I frequently meet people who think they know best. Some of them know what’s best for their clients and others what’s best for themselves. Then there’s a herd that knows what’s best for everybody else.
But rather than going into public service or the church, many of these individuals focus their energies on posting their insights online.
Like the FSA, these people “know” the best charging structure and the best remuneration method. They know the most propitious method of obtaining and retaining clients. They also know the most suitable investments and analytical methodologies, tactical tilting or otherwise.
More importantly, they know where others are going wrong and are mercurially swift to correct any miscreants.
These intuitive and gifted individuals are quick to emerge from beneath creaking floorboards and skeins of cobwebs when they scent a disadvantaged prey.
My recent contretemps with Abbey for Intermediaries underscored this industry trait wonderfully.
Self-appointed experts, character assassins, writers of books, pontificators, charlatans and the downright bad and nasty all emerged to give their tuppence-worth. Posts full of snorting indignation, vitriol and psychological guidance sat alongside messages of support and calls for balance. To be reviled, targeted and abused is a strange experience. Indeed, now I know how Nic Cicutti must feel.
Nevertheless, unlike Nic I am not paid fees to write columns. Back in 2007 I was asked to submit a fortnightly piece, essentially to balance what was fast becoming a blanket of pro-RDR propaganda.
Some snipers suggest I write to massage my ego. Others think somehow it benefits me financially or psychologically. One mooncalf opted to sneer at the CIExpert website, possibly in the belief that his opinion carried greater weight than an acorn husk.
Regardless, anybody who actually knows me, and the majority of readers and posters do not, will quickly confirm that I say what I believe and fight for fairness and balance, partly because so few others can be bothered. That will not change.
While on the subject of futility, I recently received a letter from Scottish Provident, a company that until 2001 was well respected as a critical illness provider.
The letter, sent to me as the adviser, explained that my client – which was me – had moved and asked for an updated address. This was provided and Scottish Provident subsequently wrote to my home address explaining that, to update the address, they needed proof that I actually lived there.
I responded with the suggestion that the very fact I was replying should act as a balm for their concerns.
Apparently not. To officially change my address they require sight of some utility bill or whatever.
My final missive suggested that their understanding of the Data Protection Act was seriously flawed, my responses to their letters provided adequate proof and, frankly, if they chose not to update my address I couldn’t give a ….
The matter currently rests there. No doubt more time-wasting will ensue.
One day, when society looks back at the madness of misguided consumer protection and the crock of well-meaning but disastrous legislation that has characterised the past 15 years, it may well ask itself how any outcome was ever achieved when even the simplest task was thwarted by idiotic interpretations of bad laws.
Alan Lakey is partner at Highclere Financial Services