Andrew Sutherland of Amber River True Bearing likes to keep busy, and he’s fully committed to helping his clients get the most out of life.

Established in 2003, True Bearing became part of the Amber River group in 2021 and rebranded as Amber River True Bearing in September 2023. It’s a chartered financial planning firm with an impressive track record, providing independent financial planning services to more than 7,000 individuals and businesses.

“If I could go back in time, what would I tell my younger self? To be patient: you’ll find the right job in the end”

One of the first things you notice when talking to Andrew Sutherland is his amiable, calming presence. It’s a world away from some of his out-of-office pursuits (more of that later), but essential when working with his clients. Today, Andrew seems ideally suited to the financial planner role, but his younger self wasn’t sure about his place in the world: “I left school with very limited qualifications, and not really understanding what I wanted to do. I tried to join the army, but they told me to put some weight on – although I did later become a Physical Training Instructor and served with the Army Reserves for a number of years. Having initially been turned down by the army I got a job as an apprentice electrician. I did that for three and a half years and hated every day of it. It just wasn’t for me.”

His career path took a turn for the better after he responded to a fairly nondescript ad in a local newspaper. “Two weeks later, I began in financial advice, first a direct sales, self-employed adviser, and then as a mortgage adviser, and later for HSBC Bank in the late 90s. I spent many years there, but I finally left the world of banking after advising high net worth clients on a very restrictive basis to join True Bearing. I wanted to be able to have deeper level and more interesting conversations with people – and that’s what I do now, and it’s something I really enjoy.”

According to Andrew, the role of financial planner is significantly different to the traditional ‘financial adviser’ model so prevalent when he started. He says: “Back then, a lot of people who needed financial advice were put off by being aggressively sold to. They could tell the adviser had sales targets to hit and everything felt too product-based and sales-driven. People didn’t enjoy being made to feel less like a client and more like just a number.”

"People worry they've left things too late, but it’s never too late to have a conversation"

Andrew thinks people respond better to a far more measured approach. One of the things that “disarms” people is that he’s in no rush to sell them something and move on to the next client. Quite the opposite, in fact: “There’s no revolving door here – I usually only see one or two clients a day. There’s no time pressure, no predetermined agenda, and no product push. We’re here to have a chat, and see where that takes us. We end up having conversations about anything and everything.”

Have those conversations changed much since the pandemic? Yes, in a way, according to Andrew. “More people are realising they don’t want to wait until the mid-to-late 60s before they retire. They want to get out there and do things while they can. That’s coming through in a lot of conversations with clients, and certainly something I identify with. It’s a big world out there, I want to see more of it. They’re thinking the same thing as well.”

It’s no surprise then, that more clients are coming to Andrew to talk about the route to retirement and helping them reach their goals sooner. Another regular topic is how to cope with investment volatility and difficult times – a particularly relevant subject given recent market falls and higher cost of living. Andrew explains: “I tell clients the secret to investing is to take a long-term view. It’s not about timing the market, it’s about time in the market. And, if we look after what we call the ‘Three Pots’ – having money today, money tomorrow, and money for the longer term – then any volatility in the markets will not disrupt the financial plan we put in place for you.”

"I give my clients the kind of service I would want for myself. It may sound cheesy, but I want to make sure people feel looked after"

This kind of measured response is something that Andrew’s clients have come to expect. It served them well during the early days of COVID, after markets experienced dramatic falls in value. Andrew remembers the need for reassurance: “I phoned up all of my clients from my front garden, and explained to them what was happening in the markets and that my advice was to hold fire, resist the urge to sell, and to stay invested. Of all the clients I spoke to, none sold their investments, and all of them benefited as markets recovered and rallied. I give my clients the kind of service I would want for myself. It may sound cheesy, but I want to make sure people feel looked after”.

Andrew lives up to this mindset. He volunteered as a blood biker a few years ago, as his way of saying thank you to the NHS: “A couple of close family members have been treated fantastically well, including my youngest daughter who was very poorly when she was born. So, after I inherited some money, I upgraded my motorbike and decided becoming a blood biker would be my way of giving back. I don’t just transport blood, it’s usually samples from the pathology lab, or file notes going from the maternity ward of one hospital to another. Being on the motorway, especially on a night shift when the roads are empty, really clears the mind.”

He learns a new skill every year: last year was plastering, this year it’s archery. When running marathons got too repetitive, he took up ‘white collar boxing’ for charity, and the eight weeks of conditioning before the actual bout left him feeling fitter than he’s ever been. He adds: “the training also gave me a tremendous amount of confidence – I felt stronger, fitter, and even taller!”

Not everyone is as adventurous as Andrew, but he’s got words of advice for anyone still hesitant about getting their retirement planning sorted: “People worry they’ve left things too late, but it’s never too late to have a conversation. The chances are we can do something about your financial situation that will leave you – and your family – much better off than when you first came in.”

You may be interested in reading Andrews’s expert insights about retirement: Retirement planning is about more than just a pension

Life Landscaping® from Amber River

Andrew is one of our professional independent financial planners who can help you create a personal financial life landscape. We know an individual’s journey is unique and very personal; that’s why we start by understanding your dreams and aspirations. Then, together, we formulate a plan to give you the best chance of making them happen.

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