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Dances with wolves

Back from the US via Canada, I tackle the mountain of paper that awaits me. Not the mail – my team are too efficient for that. I am talking about the weekly and monthly trade papers.

It is crucial that they are read in date order if you are to avoid total confusion and mind implosion. Even then, I start to lose the will to live as the fight for the status quo versus RDR gains pace.

As if that is not enough, I see that Peter Hargreaves is defending the actions of those insurers who have moved their property funds to a lower valuation basis. Peter, my point was that treating customers fairly is not possible in this kind of situation and only full and frank communication can sort out these issues.

As to his assertion that this protects the long-term investor – how can it? Their investment has been devalued. They may have been in the fund for 10 years already – is that short term? In short, please do not defend arrogance where the information is issued in a constipated fashion.

If the size of a fund was a determining factor in its selection, then its sudden reduction will also be of interest. However, I do agree with Peter that those playing short-term positions on commercial property are nothing more than stupid.

This summer promises to be action packed, with Friends Provident dancing close with Resolution in an effort to fend off the more efficient who recognise the fat it carries in its inefficient infrastructure, for example, four head offices. If it goes ahead, how about calling it Friends Resolution? When Commercial Union merged with General Accident to form CGU, wasn’t a brand called Commercial Accident a missed opportunity?

The Friends merger may be just the tip of the iceberg as providers eat each other to gain market share (please note the lack of the word profit).

When the music stops, the possibility of more than five major insurers on the life side is extremely unlikely. No matter how long this takes, those remaining will probably ignore the investment houses at their own risk. I also firmly believe that overseas providers will bring more competition than they have to date.

The row over commission potentially disappearing seems to ignore the fact that what we are arguing over is charges. The only possible sticking point is who should set these charges – client or provider? As neither understand what we do, this is a real handicap. It is, however, a problem of our own making. We simply do not underline the value we deliver, possibly because we are yet to document our processes as this would also allow us to track points of value and time spent in deriving the same.

Following the RDR, I am sure we will see far more sitting for the diploma exams but just how many will see it through, especially when many will be over 50? Many took the FPC and immediately stuck at that level. They may find their educational progress slower than they would like and this is not helpful when time is in the essence. My message is don’t wait. Get moving now. Studying by choice is always better than studying by diktat.

Thinking back to Canada, in Montreal I spotted some raccoons who raised and lowered themselves into the trash bins as if they had hydraulic legs. Many waited to see if they would topple into the rubbish. I suspect that this rush to dismiss the changes suggested in the RDR may be less than successful and some firms will be heading out with the rubbish. In this scenario, recycling is just not an option.


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