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.


Bento 645: Your site, your choice

When Panacea Adviser (Panacea) was launched in 2007, the project ethos was to create a site that you could use easily, quickly, with useful, timely and relevant information from a whole array of financial services provider and support firms made available all in one trusted time-saving place.

Simple eh!

However over the last nine years as the site has grown to over 80,000 pages and it has become harder to find information and to easily provide what you may be looking for.

With that in mind we have spent the last six months looking at redesigning our site to make it even easier and as simple as possible to use in order to help you run your day-to-day business smarter.

All New Home Page

Now the home page includes all the latest provider product news as well as latest videos, industry events that will be taking place that you can attend, our latest blog, and details of anything new that has been added to the site. The home page will change daily so make sure you bookmark it and check back regularly!

All New Navigation

All the main navigation areas of the site can now be found along the top of the site, allowing you to explore either by:

News & Views – Here you can find ALL the latest news and views for financial advisers and paraplanners from Panacea Adviser, Product Providers and Service Providers.  Read the latest or past editions of the Bento Bulletin or click on one of the categories list to view stories according to type or partner firm.

Tools & Resources – split out by tools, calculators, literature, market insights and videos and webcasts. Each of these pages is then split by product type be it pensions, investments, protection etc. So, for instance if you want to find the latest protection calculators or literature around Auto-Enrolment its is simple and easy to find what you are looking for!

Learning & Development – The Learning & Development area of the site provides huge amounts of exam assistance, learning support materials and expert opinions to assist with your training and CPD needs all in one place.

Business Development – The Panacea Business Development zone provides a range of support materials, tools, resources and advice to help you make the most out of your business.  This is even broken down by General content and links specific to investments, retirement and technology so you can pin-point exactly what you are looking for.

Events & Webinars – Here you will find a list of all our partner’s forthcoming events both of the live variety as well as webcasts & webinars.  Plus links to BrightTalk webcasts and Panacea’s own channel.

If you know where you want to go then just click on the yellow ‘all’ button and this will bring down all the main areas of the site and you can get to where you want to be in one click!

All new My Panacea

We have redesigned the Panacea Extranet and rebranded it My Panacea as the new site is all about you!  This can be accessed from the top left hand side of the site.  Here you can change your email preferences, including tailoring the content you want to receive via the bento bulletins and on the home page. It also holds any CPD content you may have saved, allows you automatic access to MyTouchstone and provides a number of special offers, negotiated by us just for you.

We think this is the very best Panacea website so far, developed from great adviser, paraplanner and provider feedback over the last 12 months. We hope you do too.

The proof of Panacea’s value to advisers is demonstrated by having attracted over 80,000 unique visitors in 2015, so take a look, enjoy it and let us know your preferences today – and don’t forget to let your adviser and paraplanner colleagues know about the site too!

Simplification – we practice what we preach

Walk the talk

Here are Panacea Adviser HQ we are always looking at how we can improve the experience of our users and to get more from the huge amount of resource that is available via the Panacea website.  Consequently we are delighted to bring you our latest incarnation of the site, with some significant upgrades that we hope will help you with your day-to-day business.

Tailored for you

The focus of the site update has been on making it much more tailored to your requirements, so you can use your own ‘Preference Centre’ to customise the information you wish to see on the home page as well as through the twice-weekly Bento bulletins.

The home page news feed will show everything new that is added to the site, so you won’t miss any useful information, forthcoming events and development materials that may be of use to you.

See at a glance any new content that has been added

Panacea is all about communication and community, so any comments added to the site will ensure this content is ‘bounced’ back up the news feed meaning the focus is always on up-to-date interaction. And, all users are easily able to add their own comments to news, blogs and feature articles.

Four areas to aid your business

We have also simplified the site navigation essentially splitting content into four main areas and housing all existing content under those headings.

This means advisers and paraplanners will be able to easily access the wealth of support and resources.

Tools & resources – an area where information about financial services products can be found all in one place.

Panacea Academy – a centralised area where you can get learning support and assistance with your CPD requirements.

Industry events – where advisers and paraplanners can view both forthcoming events, plus an array of webcasts & webinars from Panacea and Partners alike.

The all new Better Business zone – which contains support-related information and materials to help the community more effectively run their businesses, including business development, marketing, social media, guides & white papers, and assistance with finding a paraplanner.

Additionally, there has also been a significant amount of new information and resources placed in the Mortgage Zone dedicated to those advisers active in the mortgage sector.

Ease of navigation and getting the right information for you has been at the heart of this project. We hope you like what you see!

fca attempts to regulate the internet

The FCA has produced a consultation paper regarding its intent to impose rules on firms use of social media and customer communications. It is an interesting, and as usual dry, slightly confusing and condescending read.

Ahead of the curve, in June 2014, Panacea Adviser produced a free guide to Using Social Media Successfully, which also included direction from a compliance perspective and vitally, it was very easy to understand. A copy has been forwarded to the FCA. You can download a copy too.

The FCA paper could be summed up in the style of my end of term school reports that used to read “could try harder”“seems to have trouble grasping the subject” or “lacks perspective in key areas”.

I shudder to think what this venture into cyberspace has cost so far, let alone what it will cost.

We exchanged a few tweets with them on the matter, the thing with tweets is that they are there to allow some thought exchanges, ‘Tweeter etiquette’ dictates you should always respond as that helps with understandings.

Here is the only one they responded to:


: Being a follower of a firm on Twitter or liking a firm’s FB page doesn’t constitute ‘an established existing client relationship’ #smfca

11:35am, Aug 06 from Twitter Web Client


: @TheFCA net neutrality rules were also designed to allow the freedom to innovate without permission, a bit of a minefield you are creating?

11:55am, Aug 06 from Hootsuite


: @PanaceaAdviser we’re keen not to prevent innovation but need to make sure all financial promotions are compliant

3:23pm, Aug 06 from Twitter Web Client

Clive Adamson the FCA Director of Supervision (yes that Clive Adamson) said, “The FCA sees positive benefits from using social media but there has to be an element of compliance.

But what is an element of compliance? With a regulator there is no known measure or metric for ‘element’ until after the event.

Section 2 of their paper regarding the FCA supervisory approach starts with a definition of what are (not is) social media and has chosen a non-social media source as its reference point- the Oxford Dictionary 2013. “Social media share the characteristic of being digital and can be defined as ‘websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or participate in social networking”

Now if we were to use the more web relevant on-line source Wikipedia, the definition of Social media is “the social interaction among people in which they create, share or exchange information and ideas in virtual communitiesand networks”.

Wikipedia goes on to say that “Social media differs from traditional or industrial media in many ways, including quality, reach frequency, usability, immediacy, and permanence”.

The FCA produced a “non-exhaustive” list of social media classifications to include blogs, micro blogs (Twitter), social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn etc) forums and image or video sharing platforms like YouTube.

Wikipedia covers off the above too, but a little more richly noting that social network aggregation can integrate many of the platforms in use.

They go on to observe that “the boundaries between the different types have become increasingly blurred arguing that Twitter, as a combination of broadcasting service and social network, now classes as a “social broadcasting technology“.

The paper seems to ignore the various forms of social media and technology engagement habits of users. It makes no mention of business potential from managing and harvesting data from social media or ‘building social authority’ aka ‘vanity building’.

Clive Adamson went on to say, “We have had extensive industry engagement on this issue and we believe our guidance is a sensible approach that doesn’t affect industry’s ability to innovate using new forms of media”.

Having been told by a number of influential financial services ’Tweeters’ (identified from our recent ‘Top Tweeter’ awards winners)  that they had not been consulted, Panacea Adviser has submitted an FCA FOI request as we would like to know more around who or what exactly “extensive industry engagement” represents. We have requested some clarification asking:

Who exactly have the FCA had “extensive industry engagement” with?

What is their level of Social Media knowledge, influence and expertise?

What is the FCA’s understanding of how a financial adviser would use Social Media based upon to produce this proposed guidance?

The FCA has a problem, as it seems to be trying to re-invent the wheel and Highway Code at the same time to control a vehicle that no longer has wheels, or is powered by petrol derivatives and that can, using technology, control and navigate itself quite responsibly indeed.

Some facts for the FCA to digest before they attempt to impose regulation where in many cases a simple application of common sense and a bit of caveat emptor would do the job just as well and at much lower cost.

Businesses building a significant following on social media are in fact creating their own publishing platforms, like us at Panacea, growing their channels of influence and content distribution networks.

They are creating a huge digital asset that grows every year in size and most importantly in value*.

Over time their investment in social media can provide huge opportunities for their clients and marketing independence if done right.

So with that in mind the FCA should have a look at some major social media metrics at the start of 2014.

Social media is simply a “blur of tweets, shares and content”. No longer is it just used by the young and those with little else to do. It is global and embedded in every corner of the web.

And above all, no matter how they may try, it cannot be regulated in the way the FCA would wish.

Some basic facts:

  1. 72% of all internet users are now active on social media
  2. 18-29 year olds have an 89% usage
  3. The 30-49 age group have 72% usage
  4. 60 percent of 50 to 60 year olds are active on social media
  5. In the 65 plus bracket, 43% are using social media
  6. Here are the top 3 countries for time spent on Facebook per hour online:

USA 16 minutes,

Australia 14 minutes

UK at 13 minutes.

  1. Some 71% of users access social media from a mobile device.

Twitter is the fastest growing social networking service seeing 44% growth in 2013, Google+ grew 33% in the same period, Facebook has 1.15bn monthly active users, Twitter 215m and the average time spent online with social media networks is 13 minutes per hour in the UK.

The Internet ethos was not and is not about control and regulation. It is global, operates, 24 hours a day and like the ‘Curates Egg’ is good in parts. It does not react well to phrases like “within our regime” or “standalone compliance”.

Isaac Newton said “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people”. The regulatory emphasis should be on the appropriateness of advice given, not a 140 character tweet that may have led to that process.

And the FCA wants to control this?

I would suggest they look at an easier and far lower cost opportunity, the banks?

*Information sources:





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.

As American as Mom, Apple Pie and Baseball

Despite apple pie not being an American invention (the history of the good old apple pie goes back a very long way indeed) it is a phrase often heard to describe something that is unique to the culture and society you live and work in, illustrating principles or values with which few disagree.

They say that in democracies, the people get the governments they deserve. Is it now the case that in financial services, regulation has delivered the outcome consumers deserve?

The following were a selection of recent trade press headlines and I am fast beginning to despair about the image that this industry has. Who is responsible for that, does FCA regulation wish to see the death of the smaller adviser firm and in turn the demise of itself as nobody will be left to pay the fees?

            Martin Wheatley: Judgment-based regulation is here to stay

            Martin Wheatley: FCA is a ‘very different animal’

            Wheatley: Structured products are like ‘spread bets on steroids’

            FCA chief Martin Wheatley warns of higher regulatory costs 

            MM Wheatley interview: Bad consumer outcomes will see RDR revisited

            FSA reveals its latest executive pay and bonuses

            Advisers need to project positive image

            Complaints Commissioner rebukes FSA for withholding information

AMI boss Robert Sinclair is on record as saying that “we need a new deal where the FCA commits to no more money.  We also need them to consider where they really should be directing their attention.  

The bad in the industry need to be removed but the time has come for the regulator to consider the impact of statements like those above on consumers and those they regulate, in particular small adviser businesses.

As Sinclair said “We need recognition that most intermediaries live in the communities they work in. They advise people they see at school, in their pub, at the sports club and in the supermarket every week.  They are not out to do bad things to their neighbours”.  

They do routinely act in the customers’ best interests.  We need a regulator who can incorporate that into their risk models and factor it into their work. Finally, we need a new contract where they operate within a constrained budget by really addressing the real risks, not imagined one’s”.

The UK financial services industry is unique to the culture and society we live and work in, and financial advisers in a post RDR world as well as the pre, continue to illustrate the very best of principles and values with which few disagree, few that is except the regulator?

It is time we as an industry shouted about it too. And it is high time the FCA realised that regulation does have a cost but that cost is in lost businesses, lost opportunity and lost consumer confidence.


How much is that website in the window, the one with the bright shiny logo


Andrew Power, partner at Deloitte, was recently on record as saying that increasing regulation and its associated cost will certainly exacerbate the trend that sees advisers dealing with wealthier and wealthier clients as they need a certain weight of assets to get an income flow”. He is also of the view that “there may also be a back-lash against regulation”.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently told advisers in the A13 fee block (which covers most adviser firms) that they face an increase in fees for 2013/14 from £32.8m to £37.9m.

We also heard that firms regulated by the FCA would plug the Financial Services Authority (FSA)’s £107m pension deficit under the new regulatory structure.

Concern continues to mount regarding the costs of regulation upon adviser firms, most of whom are small businesses. As an industry, we are told that every effort is being made to ensure that regulatory costs are contained, that ideally budgets will be carefully considered, and that the FCA will exercise care in how it spends the money placed at its disposal by the firms it is empowered to regulate.

So, on seeing the new logo role out on the 1st April, it crossed my mind that perhaps the date was an omen for what is to come, an ‘April Fool’ but one that costs a lot.

To test that theory, we made a Freedom of Information request to the FCA asking:

“I would be most grateful if you can confirm the costs incurred to create and establish the brand identity of the FCA up to its April launch.

This should ideally relate to the creative, design and production costs. In particular we would request details of the cost of the logo design, the website design and build, the rulebook and all stationary costs to facilitate the creation and launch of the FCA in April.”

To put some contextual flesh on the bone, in the view of some well-placed industry experts, “the functionality of the FCA website seems fairly basic”. It is pretty much a re-skin of the FSA site, the rulebook has rolled over too. Some editing would be required, for example changing references from the FSA to the FCA, something that is a simple ‘Word’ function in many ways but on a large scale.

The staffing of the FCA is mostly a transfer from the FSA, the address is the same.

I am very pleased to report that the request was dealt with promptly, politely and we have now received the reply that we are sure will be of interest to the industry as a whole and small adviser firms in particular.

As a new regulatory organisation, the FCA states that it “needs to ensure that consumers, firms, markets and its staff understand its objectives as well as perceive the FCA as a new regulatory body. To this effect, we have developed a new brand identity to reflect our new objectives and how we will engage with consumers and firms differently”. The resulting logo design is clear and simple.

But should the exercise cost £1,061,423 including VAT? At nearly 3% of the 2013/14 adviser fee pot, is this money well spent?

The cost of the logo design:

“We have spent £48,000 on designing the FCA brand identity, £91,500 on developing the FCA brand guidelines, £57,000 on registering the new logo and on legal fees to resolve registration issues”. 

The website design and build:

“The cost of the new FCA website, which included its design, build, architecture, code and content changes was £723,576.81”.

The rulebook:

“We have interpreted ‘rulebook’ as the FCA’s ‘Handbook’.  The total expenditure for this work which involved the design, legal fees, development and build of the new site was £101,000”.

All Stationery costs:

“We spent £40,347.68 on the design and production of business cards, note pads and pens. It is worth noting that stocks of FSA stationery were monitored and run down and replenished with new FCA’s stationery in the lead up to 1 April to minimise costs”.

A spokesperson for the FCA commented: “Several agencies submitted quotes for the work on both the brand identity and website design and in both instances we chose the agency who offered the best value for money. All this was delivered on time and on budget.”

As Mandy Rice Davies said they “would say that wouldn’t they”?

One agency, GASP, did exactly that and said “I find a figure in excess of £700k outrageous. You can achieve a lot with that type of digital spend…the cynic in me has a good idea what has happened here.”

Marketing Director of Panacea Adviser, Sarah Paul, who has over 15 years experience working within e-business and marketing functions for several major financial services firms commented, “For a website with no apparent tools or interactivity, I find it incredible that over £700,000 would be spent on a basic rebrand”.

Simon Ryan of Social Advisers, who has considerable experience at corporate level working on rebranding projects, said “For the extent of the changes that were required for a simple refresh from the FSA to the FCA and looking at what they have delivered, I’m not convinced the FCA will be able to claim they have received value for money. The website costs would raise alarm bells for me”.

The news of this spend comes in the same month that David Geale, the FCA’s head of investment policy commented that “Forcing platforms to justify charges will reduce costs”.

He said “We are concerned that the current way that platforms are funded is opaque and makes it difficult for customers to understand how much they are paying for the platform service or to compare platforms”.

Well, Mr. Geale, I think the industry is having difficulty understanding how much they are paying to be regulated – both in the past by the FSA and now the FCA.

In the world of regulation, a spend of £1.06m is not a lot of money – yet that is precisely the problem. The old adage about the pennies looking after themselves could not be directed at a more deserving target. After all, if this figure can be spent and is, for example, 30% more than it need be, the big question posed is where else too much money is being paid.

Perhaps the Treasury Select Committee (TSC), who has been advised of this spend, should conduct an enquiry into the regulator’s processes regarding infrastructure spending and ensuring value for money by way of quality at the very best price.

The time has come to stop the seemingly profligate spending of other people’s money, consumers’ money, in fact, as they are ultimately the ones who end up paying.

Or, is it the case that as now it is only the wealthy who have easy access to paid-for financial advice, that who pays the piper and how the piper acts really does not matter?

What do you think? Add your comment here.