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Blown away by bright and breezy Gale

I had to do a triple take on your report that among the top three things Patrick Gale will miss about working at Sesame are the FSA and the pressure of handling regulatory changes. (It is mildly interesting to speculate on what the third thing might be – the money perhaps?)

The reason for my triple take is that most of us in almost any position in the industry would, on leaving it, cite the FSA and pressures of regulation as the two things we would be most relieved not to be involved with any more.

We could sleep at night and look forward to each new day without thinking wearily: “What kind of costly and complicated crackpot new initiative from Canary Wharf am I going to have to try to get my head round today?”

Still, each to his own, and if Mr Gale really is going to miss having to deal with the FSA and grappling with the intellectual challenges of the way that the FSA tackles regulation, then good luck to him.

Surely, though, such a statement highlights the massively significant issue that the FSA should be – but is patently not – trying to clarify by simplifying its approach to regulation rather than constantly raising endless new intellectual challenges, not least for those charged with operating under the burdensome yoke of the FSA’s regulatory framework?

This question is drawn forcefully into focus by Alan Lakey’s apocryphal tale of the headmistress whose working week, by the time she retired, had become 90 per cent administration and 10 per cent teaching, having originally been exactly the reverse. The same thing is what is happening to IFAs.

Such is the burden of regulation that we have ever less time available to provide the services so greatly needed by our clients, whose interests are supposedly at the heart of the FSA’s raison d’etre. What really seem to be at the heart of the FSA’s raison d’etre are self-justification and self-perpetuation.

As for life companies seeking to market their products via professional intermediaries without the cost of advice being built into them or with that cost factor having been unilaterally eradicated from existing products, the answer is simple. Unless you are a firm that offers your clients only one choice as to how they pay for your services, do no business with those companies.

Throughout the 1990s, we wrote quite a few personal pensions with Standard Life. Since April 5, 2001, we haven’t written one and, in all probability, we never will again. Betrayal leaves a bitter taste that never fades.

Julian Stevens
Harvest IFM, Bristol


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