Tattoos and the workplace

hirefireNow I do understand that as the generations roll on, standards and expectations in business do not always meet with what would have been deemed acceptable in my younger days, but after my recent meeting with my new business banking relationship manager, something appeared very wrong in the world of banking and possibly elsewhere.

Tattoos are not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ and it is a sad fact that they can, in extreme cases, give an impression that may quite unfairly, not match with the individual’s actual personality, capability, lifestyle or knowledge.

Self-expression for ‘my generation’ by way of ‘inking’ was once strictly reserved for south sea islanders, bikers, teddy boys, the military and the criminal classes. Today it has found its way into the boardroom. Men and women equally seem to exercise some poor ‘placement judgment’ at the tattoo parlour as the nations low literacy skills present ‘inkers’ difficulties in getting the spelling right as the big new danger.

According to ACAS “About one in five British people are thought to have one, and they’re most popular among 30 to 39-year-olds, with more than a third admitting to being inked and one in ten people in the UK are thought to have a piercing somewhere other than their earlobe”.

They go on to note that according to a recent study this particular practice is “extremely popular among women aged 16 to 24, as almost a half (46 per cent) are alleged to have a non-earlobe piercing.”

Although the ‘blue collar’ world is loosening up, not all ‘white collar’ financial services firms, large and small across the UK are ready for studded and inked employees since it’s only recently that tattooing and piercing have become so very mainstream.

Indeed, most small businesses I have spoken with do not have an ‘inking and body art’ policy in place.

Dress down Friday has not yet been replaced by ‘ink up Monday’, or has it?

I am not sure what image anyone these days is looking for in a bank manager but I would suspect that putting Captain Mainwaring to one side, one would perhaps expect a sense of some form of ready for business etiquette by way of dress, a certain understated sense of business interest, professionalism and enthusiasm.

It may be that todays employers are so ‘hog tied’ by human rights and political correctness that staff who are in customer facing roles can turn up for work as if they were either off to the pub with their mates or have just come from the pub and have not had time to prepare themselves for what pays the salary.

My new banking relationship manager was around early thirties, he was scruffy and had an enormous dark blue ‘Polynesian style’ tattoo extending the length of his arm to below his wrist, what may be elsewhere was best not contemplating.

Putting aside any prejudices, is it so wrong to expect that even in today’s world of more casual business standards, anyone in a financial services customer-facing role representing their employer should at least look the part?

What message is conveyed to a firm’s customer by the sight of a heavily inked, pierced thirty something individual who is there supposedly to represent his corporate employer in dealing with your best business interests?

Tattoos are for life it would seem but are they for business life? Many large employers have policies that do not allow visible tattoos. Depending on the employer’s industry and the type of job, this may make sense.

Does your firm have any ‘inking’ policies in place? Have you experienced any negative customer or staff reaction relating to tattoos either as an employer or as an “inked employee’?

 

www.panaceaadviser.com

Regulation, will we ever get it right?

mansleepingI had the great fortune to sell my IFA practice 10 years ago, a driver for taking the plunge was that having worked under the ‘control’ of 4 different regulatory regimes- NASDIM, FIMBRA, PIA and FSA, the prospect of never seeing a balance of common sense and fairness painted a very bleak future.

The jury may still be out in that regard, but I think we are at the stage where the Judge may be directing the Jury that a majority decision would suffice.

I am not normally driven to negativity, cynisim maybe, and while I do see an absolute need to have regulation of financial services, it seems to me that wherever there is regulation, chaos and extreme cost is the outcome with blame being laid at the door of the weakest.

Some key facts to digest:

  • Regulation is poorly thought out in just about every industry
  • It is reactionary rather than pro-active
  • It is not always retrospective, although in financial services it seems to be an exception
  • Nobody ever listens to the voice of experience
  • Nobody ever learns from past failings
  • Nobody in regulation admits failure
  • Nobody in regulation takes the blame
  • Everyone in regulation benefits from ‘learnings’ and earnings
  • Regulatory failure is rewarded not punished
  • Regulation is an industry, it is hermaphroditic, capable of self procreation and without something to bash it would have no purpose. As Keith Richards (Rolling Stone not PFS) once said “In the business of crime there’s two people involved, and that’s the criminal and the cops. It’s in both their interests to keep crime a business, otherwise they’re both out of a job.”

 

Regulation should not be pursued at any cost and in such a way, applied like a tattoo only to be regretted when the effect of the alcoholic induced stupor that fuelled its creation has gone away. The NHS is an example of regulation on ‘acid’.

Has the consumer benefited? Many may say no. Access to financial advice for the masses has been exterminated. Even if it was freely available, there is insufficient capacity to service any more than around 10% of the population based on the recent Heath Report and the FAMR will not correct that imbalance as was intended.

In 2009 the great and the good expressed concerns about the impact of RDR and how it will disenfranchise consumers, here but just a few to prove my “Nobody ever listens to the voice of experience” comment

  • Otto Thoresen – CEO ABI, then of Aegon: “The RDR is only helping wealthy customers”
  • AXA April 2009: “We will lobby the FSA to make sure the RDR does not mean less are able to access advice”
  • Institute of Financial Services: “RDR will impair financial advice before improving it”
  • Alasdair Buchanan Scottish Life November 2009: “Sales advice is a real cop out and extremely confusing to investors”
  • Stephen Gay – Aviva June 2009: “The regulator has failed to consider the danger of adviser charging limiting access to advice for those on lower incomes”
  • Lord Lipsey: “Consumers in the middle (not high net worth or money guidance fodder) to be sold products by banks under the contradiction that is sales advice”
  • Walter Merricks former Chief Ombudsman: “I think it would be unwise to count on the assumption that complaints from the retail investment world are suddenly going to go down as a result (of the RDR)”
  • Deutsch Bank report August 2009: “There has been industry talk of 30% or even 50% of IFAs exiting the industry post 2012, which is not impossible”
  • Paul Selly HBOS: “Bancassurers set to benefit”
  • Richard Howells Director Zurich Life June 2009: “The big question mark is still around what benefit it will have for the ultimate consumer. I am still not convinced that all of these changes, when you sit down with a consumer and explain them, actually give rise to a consumer benefit that I can really hang my hat on.”
  • Martin Lewis Money Saving Expert June 2009: “There’s a worrying possibility that the FSA is about to kill off independent financial advice in the UK for all but the wealthy. I do hope I’m wrong. I’m not convinced most people will want to pay for advice. The commission route has the advantage that you don’t pay a fee each and every time you want information; you can go without the worry of laying out cash. What I find most galling though is that bank-based advisers – those primarily responsible for PPI miss-selling, endowment miss-selling, investment miss-selling and generally poor advice all round are still to be allowed to be remunerated based on the number of sales.”
  • Janet Walford OBE, Editor Money Management Sept 2009: “I am not paranoid enough to believe that the FSA has a hidden agenda to do away with small IFAs, but the law of unintended consequences may well mean that this will be the result. This is especially the case when set alongside the myriad of other proposals that are costing some £430 million to set up, with ongoing fees of £40 million pa thereafter, a mind boggling amount of cash.
  • Peter Hamilton barrister, Source: Money Management Oct 2009, Scrapping the FSA by Marie Jennings MBE: “The Financial Services and Markets Act does not permit the FSA to cancel an authorisation simply because the FSA has changed its views on what the appropriate qualifications should be…. It is one thing to impose new rules for new entrants to the IFA profession, it is quite another thing to disqualify someone who is already qualified.”
  • David Hazelton of Tax Incentivised Savings Association (TISA) 30/10/09: The RDR could be detrimental to consumers both in terms of higher product charges and an increase in the cost of advice, warns the Tax Incentivised Savings Association (TISA). Implementation costs for the RDR are being “seriously underestimated” and product charges will consequently have to be raised.
  • Robert Kerr, head of retail distribution development at Scottish Widows says: The RDR could have the unintended consequence of “disenfranchising” the majority of consumers from financial advice. “Our key concern is the RDR proposals will act to drive advice upmarket, with financial advice becoming the preserve of the wealthy leaving mass-market consumers un-served,”
  • Nigel Waterson MP when Shadow pensions minister: “While no-one can object to raising the standards of training and competence, should an emphasis on exams take precedence over on-the-job training and experience?

Fines are at record highs for the same bad behaviour from the same suspects, regulatory costs are at an all time high, huge FSCS levies continue to hit ‘small businesses’ when least expected, politicians have no control of those they leglislate to regulate, those employed in financial services regulation have increased, those employed in the financial services sector they regulate have decreased.

The problem with regulation in 2016 is that you cannot regulate for lack of common sense, yet that is what we keep trying to do. Caveat emptor has gone.

We have lost the use of that in-built gene of common sense when looking at constructing and applying regulation.. Its loss went along with map reading skills, crossing the road after looking both ways, not talking to strangers, proficient cycling, spelling ability, simple mental arithmetic skills and very many more.

The world has truly gone mad, or at least it has in UKplc’s regulation section.

We have a society that is now readily and speedily offended on somebody else part for just about everything that simply should not matter as much as it does.

We have borders that are not fit for purpose, we have an NHS in meltdown because the service is now aspiration and expectation based, rather than focusing on the basics of it’s original 1948 founding principles (comprehensiveness, within available resources) and a country controlled not by UK based elected politicians but by unelected civil servants, quangos, eurocrats and regulators.

To top that we now have ‘Brexit’.

To borrow that famous Bob Monkhouse quote “ When I said that the proposed RDR regulation would not work, everybody laughed. Well they’re not laughing now.

 

www.panaceaadviser.com

Panacea Adviser survey: 89% of advisers say Robo-Advice is a threat to the industry

Almost nine out of ten financial advisers warn that automated services pose a threat to traditional face-to-face financial advice, research by Panacea Adviser has revealed.

In a survey asking 118 financial advisers whether robo-advice presented a threat or opportunity for face-to-face advice, only 11 per cent described it as a positive for their industry while the vast majority raised concerns that robo-advice could prove damaging to traditional financial advice.

Commenting on the results of the research, Panacea Adviser Chief Executive Derek Bradley, said: “With the amount of attention and industry debate sparked by robo-advice, it is perhaps not so surprising to see such a strong reaction from advisers towards the ‘rise of the robos’. The current mood appears more unusual, however, when you consider that automated services still represent a relatively small market here in the UK while the technology itself is also fairly limited at this stage.

“The US market also offers a glimpse of what looks like a more positive outlook for advisers when it comes to robo-advice. The ability to combine elements of both human and automated advice is actually seeing many traditional advice firms in the US prove more popular than robo-advice models that rely solely on technology.”

ADVISER VIEWS ON ROBO-ADVICE

The research also gathered adviser opinion on both sides of the debate, highlighting some of the key challenges – and benefits – that automated models can bring for advice firms.

Pete Matthew, Managing Director for Jacksons Wealth Management, believes marketing could prove the biggest hurdle for firms looking to adopt robo-advice. He said: “An online service can provide a way of perhaps serving ‘lower value’ clients in the short-term so that they engage with the adviser’s brand, which may well lead to higher-ticket business in the future.

“But while the technology behind robo-advice actually appears to be straightforward enough, the real issue is that most advisers are clueless when it comes to marketing. The world of marketing has changed immeasurably. Now, it is all about providing value to the prospect by educating, entertaining and inspiring clients to take action. The social aspect should not be underestimated either. Increasingly people buy based on the recommendations of social media circles and unless advisers are influencing within these channels, no-one will show up to their fancy robo-advice websites.”

 Alan Hughes, Partner at Foot Anstey LLP, also calls for the FCA to clarify what constitutes ‘advice’ and ‘guidance’ in relation to automated-models. He said: “As robo-advice develops, advisers need to consider carefully how it impacts on the market, what that means for their own business and clients and how they can use this as an opportunity. Robo-advice will never completely replace face-to-face advice but it is a case of “ignore at your peril”.

“Going forward, any further clarity that can be provided on the difference between advice and guidance will be very useful in bringing automated models to market. The FCA should explicitly address these issues and be proactive, rather than just tweaking the regulatory framework and then telling firms that they need to go off and reach their own view.”

Focusing on the regulation of automated services, Derek Bradley added: “A vital UK consideration that would assist in the adoption of robo-advice models is that the FCA approves the technology and their complicated algorithms. Some time taken now could mean that the constant retro aspect of regulation against products or advice is removed and public confidence in a ‘fit to fly’ model will see a greater, quicker embrace by advisers and of course the public.”

 

www.panaceaadviser.com 

Getting your Human Resources in order

A free guide to HR by Panacea Adviser

These are significant times for the advisory profession as regulation continues to drive financial services to the brink. Consequently it is of great importance that adviser firms have the right people in place and know how to get the best from their staff.

This is why we have developed this new guide, ‘Getting Your Human Resources in Order’, to try and help clear up any human resource ambiguity, as effectively managing HR is essential.

This guide takes business owners through the basic principles of how to hire, manage and get the best from their employees, to dealing with disciplinary issues, maternity leave and subsequent return to work, and finally how to handle redundancies. All key factors to ensure your workforce remains a contented one and you are safe in the knowledge that you are doing things in accordance with employment law.

In an industry where regulation is ever changing, it is important that staff do not, for they are one of a company’s best assets and when treated fairly, a business is more likely to succeed.

This guide is intended for small firms, and line and team managers in larger organisations.

Download for free at http://www.panaceaadviser.com/hrguide

Brexit, What next for MiFID?

The Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MIFID) was an EU regulation initiative that aimed for harmonisation of financial services regulation in Europe’s 31 member states.

The intention was to see increased competition and more consumer protection.

MiFID 1 in EU directive 2004/39/EC was the first step and in April 2014 MiFID 2 was approved that tidied up the original MIFID thinking and by January 2018 MiFID 2 and MiFIR (Markets in Financial Investments Regulation) will take effect.

MiFIR/MiFID II had the potential to boost transparency and increase investor protection and readying the member states for implementation was likely to be a very painful process and no allowance for any transitional stage will make the deadline even harder to meet.

And what about the massive MiFID costs already incurred and about to be incurred by the UK? So far:

  • One-off compliance costs for the UK were estimated to be up to £188 million
  • Ongoing costs from 2017 are estimated to be  between £79.8-£150.4 million
  • The UK will/ would have bear 36% of the estimated total cost of Mifid II
  • Total transition cost estimate is £194.8 million
  • Average annual cost, excluding transition: £112.5 million

*Source: HM Treasury Impact Assessment

Now we have voted to leave the EU, where does the UK go on implementation, almost two years on from when article 50 to leave will have been implemented?

Where does the EU go as the UK market is amongst the biggest of global financial players?

Time for some guidance from the FCA and HM Treasury I think?

Especially as the Stock Exchange is about to be acquired by the ‘Germans’…..or will it now?

It’s much more complicated than that

It’s much more complicated than that

Despite last minute attempts by Germany to woo a UK ‘stay vote’ with some very tempting offers such as:

1.    We’ll acknowledge the Wembley goal

2.    We’ll stop making jokes about Prince Charles’s ears

3.    We’ll stop using sun cream on the beach out of solidarity with your sunburn

4.    We’ll reserve a place with our towels for you on the hotel sun-lounger

5.    We’ll introduce tea breaks

6.    We’ll turn our clocks back an hour to be in synch with you

7.    We’ll do without a goalie in penalty shoot-outs with you to make it a bit more exciting

8.    We’ll introduce an EU regulation banning a frothy head on beer

9.    We’ll all come along to the Queen’s 100th birthday

10. We’ll willingly provide the villain in every Bond film 

we have voted to leave.

Al Murray explains how economics worked very well in 2015. As he says. it is much more complicated than that.

However you voted yesterday this might bring some cheer to your day if you are still feeling a little down.

On a more serious note, the markets are looking at doing their job of making money with fresh vigour as Brexit presents an opportunity as well as a threat. The day started with the pound taking a hit against the dollar but more interestingly the euro has collapsed against the dollar, suffering its worst fall ever in the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU.

By lunchtime today , as I write, the markets have recovered half their losses already showng a loss of 4.23% on the day.

Winston Churchill said A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”.

A ‘Brexit’ negotiated via “article 50” will take at least two years. David Cameron was right to announce his resignation, as he would have been in an impossible position in negotiations for leaving. Do not forget there are general elections in Germany and France in 2017 and those we would start to negotiate with, in particular Merkel and Holland, may no longer be in office by then.

And, very importantly, the US Presidential elections in November.

There will be some turbulence and there will be money to be made. Markets will bounce back. The vision must be positive and this Bento is an overview of informed comments about the impact of leave.

What is the point of fines on corporate bodies

What is the point of fines on corporate bodies

Some time for some focus and an application of common sense and fair play?

“Second World War veteran Major James Fyfe, who signed up aged 17 and fought at Dunkirk, fell of a trolley at Royal Berkshire Hospital and broke his neck in March 2011”.

The ‘learnings’ or ‘outcomes’ (yes those regu-words again that are always used when things corporate or governmental go wrong) in this very tragic state of 2011 affairs is that Graham Sims, the boss of Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust admitted a charge of “breach of an employer of general duty, other than to an employee, relating to the failure to properly secure the hospital bed.”

This is yet another example of a fine meaning nothing at all. Just like banking fines. As Billy Bennett’s song goes It’s the rich what gets the pleasure”!

What is the point of fines on corporate bodies? They mean nothing at all. And even worse, the victims of their blunders see it means nothing.

James Ageros, the NHS trust’s QC said: ‘at the heart of this there is a human tragedy and the Trust apologises and sends its condolences where there was the death of their father in unfit circumstances”.

In this case the trolley that was ‘blamed’ for the sorry mess was “corroded in places and key mechanisms, including a spring inside the side bars, were missing”.

Nobody is held responsible on a meaningful personal level anymore for the errors that cause death, distress, or in the case of banks, financial loss. So that’s all right then?

A £200k fine? Extraordinarily time to pay was asked for by a man whose salary is most likely heading toward £300k- over 4 years was granted. Let’s move on, get over yourselves?

But somebody was responsible for this terrible outcome, ultimately it was the ‘Trust’ but the real blame lies much further down the chain of command. This equipment was in use all day, every day. Was it maintenance, very possibly? Was it the hospital staff that put him on the trolley, surely they must have noticed that the sidebars would not lock?

What is for sure is that it must be someone.

If this were a small business, let’s just say a small IFA business, rather than a corporate body a very different ‘outcome’ would have been seen. Somebody would be rightly identified as individually responsible, substantial compensation, not a fine, paid to the victim or their family by way of the business owners, possibly by their public liability or business insurance and without doubt the business owner would have been prosecuted, maybe even jailed and the business even closed down.

Why is it that corporate responsibility seems to override individual responsibility? Fines should go toward redress for the victims of failure and under no circumstances should HM Treasury treat them as a windfall tax as is currently the case with banking fines.

Perhaps there has come a time that workers in large corporate bodies, banks for example, are equally financially liable in cases like this.

 

Just a thought?