-based organisation and think that we work best when all together in the office. In the second half of 2021 we all got back to our desks and started to welcome you all again to the office.
While we are still very happy to offer online meetings with you all going forward, as this can be a very efficient way to catch up, we are able to offer face-to-face meetings once again for those of you who would prefer to deal with us in this way.
As a client-facing organisation, we feel that it is important for us to sit down in the same room as our clients on a regular basis, although we understand that there are occasions when an online meeting works best. So, we will be offering both online and face-to-face meetings for the foreseeable future.
New faces and new services
To help deliver an even better service, we took on Mike, our new Chartered financial planner, at the start of the year. Mike has fitted into the team extremely well and is very busy helping our clients.
This year we also introduced some new service features for BlueSKY clients, which had been requested in the 2020 client survey. These include quarterly investment newsletters and regular themed monthly articles.
Back in the spring we asked you all if you’d be kind enough to leave a review through Google or VouchedFor. We are thrilled that you left more than 100 reviews across both platforms.
The positive reviews give a great boost to the team and help us attract new customers by demonstrating the good work that we do and how it has made a difference to people’s lives.
A few of you have very kindly volunteered to take this even further and have appeared in video testimonials, which we will add to the website imminently. We are grateful to you all for leaving us reviews as it really does make a difference.
Working closely with solicitors and other professionals
Some of you know that, as well as the great financial planning work that we do, we also work closely with solicitors by assisting them and their clients in sharing financial assets on divorce.
This is a hugely rewarding part of the work that we do as our input often leads to a breakthrough where both parties feel able to move on.
This year has seen a substantial increase in the number of enquiries that we get from our family lawyer contacts. This adds another string to our bow and further endorses the good work that we do.
We also support many couples and individuals who are going through divorce by producing literature and guides to help them navigate the complex world of pensions and finance on divorce. In January, we even started a Facebook campaign where we offered access to a free guide on the financial aspects of divorce.
To further cement our standing with matrimonial lawyers, back in April we presented a series of six webinars focusing on some of the technical aspects of pensions and pension sharing. More than 500 lawyers attended these webinars and we have added these to our website to provide invaluable training material for family lawyers.
One of the UK’s top 100 financial planning firms
To build on the great reviews that you gave us, as a business we were shortlisted for a couple of prestigious national awards in the third quarter of the year.
As you may know, we were finalists in the Money Marketing Best Retirement Adviser of the Year category, and New Model Adviser recently included us in their UK Top 100 financial planning firms for 2021.
Along with your reviews and testimonials, receiving recognition of this nature is a real endorsement of the work we do for our clients. It also provides us with valuable areas of feedback where we can try and improve going forward.
A focus on the environment
In the third quarter of the year, we started to introduce our new ESG portfolios to some of you. These portfolios consider factors such as a corporation’s environmental impact, and their approach to corporate governance, when investing.
This is an area that we will be talking to you all about over the course of the next 12 months. With climate change and other environmental and social issues firmly in the headlines this year, we felt it was important to make sure that we were able to offer investment options for those of you who wanted to express your views through your savings.
Aligned with our ESG focus for 2021, we have been raising money for the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust. Through our fund-raising activities (which included several of the team running the Reading half-marathon), we have been able to raise a significant sum for this great cause.
Thank you for your support, and merry Christmas
Looking back, 2021 has been a year where things started to get back to normal. And, by and large, it has also been a good year for investment returns (although, as we write this article, the Omicron Covid variant is giving markets the jitters).
Our advice remains the same: avoid short-term panic and look to the long term.
We are not resting on our laurels, and we will be looking at further ways to improve our service to you in 2022.
In the short term we are looking to recruit another client relationship manager and another technical expert to help with the service that we provide. In 2022 we will also be issuing our biennial survey and would welcome your views on how we are performing and what enhancements you may wish to see.
If, at any time, you feel that you have suggestions for how we could make things even better, then we would love to hear from you.
We wish you all a very happy Christmas and look forward to seeing you in 2022.