Getting your Human Resources in order

A free guide to HR by Panacea Adviser

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Gizza job, I can do that.

The New Year is traditionally a time when many people reassess their professional roles and decide a change may be worth pursuing. For many people I suspect this involves looking for a new job – indeed recent research published by the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) revealed that 37% of workers say they are planning to leave their current jobs in 2015, a significant increase on the 19% who answered the same way in 2014 and the 13% in 2013.

But what about the financial advisory profession? How many advisers reading this article are considering a career change? I suspect very few although, given the average age of advisers, I wonder if most aren’t looking forward to retirement with some considerable relish. To be honest, I can’t blame those advisers who might be looking for an early exit – this job comes with some significant pressures to deal with whether they are in the form of regulation, increased costs, political interference, constant change, professional development requirements. The list goes on.

Unfortunately having to cope with these ongoing developments and the growing requirements placed on advisers has – in this country at least – somewhat detracted from the attractiveness of financial advising as a career choice. I am always interested in the ‘job reaction’ you get from people when you tell them what you do. How are financial advisers perceived? Are they thrown in the same pot as estate agents or journalists or parking wardens? I hope not given the job advisers do and the focus on quality and service.

Then again, the nature of what a financial adviser is and does has been systematically depowered by the continuous regulatory changes and developments. It is about to become even more confusing for consumers in April when a whole host of pension ‘Guidance agents’ are unleashed on the at-retirement market with only a requirement to have “some pensions knowledge” as the recent Citizens Advice job specification put it.

Of course it doesn’t have to be this way. Last year research conducted in the US by Rapacon placed being a financial adviser as one of the top ten jobs to have in the future. It is clearly a sought after career choice suggesting to me that the profession’s reputation across the pond is not just intact but strong and enticing to those looking at their employment. Can we really say the same in the UK?

So, how can we improve the reputation of the profession, ensure it is attractive to new blood, and develop greater consumer understanding of what advisers do, their value and worth, and why it’s a job worth having? Like most things, I believe it’s important to start with yourself. To that end, it’s about being the best you can be in your individual role which does mean self-improvement, lifelong learning, a commitment to continuous professional development, etc. If advisers are focused on self-betterment, on improving themselves and increasing their own standards, then this will clearly feed into the service they offer which will improve reputations and generate strong feedback and referrals.

Advisers need to be fully focused on their own roles which means not getting into a rut and instead retaining interest in the job and everything about it. Learning more and securing greater knowledge is a fundamental way to do this – we have recognised this for some time which is why we established a CPD library containing both structured and unstructured material which is easily accessible and allows the adviser to continually load up on new information. It will not only help the adviser improve their service offering but feed through into a growing positive reputation for the profession.

A profession renowned for its security, its prospects and the quality of its overall offering will clearly be attractive to those who are working in other areas or have yet to start work. While the legal, accountancy, and banking sectors have been tapping into the graduate market for decades, establishing these careers as worth pursuing, unfortunately the advisory community has not been working at the same level.

If we do want to bring new blood into our community then we certainly need to begin pushing and marketing the profession in a much more focused and structured way. Our professional and trade bodies must work closely together on developing an ongoing campaign that supports individual firms’ own recruitment policies if we are to raise the profile of being a financial adviser and make it stand out from the crowd. This should be a long-term commitment that highlights the positives of the profession and sets out the very tangible and compelling reasons for being part of it.

With the New Year being a time when many people consider what they should be doing next now is certainly the right point to secure our own professions’ future.

 


A Panacea for Paraplanners

As we have settled into the new world, with greater regulation surrounding documentation and accountability, paraplanners have played an increasingly important part in supporting the service offered by advisers. In recognition of this, we are delighted to announce the launch of a dedicated microsite for paraplanners.

Designed in conjunction with providers, paraplanners and support services, the new Paraplanner microsite ensures existing planners, as well as those new to the industry have easy and fast access to the tools and information they need.

This new site offers a range of articles, services and tools designed specifically to assist with a paraplanner’s day-to-day role and includes technical information and learning materials to help with their professional development.

We are confident this site will be popular with our ever-expanding number of paraplanning users so please pass this on to your paraplanner colleagues as we believe that this, in turn, will provide further support to our adviser community.

For more information please visit www.PanaceaAdviser.com/Paraplanners

Hotel California

 

Hotel Pic

I think my mind is sometimes not operating as it should.

I was watching a great two part documentary on the Eagles last week, singing along, “There she stood in the doorway…………..This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”

Then my mind ventured back to thorny issue of the longstop. It seems to have been parked somewhere whilst the industry adapts to new practices, improved qualifications and an FCA honeymoon period.

So what is happening? Is APFA about to get “jiggy” with the matter, are advisers still angered by the lack of it or should we all ‘play nicely’ with “Uncle Martin’ and get on without it?

I decided to re-read a lot of content on our site regarding the subject and in doing so it really got me, shall I say, agitated all over – again. Simply type in the words ‘longstop’ in our Panacearch box near the top right of the home page and see what information comes up.

There are pages of it.

A more recent search result on the subject caught my eye after noting that Ms Ceeney reckoned last year that advisers would be a “lot more worse off with a longstop”?

Putting to one side the ‘gramatics’ and the song lyrics, I was quite taken aback by this statement as it implied that advisers are already at the “worse off” starting block under the investigative eye of the FOS.

On what quantative scale “a lot MORE worse off” is found, is unknown but clearly not good news.

Ms Ceeney and staff, in some eyes, can appear to take a less than neutral position and although it is very important that consumer rights are well protected, those it investigates have rights too. The FOS is meant to be impartial, investigating complaints fairly, taking into account the evidence available and/or considering the balance of probability.

The removal of the longstop was a quite calculated, not too well consulted upon result of the process of implementing FSMA 2000. There are many who consider the removal unlawful.

As Julian Stevens observed in August 2011-, “For a long time now the regulator appears to have an agenda of stirring up trouble where none existed before, an agenda that the FSA seems more than ever determined to pursue, despite a catalogue of failures to get to grips with problems that really have needed tackling”. The removal of the longstop was at the start of that agenda.

Peter Hamilton writing in May 2011 for Money Marketing“there is so close a structural connection between the FOS and the FSA as to cast doubt on whether the FOS can be regarded as independent of the regulator. Thus, for example, the FSA appoints and may dismiss the chairman and directors of the FOS. The chief ombudsman and the FOS must report to the FSA on the discharge of their functions and the FSA must approve the budget of the FOS”.

Ms Ceeney said in an interview with FT Adviser “the main issue is that financial products are often bought many years before an individual needs them, such as a pension plan. The longstop would mean there is no way of coming back if sold an investment product for many years down the line. The problem is the nature of financial services is very different to other industries because you won’t find out until many years later – that was the case with mortgage endowments.”

The point that seems to be missed by all those in Regulation Street opposed to the re-instatement of the longstop is that the removal flies in the face of the protection the laws of the land bestowed upon UK citizens and now, it would seem, afforded to all except advisers.

Regulation may not always be fair in the eyes of those who fall under its ‘spell’, but one cannot simply disenfranchise one particular business community or indeed any community from another in such a way.

The problem with investigating claims so long after the event is that the recollection of circumstances, aims and aspirations has a tendency, especially if documentary evidence is scarce or non-existent, to be inconsistent at best and manipulative at worst, and that goes for both sides.

That is why the Limitations Act came about, to protect against the effects of “Stale Claims” where the passing of time and lack of evidence makes it difficult to make a judgment.

However, the FOS operates on the ‘Merricks’ principle – they can and do make the law with the cloak of protection the FCA offers to it.

Some other ill informed or ill-judged points Ms Ceeney makes:

  • “That the courts do not have a six-month deadline like the FOS does”. True, yet the complainant can revert to the Courts and rerun the case if they are unhappy with a FOS decision. But the courts do have a six-year cut off tied in with a fifteen-year absolute stop. An ADVISER firm can only make a request for a Judicial Review- at huge cost and the decision is not guaranteed.
  • “We don’t have a long-stop but we have lots of restrictions around. Complainants only have six months to go the FOS once the complaint has been raised with the firm, which the court doesn’t have”. True in practice, but I think that many advisers will have had experience of this not actually being a reflection of what happens. The FOS has been seen in the past to actively assist complainants by creating new or further complaints not actually made at the time of the initial complaint to the FOS or the indeed the firm.

And:

  • “The 6 month deadline is there to ensure this doesn’t go on indefinitely”: A bit of a red herring statement. I thought that was what the longstop was for Ms Ceeney. Although the Limitations Act was set up to deal with the passing of time, she seems to have overlooked the fact that complaint rules change often and apply retrospectively.

The timescale you have to complain is six years after the date of advice given or three years from when you could have become reasonably aware that you may have a problem. So that is in fact nine years. The six-month deadline applies to making a complaint after receiving a firm’s final decision letter.

We have as an industry seen complaint rules change and the problem is that with FSA, now FCA and FOS rules today, everything, anything is applied retrospectively and it is the adviser firm that carries the can for the rest of their life in many cases as a result.

This retro protection makes PI markets difficult, sometimes even impossible for firms, compensation can often paid for events that did not actually happen and what was accepted as right for a client a decade ago can be found wrong today with the benefit of hindsight.

Peter Hamiliton summed up the whole position in MM very well as follows. “Thus, under the law, I know in advance where I can and cannot park my car. But if I could park only where some official specified after the event, I would have no right to park at all. Similarly, if my right to my possessions is watered down to mean only a right to hold them until the FOS decides it is fair and reasonable for me to pay them to somebody else, then I have no “right” in a true sense to my possessions at all.

This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that there is no appeal and the fact that any judicial review of a FOS decision on the merits of a case is, for all practical purposes, impossible because of the vagueness of the subjective (“in the opinion of the ombudsman”) fair and reasonable criterion”.

So, as the Eagles may conclude:

“Last thing I remember, I was

Running for the door

I had to find the passage back

To the place I was before

“Relax, ” said the FOS man,

“We are programmed to receive.

You can checkout any time you like,

But you can never leave! “

 

Mine’s bigger than yours!

issue407

It was reported a week or so ago that IFA network Best Practice has raised the bar for its would-be members, requiring them to be QCF level 6 qualified.

The ‘posting’ outcry that followed highlighted the adviser qualification schism that has developed both leading up to and beyond RDR.

This is very sad, counter productive and in many ways misses the many valid points made by advisers about the purpose and application of qualifications linked to doing the best for your clients.

Some perspective is called for in this debate as it is clear that the industry is a sum of its many and varied parts. How this applies to fostering strong consumer relationships is in many ways not always about how well qualified an adviser is.

In August last year the IFS launched a level 6 qualification program.

In their notes on the subject they said:

The new Level 6 qualification builds on the success of the Institute’s Diploma in Financial Advice, the Advanced Diploma in Financial Advice is aimed at advisers who want to differentiate themselves from their peers and demonstrate their commitment to professional development and standards by going beyond the threshold qualification level.

To be eligible for the programme, applicants must already hold a QCF Level 4 qualification, such as the Institute’s Diploma in Financial Advice or an equivalent qualification in financial advice and planning.

Best Practice was founded in 2003 and in 2009 gained the Chartered accreditation to achieve the highest levels of qualification and professionalism.

Any firm planning to join their network must have a principal or director qualified to level 6, holding either the chartered or certified financial planner qualification. Around half of their 90-member network already holds level 6.

There will be commercial benefits attached to this decision. For example the network should be able to obtain better PI terms based upon a combination of higher levels of qualifications and any uplifted compliance and best practice rigour that is put in place.

Best Practice state that they “have a belief that all practices are different with their own set of goals and way of working” 

Qualifications are important but it is how they are put into practice, how they relate to a client needs and most importantly do their clients see enough value in this to pay for it.

Higher qualifications do not always guarantee good outcomes.

We only need to look at NHS nursing today to see that the standards and expectations of patient care, that were fostered and promoted pre degree entry to the profession, have fallen in to great disrepair.

Many new nurses, now with a degree qualification as a requirement to do the job, no longer see that caring about patients is not always about the professional qualification to do the job.

It is about sometimes doing often dirty unpleasant work, about empathy, compassion, pride, humour, understanding, hope and above all never say never.

For those advisers that do not see the need or the value for QCF level 6 to best serve their clients interests it is most likely that they and their clients value more their empathy, compassion, pride, humour, understanding, hope experience and above all never say never attitude that has been established over many years in addition to their QCF level 4.

And really there is nothing wrong with that.

Best Practice are right in saying: all practices are different with their own set of goals and way of working” and as an industry we should see that there is no right or wrong, no good or bad, no better or worse.

It is what works for your firm and your clients, who after all are the ultimate arbiters in deciding your success or failure.

Back in March 2011, MM’s Paul McMillan was asking if level 6 will become the new minimum standard and I suspect that within 5 years it may well be heading that way.

If so, any raising of the academic qualification bar should be done with a clear purpose, way beyond just achieving higher qualifications for qualification’s sake.

Smell the coffee

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It started in coffee houses….The second half of the seventeenth century was an era of burgeoning trade, in the absence of mass media, the coffee houses emerged as the primary source of news and rumour.

Edward Lloyd’s coffee house was opened near the Thames on Tower Street in London in 1685. The coffee house was “spacious, well built and inhabited by able tradesmen” according to a contemporary publication.  Later in 1691 it was transferred to 16 Lombard Street which was very close to the centre of English maritime trade.

It was from this coffee house that Edward Lloyd launched his “Lloyd’s List” in 1696 which was filled with information on ship arrivals and departures and included some intelligence on conditions abroad and at sea. This list was eventually enlarged to provide daily news on stock prices, foreign markets, and high-water times at London Bridge and reports of accidents and sinkings.

In 1771, seventy-nine of the underwriters who did business at Lloyd’s subscribed £100 each and joined together in the Society of Lloyd’s, an unincorporated group of individual entrepreneurs operating under a self-regulated code of behaviour. These were the original Members of Lloyd’s; later, members came to be known as “Names.” It was from this coffee house that Lloyd’s of London was established which eventually became the largest insurance company of the world.

Today’s version of those coffee houses can be found through online social media and the ability to talk to your peers through the likes of the Panacea Forums, Twitter and LinkedIn.

At Panacea we are always looking at different ways to communicate with you and help you with your business and over the next few weeks we will be bringing a series of articles around Social Media and the benefits it can bring to you.

In the meantime, if you are already on Twitter – please do follow us and help us break through the 2,000 mark! It would be great to see you there.

www.twitter.com/panaceaadviser

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