Panacea is delighted to introduce MyDocSafe

Technology news for Financial Advisers & Paraplanners

1 Apr 2019

Panacea is delighted to introduce MyDocSafe
Customer portals are fast becoming a must-have piece of cloud infrastructure that can speed up your work, improve customer experience and reduce your compliance risk.
MyDocSafe is a UK-based provider of a sophisticated portal platform, ideal for IFAs. From electronic signatures, client onboarding, through secure document sharing, form filling, and even chat, MyDocSafe helps automate and secure critical document exchange and approval processes and help IFAs comply with GDPR.
Pricing starts at just £10 per month + VAT for sole practitioners.
  • All price plans include unlimited e-signatures and customer portals.
  • Ensure no disruption to your business
  • You can continue to use the same risk analysis for your clients

Features

  • Cloud document management system
  • Client portals with embedded chat, e-forms, e-signature and customisable widgets
  • Advanced electronic signature with document broadcasting, mail-merge, reminders, and 2-factor authentication
  • Automatic filing and full audit trail.
  • Onboarding automation (e-form, e-sign, ID check, dd mandate or cc payment)
  • Integrates with Outlook, Salesforce, GoCardless, Stripe, Onfido and Dropbox
  • Robust API for further integrations
  • GDPR: built-in data mapping tool; all data remains in the EU
  • Outlook plugin for easy sending of documents for approval, for publishing them to client portals directly from email and for encrypting communication
  • White label option available
  • Mobile apps for notifications, document upload/viewing and e-signature.

Benefits

  • Sign up clients faster
  • Improve GDPR compliance
  • Secure client data
  • Manage complex customer relationships
  • Automate onboarding of customers, employees, or investors.
  • Minimise admin time
  • Reduce time to revenue
  • Flexible pricing based on client volume or transaction volume
  • Persistent portals improve customer loyalty

Ethics matters

Panacea Comment for Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

4 Mar 2019

Ethics matters

”Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” – Oprah Winfrey

Financial advisers are fiercely proud of what they do and since RDR, most are 100% fee-based businesses. All are professional and most aspire to be treated as a profession.

I have not been an IFA for over 14 years, as many of you will know, but I have always been fascinated with how firms present themselves and their proposition to their clients and prospective clients. And how that proposition can appear to competitors

In the digital world, the constraints of print medium are no longer there. Now, more than ever, it is vital to ensure that the consumer has a full appreciation of the value of advice and the service you offer, this in turn creates a trust in the industry.

In my day to ‘big up’ your business by criticising you competitors was known as ‘knocking copy’. It was considered a no-go, not just with the ASA, FCA and FSA but also your fellow advisers. No-one should undermine another’s business’s model based on poor research or plain false assumptions just to promote your own.

It still should be.

So, when a community member passed this ‘about us’ content from a firm promoting its services, in particular some introductory statements on the firm’s website that noted their “Difference”compared to other firms, I thought I would ask you….

Is this the professional way to go about things?

Firstly, they extoll:

Focus: Unfortunately, most ‘advisers’ just sell products; this is true whether they are IFA’s, Wealth Managers or Private Bankers. Our service focus is on planning, not products.  It is designed to help clients identify, achieve and maintain their desired lifestyle, whatever happens. We use traditional fund management and insurance companies as little as possible!

and then:

Continuity: “A typical private banker or wealth manager will have more than 100 ‘relationships’ to handle and the average adviser also moves jobs every 6 years.  We have just 65 retained clients and plan to cap the number at around 80. With two advisers this gives us the lowest adviser to client ratio in the business. You may also be assured that we won’t be leaving for other jobs and many clients have been with us over 20 years.

They go on to say “Almost uniquely, we are both Lifestyle Financial Planners and investment advisers. Most top financial planning firms outsource their investment management which results in extra costs”.

I cannot comment on the service by the firm or indeed name the firm. My area of concern is around the sweeping, uncorroborated statements above.

You can promote your business far better by being very positive about your own firm without resorting to ‘knocking’ your competitors in such a blatant way. It looks unprofessional and almost certainly counterproductive. In other professions such copy could be grounds for a disciplinary hearing.

Suggesting you are the only honest fish in a sea of sharks does not give consumers confidence to join you in the water. We already have the regulator, ambulance chasers and the media talking advice down – we do not need to do it to each other.

Comparative advertising is a great way to make your IFA firm stand out in the crowd But it can be an area that generates complaints, both from competitors and consumers and can fall foul of the Advertising Standards Authority too.

Here are some helpful tips around what you can say, should say, cannot say.

What are you claiming, is this just fantasy?

Think carefully about the claim you want to make and how it will be understood by consumers. When making an objective claim, like those above, you should hold documentary evidence to support it before making the statement. Your website and statements on it are, after all, an advert for your business and they should be true

“Most top financial planning firms outsource their investment management which results in extra costs”. 

On what basis is this deemed to be factually correct?

Who are you comparing with?

If your marketing statements refer to an identifiable competitor, in the case above think other IFAs nearby, then specific rules apply. This applies to marketing activity which in any way, either explicitly or by implication, identifies a competitor or a service offered by a competitor – so not just where you name a competitor.

“The average adviser also moves jobs every 6 years”.

Is this based on reliable research evidence? Here you would expect to find an asterisk and footnote stating where this fact derives from.

Apples v Pears. Are you comparing services meeting the same need or intended for the same purpose?

Comparisons with identifiable competitors must compare services meeting the same need or intended for the same purpose. You still need to ensure the basis for the claim is made clear and that the statement isn’t likely to mislead.

“With two advisers this gives us the lowest adviser to client ratio in the business”.Is this a fair, relevant or supported assertion? Additionally, how do they know?

Is the comparison verifiable?

Comparisons with IFA competitors must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative features of yours versus theirs. If checking that information requires special knowledge most consumers are unlikely to have, your website readers should be able to get a knowledgeable and independent person or organisation to verify the comparison on your site.

In the areas mentioned above you should ensure the website statement clearly shows how the comparison can be verified. “Most ‘advisers’ just sell products”, how can you verify?

I spoke with Garry Heath who has recently released the Heath Report 3. He noted that many of the assertions above required information which few have. For instance:

  • The Heath Report shows that IFAs on average have 160 clients in 2018. But in the 250+ responses there were some with just 10 clients. So, the firm is not “the lowest in the business”
  • It also shows that advisers have shed over 11m clients in the last decade – Advisers now have more potential clients than they can handle. Knocking copy is simply not necessary.
  • If advisers moved around every six years it would demand that 5,000 advisers are in flow in any year. FCA figures show they aren’t!
  • In the current market advisers do not sell products and to truly avoid using established fund management would require an extraordinary amount of expensive research.

The FCA has some useful information around advertising, from my business experience there are many out there who will say and do anything at the expense of others.

Thanks to the ASA for some really useful research. Year on year, roughly 70% of the complaints the Advertising Standards Authority(ASA) receives relate to misleading advertising, proving that this is an issue that consumers take seriously and that all marketers should be mindful of.

Here are their top tips to help you avoid the most common mistakes.

Be careful out there!

A fourth way to fund regulation?

Regulatory update for Financial Advisers & Paraplanners

22 Jan 2019

A fourth way to fund regulation?

First of all Panacea followers, this is our 1,000th Bento. Given this landmark status, I felt that it should contain something special, and with that in mind, I would like to make a heartfelt suggestion or two about how the regulation and protections in the financial services industry could be re-engineered, for in regulatory parlance, better regulated firm and consumer outcomes.

This is quite long, but it needs to be to articulate conceptual thinking that can be taken forward and developed.

In a scene from ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’, the great Gordon Gekko defines financial services moral hazard as “when they take your money and then are not responsible for what they do with it”.

But being responsible is what the financial industry should be about, we have reached a stage that the responsibility should fall on all as the few who mess it up never have the resource to put things right.

There is an urgent need to find a better way to fund the cost of delivering confidence and developing consumer protection. At its core, the funding the seemingly endless liabilities for consumer compensation regarding ‘inappropriate (bad) or unsuitable advice’ and/or failure of product.

If not found, the only way to even think about evaluating the worth, let alone seeking access to advice, will become so expensive only the very rich will be able to seek it out and the entry of new firms impossible.

That in turn creates further problems to those provider firms who rely almost totally on intermediated distribution.

A leading provider CEO observed only this week that: The truth is that we currently have a mixed economy in terms of compensation for mis-selling, product flaws, etc. Individual firms have primary liability for their actions and the wider FS industry carries the costs of systemic regulation and systemic failures (FSCS). Whilst everyone grumbles about this it is pretty sensible. Firms have real incentive to ensure that their activities are meeting standards, but the overall system has a backstop to maintain public confidence”. 

He is quite right, but how regulation and consumer protection are funded is what I see as the problem and not the responsibility focus where the ‘who pays’ door has slammed shut.

The problem:

Currently regulation and the compensation culture based on consumer expectations, fraud, advice failure and entitlements has presented the financial services industry as a harvesting opportunity for limitless cash calls from lawyers and consumers, who some may argue, should take some responsibility for their own actions and not always expect the financial services industry to compensate for circumstances that were quite possibly of their own making or not the intent of the advice channel at the time of giving the advice.

Financial products are predominately ‘purchased’ as a result of adviser recommendation, this can now include sales attached to products such car purchase. This distribution of intangible products is often referred to as intermediated distribution. The latter outlets, although regulated, are rewarded by way of commissions.

Pretty much all life, pension, protection and investment product providers do not sell or distribute what they design and build and have not for decades. Instead they rely on third parties. That party is the adviser community, tied, restricted or whole of market. That distribution method became predominantly fee based on 31st December 2012, excluding protection products and mortgage related advice.

Many argued that this date spelt the end of mass market access to financial advice and the beginning of a more professional era where if you could not pay, or were not deemed financially worthy, customer segmentation by advisers ensured advice was not coming your way any time soon, or at all.

However, it seems that when the adviser advice, rather than what was previously known as a sales process, all goes wrong, a derivation of Billy Bennet’s thirties music hall ditty seems to apply. Something along the lines of “it’s the rich what has the pleasure and the poor that gets the blame”.

In this case read IFA for ‘the poor’ as the blame always falls at the advice door.

And in some cases that blame may be correctly placed but irrespective of that, IFA firms are not always financially well-resourced to compensate. This simple fact is the cause of the big problem the FSCS, PI insurers and firms left who pick up the cost of the clear up face.

Poorly, yet still compliantly capital adequate firms often collapse after a big call of money from the FSCS or even a single successful complaint and unaffordable compensation payments.

The regulatory year 2018/19 with just over 3 months to go, has seen the FOS refer 273 cases from around 74 companies to the FSCS. For these firms, Sipps accounted for 39% of FOS casework, PPI 28% and portfolio management 9%. This in turn will see more complaints against those firms hit the FSCS as the FOS will wash their hands of them as they will be placed in default.

Smaller IFA firms often do not use limited liability protection options, instead using their personal assets to satisfy capital adequacy. For many established firms adequate capital adequacy and affordable, operationally functional PI to ride out a bad advice claim award is difficult to get because of a very restricted pool of insurers and a continuing slew of claims for unregulated products being distributed by regulated entities.

Limited liability protection actually increases the risk of firms failing.

As PI cover is arranged a year at a time, any claim or notification of a claim in the current policy year, with a diminishing pool of reinsurers and huge premiums, could be curtains at renewal in the next year, no PI = no business.

Although there are always exceptions in commercial life, very, very few businesses set out to disadvantage clients for their own gain. It seems in today’s world of financial services that the collapse of firms can often be brought about because of a failure to get compliant PI, a big (even small) FOS redress order, or a flood of unexpected FSCS calls for cash from the misdemeanours of others. This in turn sees reducing adviser numbers that in turn presents fewer firms to pay ever increasing liabilities of others as they fail.

All this is really not helped by a consumer perception, as noted above, that all financial products and advice present an opportunity for a ‘refund’ many years later if what was suitable at the time of the advice is not seen that way, say, 15 years later due to changed client circumstances, changes in their aims and aspirations that applied at the time of advice.

Why? Very simply because there is no longstop, something that applies in just about every commercial walk of life. After six complete years from the date of the transaction there is no redress for bad service, goods or advice as commercial law does not permit it. In the world of financial services, it is forever, although I note that the FOS is now exercising the six years plus three rule a bit more.

In the summer of 2018, Panacea ran a FOS survey whereby 83% of respondents felt that FOS complaints process places them in an automatic position of guilty until proven innocent. The outcome should be determined by the evidence available and/ or the balance of probability. Often, that is not seen by firms as being the case. No file, because the case was more than say seven years in the past, does not help. Equally so if a file is retained, data protection could come back to bite as record keeping beyond seven years could be seen as a breach.

It is all well and good suggesting that the polluter pays from a compensation point of view, but the reality is they cannot because the pollution has proved so toxic, they just died along with everything else in that murky pond. In other words, the death of the polluter means they can never pay.

Now to go off piste, bear with me…

In 1970, I started working in the Lloyds marine re-insurance market. My ‘learning’s’ area of expertise was around reinsurance and claims, very specifically the ‘Torrey Canyon disaster’ of March 1967, the claims were still being worked on three years later.

As any insurer will tell you, you need to spread the risk base you hold, advisers take note. To do that you need to reinsure to protect yourself as a ‘name’ and your business. This is common place with life assurance products.

For those who do may not know, back in the ‘60s and 70’s Lloyds syndicates (the collective of insurers) operated in what was at the time the biggest open space room in the world opposite the current Lime Street current location.

Their individual ‘office space’ was referred to as a ‘booth’ paying homage to the coffee shop heritage that started Edward Lloyds concept in 1686. Each booth contained specialist syndicate underwriters who took a view on a risk, like Torrey Canyon, and signed up to insure it. No computers, just a piece of paper and in many cases a quill. The back office was another world of paper, comptometers, typists, and clerks but it all worked.

The super tanker SS Torrey Canyon hit rocks off the coast of Cornwall.

What was different about Torrey Canyon was the scale. The ship, one of the new generation of tankers, had been lengthened with the insertion of a new, larger mid-section. She was carrying, on a single voyage charter, nearly 120,000 tons of crude oil from Kuwait to Milford Haven in South Wales. Being deeply laden, she had to catch the late evening tide for berthing. To save half an hour and avoid a wait of five days, the Italian master took a route to the east instead of the west of the Scillies.

Those Italian captains eh, where has that happened since?

When the tanker struck the Pollard Rock, thousands of gallons of crude oil, a filthy chocolate-coloured mess, started spilling from her ruptured tanks. Detergent was sprayed continuously to disperse the slick, but it was like trying to hold back a tide that Canute would never even think possible.

Eventually the RAF and Royal Navy bombed it, using it as target practice. The idea was to burn the wreck and oil, still on the surface, as a final solution.

But beaches were left knee-deep in sludge and thousands of sea birds were killed in what remains the UK’s worst environmental accident and the minimal quantifiable cost, in other word insurance claim, was £14.24m, in today’s terms that would be some £249m. The losses were incurred on the hull, the cargo and the consequential losses a disaster can cause.

This massive claim threatened to put some Lloyds syndicates out of business as Lloyds always paid claims. If an individual Lloyds syndicate member, (a ‘name’),’ could not pay, their personal worth along with all those others who invested in the risk carrying syndicates were expected to pay. If you could not, your business was at severe, terminally and very legally seizable risk as were your personal assets and wealth, and all in cash.

Unlike IFAs their risk continued, a bit like PI today, for a specified policy period and a specified amount.

Matters were made worse because of a quirk in the risk assumption management and its spread.

Most syndicates would reinsure (spread) the risk on big bits of kit, like a tanker. A spread of risk with others who were not directly involved in insuring the vessel. But the complexity and size of the risk and the claim meant that reinsuring saw the risk spread back to the original insurer syndicates with the reinsurers reinsuring their risk.

Reminds me a bit of the 07/08 financial crisis, securitisation of mortgage debt bundles but not knowing what was in the bundle you brought. Reinsurance could be many layers deep.

As a disaster comparison in 2010 following the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, insurers, Lloyd’s paid out over $600m.

So how does this connect with the problem?

Some thoughts for the FCA and HM Treasury.

Every regulated firm, there are some 50,000, of whatever type (from car finance, to pet insurance, to funeral plans, pensions providers, life insurers etc) should pay a simple percentage of turnover to the FCA each year as a new type of ‘all inclusive’ regulatory fee to cover ALL the cost of delivering regulation, FCA, FOS but not the FSCS as this idea would see their need removed, building, quickly, a financial services fund to pay for when things go wrong (similar to the Pension Protection Fund?).

The complete opposite of the polluter pays and in complete harmony with the Lloyds ethos of spreading the risk.

This clearly defined cash ocean is locked, and if need be in the beginning underwritten by the Treasury, rather like the FSCS is today.

It should not see HM Treasury doing a cash grab on surplus funds as it has done with fines. Build up surplus, rather like the three-year Lloyds accounting period before profits are realised and use that surplus to reduce the cost of regulation with fee and fine offsets.

This pool of cash would be to specifically deal with investigating consumer detriment for regulated products and advice only. Claims could only be arbitrated at minimal cost to either side by the FOS with the outcome being determined by the FOS with a low-cost form of independent appeal for each party.

The FOS should operate by assessing claims on the six years plus three rule, the basis of evidence available and/or the balance of probability and not by way of retrospection.

In the case of ‘guilt’ there should be an element of affordable excess and redress payable by the firm, again set as a percentage of turnover. This should mean that firms do not go out of business because of a claim or a claim against others.

There should be a very strict bad behaviour ‘two strikes and you are out’ standard or where redress amounts are above a certain level and you are out ruled out of further activities, possibly even first time.

Regulated advisers should only engage in regulated products.

There would be no need for individual PI as the FCA should/ could, rather like huge corporates, self-insure by way of the fund created and in the event of a ‘Torrey Canyon’ the FCA could have in place a reinsurance pool made up of many insurers, PI or otherwise to remove any doubts of being selected against.

Tear up the current protocols, the status quo needs something a bit different.

Let’s do a little maths:

  • In 2017 £22.1 billion of revenue was earned by retail intermediary firms in 2017 from insurance, investment and mortgage mediation activities, compared to £20 billion in 2016. Source FCA
  • Over £300 million was paid by firms in Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) premiums in 2017, Source FCA
  • The FSCS paid in claims to the year ended March 2017 £375,262,000 (£130,362,000 was recovered) source FSCS Financial review page 47
  • The biggest single cost to the FSCS in that year was £306,246 in interest source FSCS Financial review page 47
  • There are some 50,000 firms across many business areas that are registered with and regulated by the FCA

So, if every firm regulated by the FCA paid 0.20% of their turnover each year, based on the above numbers some £442m would initially be raised. There would be no need for PI cost and a sum could be set aside to reinsure easily covered within that 0.2% cost.

This thinking is not about presenting firms with a low-cost way to be reckless in their advice, it is not about bringing advice to the masses in its purest sense. But it is a starting point?

As the leading provider CEO further noted: Your suggested approach will only affect advisory firm behaviour materially if it leads to greater socialisation of all of the risks across the sector, and so reduces risk of ruin for advice firms.

The description of my thoughts as “socialisation” is very astute.

He did add a caveat that “this in turn runs the risk of too many firms taking higher risks because they don’t have to bear the brunt of their actions to the extent that they do today”.

But I beg to differ. Money is being made in the ‘industry of compensation’ that would be better used by ploughing it back to the pot, confidence would be restored, bad business put out of action very quickly and all that money saved on a firm level basis put to providing lower cost, easier access to advice, better regulated products and services created with foresight to ultimately benefit the consumer rather than hindsight to compensate them.

I hope that this very brief summary could be the basis of a new way to deal with compensation.

Just a thought.

Go to immediately jail, do not pass go

Panacea comment for Financial Advisers & Paraplanners

7 Jan 2019

Go to immediately jail, do not pass go

On day two of 2019 yet another IFA has been jailed for fraud. Neil Bartlett, 53, of Delamere Road, Ainsdale, used £4.5m of his victims’ money to fund some of the usual, favoured by all fraudsters, indulgencies of foreign travel, top hotels, prostitutes, exotic cars, boats and gambling.

In this case, again, like so many others, it involved investing other people’s money, pensions and often life savings into what they thought was a safe investment account with interest.

By safe, that means it is being paid to the advisory firm to disperse according to the advice plan. But in a not uncommon twist, Bartlett had created a sole trader account with the same name as the company he worked for and paid himself the money.

It is clear that in just about every case of fraud it involves client money being paid to a client account for onward distribution. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred all goes as intended but it is the one time that results in what we see again and again in client money fraud.

Readers may wish to Google search (other search engines are available- in BBC speak) fraud IFA 2018 where the scale of this fiscal disembowelling can be viewed. It is in millions and guess how it is dealt with?

This type of fraud is called, in legal vernacular a ’Serious large-scale confidence fraud’. A common factor is the targeting of known to be vulnerable victims. Also, they will often be multiple frauds, i.e. many victims are deceived in the same way.

As an example, this accusation could be levelled at the victims of the British Steel pension fund debacle.

These offences are usually charged under the Fraud Act where the maximum sentence permitted by law is 10 years imprisonment.

For this adviser’s type of fraud, sentences of up to 7 years are common if the fraud is in excess of £500,000.

For the now ex IFA, the sentence will see early release for being a good ‘boy’.

I am not sure if the FSCS ever try to recover from the now ex IFAs or indeed if asset confiscation is possible to offset some of the redress, but one thing is for sure, no matter what regulation is put in place, what checks are made, the opportunity is still there for this practice to continue.

When I was a broker consultant in the early ‘80’s, some IFA firms, referred to then as brokers, had client accounts’ and operated something I recall as being broker bonds. A bit like a wrap or platform investment in a way but it was in house.

I cannot recall any frauds but there were regulatory concerns and also concern from my employer at the time that this holding of client money where the investment was in an inhouse designed and built vehicle could be subject to abuse.

So, role on and working lifetime and fraud opportunity continues in abundance. The cost to clients when the opportunity is exploited is massive, the cost to the compliant firms is huge too and of course unexpected when the FSCS come calling.

The time has come to put a stop to regulated firms holding client money when the intended destination is to a regulated providers funds, wraps, platforms. As an extra measure, despite all the good arguments put forward by IFAs, regulated firms should NOT be allowed to deal in unregulated activity or markets, this would relieve the burden on PI insurers, FCSC calls and IFA firms when a regulated advice firm advises upon unregulated products. Unregulated products are often just that for a reason.

The ability of consumers to execute instant electronic transfer of funds really renders holding client money an unnecessary and expensive temptation. To stop this would see PI and other regulatory costs reduce and go some way to restoring trust in an industry, sorry, profession, that has taken a battering and will continue to do so every time money ends up in the hands of someone or something it should not.

Just a thought.

Panacea Adviser survey: 89% of advisers say Robo-Advice is a threat to the industry

Almost nine out of ten financial advisers warn that automated services pose a threat to traditional face-to-face financial advice, research by Panacea Adviser has revealed.

In a survey asking 118 financial advisers whether robo-advice presented a threat or opportunity for face-to-face advice, only 11 per cent described it as a positive for their industry while the vast majority raised concerns that robo-advice could prove damaging to traditional financial advice.

Commenting on the results of the research, Panacea Adviser Chief Executive Derek Bradley, said: “With the amount of attention and industry debate sparked by robo-advice, it is perhaps not so surprising to see such a strong reaction from advisers towards the ‘rise of the robos’. The current mood appears more unusual, however, when you consider that automated services still represent a relatively small market here in the UK while the technology itself is also fairly limited at this stage.

“The US market also offers a glimpse of what looks like a more positive outlook for advisers when it comes to robo-advice. The ability to combine elements of both human and automated advice is actually seeing many traditional advice firms in the US prove more popular than robo-advice models that rely solely on technology.”

ADVISER VIEWS ON ROBO-ADVICE

The research also gathered adviser opinion on both sides of the debate, highlighting some of the key challenges – and benefits – that automated models can bring for advice firms.

Pete Matthew, Managing Director for Jacksons Wealth Management, believes marketing could prove the biggest hurdle for firms looking to adopt robo-advice. He said: “An online service can provide a way of perhaps serving ‘lower value’ clients in the short-term so that they engage with the adviser’s brand, which may well lead to higher-ticket business in the future.

“But while the technology behind robo-advice actually appears to be straightforward enough, the real issue is that most advisers are clueless when it comes to marketing. The world of marketing has changed immeasurably. Now, it is all about providing value to the prospect by educating, entertaining and inspiring clients to take action. The social aspect should not be underestimated either. Increasingly people buy based on the recommendations of social media circles and unless advisers are influencing within these channels, no-one will show up to their fancy robo-advice websites.”

 Alan Hughes, Partner at Foot Anstey LLP, also calls for the FCA to clarify what constitutes ‘advice’ and ‘guidance’ in relation to automated-models. He said: “As robo-advice develops, advisers need to consider carefully how it impacts on the market, what that means for their own business and clients and how they can use this as an opportunity. Robo-advice will never completely replace face-to-face advice but it is a case of “ignore at your peril”.

“Going forward, any further clarity that can be provided on the difference between advice and guidance will be very useful in bringing automated models to market. The FCA should explicitly address these issues and be proactive, rather than just tweaking the regulatory framework and then telling firms that they need to go off and reach their own view.”

Focusing on the regulation of automated services, Derek Bradley added: “A vital UK consideration that would assist in the adoption of robo-advice models is that the FCA approves the technology and their complicated algorithms. Some time taken now could mean that the constant retro aspect of regulation against products or advice is removed and public confidence in a ‘fit to fly’ model will see a greater, quicker embrace by advisers and of course the public.”

 

www.panaceaadviser.com 

What is the point of fines on corporate bodies

What is the point of fines on corporate bodies

Some time for some focus and an application of common sense and fair play?

“Second World War veteran Major James Fyfe, who signed up aged 17 and fought at Dunkirk, fell of a trolley at Royal Berkshire Hospital and broke his neck in March 2011”.

The ‘learnings’ or ‘outcomes’ (yes those regu-words again that are always used when things corporate or governmental go wrong) in this very tragic state of 2011 affairs is that Graham Sims, the boss of Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust admitted a charge of “breach of an employer of general duty, other than to an employee, relating to the failure to properly secure the hospital bed.”

This is yet another example of a fine meaning nothing at all. Just like banking fines. As Billy Bennett’s song goes It’s the rich what gets the pleasure”!

What is the point of fines on corporate bodies? They mean nothing at all. And even worse, the victims of their blunders see it means nothing.

James Ageros, the NHS trust’s QC said: ‘at the heart of this there is a human tragedy and the Trust apologises and sends its condolences where there was the death of their father in unfit circumstances”.

In this case the trolley that was ‘blamed’ for the sorry mess was “corroded in places and key mechanisms, including a spring inside the side bars, were missing”.

Nobody is held responsible on a meaningful personal level anymore for the errors that cause death, distress, or in the case of banks, financial loss. So that’s all right then?

A £200k fine? Extraordinarily time to pay was asked for by a man whose salary is most likely heading toward £300k- over 4 years was granted. Let’s move on, get over yourselves?

But somebody was responsible for this terrible outcome, ultimately it was the ‘Trust’ but the real blame lies much further down the chain of command. This equipment was in use all day, every day. Was it maintenance, very possibly? Was it the hospital staff that put him on the trolley, surely they must have noticed that the sidebars would not lock?

What is for sure is that it must be someone.

If this were a small business, let’s just say a small IFA business, rather than a corporate body a very different ‘outcome’ would have been seen. Somebody would be rightly identified as individually responsible, substantial compensation, not a fine, paid to the victim or their family by way of the business owners, possibly by their public liability or business insurance and without doubt the business owner would have been prosecuted, maybe even jailed and the business even closed down.

Why is it that corporate responsibility seems to override individual responsibility? Fines should go toward redress for the victims of failure and under no circumstances should HM Treasury treat them as a windfall tax as is currently the case with banking fines.

Perhaps there has come a time that workers in large corporate bodies, banks for example, are equally financially liable in cases like this.

 

Just a thought?

Paralysed by Gunfire, but Denied Care

Having recently returned from a holiday in the US, I thought that IFAs would be interested in reading about this very sad case written, reported on by reported on by RONI CARYN RABIN on JULY 20, 2015 10:31 AM

“There is no video of the altercation between Monroe Bird III, a 21-year-old sitting in a car with a friend, and Ricky Leroy Stone, 56, a security guard who found them one night in the parking lot of an apartment complex in Tulsa, Okla.

But the tragic culmination of their encounter is not disputed: Mr. Stone drew his gun and shot Mr. Bird, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Three months later, as he lay in the hospital hooked to a ventilator, Mr. Bird’s insurance company declined to cover his medical bills. The reason? His injuries resulted from “illegal activity.”

Yet Mr. Bird was not convicted of any crime in connection with the incident. He was not even charged.

Without insurance, Mr. Bird’s family could not move him to a rehabilitation center specializing in spinal cord injuries. He was discharged from the hospital and died at home last month from a preventable complication often seen in paralyzed patients.

The incident joins a disturbing litany of cases in which black men have been shot by white men in law-enforcement capacities. Mr. Bird’s family and their supporters believe racial bias motivated the shooting, at least in part, and protected the guard from criminal prosecution.

But Mr. Bird’s story comes with a particularly bitter sequel relevant to Americans of any background: The plan’s refusal to pay has left his family owing as much as $1 million in medical bills and, experts say, shines a light on a little-known loophole buried in the fine print of many health plans.

There are no firm numbers on how often insurers deny medical coverage based on allegations of illegal activity. But cases like Mr. Bird’s “are more common than people think,” said Crystal Patterson, an attorney in Minneapolis and chairwoman of the American Bar Association’s committee on fiduciary litigation.

Insurers have long relied on allegations of illegal activity to deny coverage to patients injured in a variety of contexts, from traffic infractions to gun accidents. The judicial rationale is that “we don’t want to reward illegal activity,” she said.

In one court case, a union health plan denied the claims of a worker’s son who was injured while allegedly building a pipe bomb, Ms. Patterson noted. In another, an insurer declined to cover the medical expenses of a man who lost control of an uninsured, unregistered car while trying to pass another driver in a no-passing zone.

Courts have upheld the denials even when there were no convictions for illegal activity. The administrator of the policy can deny claims even when no criminal charges are filed, Ms. Patterson said.

“The administrator gets a lot of latitude to make that decision,” Ms. Patterson said. “It’s a much lower burden than ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’”

Lisa Stites, a spokeswoman for Craig Hospital, a rehabilitation facility for patients with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries in Denver, said in an email that it was common for health policies to contain so-called exclusions for injuries resulting from drug or alcohol use, felonies, self-inflicted trauma or “hazardous” behavior.

Dr. Ford Vox, a specialist who works at the Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation facility in Atlanta, said the exclusions provided insurance companies with “an excuse to get out of very expensive cases.”

“The insurance can pull the rug out at any time,” said Dr. Vox, who also writes about medical topics for various publications. “And it’s all top secret — people don’t know about it until something happens to them.”

Insurance exclusions for illegal activity have been outlawed in some states, but state laws do not apply to health plans administered under the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which sets standards for most pension and health plans in private industry.

Even after passage of the Affordable Care Act, self-insured plans regulated under Erisa maintain wide latitude to determine coverage. These plans “can do pretty much what they want to do,” said Robert Laszewski, an insurance industry consultant in Washington.

Mr. Bird’s family was insured by his stepfather’s employer, Southern Hills Country Club, and claims were processed by HealthCare Solutions Group of Muskogee, Okla. Citing privacy laws, representatives of both companies declined to comment on Mr. Bird’s case.

The events leading to Mr. Bird’s shooting may never be fully known. Like many trauma patients, Mr. Bird had no memory of the incident.

According to the police report, Mr. Bird was sitting in his car with a girl in the parking lot of the apartment complex where he lived with his sister’s family around 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 4.

Mr. Stone, the security guard, told police he approached the car because he had been instructed to look out for couples having sex in the parking lot. Mr. Stone said he shone a light into the car, told Mr. Bird that he was with security, asked for identification, and then tried to open the car doors.

Mr. Bird locked the car doors and tried to back out of the spot, according to Mr. Stone, who told police he stood behind the car to prevent Mr. Bird from leaving and was hit when the car backed up. He said that he jumped and fell against the rear window, breaking it.

When he was back on his feet, he said, he fired three shots as Mr. Bird drove away. He told police that he feared for his life.

But the car passenger, a minor whose name has not been released, told police she did not think the car struck the guard, and said the guard only started firing as they drove away.

Mr. Bird was paralyzed immediately and was treated in Tulsa hospitals for several months. In April, an official with HealthCare Solutions Group called Mr. Bird’s stepfather, Johnny Magness, to say that the company was beginning an investigation.

“I told her, ‘It sounds like to me you’re about to become the judge, prosecutor and jury,’” Mr. Magness said. “I said, ‘Please ma’am, don’t turn my son into a statistic. He needs care.’”

Two days later, the company denied coverage for Mr. Bird’s medical claims. The denial letter cited three exclusions, including one for illegal activity, which the letter said was triggered by Mr. Bird’s allegedly “striking the security guard with his motor vehicle and then leaving the scene.”

The denial meant the family could not transfer Mr. Bird to a rehab center where he could have received preventive care and adapted to life as a quadriplegic. The family appealed the denial, but it was affirmed last week.

This time, however, HealthCare Solutions cited “hazardous activity,” not illegal activity, and suggested that a third party, like the apartment complex, should pay the medical bills.

Mr. Bird’s medical claims might not have been denied had criminal charges been brought against Mr. Stone. But Oklahoma has a “stand your ground” law permitting citizens to “meet force with force” if they are attacked.

Steve Kunzweiler, the Tulsa County district attorney, concluded that Mr. Stone’s use of force was justified because he thought his life was in danger. “Mr. Bird might have made choices that might have gone a different way if he had listened to the security guard and obeyed his instructions,” Mr. Kunzweiler said.

Police discovered a vial of marijuana, illegal in Oklahoma, in Mr. Stone’s bag that night, and the results of a preliminary blood test showed that he had cannabinoids in his system.

David Riggs, a lawyer for Mr. Bird’s family, noted that the state’s stand-your-ground law did not apply when “the person who uses defensive force is engaged in an unlawful activity,” such as drug possession.

“The fact is, he was shot in the back as he was fleeing, driving away from this security guard,” Mr. Riggs said of Mr. Bird. “If there was ever a threat, there is no longer a threat.”

Repeated attempts to reach Mr. Stone for comment were unsuccessful. Mr. Bird’s family has filed a lawsuit against Mr. Stone, the security firm that employed him, the apartment complex where the shooting took place, and its property managers.

After the denial of coverage, Mr. Bird was discharged and went to his family’s home in Boley, Okla.

The young man, who required a ventilator to breathe, was cared for around the clock by his mother and grandmother, who fed him, bathed him, helped him cough, turned him in bed to prevent bedsores, and moved his limbs to maintain his range of motion, said Tezlyn Figaro, a publicist speaking on the family’s behalf.

Despite their care, Mr. Bird developed blood clots in his lungs and died on June 30”.

We do know that UK insurers have a clause in their policies regarding criminal activity such as: ‘We do not cover treatment you need as a result of your active involvement in criminal activity’.

The UK situation is slightly different as immediate A&E care would be provided by the NHS, the patient would then transfer to the NHS or private (as required) when they are stable.

We are sure most insurers would judge each case on its own merits and to our knowledge we have not seen a situation like this in the UK. 

However, we would be interested to hear of any example of declinatures such as this.