Monthly Archives

June 2022

Employee Spotlight – Sean O’Donnell

Each fortnight we will be spotlighting a member of the team so that you can get to know the people behind the Pacem brand. This week we feature our Senior Planning Analyst, Sean O’Donnell. Sean joined the firm in July 2020 as a Planning Analyst Intern and supports our Financial Advisory team in achieving our client’s goals alongside completing his Level 4 Diploma.

Sean tells us a bit more about himself below.

Employee name
Sean O’Donnell

Your role at Pacem
Senior Planning Analyst

How long have you been with Pacem?
Just shy of 2 years

What does your day-to-day role entail?
No 2 days are the same at Pacem and my tasks can be quite different each day but generally my role is to assist the Advisors and Paraplanners in preparing to client annual reviews of their Investment Portfolios. I also spend a lot of time working with the Advisers and Paraplanners analysing all of the information on new clients and help prepare detailed financial plans to include cashflow analysis and investment projections.

How would you describe yourself in three words?
I’d have to say that I’m affable, engaging and ambitious…however some may disagree with these adjectives!

Tell us something that might surprise us about you.
I didn’t begin my career in financial services until I was 30 years old! Before this, I had a varied work experience from working in hospitality to health and safety but the job which surprises most people is my many years of working for our family Funeral Business!

What do you like most about your job?
Definitely the best thing about my job is the people, both clients and colleagues. I really enjoy engaging with people from various walks of life and to try and assist them with their questions and concerns as much as possible and really look forward to more of this as I progress through my career. We have an amazing team at Pacem and working with these guys every day makes going to work vastly more enjoyable.

If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
As cliché as it sounds, the first thing I would do is buy a ridiculous car. I’m a huge car fan and have dreams of owning a really silly supercar such as a Ferrari F8 or Lamborghini Huracan…I’d even settle for a BMW M3! After that, I’d make sure that my family’s bills are settled and use the remainder for a once an a lifetime holiday…although I don’t think there would be much left!

Favourite Food
I would consider myself as a foodie! There is nothing that I will not eat, although my own culinary skills are not the best. That being said… favourite food of all time is crisps!!

What interests/hobbies do you have outside of work
Before lockdown I was training regularly at Brazilian Jujitsu. Although lockdown and studying towards my Level 4 qualifications has made it difficult to get back into the swing of things, I fully intend to get back as it an get my blue belt by the end of the year!

Pacem Double-Winners at the 2022 Eastside Awards

The much anticipated Eastside Awards, in association with George Best Belfast City Airport, celebrating all that is good about East Belfast, returned in 2022 with a glittering awards ceremony hosted by television presenter Tara Mills. There was double delight for Pacem as we took the titles of ‘Eastside Award for Business Growth’ and the ‘Eastside Awards Employer of the Year’.


The Business Growth Award was open to businesses or social enterprises operating within the East Belfast area that were able to demonstrate growth in terms of business performance and or employment. The award was sponsored by Kainos and there was much joy at the Pacem table when Kainos’ Adam Donnelly announced the we had overcome some very impressive competition to claim the title. According to the judges, this was a very difficult category to judge, and all organisations were commended. Judges were impressed by Pacem’s growth over the last three years in terms of staff numbers, client base and turnover. Our investment in staff training and development was singled out for particular praise.


Having won the previous Eastside Award for Employer of the Year in January 2020 (pre-pandemic) we were especially proud, and humbled, to retain the crown of East Belfast’s Employer of the Year. Entries for this award, which was sponsored by Fleet Financial, were invited from organisations who were able to demonstrate their commitment to and the provision of a positive working environment, especially in the areas of employee engagement, employee development, employee health and well-being and opportunities for growth. Judges commented that the standout for them was Pacem’s consistent, balanced focus and investment on our team’s professional and personal development, captured and managed through our ‘personal development plans’. They also highlighted our financial contribution to staff to fit out a comfortable, functional ‘working from home’ set up during and beyond the Covid-19 crisis.


Another proud night for Team Pacem

Tips for unsettling times

The news today can feel a little bit unsettling.  There is no doubt that these are tough emotional times for investors.  Russia’s invasion and brutal war in Ukraine is unsettling on both a human and an economic level.  The plight of the people of Ukraine and the broader pitting of Western values against totalitarian oppression weigh heavily.  The impact of the war on energy, fertilizer, commodity and food prices, combined with global supply bottle necks and continuing Covid lockdowns in China are exacerbated by the growth in money supply from quantitative easing and financial support measures taken during the pandemic. This has led to a rapid rise in inflation globally to levels not seen for several decades. That can feel uncomfortable.

From an investment perspective, the impact has been more varied than the news might suggest[1] so far this year.  Global equity markets have handed back some of the, perhaps, unexpected gains of 2020-2021, but not in a uniform manner.  Of note, high growth stocks with poor or non-existent profits have been particularly hard hit, impacting the US broad market (down 18%) and the tech-oriented Nasdaq (down 28%).  Yet, global markets, in GBP terms, are down only 10% or so.  Sterling’s recent fall against the dollar has helped, as overseas assets now buy more Pounds.  The UK equity market is more-or-less flat.  It is worthy of note that a well-constructed exposure to global value stocks has delivered gains of nearly 4% so far this year, from which diversified investors will have benefited.  A similar value outcome has been seen in emerging markets.

Over the longer time horizon that most investors face, equity assets should provide inflation-plus returns to protect the value of wealth. Unfortunately, there are no certain inflation hedges.

The fears of inflation have pushed bond yields higher, with resultant falls in bond prices.  Shorter-dated, higher quality bonds – favoured in client portfolios – have been impacted to a lesser degree than long-dated bonds.  As an example, short-dated UK gilts are down 1.5%, whereas a portfolio of all UK Gilts is down a little over 10%.  The positive is that – going forward – bonds are now yielding materially more than a year ago.

All-in-all, a well-diversified global equity portfolio, with exposure to value stocks and holding shorter-dated high quality bonds, has probably been more solid that the news might suggest, and performance certainly sits well within the bounds of expectation.

Here are some tips to help keep things in perspective at this challenging emotional time:

Tips for unsettling times

  1. Accept the uncertainty of markets – a well-diversified portfolio protects you from any one area of the markets suffering particular pressures. Your portfolio will probably be performing better than the headlines suggest.
  2. Don’t measure your portfolio’s performance from the previous top of the market, but over a longer and more sensible timeframe, and from where you started. The last few years have been really good to investors.  Giving a little back is part of any investing journey.
  3. Try not to look at your portfolio too often. Get on with more important things in your life.  Once a year is more than enough, but that takes some will power!
  4. Accept that you cannot time when to be in and out of markets – it is simply not possible. If you resign yourself to this fact, investing feels much less stressful.
  5. If markets have fallen, remember that you still own everything you did before i.e. the same number of shares in the same companies, and the same bonds holdings.
  6. Most crucially, a fall does not turn into a loss unless you sell your investments at the wrong time. If you don’t need the money, why would you sell?
  7. The balance between your growth (equity) assets and defensive (high quality bond) assets was established by your adviser to make sure that you can withstand temporary falls in the value of your portfolio, both emotionally and financially. A recent fall in the markets does not change this.
  8. Be confident that your (boring) defensive assets will come into their own, protecting your portfolio from some of the pain of material equity market falls, if they occur.
  9. If you are taking an income from your portfolio, remember that if equities have fallen in value, you will be taking your income from your bonds, not selling equities when they are down.
  10. Your adviser is there – at any time – to support you. They are a source of fortitude, patience, and discipline on which you can draw.

These are unsettling times, but your best defense is to keep to your plan, remaining invested in a well-diversified, robust portfolio and leaning on your adviser if necessary.

‘This too shall pass!’ as the legendary investor and founder of Vanguard used to say.

Risk warnings

This article is distributed for educational purposes and should not be considered investment advice or an offer of any security for sale.  This article contains the opinions of the author but not necessarily the Firm and does not represent a recommendation of any particular security, strategy, or investment product.  Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable but is not guaranteed.

Past performance is not indicative of future results and no representation is made that the stated results will be replicated.

Data source

World equities (developed) iShares Core MSCI World ETF USD Acc
Emerging markets value Dimensional Emerging Mkts Val A USD Acc
Emerging markets Vanguard Em Mkts Stk Idx £ Acc
Global Value Dimensional Global Value GBP Acc
US broad Market Fidelity Index US P Acc
Tech stocks (NASDAQ) Invesco QQQ ETF
Short-dated Gilts iShares UK Gilts 0-5yr ETF GBP Dist
All Gilts iShares UK Gilts All Stks Idx (UK) H Inc

Market data used in this article represent the returns from funds capturing these specific market risks. They are provided for informational purposes only. All performance in GBP terms, except for US markets (USD).

[1] Data used in this paragraph uses market returns from funds capturing these specific market risks, as examples.  See endnote for details.