Dennis Hall: Why Paul Lewis’ advice analogy is flawed

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A few weeks ago, Paul Lewis had a pop at the advice side of the industry, using the analogy of buying a washing machine.

As much as Lewis wanted to shine a light on everything he believes is wrong with our charges, his article only illustrated the absurdity of an analogy that was stretched to the point of lunacy. It was not clever and if you have been around a while you might remember the equally tiresome analogy of buying shoes in a world where shoe salesman suddenly became regulated.

Just to make it perfectly clear, I do not sell washing machines (or shoes for that matter) and if I did the market has largely determined what I can sell a washing machine for. As a consumer I baulk at paying several hundred quid for what will undoubtedly become 80 kilos of scrap 10 years from now.

But would it serve any purpose to compare the cost of washing machines to something like art, for example? I know. It is ridiculous isn’t it?

Ridiculousness aside, let’s consider art for a moment. Damien Hirst (or more likely an assistant) paints a few coloured blobs on a piece of white canvas. He spends a few hours and perhaps 30 quid on the materials and then sells the blobs for anywhere between £30,000 and a £1m.

On top of that there might be the auction house fees, some VAT on those fees and Artist’s Resale Rights, which gives Hirst a royalty every time the piece is sold (even though he has not had to go back and touch it up).

By what stretch of the imagination is a few hours work and 30 quid of materials worth that kind of money? The scrap value of a washing machine is probably worth more than the canvas and paint cost new.

As it happens, I have got a spot painting, albeit a limited edition print. If I applied Lewis’s logic, what I paid for it should reflect time and materials. But it did not, so me and millions of other art buyers have been royally ripped off. Come on, Lewis, get on the case.

And that is the problem with someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. When it all boils down to it, all I leave my clients with is a few sheets of A4 paper with words on it.

What is that worth? Less than a tenner? The reality is a lot of the product buying experience can be commoditised, whereas a lot of the work advisers do is as intangible as, well, art! We provide piece of mind while allaying fears.

We challenge, provoke and instil action where the easy option is to do nothing. We help provide certainty in an increasingly uncertain world, and for many we are the person they share their dreams and aspirations. So leave me alone Mr Lewis: I’m bleedin’ Michelangelo!

Dennis Hall is managing director of Yellowtail Financial Planning