Save our NHS, but how?

Panacea comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

5 Dec 2016

Save our NHS, but how?

I had a very interesting discussion over the weekend with a Labour party activist, campaigning under a specially erected party tent in the centre of my hometown, Wokingham.

I was asked if I would sign a petition to support more funding for the NHS and a very interesting discussion ensued.

The female activist was a bit younger than me and was a teacher. She was passionate about the NHS and was of the view that the NHS needed so much more money.

I agree, but having seen in my 65 years how the NHS has evolved, something, in fact most things with the NHS and its management and funding is seriously broken.

The NHS was launched on July 5th 1948 by the then Labour health minister Aneurin Bevan It was based on three core principles:

  • that it meet the needs of everyone
  • that it be free at the point of delivery
  • that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay

Please note these, and especially those words in the last one around clinical need and the ability to pay.

To most a visit to your GP, a ride in an ambulance to A&E and the ensuing care after an accident or sudden serious illness are rightly considered to be FOC, funded by our taxes.

But we live in a very different world to that of 1948. Health service provisions are more sophisticated, peoples health needs have become very jentitlement based indeed and as a result are far more expensive.

For example, in 1948, the following were not available treatments on the NHS:

  • Heart and lung transplants
  • Liver and kidney transplants
  • Gender re-assignment
  • IVF
  • Womb transplants
  • Breast enhancement and reduction
  • Tattoo removal
  • Critical illness busting treatments such as cancer
  • HIV prevention
  • Intelligent prosthetics

Whilst many in the UK would cling to the 1948 core principles, the fiscal fuel for delivery of healthcare requires a charging rethink, especially as so much of the NHS service delivery in 2016 is driven more by a clinical want than a clinical need.

Not everything is free anymore in the NHS. With some exceptions we pay for dental care starting at £19.70 prescriptions starting at £8.40 and eye care, excluding contact lenses.

Surely the time has come to apply notional charges for GP visits and non-emergency NHS services that are not currently subject to charges in line with the dental model.

But will politicians be brave enough to change the funding model from all taxation to an element of pay on delivery?

Just a thought

FSCS levy and some blue sky thinking

Regulation comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

31 Oct 2016

FSCS levy and some blue sky thinking.

We hear that the new chief executive, Andrew Bailey, has confirmed the introduction of a product levy will be considered as part of the regulator’s upcoming consultation on the funding of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

The time is right for Mr. Bailey to also consider (alongside this very sensible idea that always seems to get ‘kicked’ into the long grass) the use, or in reality, the miss use of banking fines in this consultation?

FCA fines were to be used to offset the cost of regulation. But not any more.

Why, well here’s the thing as they say.

Over the last century or two the nations wealth and success was built on our vast below ground natural resources.

Coal, tin, oil, sand, cement, gravel extraction have all played their part but many fear that these resources have a limited life as dwindling stocks make it more expensive to recover.

Alongside all natural resources there is a tax raising opportunity but if stocks of natural resource reduce or become exhausted this will, in turn, see tax revenues reduce and that spells trouble for HM Treasury.

But the nation has turned to another ‘natural resource’ because of some very clever HM Treasury ‘fine-fracking’ on the part of the last government

This table contains the FCA’s own information about fines published during the calendar year ending 2016 and up to the 12th October.

The total amount of fines levied so far in 2016 is £22,127,442.

  • In 2015 £905,219,078 was levied
  • And in 2014 £1,471,431,800 was levied.

The FCA will deduct its costs from these huge amounts and the rest will go to HM Treasury. The FCA was obliged by statute to pay away £1.370bn of the 2014 fines to the Treasury, the equivalent of 70% of all alcohol and tobacco levies for 2014.

In April this year the FSCS announced a £337m levy for 2016/17.

The FSCS levy in 2015/16 totaled £319m.

So over the last 3 years some £2.4bn in fines has been levied that could have seen zero FSCS levy for a good number of years with the polluter paying. Just do the math!

Banking fines should be used to reduce the burden of regulatory cost, in particular that of the ‘oh so’ contentious FSCS levy that hits, in particular, small IFA businesses the hardest.

Any thoughts yourself?

Do let us know here via our quick survey, details will be shared with Mr. Bailey.

Happy 30th birthday Big Bang

Regulatory comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

26 Oct 2016

Happy 30th birthday Big Bang

It was the great Gordon Gekko who said, “Moral hazard is when they take your money and then are not responsible for what they do with it.”

With these words of wisdom, I felt it might be time to reflect upon the fact that 30 years ago, on 27 October 1986, the closeted clubby world of the City was subject to a positive tsunami of changes that today, for those of us old enough to remember it, was called the “Big Bang”.

I was working in the City at the time and the financial services world, as we knew it changed forever from that date. The late starts, long lunches, early finishes were no longer fashionable, everybody started dressing like Mr. Gekko, huge mobile phones were ‘hand borne’ not hand held, the colourful LIFFE boys would strut their stuff around the Royal Exchange between trades and generally life seemed to have a very particular and agreeable buzz.

Over the past 30 years what was once a rather staid gene pool of public school chums in pin stripes, a veritable gentleman’s club of friends and relatives, had morphed into a US-stylisation of business practices.

With it came the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf and the City all linked with the considerable diversity introduced by foreign banks as plus points, but, the downside was that it came with a certain killer instinct that would mean even your friends and colleagues were not guaranteed a particular benefit without a cost attaching.

But in the post big bang world, as Mr. Gekko would say, “if you need a friend, get a dog”.

Regulation and financial services have not always been easy bedfellows yet upon reflection the world did seem a nicer, gentler place in many ways in the years building up to that 1986 Big Bang.

Social media did not exist then. What led to Big Bang was that the London Stock Exchange was coming close to, if not actually being found out without the enhancements of Google searches.

The stock market was really an almost regulation free (when compared to today) cartel, fixing commissions and linking this with trading floor admission complexities that would do the Royal & Ancient some credit.

It was a posh, gentlemen’s club version of the old London markets of Smithfield or Billingsgate- but with manners.

We saw a closed shop for the benefit of brokers and stock-jobbers all safely contained in their pin striped, bowler-hatted bunker which in the coming brave new world of class and professional barrier deconstruction would not be seen as acceptable any more.

Margaret Thatcher had been in power for some 7 years and the Thatcher vision of wealth creation by way of the state selling the public something they already owned was underway.

She was warned pre big bang, that this vision would lead to a new culture of ‘unscrupulous practices in the City‘, according to a release of government papers in 2014.

Her Cabinet secretary Sir Robert Armstrong said that a ‘bubble’ was being created that would be pricked” and “that corners were being cut and money made in ways that are at least bordering on the unscrupulous”.

But despite the warning, we still “Told Sid” and the nation rode a gravy train of expectation with flotations of once staid mutual institutions like the Halifax and Abbey National building societies- yes, remember them?

The merchant banks were in gorge mode on these flotations. SG Warburg, Schroders, NM Rothschild, Samuel Montagu, Hill Samuel and Morgan Grenfell were there doing it “very large”.

US investment banks like Goldman Sachs and Salomon Brothers (remember them too?) were also keen on some action but leading up to Big Bang it was not too easy for them to get into the club.

But change was on its way, the days of fixed commissions and closed shops were being replaced by the need to be competitive.

The City was no longer a place for “Gentlemen and Players.”

It was becoming a world of young and thrusting ‘spiv’ market traders who had literally switched venue, being recruited from the perceived ‘low rent’ market environs of Petticoat Lane, Billingsgate, Smithfield and Covent Garden.

And those guys brought their trading skills and “Loadsamoney” culture to the previously hallowed ground of the City and the Stock Exchange.

But now they worked, shouting in trading ‘Pits” or shouting at banks of computer screens waiting for that big deal, greeting it with more shouting and of course the resulting huge bonus moment.

The big success story of Big Bang was Warburg’s swallowing up of Ackroyd and Smithers, Rowe & Pitman and Mullens & Co who in turn were swallowed whole by UBS, then UBS/Phillips & Drew/Swiss Bank empire.

In the feeding frenzy Barclays paid huge money indeed for Wedd, Durlacher and de Zoete and Bevan, Deutsche Bank ate up Morgan Grenfell, Midland Bank (who are they) bought W Greenwell and this then got digested by HSBC. Kleinwort Benson bought Grieveson Grant, and NM Rothschild, Smith Brothers.

And what of the “Gentlemen and Players”?

Well they all retired to their stockbroker belt houses and country estates swapping pin stripe for tweeds, having “trousered” some very serious money.

With this sea change we saw the disappearance of those traditional and cautious values, my word is my bond, trust, nods, winks and tips were all to be replaced by what is now seen in many quarters as a reckless abandon, using somebody else’s money to trade on your own account for the benefit of the Banks who employed you and more importantly yourself.

If it all went wrong, the bank carried the losses until, as we saw with the spectacular 2007 banking collapse, the taxpayer did if nobody else seemed interested.

So when the indigestion disappeared from this bout of Mr. Creosote like fiscal gluttony, was Big Bang a success, was big beautiful?

Sir Robert Armstrong had the correct vision and Gordon Gekko I think has proved to be the master philosopher. The banks, post big bang, did take our money and were not responsible for what they did with it.

The largest banking fine in history levied this year has shown only too clearly that for rogue traders, in Gekko speak, “there is a very big difference between rehabilitation and repentance” and as far as casino banking and regulation is concerned, there is some way to go on both counts.

This would never have happened in the world of ‘Gentlemen and Players’?

Just a thought.

 

FSCS and the release of data, your data

Panacea comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

24 Oct 2016

FSCS and the release of data, your data

Advisers may be concerned to know about the continued, contentious handling of personal data by the FSCS where claims are received.

In particular where the adviser has retired and the firm in question was NOT in default of the scheme some 20 years later.

With regulators looking at personal responsibility from company directors, in the words of Hector Sants, all advisers should be very afraid, and to the grave it would seem?

When a ‘consumer’ approaches the FSCS (looking to claim compensation) as the firm from whom advice was obtained is no longer trading and not in default (as the adviser has retired) the FSCS, if requested by the ‘consumer’, is releasing information as to the whereabouts of that now retired adviser, whether or not the adviser has consented to that release.

In correspondence seen, the FSCS is stating that it has the right to release such data when requested; quoting guidance it says it has from the Information Commissioners office (ICO).

This states, “ Where the FSCS has rejected a claim for solvency reasons (firm not in default) and the consumer wishes to pursue a claim, disclosure is permitted under the Data Protection Act 1998.

They go on to refer to the fact that they have received guidance from the ICO to that effect- providing this summary. 

Now here is the situation, and advisers should rightly be very concerned as this could happen to anyone and illustrates only too well the need for a longstop.

The date of the advice being claimed against (relating in this case to affordability surrounding a mortgage protection policy with CI) was in 1997, almost 20 years ago.

If the firm was in default and the FSCS did accept such a complaint, it would be dismissed as they do recognise the longstop.

The advisory firm- a partnership in this case, closed in a correct way in 1998 with full PIA regulatory approval and it is not in FSCS default.

The adviser made it clear that he did not wish his address to be given and he gave some specific, valid reasons in response to the FSCS’s asking.

These reasons were dismissed out of hand, without any explanation as to why other than to refer to ICO guidance.

The adviser told the FSCS that he would complain to the ICO. He felt it was unfair to release his details when the firm was not in default and that the complaint would have been dismissed under FIMBRA, PIA and FSA rules as well as the FSCS own rules by way of being out of time on so many levels, including the FSCS’s own application of a longstop.

As a result the FSCS then advised the ICO, to whom that complaint about data release was made, that the complaint was made to “delay the consumer in getting compensation”.

The FSCS, in saying it can release data so long after the date of the advice being given, reasons that “considerable weight has to be given to the legitimate interests of the customer”.

In this case the decision seems very unfair, surely the adviser has rights too?

Tell us what you think about the FSCS and especially their funding in this short survey, have they got it right? We think they have not.

Do you?

A banking morality tale

Panacea comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

20 Oct 2016

A banking morality tale

Wells Fargo Fined $185 Million for Fraudulently Opening Accounts.

The following first appeared in the New York Times last month and showed that old banking habits die hard. In fact the scandal was so great that the US Senate, House Financial Services Committee decided to intervene. 

For years, Wells Fargo employees secretly issued credit cards without a customer’s consent. They created fake email accounts to sign up customers for online banking services. They set up sham accounts that customers learned about only after they started accumulating fees.

September saw these illegal banking practices cost Wells Fargo $185 million in fines, including a $100 million penalty from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the largest such penalty the agency has issued.

Federal banking regulators said the practices, which date back to 2011, reflected serious flaws in the internal culture and oversight at Wells Fargo, one of the nation’s largest banks. The bank has fired at least 5,300 employees who were involved.

In all, Wells Fargo employees opened roughly 1.5 million bank accounts and applied for 565,000 credit cards that may not have been authorized by customers, the regulators said in a news conference. The bank has 40 million retail customers.

Some customers noticed the deception when they were charged unexpected fees, received credit or debit cards in the mail that they did not request, or started hearing from debt collectors about accounts they did not recognize.

But most of the sham accounts went unnoticed, as employees would routinely close them shortly after opening them. Wells has agreed to refund about $2.6 million in fees that may have been inappropriately charged. 

Wells Fargo is famous for its culture of cross-selling products to customers — routinely asking, say, a checking account holder if she would like to take out a credit card. Regulators said the bank’s employees had been motivated to open the unauthorized accounts by compensation policies that rewarded them for opening new accounts; many current and former Wells employees told regulators they had felt extreme pressure to open as many accounts as possible.

“Unchecked incentives can lead to serious consumer harm, and that is what happened here,” said Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Wells said the employees who were terminated included managers and other workers. A bank spokeswoman declined to say whether any senior executives had been reprimanded or fired in the scandal.

“Wells Fargo is committed to putting our customers’ interests first 100 percent of the time, and we regret and take responsibility for any instances where customers may have received a product that they did not request,” the bank said in a statement.

One Wells customer in Northern California, Shahriar Jabbari, had seven additional accounts that he did not consent to, according to a lawsuit he filed against the bank last year in federal court.

When Mr. Jabbari called the bank asking what he should do with three new debit cards he did not authorize, a bank employee told him to dispose of them, according to the lawsuit. 

Mr. Jabbari said in the lawsuit that his credit score had suffered because unpaid fees on the unauthorized accounts had been sent to a debt collector.

Banking regulators said the widespread nature of the illegal behavior showed that the bank lacked the necessary controls and oversight of its employees.

Ensuring that large banks have tight controls has been one of the central preoccupations of banking regulators after the mortgage crisis.

Such pervasive problems at Wells Fargo, which has headquarters in San Francisco, stand out given all of the scrutiny that has been heaped on large, systemically important banks since 2008.

“If the managers are saying, ‘We want growth; we don’t care how you get there,’ what do you expect those employees to do?” said Dan Amiram, an associate business professor at Columbia University. 

It is a particularly ugly moment for Wells, one of the few large American banks that have managed to produce consistent profit increases since the financial crisis. Wells has earned a reputation on Wall Street as a tightly run ship that avoided many of the missteps of the mortgage crisis because it took fewer risks than many of its competitors.

At the same time, Wells has managed to be enormously profitable, as other large banks continued to stumble because of tighter regulations and a choppy economy.

Analysts have marveled at the bank’s ability to cross-sell mortgages, credit cards and auto loans to customers. The strategy is at the core of modern-day banking: Rather than spend too much time and money recruiting new customers, sell existing customers on new products.

Wells Fargo markets itself as the quintessential Main Street lender, stressing the value of creating long-term relationships with customers over earning a quick buck.

But that apple-pie approach was undercut, regulators say, by a compensation program that encouraged employees to push the limits.

“It is way out of character for one of the cleanest banks around,” said Mike Mayo, a banking analyst at CLSA. “It’s a head-scratcher why so many employees felt comfortable crossing the line.”

In many cases, customers took notice only when they received a letter in the mail congratulating them on opening a new account.

Many of the questionable accounts were created by moving a small amount of money from the customer’s current account to open the new one.

Shortly after opening the sham account, the bank employee closed it down and moved the money back, according to regulators.

But Wells employees were still most likely able to get credit for opening new accounts in meeting their sales goals, the regulators said.

In addition to the fine from the consumer protection bureau, Wells paid $35 million to the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and $50 million to the City and County of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles city attorney worked with banking regulators on the case. 

The bank stressed that the refunds have been relatively small — averaging about $25. The bank hired an independent consultant that reviewed tens of millions of accounts from May 2011 through July 2015.

The bank said it refunded money to customers if there was even the slightest possibility they were charged improperly because of unauthorized accounts.

“As a result of our customer-first methodology, we believe we included accounts that were actually appropriately opened and authorized by a customer,” the bank said in a statement.

Even regulators concede that the financial harm to consumers was not large. But the more troubling aspect, they said, was how the behavior reflected a broader culture inside Wells’s retail operations.

“Consumers must be able to trust their banks,” said Mike Feuer, the Los Angeles city attorney. “Consumers must never be taken advantage of by their banks.”

Stock of Wells Fargo, which is the largest bank in the country by market capitalization but fourth-largest by assets, rose 13 cents on Thursday, to $49.90 a share.

USA Today reported that “Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf has agreed to give up $41 million in unvested stock awards following the board of directors’ investigation into the bank’s sales practices, the company said Tuesday.

Additionally, Carrie Tolstedt,

Wells Fargo’s former head of community banking, will forego all her unvested equity stock awards valued at $19 million and will not receive retirement benefits worth millions more. 

Tolstedt was responsible for the division during the time employees allegedly created sham accounts to meet sales targets. She has announced she will retire at the end of year.

And the footnote to this is that last week John Stumpf resigned with immediate effect. The California Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into Wells Fargo.

And while all eyes have been on Wells Fargo in the wake of the bank’s fake accounts scandal, Fortune Magazine notes that “there is another, not so apparent culprit at the heart of the crisis: the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Under SEC Chair Mary Jo White’s watch, the agency has failed to enforce disclosure requirements at Wells Fargo and elsewhere at a time when trust in big business has hit historic lows”.

And the lesson that UK banks should learn from this is?

And the lesson UK regulators should learn from this is?

I met her in a club down in old Soho

Panacea Comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

6 Oct 2016

I met her in a club down in old Soho.

With the summer now well and truly over, some startling news emerged that women having NHS funded sex changes are also being given NHS fertility treatment so they can have babies after they become men.

The next step in this odyessy seems to be that the transgendered woman (now to be legally recognised as a ‘man’) whose frozen eggs have been used to create a baby should be ‘legally recognised’ as the child’s father, rather than their mother.

Still with me?

I reminded of the Kinks prophetic song ‘Lola’ and the line that goes Girls will be boys and boys will be girls. It’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world”.

We have schools setting policies for ‘transgender equality’ by way of gender-neutral uniforms and toilet provisions. Southampton University’s Student union is demanding that sanitary bins be installed in male toilets for transgender men who menstruate and staff at a Swedish kindergarten were told not to refer to children as ‘him’ or ‘her’ to avoid stereotyping.

Before anyone gets ‘offended on someone else’s behalf’, how common is the non-binary gender in the UK? This being defined as a person whose “self-identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender”.

The Gender Identity Research & Education Society (GIRES) estimates that barely 1% of the British population could be gender nonconforming to ‘some degree’. The numbers of trans boys and trans girls are about equal. That is some 640,000.

At the end of 2014, reliable figures indicated that at least 0.4% of the UK population defined itself as non-binary when given a 3-way choice in terms of female, male or another description.

That’s about 256,000.

To accommodate the needs and rights of this very small societal group, there are three UK Gender Recognition Registers, not by gender choice but by region (England and Wales together, Scotland and Northern Ireland) and anyone with a UK birth certificate who is issued with a ‘Gender Recognition Certificate’ is entitled to a new birth or adoption certificate, which is recorded in one of those Gender Recognition Registers.

As of the end of June 2015, since the Gender Recognition Act 2004 came into force in April 2005:

  • 4,631 new birth certificate applications have been received
  • 3,999 full Gender Recognition Certificates have been issued by the GRP
  • 183 interim Gender Recognition Certificates have been issued by the GRP (67% converted to full GRCs)
  • 193 applications have been declined
  • 110 applications are still pending

A 2014 survey found that 48% of ‘trans people’ under 26 had tried to commit suicide, 30% done so in the past year and 59% said they had at least considered doing so.

An interesting life insurance underwriting factor?

So irrespective of any readers personal views on the matter, which will be a spectrum ranging from incredulity as to how such a very small percentage of the population has developed such a powerful, possibly disproportionate influence, to the deep concerns felt by many that those affected can live in a very dark and confused place needing help.

The issues for the financial services industry that arise from this could be considerable.

The gender directive had serious cost implications for all insurance products, seeing the costs of protection for women increase to the same level that men pay, despite life expectancy being so different.

How will a ‘transgender’ or ‘non-binary’ be underwritten?

The Nursing Times highlighted 5 key points regarding ‘gender’ in 2015. They were:

  • Women have lower mortality rates than men, longer life expectancy, greater morbidity and are over-represented in health statistics
  • Some health problems are more commonly associated with one gender than the other
  • Sociological factors are as important as biology for determining gender-related health inequalities
  • Women’s natural reproductive function has increasingly been medicalised, leading to the increased need for healthcare

Germaine Greer got in a lot of trouble recently when giving a lecture at Cardiff University. She said“Just because you lop off your penis and then wear a dress doesn’t make you a ******* woman,”.

She has a point- genetically and chemically.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is found in just about all-living things and is the main component contained within chromosomes. It is the carrier of the genetic code that identifies the unique, distinctive and very importantly, unchangeable human male and female characteristics meaning that if you are ‘Arthur’, ‘Martha’ or travelling in-between, the transgender DNA remains as the definitive marker that just cannot be changed.

What about transgender underwriting for Annuities, Healthcare, Critical Illness, clearly a potential problem, particularly if ‘parts’ have been added or taken away.

LV= explained that “our underwriters take into account someone’s current gender. So if someone is transgender that will not be an issue at all, there is no additional loading or special treatment.

The only issue would be if they’re still having treatment (which is the same as anyone undergoing medical or psychological treatment), so if they’re in counselling then mental illness might be excluded but this is a general thing not specific to transgender people”.

Royal London said that “We are happy to consider all applications for cover for people who are transgender. 

Males and females will pay the same premium for insurance cover with Royal London, meaning that a customer can apply for cover as male or female depending upon their gender identity and not their biological sex.

If a customer has already had gender reassignment surgery and has made a full recovery with no complications, all covers including critical illness will be accepted at standard rates.

If the customer is due to undergo surgery, we will usually postpone cover until after the operation due to the potential medical and surgical complications, the same way we would for any customer awaiting any major surgery. But again, once a full recovery has been made with no adverse reactions to treatment received such as hormonal therapy, all covers including critical illness will be accepted at standard rate.. 

If the customer has any other medical history, this will be underwritten using our usual underwriting philosophy applied to all customers”.

Just Retirement’s view was that “ gender will make no difference to the price offered to the customer, as all rates are priced on a unisex basis. We offer customers the choice on how they are addressed.”

Male drivers pay more for car insurance than their female counterparts – despite strict gender equality laws – due to a loophole that lets firms charge more based on a person’s job. But what about the European equality laws, these did not seem to factor in- the ‘Lola’ driver?

Will non-binary be built into robo-advice algorhytmns and proposal forms?

With all this in mind, we hear that Oxford City Council is to add on it’s official forms the gender-neutral option of “Mx” as it considers whether all title salutations should disappear.

Even traffic lights have not escaped being politically correctly  re-engineered with the traditional green man sign replaced with LGBT symbols at 50 pedestrian crossings around the Trafalgar Square area in June.

And, what about dressing for work? The TUC is investigating gender-related problems associated with workplace dress codes and personal protective equipment (PPE). The probe follows reports of sexism related to work clothing, including stipulations to wear high heels, and the provision of ill-fitting PPE for women. A survey by the union Prospect found just 29 per cent of women said their protective clothing was designed for females. The TUC wants to hear of examples of bad practice, but is also keen to hear examples of good agreements and policies on dress code.

For my generation and that of my parents, it is a “very mixed up, muddled up, shook up” world indeed as the country appears to being subjected to minority influenced, politically correct socio re-engineering to accommodate less than 1% of the population. Goodness knows at what cost.

The world of financial services industry is already fraught with confusions, challenges and conundrums.

How will it keep pace?

Boring is as boring does

Panacea comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

5 Sep 2016

Boring is as boring does

I recently had through my door a local magazine, you know, the type that has all sorts of information in a semi glossy, very thin A4 format about local ‘stuff and people’ that these days the internet is the ‘go to’ to find out about.

I do not know why but my wife started to flick through some of its pages before consigning it to the bin as she usually does.

A few pages in she came across an ‘advertorial’ piece from a local IFA. What drew her attention in particular to this was that the IFA in question used to work for me in his first steps toward becoming an IFA.

What attracted me to him was his personality, his enthusiasm and ideas. And above all a desire to make a difference.

But what has happened to this ‘bright young thing’ some 15 years later?

The editorial was, in her opinion, boring, lifeless, colourless and totally bereft of any encouragement to speak to him or his firm about financial advice or becoming a client.

In financial services today, to attract new clients to new businesses, or in fact any business, great marketing is essential. It should be with a digital focus and should be aimed at engaging with the client audience you are trying to attract. It should make a statement about your firm, what makes you different, what you are experts at and why they should choose your firm.

The UK finance sector was the second biggest spender online, accounting for 13.4% of total adspend (IAB/PwC adspend survey H1 2015).

In the USA, total digital advertising spend for 2015 saw rapid growth, reaching $58B. US mobile devices surpassed desktop in share of digital ad spend, accounting for 52% of the total.

The finance sector was one of the earliest adopters of Internet advertising, quick to see its exceptional accountability and numerous opportunities to build brands online.

Display, search advertising, social media, affiliate marketing and behavioral targeting are just some of the methods which key players in the sector can use to reach their audiences in an effective and engaging way.

The reason for so much mobile device engagement is due to the general mobile accessibility for consumers in their downtime- travelling, waiting, lunch breaks and of course the fact that today so many firms block private internet browsing in the office.

There are some brilliant examples out there of advisers grasping the digital way forward using video, blogs, and social media channels.

So go digital, bin the boring and engage with the opportunity the 21st century makes possible.

As Steve Jobs said Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works”

And when it works, it works very well.