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Gareth’s personal story of profit and loss

I am not sure when my interest in financial services, financial markets and investment, actually began.  However, I think I can attribute it in some part to a time when my mother and father were investing in the famous UK clothing retailer, NEXT.  I fondly recall the enthusiasm in our house when they purchased the shares for 9 pence, then quickly saw the price grow to 99p (before selling) and bagging a handsome profit in the process.  I never knew how much they invested, but no matter, they must have made a reasonable profit.  The fact that the shares then climbed to over £10 over the coming years was always a bone of contention, but that is just one of the risks of investing.

It was shortly after this that I decided to give investing a go myself and took advice from the family friend who advised my parents to buy shares in NEXT.  I remember his ’stock pick’ to this day: Fulcrum Kitchens and Bathrooms.  I charged in with both feet and purchased £350 worth of shares at 24p each.  And then forgot about them.  The next I knew I received a notice of the winding up of the company.  The ordinary shareholders would receive zero after the sale.  This was my first foray into the world of investing.

However, I wasn’t deterred.  My next opportunity didn’t come until a few years later when my grandparents gifted £2000 each to my sister and I.  This time I was less speculative and went along to the financial adviser at my bank at the time.  He advised me to invest in a PEP (Personal Equity Plan) and place the money in a Balanced Managed fund.  And then I forgot about it.  It was some years before I would need the money (to clear some debts) and was surprised at the time to learn that the fund was now worth 50% more.  An annual average return of 9%.

Years after this, when I had less money, after buying a house, I wanted to start investing again and so I started putting some money away into an ISA on a regular basis.  And once again, I fell into one of the best known traps in the business. I thought I knew more than the experts.  I invested my money in the tech boom shares around the year 2000.  I don’t think this needs any explanation.   I never recouped my losses, even years later, and I eventually switched the money into a highly speculative emerging market investment, which is where it remains today with the hope that one day it will regain its losses.  This was another important lesson in my development to becoming a financial adviser.

Other factors also swayed my reasons for choosing this work and following my principles when dealing with people.  My mother invested her life savings with a financial adviser who advised her, incorrectly, to invest her monies into technology shares around the year 2000.  She suffered the same fate as me, but with more serious consequences given that she was a lot closer to retirement.   I took over the management of her portfolio (at her request) a few years later.   I decided then that people should benefit from what I did and that if I could not provide what a customer needed (in most cases, growth or income on their investments), then I should not be doing this work.

Experiences like these taught me a few lessons.  Firstly, that well meaning friends can be detrimental to your wealth.   That is not to say that they are always wrong, but quite often their advice can be skewed towards their own good and bad experiences and less towards a rational and objective view of an individual’s finances.

The second thing I learned was that I would only become a good financial adviser if I knew my work.  I couldn’t expect to sit a few exams and be able to deliver good and safe advice for my customers.  I had to understand my work, and so I committed to reading as much as I can.  I still do so and, coupled with the experience I have acquired by investing through 2 of the worst stock market crashes in recent history, (2000 Tech boom and 2007/8 The Great recession), I feel I am better prepared to advise others who may not have access to the same information or experiences that I have.

Lastly, it was apparent that going to see a financial adviser was the wisest choice I made.  I did not have complete control over these choices, but this turned out to be my best financial decision.   So I can see the value in what I offer now, and see how I can be of use and real benefit to my customers

All in all, financial services are constantly changing.  For expat finances, this is great news.  The profession has changed for the better and serious professionals are filling the places of those who have left the industry or moved on.  This has created an opportunity for me to deliver high quality financial advice to the Expat/English speaking market in Italy, a country which I have grown to love and where I wish to remain.

My aim is for the Spectrum IFA group to become the most trusted and recommended financial services group for Expats and the English speaking community throughout Italy.

If you would like to know more or speak with me, you can contact me on gareth.horsfall@spectrum-ifa.com, or call me on 0039 3336492356.