Panacea launches all new auto-enrolment microsite

New rules and regulations, which are frequently introduced to the adviser world, are often fraught with difficulties and can take an awful lot of your time to understand and act upon accordingly.

Naturally, time is money to firms, more so than ever in todays fee charging world. And that loss of time linked to a failure to understand either the regulatory direction or opportunity can manifest itself in a reduction of income.

However, the new pension reforms are providing advisers with some great opportunities for additional revenue streams in the shape of auto-enrolment.

To assist you in taking full advantage of this opportunity, the Panacea Auto-enrolment micro site has been designed with input from providers, advisers and support services to promote an understanding of what you need to ensure the ongoing success of your business in light of what the changes to pension reforms present.

It is designed to help advisers support their clients in the run up to staging dates over the next three years and will assist in identifying business opportunities in the shape of step-by-step guide so you can conduct auto-enrolment business to ensure continued profitability.

This free to use resource also includes all the latest news on auto-enrolment, legal requirements and a whole raft of useful links.

And of course more useful tools and information will be added over the coming months.

So take a look today, bookmark this invaluable resource, let us know what else you would like to see and from who. And above all let your colleagues know today.

www.panaceaadviser.com/autoenrolment

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Keep your eyes on the prize guys

The Panacea community is made up mostly of men, recent research would suggest 93% (as one would ‘kind’a expect) the age demographic is that 45% are within the 50-59 age group and 24% are over 60. And you may be at real risk of having or getting Prostate Cancer.

With this in mind, coupled with my very recent personal ‘up close and personal’ experience of the subject, I felt this was a good idea to do my little bit to create some awareness of something that at best can change your life and at very worst kill you, especially if you sit within this age demographic.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men in the UK. Over 40,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year. Over 250,000 men are currently living with the disease.

The majority of men with prostate cancer are aged over 60 years and the disease is very rare in men under 50. Research in the U.S shows that other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for prostate cancer in the United States for 2014 are that:

  • About 233,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed
  • About 29,480 men will die of prostate cancer

The following, along with help from the internet, will I hope assist in understanding what it is, what symptoms to look out for, how it is detected and how it is treated.

Detection is of course the starting point for getting ‘sorted out’.

In my case, I had a BUPA medical in September last year and I was advised that following a fairly basic (I use that term advisedly) examination and questioning I was given a PSA test and told to consult a specialist as soon as possible.

But there is a problem with a PSA test (it is a blood test that measures the level of prostate-specific antigens) as results can be unreliable and this was explained to me, especially as my result was negative.

So off to the specialist I go. Although estimated life expectancy should figure prominently in treatment decisions, available data suggests that physician skill in this area is sometimes lacking, often leading to inappropriate treatment.

I was recommended to see consultant Chris Ogden, a top guy in this area it would seem. After looking at the BUPA data, he gave me another, far more detailed shall we say, ultra sound examination- an interesting ‘inner body experience’, and immediately informed me, with some quite graphc images, that my prostate was some three times the normal size. To allow him to understand more, an MRI scan was now needed.

A week later and with the scan done and clutching a CD copy of my very own, it was back to see Chris Ogden.

In my case the scan showed up some darkened areas that Chris said required further investigation- so now a transperineal prostate biopsybeckoned, deep joy.

Thankfully, I was ‘out to lunch’ for this having been given a general anesthesetic.

Now the most important thing with a biopsy is that a lot of samples are taken.

NHS procedures are normally conducted by way of a transrectal ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy that only take 10-12 samples and from what I have heard this may not be enough.

I had 30 samples taken by transperineal prostate biopsy, all in a day surgery, one hour or so procedure, at the Royal Marsden.

Ten days later and it is results time.

The news was very good, all clear and no sign of cancer cells. A short course of tablets is all that is needed and ‘normal service’ will be resumed.

So, the purpose of this highly personal blog is to highlight the fact that you guys, especially if you are over 50, reading this need to look out for the symptoms and get checked out now if any are showing.

The symptoms of growths in the prostate are similar whether they are non cancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). The symptoms include

  •             Having to rush to the toilet to pass urine
  •             Passing urine more often than usual, especially at night
  •             Difficulty passing urine, including straining to pass it or stopping and starting
  •             A sense of not being able to completely empty the bladder
  •             Pain when passing urine
  •             Blood in the urine or semen

The last two symptoms – pain and bleeding – are very rare in prostate cancer. They are more often a symptom of non-cancerous prostate conditions.

If you have any of the above, there are no prizes for hoping they will go away as I can tell you they will not, and if left could end up killing you, get to see your doctor now.

If I can conclude by saying that for wives and partners this is a big worry for them, they do not suffer but do feel your pain while you are being investigated and especially if you are found to have a problem. It can be life changing for them too.

Give them some recognition for the support they give you in getting through this.

Traffic wardens, investment bankers and easy targets

I drove into London last month, fed up with the journey by train (door to my City meetings takes some two and a half hours) to travel just under forty miles.

Anything is better than a 75 minute Wokingham to Waterloo train journey. I really do not see the point of HS2 when 30 minutes taken off my journey and that of thousands of others in the Thames Valley would represent a far better spend.

Anyway, the point of this blog and my mutterings in the headline, is about how the little guy is always such an easy target and the headline is my knee jerk reaction to events after I parked in Gresham Street, paying for three hours parking by phone, to go to a series of meetings secure in the knowledge that I was not going to get a ticket.

I returned with plenty of time to spare and to my horror, anger and every other negative emotion and muttered expletive in relation to the subject, a warden had it would seem, stood beside my car for the required five minutes and decided that my car was not parked close enough to the kerb.

The cost of his dodgy, fiscally impaired eyesight was an £80.00 fine, reduced to £40 if I admitted guilt, rolled over and died by paying early.

But I was within the lines, by length…. and by width, my rear tyres were on the lines, not outside as the offence on the ticket would suggest.

I appealed and lost, despite taking a photo to support the appeal. This is another great British example of invisible authority hitting easy, revenue raising targets while so many other infringements go unchecked like cyclists ignoring basic rules of the road, litterbugs, motorists on phones, thieves, rapists, drug dealers, benefit cheats, illegal immigrants, robbers and investment bankers.

Why investment bankers?

Well simply put, because individually they really are not an easy target to hit with regulatory punishments for wrongdoing.

Small businesses in financial services however are seen as very easy to hit, an exact inversion of the theory of easy to hit targets, as in the bigger the target…….

In a supervisory notice published last month, the FCA says an adviser failed to invest sums, as agreed or at all, and provided false information to clients.

It says he acted with a lack of honesty and integrity and the notice says“one customer made out a cheque for £35,000 to Fincher in January 2002 for him to invest in the best products on the market”.

And they are quite right, an adviser ‘trousering’ £35,000 is seen as a representation of a “lack of honesty and integrity”. The guy will rightly go to jail for 3-5 years no doubt along with the few others who have committed similar offences last year

Yet in the same week, Lloyds get a fiscal slap on the wrist with the regulators largest ever retail conduct fine of £28m and nobody is hung out dry. It means nothing, no collars felt, no business in ruins, no possible jail term, bonuses are still paid.

But why is the little guy, and not a ‘fat bastard’ banker who can cover up losses he made of some $2billion with someone else’s money always hung out to dry by regulators?

What stands out for me in all this, is that as yet, we’ve seen no enforcement against individuals at the top of banks. Not even Paul Flowers!

Until this happens, regulation is pointless, unfair and irrelevant.

A bit like my parking ticket really.

FSCS, Stick a pony in me pocket, I’ll fetch the suitcase from the van

An adviser contacted me recently regarding a very interesting dinner party conversation about the FSCS and it’s supposed ‘pot less’ state.

It was his understanding, from an individual at that party who had recently carried out some HM Treasury consultancy work in the financial services sector, that the FSCS really had no money, that it would be impossible for the industry to ever fund it and that if it were not for substantial government loans it would in fact be broke.

So, with this in mind we set about some FOI requests to ascertain the truth. It should be remembered that the FSCS is not bound to respond to FOI requests as these only relate to the “disclosure of information held by public authorities or persons providing services for them” so our enquiries were directed toward the FCA and HM Treasury.

It is puzzling as to why the FSCS is not bound by the FOIA?

We asked both organisations the following:

  • Are you able to confirm that the funds held on account by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) are in the form of a repayable loan from HM Treasury and not amounts accrued or paid for by industry levies made by the FSCS?
  • Are you able to confirm the amount of monies held on account in the form of a loan from the HM Treasury, if applicable (pending settlements) by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) as at 18th December 2013?
  • As you set the rules, are you able to confirm what happens to levies paid to the scheme if the FSCS funds are in the form of a loan from the HM Treasury i.e. how are these accounted for and distributed and in addition to covering interest charged by HM Treasury what other expenses do these levies cover? 

The reply from the FCA was:

I have discussed your questions with colleagues in both the FCA and the PRA. As you are aware, the funding rules for the FSCS are set out in the FCA and PRA Handbooks; however as the focus of your request is the loan arrangement between the FSCS and HM Treasury, and we are not able to provide a response to your second point in particular, we would recommend that you refer your full request to HM Treasury to consider under the Freedom of Information Act. 

I hope this is helpful.

Err……….. no!

The reply from HM Treasury was and you can read it in full here. It confirms that there are indeed considerable sums of money that the Treasury has advanced as “repayable loans”.

If you follow this links it will take you to HM Treasury’s latest published accounts. The reader is referred to note 15.1 that in turn refers you to note 30.

Additionally the Treasury refers the reader to the latest FSCS accounts

They state that £37,343,000 is due to HM Treasury as a debt

The accounts go on to say:

Principal terms and conditions

During the year, FSCS made drawings from HM Treasury which were used to pay compensation, some of which was on behalf of HM Treasury. Those amounts that were paid on behalf of HM Treasury were subsequently used to reduce the loan balances with HM Treasury.

Our good friends at FTAdviser were intrigued by our findings and a conversation ensued with Simoney Kyriakou.

She did manage to get some response from the FSCS confirming that the main FSCS uncertainty is around Icesave. A spokeswoman at the FSCS said:“If no further recoveries are received from Icesave before 2016, an additional £222m would need to be recovered by levy in the next two years.”

£222m is a very big ‘pony’ indeed and highlights once again the reason for a fundamental reform of the FSCS levy system. HM Treasury does eventually get monies from the FSCS but it would seem that the current system means that the ‘pony’ really should be in the knackers yard and a more nimble and functional method of compensation delivery should be found.

C’est magnifique, St Botolph Street.

Let us know your thoughts on this – please comment below!

Revisting the Highland clearances

Please forgive me for seeing some similarities between the post RDR adviser number fallout, the pre RDR divisions of the anti and pro RDR lobbies, the so called at the time silence of networks, AIFA (APFA) and the Highland Clearances.

For those who do not have a knowledge of the clearances, they were forced displacements of the population of the Scottish Highlands during the 18th and 19th centuries that led to mass emigration to the Scottish Lowlands, coast and the North American colonies.

The clearances were part of a process of agricultural change throughout the UK but were particularly notorious due to the late timing, the lack of legal protection for year-by-year tenants under Scottish law, and the abruptness of the change from the traditional clan system and the brutality of many evictions.

The reality of the highland clearances can still be seen today in the remains of burned out blackened houses, frequently comprising of whole villages and settlements standing as a testament to the greed of the few in hurting the many.

It is worth remembering, too, that while the rest of Scotland was permitting the expulsion of it’s Highland people, it’s ruling classes were forming the romantic attachment to kilt and tartan that scarcely compensates for the disappearance of a Highland race to which such things were once a commonplace reality.

The chiefs remain, in Edinburgh and London, but the people are gone.

Where are we now with advisory firms after the RDR clearances? Is there a romantic attachment to the past by those left standing?

Well according to figures from our good friends at Equifax Touchstone, in December 2012 the number of active firms excluding bank advisers it was 5,256.

By mid 2013, reduction in ‘capacity’ continued, the number of firms excluding bank advisers it was 5,079.

By December 2013 the number of firms excluding bank advisers was 5,063

So we now know that advisers operating on the first day of the RDR had reduced by 20 per cent compared to December 2011 figures. And despite the regulator reckoning numbers are going up (because many advisers that were not RDR ready at the end of 2012 became ‘ready’ this year) the reality is that for 2013 we have seen a further reduction of nearly 4% in firms.

 

As with all data it is in ‘Frank Carson’ speak the ”way I tell ‘em’ but these numbers do cast an element of doubt on the message the regulator is trying to send out about numbers going up.

We also know that the loss of the banks was, you guessed it, an unexpected consequence of the RDR for the FCA, with we understand, Martin Wheatley being annoyed that the banks pulled out so late in the day. Given what we now know about banks, financial advice, fines and targets why would they put themselves, never mind their customers, back in to danger with a tougher and more inquisitive regulatory regime.

With all this in mind, it was with some interest that I re-read an article from 23 November 2010 reporting that (according to the now ‘Sir’ Hector Sants)“losing up to 20 per cent of IFAs was an acceptable cost in order to deliver the specific improvements brought in by the RDR, according to the FSA”.

In giving his evidence to the Treasury select committee, the yet to be knighted Hector Sants said, “If the reduction in advisers was not acceptable the reforms would not be going ahead”.

To top this it was reported that Lord Turner reckoned that a “reduction could be good news for consumers who may see a reduction in administrative costs”.

Really??????

He said: “Some exit of “capacity” from the industry which is therefore an exit of administrative cost may be in the interest of consumers, it a cost which is being absorbed.”

What he actually meant was job losses, certainly not FSA or FCA job losses. And along with the loss of livelihood for advisers and providers support staff and paraplanners, we are now seeing the results of ‘survival segmentation’ manifesting itself in consumer disenfranchisement- the unintended but sadly expected outcome of RDR if only the regulator and politicians had listened.

Lord Turner could not understand that advisers of all persuasions – tied, bank, restricted, independent, that the then FSA regulated, (and now the FCA) are people, not “capacity” and their clients were often the mass-market consumer!!

Was this ‘new-speak’ use of words like “capacity” a nicer way to describe casualties of the unintended or perhaps intended consequences of regulation? Is “some exit of capacity” the regulatory equivalent of “friendly fire” instead of being “shot dead” by your own side or “rendition” instead of “kidnapping” or “water boarding” instead of torture?

By the way, was this the same Lord Turner who once said that FSA fee increases were a one-off and the industry will not face further rises for the supervisory enhancement program in the future?

Speaking at a previous FSA annual public meeting, Turner also said: “The Supervisory Enhancement Program involves investment, which means higher cost, which means higher fees. The executive and the Board of the FSA are very focused on ensuring that, after a one off increase in costs to achieve this investment, the industry will not face relentless rises in future. But we cannot avoid the one off increase: in the past, in relation to our highest impact firms, we were trying to do supervision on the cheap.”

Those advisers who have survived RDR have built, grown and now transitioned great businesses. This has taken many challenging years, serving their clients very well to see this happen

They carry a heavy burden of responsibility for what they do (unlike it would appear Lord Turner or the now highly stressed out ‘Sir’ Hector) and often into retirement (despite the failure to recognise the longstop continued by the FCA and FOS) and yes; they too pay a considerable proportion of their income in regulatory fees.

These advisers have feelings, aspirations and a desire to operate a compliant and successful business. They should be treated as fairly as they are expected to treat their customers by the FCA.

Will Martin Wheatley give this thought consideration, because right now all the past pontification on fees looks to have been disingenuous at best or at worse, one of the biggest frauds committed on an entrapped group of mainly small businesses no doubt facing more fee hikes next year?

Another unintended consequence of RDR; fewer firms having to pay more because there are fewer firms despite the logic that fewer firms to supervise should cost less?

And then we hear that the FCA has said there is an “anomaly” in the way the fees for A13 block interacted with A12. What is actually meant by the word ‘anomaly’ when used by the FCA is that most A13 group advisers had been overcharged by around £118m over the past five years.

By the way, was this the same cost conscious Lord Turner, along with others, who did not do ‘cheap’ when exceeding FSA Handbook expenses limits for hotel expenditure (£150 per night in UK, £170 in Europe and £250 in the US) by spending £811.72 on 2 nights at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, USA?

You should note by the way that the above claims do not appear to include subsistence and travel costs.

More caviar anyone?

If you feel like a break to get over the shock of all this, look up the latest “get away” rates at these FSA preferred hotels. Things may be, we can only hope, different with the FCA?

We have asked and await a reply.

Four Seasons Washington

The Palace Hotel New York

Marriott Hotel West India Quay

The Hay Adams Hotel

Grand Hyatt Hotel Hong Kong

Pudong Shangri-la Shanghai

Hotel Bayerischer Hof Munich

Hotel Okura Amsterdam

The Ritz Carlton Doha

The Ritz Carlton Bahrain

Conrad Hilton Hong Kong