When asked why I’m always moaning or ranting about something my stock response is that I’m spoilt for choice because there is such a large menu to choose from.
This rejoinder is more factual than humorous and disguises one of the least considered ailments afflicting the industry and, to a lesser extent, the wider business world.
The disorder in question is the renunciation of common sense in favour of both process and automated response. Together with an reliance on tick-box mechanics rather than coherent thinking it provides for ludicrous outcomes.
This progressive condition has triggered relentless grumbling about the actions of over-zealous, regulatory functionaries and what seems to be their passion for inventing more ‘rules’ and further narrowing existing parameters.
Consider the substantial loss of time, as well as temper, when product providers interpret the Data Protection Act such that every 12 months they require fresh proof that the adviser acts for the client.
The DPA was never intended to be interpreted in this way so it may be that it is not the work of an over-zealous compliance cyborg but a considered commercial decision to appropriate advisers clients.
Consider also the nonsensical stance where a product provider initiates contact by telephoning an adviser and then has the temerity to demand identity confirmation for both the adviser and the client. What is achieved by this other than a fraying of nerve ends, a series of harsh adjectives and a loss of time and money by both parties?
The devastation that is the current mortgage market also utilises logic-defying processes. Abbey, which I have previously declaimed for attaining a BA (hons) in idiocy, has moved further down the road to madness by individually reassessing risk when an existing borrower approaches them for a new product. It revalues the property using the discredited desktop valuation tool and this can easily result in a shift from a 70 per cent product to a dearer 85 per cent version. Worse still, its insistence that interest-only borrowers pay a higher rate than their capital and repayment counterparts.
It seems that the Abbey considers such borrowers as higher risk. Of course, by increasing rates and the resulting mortgage payments this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy whereby the borrowers have been turned into higher risk.
So, what do these time-consuming and life-sapping aspects have in common? They have all decided to operate within a process-driven environment rather than use the experience, knowledge and common sense of human beings. Computers are able to analyse data but they lack the ability to introduce common sense.
When one mortgage BDM telephones me she apologises for asking me who I am and what my FSA number is. She has been my BDM for four years yet she is not allowed to deviate from this ponderous route designed to safeguard client data.
How many advisers spend as much time on fruitless administration created by legions of grey-faced, rule-worshipping bods, as they do on the real meat of their work?
Alan Lakey is partner at Highclere Financial Services