Life is a cabaret old chum, so come to the cabaret

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We are only 4 weeks into the brave new world and already we are seeing the first examples of politico-regulatory “Told you so” and “You couldn’t make it up”.

Liberal Democrat MEP and Economic and Monetary Affairs committee chair Sharon (Sally) Bowles has fired a salvo against the banks suggesting that their published adviser charges are a “rip off”.

In fact they are so much of a “rip off” she reckons, that the arrival of RDR has created a system so complicated for the average consumer to comprehend that the commission option would be easier to understand. As a result it is her intention to seek an EU wide cap on advice fees within current Mifid II talks.

Lloyds is charging an upfront fee starting at 2.5 per cent on the first £300,000 invested, HSBC is charging an upfront fee of £950 on assets up to £75,000, RBS is charging £500 to set up a financial plan and a fee when the client invests, which starts at 1.25 per cent for assets up to £500,000 and Nationwide is charging 3 per cent initial and 0.5 for ongoing advice.

Ms Bowes is clearly trying to help the consumer, but sadly, she is deluded and frankly a little too late.

I have become increasingly cynical about the intentions and effectiveness of politicians in any face-off with unaccountable regulators and paradoxical regulation.

RDR for better or worse is here to stay, well for a while at least, but RDR is also about free markets, and adviser charging is part of that.

Our recent survey of some 433 advisers found that advisers would be offering different charging solutions to match differentiated service propositions and some 72% would charge through the product.

Only a quarter were planning to operate an hourly rate and that averaged around £172 per hour. Half were planning to charge a percentage of the amount invested. The charges the banks intended to make, that Ms Bowles refers to, are on the high side but we have a regulator created free market in advice and to suggest a cap shows no understanding of that.

Compared to the banks, adviser charges of this level, if sustainable would mean that only the brain dead would consider going to a bank for financial advice.

Also, you cannot apply a cap to the amount a firm charges without at the very least capping the costs that a firm incurs in satisfying uncontrolled and increasing costs placed upon it by regulation. And that would never happen.

Politicians and regulators seem to assume most if not all consumers are stupid, and in-keeping with so much of todays nanny state thinking, must be protected from themselves. Financial advice costs, it is up to the consumer to decide how much is reasonable, is access to it convenient, is the advice suitable and understandable and how well qualified and for what is the adviser?

Ms Bowles is quoted as saying that “If the RDR does nothing to stop some high street banks from “ripping investors off” with astronomical advice charges then something has to be done”. Consumers are  “not a cash cow to milk to pay the fines and compensation that banks have had to pay for other inappropriate charges and behaviour”.

She may have a point but she is wrong when she says “Many professionals base charges on an hourly basis and if the initial advice is not worth the money you can take your business elsewhere.”  This is akin to going to a restaurant, eating the meal then saying you will not pay as you did not like it.

So Ms Bowles, welcome to the world of the fee based advice. You are right, commission is easier to understand for the average consumer, particulary those who do not want to pay for advice if they do not like it and want a “get out of jail free, take your business elsewhere, card” to justify their not paying.

As Sally Bowles sang,

“What could permitting some prophet of doom, to wipe every smile away.

Life is a cabaret, old chum, so come to the cabaret”

New CPD service for Panacea Adviser community

January 2013 has finally arrived and the new RDR professionalism rules mean all advisers need to undertake a minimum of 35 hours CPD each year, 21 of which must be structured, designed to meet a particular learning outcome and capable of being independently verified.

To make it as easy as possible for the Panacea Adviser community to fulfil, document and verify their CPD hours, we are delighted to announce that the Money Marketing CPD Centre is now available via a direct link from the Panacea Adviser website. 

The Money Marketing CPD Centre, brought to you by Panacea Adviser, is a free resource for all financial advisers, planners and paraplanners.  You can register today at https://panacea.cpd-smart.co.uk or visit the CPD Centre page on our website for further information.

Once registered for this unique service you will be guided through easy steps to plan, fulfil and execute 35 hours annual CPD, so you can then make your SPS (Statement of Professional Standing) application with confidence.

Start your CPD plan with Panacea Adviser and Money Marketing today

 

Chaos

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Fears are mounting, as they do every time this country grinds to a halt because of snow, that our fragile economy could quite quickly reverse the  signs of recovery and plummet toward recession again.

Analysts are warning that the damage done by “blizzard” conditions and the resulting lost working days will see UK plc sliding out of control toward it’s third recession in five years.

What is happening, why do so many just not go to work, or cannot get to work when we get a few centimetres of snow? 10 centimeters is about 4 inches in ‘old money and unlike a ski slope is not a compacted depth. If it was that would be a different scenario altogether.

I was a child of the Fifties, we had fogs and cold winters that lasted for weeks at a time, the Thames actually froze over at Southend, my hometown, in January 1963. We had no central heating, double-glazing, in car climate or traction control, hi -tech thermal clothing or footwear.

And guess what, we went to school, the trains ran, the buses ran and schools opened and people went to work. I cannot recall if Southend Airport was open or indeed Heathrow but the planes probably flew too.

In the fifties and sixties (when supposedly we “never had it so good”) there was an expectation that you would go to work, you would go to school- if only in order to enjoy skidding along on the yards of polished sheet ice (created first thing by the schoolboy danger squads) not remotely interested about injury hazard.

The shops were open, food supplies got through, milk was delivered to home and schools (frozen of course with the gold top foil cap atop a long neck of frozen cream) and the wherewithal to achieve all this – transportation, was running.

So despite the technical achievements and progress of society and science over the passing decades, in 2013 trains do not run, airports close, roads become impassable, schools shut and all for a few centimetres of well forecast snow and a helping hand of health and safety regulations.

In today’s oh so PC society the process goes a little like this: snow is forecast, news stations immediately start announcing that journeys should not be undertaken unless absolutely necessary. The result is that schools immediately shut up shop.

On Monday the BBC reported that over 5,000 schools were shut, many because the staff could not get themselves in to work yet the parents managed to get to schools only to find them shut on arrival.

Because the children cannot go to school, parents cannot go to work, as there is nobody to look after or collect the “kids”. This in turn leads to strain being placed on work colleagues and in other areas such as transport due to staff shortages.

Trains just do not run, in the case of South West trains last week the timetables were scrapped even before a flake of snow has fallen. Because the trains are not running those that wanted to get to work relying on public transport cannot.

Because roads and footpaths are not gritted or cleared (in the 50’s and 60’s householders would get together to clear pavements outside their houses) many that wanted to get to work cannot get their cars out of icy streets and driveways because there is no neighbourly will to clear or grit what the councils cannot or will not.

At Heathrow (not Gatwick -that was operating pretty much OK) the millions of pounds spent by BAA to make sure there was no repeat of the chaos of 2010, 2011 and 2012 resulted in total failure with thousands stranded.

This is madness, my rant is done, but here are some very simple thoughts, based on some European winter practices, on how to stop this happening in future. I am sure nobody will take note.

 

  1. Road transport: make it compulsory for all motor vehicles to fit winter tyres from November to March.
  2. Instead of stopping trains running when we have snow, we should ensure that there is a greater frequency that will ensure that tracks are kept clear.
  3. And for schools, get ALL the staff in very early, they can clear snow, salt paths and of course stop the children enjoying the “extreme danger” of snow as they may just get hurt.

Airports in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, USA, Canada and Scandinavia do not stop operating with the snow depths such as we get, why?

They invest heavily in equipment to ensure runways are clear, planes de-iced and because they all drive cars with winter tyres, the airports can be sure that there is a better than even chance of staff getting in to work to deal with clearing the dusting of snow on runways and de-icing of planes.

Now here is an odd thing, driving through Bracknell I notice that the pavements on main roads are covered in snow and ice (along with all the back roads) yet the council run leisure centre has cleared 2 lanes on it’s outdoor athletic track of snow and ice- you could not make it up?

Whilst many cannot get to work because of the weather, they can it would seem get to supermarkets, health clubs, go tobogganing, drive to Heathrow to (not) go on holiday and even to Bracknell to jog.

UK plc may hit a triple dip recession and if it does it will be because of the ‘health and safety’ and litigation fears that are ingrained in people now.

‘Man up’ GB!

An “App” a day…….

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Pablo Picasso said that “Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon”. When we look at ‘apps we don’t start measuring what they can do, we look at what we can do with them to make life that little bit richer.

At the end of 2012 smartphones reached a 50% penetration within the UK, with tablets poised to do the same soon. Additionally, according to Ofcom, 36% of internet users in the UK access the web using a smartphone.

With increasing reliability on mobile devices, comes an increase in the number of apps there are available to us to help with our everyday lives. With around 700,000 and rising we have put together a list of useful apps all in one place that could help your business.

If you think any additional apps should make the list please add to the comments section below!

Abbey for Intermediaries App

It’s easy to keep up to date with the latest news and service updates with the Abbey for Intermediaries Service App. Never miss a news alert again, access the latest rates and always have your AFI telephone numbers to hand. More

Aegon Pension Reform Planner

Available to iPhone and Android users, our pensions reform app keeps you up to date with the latest industry news and important key dates. We’ve programmed our apps to automatically alert employers when they need to start work on their pre-staging key tasks, helping to keep them on the right track for staging. Available via iTunes and Google Play.

Assureweb Mobile

Financial services in the palm of your hand.

Designed specifically for financial advisers, this free mobile comparison tool allows you to obtain term quotes from 10 providers while you are on the move. Key features include:

  • Free
  • First mobile comparison app for financial advisers in the UK
  • Real time term assurance quotes from all the leading providers
  • Fully integrated with Assureweb’s portal
  • Secure login
  • Very easy to use with intuitive navigation

Available via iTunes and Google Play.

Aviva Fees-ability

Understanding how the level of service you provide to your clients affects your long term business sustainability has never been so important. Our Fees-ability app is designed to help you do exactly this in 3 quick and easy steps. Not only does the Fees-ability app allow you to do this it enables you to model the impact of changing key variables including: growth, cost per hour and on-going % charge. Available viaiTunes

Bright Touch by Bright Grey

Our app is designed to give professional financial advisers information at their fingertips about Bright Grey’s personal and business menus. The products and information section allows advisers to scroll through some of the most commonly asked questions and see a list of the illnesses we cover, along with their definitions. The app also contains case studies from our clients, and commentary from an adviser talking about our remarkable Helping Hand service.

Advisers can also use our interactive tools to help overcome the most common objections consumers have to taking out protection insurance. The app can be used to build a short customer profile and that information is carried through to the objection handling screens, tailoring the information provided to that client. Advisers can use the app either with clients in front of them, to prepare for meetings, or just to access statistics and facts quickly when they’re out of the office. Available via iTunes and Google Play.

Legal & General Mortgage Club

Created exclusively for Mortgage Club members, our iPhone mortgage sourcing app means you can access all the latest mortgage deals even when you’re out and about. Powered by TrigoldCrystal, it’s the first intermediary only mortgage-sourcing application of its kind and it’s free to download. With results that mirror those you’d find on Prospector, the app has all the functionality you’d expect from a sourcing system. Available via iTunes.

Legal & General protection App for Advisers

Make the most of business opportunities with this app, by getting quick protection quotes on the move. You can download the app from the App Store on your iPhone or iPad and all you’ll need to get started is a Legal & General protection agency number. Available via iTunes.

LifeCash

The LifeCash App is an informative and innovative way of presenting your recommendations to your client’s using the revolutionary iPad from Apple. More.

Metlife Calendar

MetLife 2013 Calendar is free to download! So check out your favourite pups from this year’s calendar competition. Some Key Features include:

  • Digital 2013 calendar
  • Create/Modify/Delete events
  • Add a location (GPS)
  • Invite a Friend
  • Provide Feedback

Available via iTunes, Google Play and BlackBerry App World.

Mortgage Brain App

Mortgage Brain’s mobile application solution to promote brokers and mortgages products to UK consumers has taken the market by storm and become an immediate success during the first few weeks since its launch. Available via iTunes and Google Play.

Skandia Appetite for Risk

Getting your clients to understand and agree their ‘appetite for risk’ is one of the key stages in the investment process. The task of risk profiling and risk discussion can however be time consuming. Completing the client questionnaire, inputting the answers online and then discussing the results are typically done at separate times.

To make the whole process more efficient for you and your clients, this app does it all in one go. It allows you to complete the questionnaire, get the risk score and then discuss with your client what that risk score means, during a single meeting.

The agreed risk level can then be emailed back to your office for use with Skandia’s online investment tools. Available via iTunes and Google Play.

Standard Life Investment UK Adviser App

Our UK Adviser App gives you instant access to live fund prices and performance data, and a wealth of other useful facilities including fund manager videos, conference calls and our new interactive charting tool.

Download the App from the App Store or Google Play Store now to get the following at your fingertips:

  • live prices and performance for over 2,500 funds
  • interactive performance charts – compare Standard Life Investments funds with indices and peer group funds over different time periods
  • customisable lists – filter only the funds that are of interest to you
  • global insight and market views
  • company updates and current news
  • latest fund manager conference calls

Available via iTunes and Google Play.

Your Money Monthly

A personal finance magazine with topical articles written by practising and qualified advisers. Free to subscribe and Free to download. Features on Pensions, Investments, Mortgages and all aspects of personal finance in the UK. Available via iTunes.

 

 

Wet boots, but it’s not raining?

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After reading the weekend’s Sunday Times, it continues to amaze me (though it really should not) that the employment of individuals in the “Is this role really necessary” category by NGA’s, Quango’s and regulatory bodies like the FSA and FOS, seemingly with little consideration being given to cost in relation to needs and budget continues to thrive.

A front-page appointments section advert, at what cost, is spotted for a charity organisation – “Achievement for All”, based in Newbury. It is searching for individuals to fill roles such as ‘Chief Programmes Officer, Programme Lead and Chief Quality Officer’.

This organisation seeks to transform the lives of vulnerable and disadvantaged children, clearly a most laudable aim and one must assume they are successful at it. But how can a charity, that is it would seem government funded, justify paying salaries, in this case of between £50,000 and £80,000pa?

With salaries of this level and no doubt higher elsewhere in the organisation, how much can be left for the charity?

But, they are not alone and most certainly have a lot to learn from regulatory organisations like the FSA, MAS and of course the FOS who’s capacity to run fast and loose with a bottomless pit of other peoples money know no bounds.

With this in mind, it was therefore no surprise to read further into the appointments section of the Sunday Times, a quarter page advertisement for a FOS ‘Independent Assessor’ on a salary of £112,000 pa- pro rata, for a 3 day week!

Now the FOS has a vast budget, paid for by the industry from an ever-increasing level of levy. They currently employ some 1,500. Of this number, according to a very recent FOI request obtained by Alan Lakey, 352 are contracted, 24 are temps and 19 are fee paid Ombudsmen, a sort of ‘gun for hire’ roaming ombudsman.

The most recently available wage bill is around £68m. In 2002 it was £18.6m.

The FOS has a job to do, it is not a charity, neither are adviser firms, yet the continued sucking of financial blood from this industry simply to feed this voracious appetite continues unabated.

With the number of workers who left the industry through redundancy or job move rising six per cent to nearly 35,500 in 2012, will somebody at the FSA and the TSC look at this problem now? Are roles such as an ‘Independent Assessor’ actually needed and do they need to be paid so much?

If regulators looked at budgets, income streams and spending money in the same way as you do as a business, where success has come about by way of innovation, quaifications, entrepreneurism, customer care, hard work and marketing of your professional services, we may see some sanity return.

But until that happens, that nasty pool of foul smelling liquid that just splashed on your shoe is not, I can assure you, rain.

 

Using Video to support your clients and grow your business – a Panacea Adviser FREE trial

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We are very aware that at the heart of your relationship with your clients is the trust you build and knowledge that you bring to bear.  We also recognise that giving your clients (and prospective clients) content relevant to their lives is a vital part of your service and sales activities. But it can be hard to create the necessary volume of material, and especially difficult to do so when media savvy consumers now expect greater sophistication in the message and how it is delivered, read and understood.

As a result, the team at Panacea Adviser have been working on a concept which we hope will bring to you a regular flow of material that you can use in your marketing activities (e.g. your website, newsletters, emails, blogs, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook and presentations etc).

One component of that work will give you a way to use video in your marketing at a very affordable price by using a concept similar to the syndicated newsletter model.

In this regard we have been working on a project with Just90.tv . They have produced some initial videos that can be branded with your logo and contact details so that you can use them as your own for Sales, Prospecting, Client Support and Service.

We are now at the point where we would like to test the concept with you and get some feedback so that we can progress to the next stage and create an ongoing service that could also include other material such as blogs and tweets.

To get you going we are delighted to give you a free IHT Planning Video that can be used in your own business.

Click this link to get your FREE video to use in your marketing 

Then, if you are happy with this, for a small fee you can continue to gain access to a complete and growing  set of Just90.tv videos that have been are are being developed and produced.

View the video here

If you would like a copy of this video please email info@just90.tv.  Just90.tv will send an MP4 video file of this video plus an embed code that you can use on your website and newsletters etc.

If you don’t want to use this version with the Panacea Adviser logo, Just90 can re-badge it with your own logo and contact details for only £45 plus VAT during this trial period.  Just send them your logo and contact details.  They will let you know how to make payment and will produce your own version for you.

In addition, if you want to buy additional Just90 videos on topics such as Pensions, the Child Benefit changes, and Income Protection please go to the Just90 site by clicking here.

Your feedback

This is a concept trial, but we strongly believe that this is a service that will help you support your clients and grow your business.  We are looking to find the best ways to make this work for you and would welcome your feedback on topics such as:

Is this the sort of service that will help your business to grow?

Should we make this a ongoing service to members?

What should be included within the service (e.g. Video, blogs, tweets)?

What topics would like to see content produced for?

What help might you need to help you to use a service such as this?

This is a trial, but we strongly believe that this is a service that will help you support your clients and grow your business.  Please let us know what you want from the service by clicking here.  Thank you

Always look on the bright side….

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“Some things in life are bad


They can really make you mad


Other things just make you swear and curse.


When you’re chewing on life’s gristle


Don’t grumble, give a whistle


And this’ll help things turn out for the best…”

So 2013 has arrived, the RDR has become reality and many advisers of all persuasions could have had this song lyric ringing in their ears.

I am not one to look negatives in isolation, as there is always an element of ‘curates egginess’ in most areas that cause division. I am also aware that with the start of a New Year we should also concentrate on the positives by way of our actions, deeds, thoughts and views.

So while whistling this catchy little tune, buried like bad news in the weekend papers, I noted that Hector had bagged a ‘K’.

With a need to start the year in a positive way very many advisers will see this as a ‘signing-off’ kick in the teeth from somebody who has in their eyes done his very best to fix a system that was not entirely broke, to regulate the wrong people in the wrong way for the wrong reason.

The timing, if it had to happen at all, was terrible, it lacked sensitivity toward the industry and his defence, that it was a reward for the hard work of all the FSA staff, and accepted on their behalf by Hector simply beggars belief.

Normally the recipient seeking support by way of such a justification would still be working for the firm or organization at the time of the award, Hector threw in the towel months ago and even had a new job announced prior to the ‘K’ being announced.

I hope at the very least he had waited to order his business cards at Barclays?

There is something quite rotten in this award and I would dearly like to know who suggested this as being a good idea, who carried it forward and why? The guidelines issued by the government state that “the person must still be actively involved in the area they’re nominated”. Does garden leave count?

It is a reward for failure, the failure of the FSA and as some have suggested a reward for not being given the top job at the BoE that he had supposedly been promised. Hector Sants may be a really nice guy but from my experience really nice guys generally do not reach such dizzy heights by being ‘nice’.

They are often surrounded by ranks of well paid ‘blame takers’, possess an Arsene Wenger-like ability to not have seen something when you know they did (as to have not seen it would suggest stupidity) and a skin so thick and fire resistant that you could make space shuttle tiles out of it.

So, some points to ponder:

  • What has Hector actually done to deserve this?
  • What might he have on someone, what is it and who may that person be?
  • Was this part of a hidden agenda agreement to stay on in 2010 and step down in the summer of 2012?
  • Or was he fired but to avoid unpleasantness, a cunning face saving plan like this was hatched?

I am also very concerned that the head an organisation, now being wound up and replaced as it has been seen as a failure in so many ways, should receive such an honour from a clearly hypocritical government that reacted to the taxpaying screaming mob and sacrificially stripped Fred Goodwin of his knighthood for failures that should have been seen and prevented by the very FSA that Sants headed up?

Nobody at the failed FSA should be seeing reward beyond the inflated salary and pension benefits many are in receipt of.

Sants RDR mission, that he chose to abandon, along with other senior officers from the bridge of the Canary Wharf version of the Cost Concordia before port had been reached, may be a success for some and we certainly hope this will extend to all but he should not be rewarded in such an undeserved way.

Here are some key attributes, currently missing I think, that should apply to regulators that could then lead to a ‘gong’:

They can accept failure (recognising their own mistakes)

They have a bias toward action (responding aggressively but positively to a challenge)

They can and do change their minds sometimes (the need to discard old thinking and reprogramme a vision)

They prepare for things to go wrong (regulators are not necessarily optimists)

They’re comfortable with discomfort (they’re willing to accept inconveniences as long as it leads them closer to the important goal)

They’re willing to wait and listen (overnight success is deceptively untrue)

They have heroes (regulators set and meet higher standards when inspired by others)

They have more than passion (success requires drive too)

They understand the true cost of regulation upon those they regulate (and who pays for it)

Perhaps to restore some integrity in a system that seems to reward public sector mediocre achievements or spectacular failure with equal abandon, a decision to refuse to accept it would be welcomed.

The industry mood is not good, indeed 2 petitions have been set up to try and see some common sense prevail.

One is “Withdraw Hector Sants Nomination for Knighthood & Reform The System”

The other is “Public enquiry and resulting prosecution regarding the gross dereliction of duties by Hector Sants and Senior Management at the FSA since 2005”.

With 2013 being a challenging year for the industry remember:

If life seems jolly rotten


There’s something you’ve forgotten


And that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing.


When you’re feeling in the dumps


Don’t be silly chumps


Just purse your lips and whistle – that’s the thing”.

After all if he cleans up Barclays as he is being tasked to do, a ‘K’ could be considered as a meritorious achievement?