HAVING just celebrated its 40th anniversary this year, Lowes Financial Management is also celebrating its third Moneyfacts Good Advice award in a row.
Pensions adviser Barry O'Sullivan, of the Jesmond-based firm of independent chartered financial planners, scooped Best Retirement Planner this year at the prestigious national awards.
It's the latest addition to the trophy cabinet which also includes Best Tax & Estate Planner in 2009 and Best Investment Adviser in 2010.
"Having already won two we weren't expecting another, so were absolutely delighted to win," says managing director Ian Lowes. "We have to assess the whole market and keep on top of the legislation and regulatory changes.
"In the pensions arena this has been non-stop. We've been around long enough and have the resources to identify when there's a new opportunity so we're always in the position to give our clients the advice we would follow ourselves."
When it comes to retirement planning, Ian says everybody's situation is different. "It doesn't matter what the investment climate or the annuity market, there's always another way," he says, explaining that some clients may delay taking their pension, which remains in an inheritance tax shelter, and take income from other investments.
"A lot of people have a preconceived idea that investment stops at retirement but it doesn't. You might be retiring at 60 and have another 40 years."
The highly-regarded firm was the first in the North to be accredited as chartered financial planners - deemed the gold standard of excellence and integrity - due to its staff's enhanced levels of qualifications.
"At the moment you can become a financial adviser having sat three small exams many moons ago," says Ian. "Now the bar is being raised to diploma level by the end of 2012.
"We set that bar about 10 years ago but kept going and went to an advanced chartered level.
"We've got more chartered financial planners in our organisation than most others in the North.
"We have a culture of encouraging all the staff to expand their knowledge, to the extent that our IT people are more qualified than financial advisers need to be."
As well as the Moneyfacts awards, which have raised the company's profile among the general public, Lowes also has a high profile within the IFA industry itself, particularly for its work in raising awareness of structured investment contracts. …