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Don&#39t go round in review circles

When Lord Reith invented

the BBC, he said that it was there to “inform, educate and entertain”. He probably said it in Latin and he probably had a different definition of entertainment from Ant and Dec.

This column tries to do the same thing but this month I am going heavy on the information so we can plot out all the goodies which await us up to the end of the year.

It is a bit like Waiting for Godot. We know there are all these reviews and reports waiting in the murk but their precise arrival is unknown and we must fear that they, unlike Godot, are going to show.

We have just had the FSA response to the discussion paper on the exam review, no major new blueprint to unveil, rather a series of detailed working groups and roadshows to put together the detailed exam modules. I quite like this episodic approach to reform. It elongates the process but gets practitioner input at every point and does not pin all the regulator&#39s ideas to one indigestible consultation paper.

One down – countless

more to go.

Before August, we can expect the Pickering report on pension simplification and the Sandler report on retail financial services. Pickering should be first, perhaps by the end of June, with Sandler following in July.

The leaks have started. Pickering told the FT that employers should again be able to make their staff join company pension schemes. He also became the latest figure to claim that the real risk is not misselling but “not selling or not buying” a pension.

The rumours about Sandler&#39s report also indicate a focus on simpler products sold with less bureaucracy to those with less money.

Let us assume we get August off to recover our strength for the September launch of the FSA consultation on product disclosure. This ought to propose a much simplified key features document.

In late September/early October, we get the response to CP121 and a further round of consultation on draft rules. I am not going round the CP121 track again. There is plenty of time for that in the autumn.

Do not forget that the Government will have to respond to all the recommendations in the Pickering and Sandler reviews and this could well take the shape of a Green Paper in the autumn (perhaps with the pre-Budget stuff in November). All this is wearisome business but we should look for the opportunities which may be presented.

We do have a real chance of stripping some of the paper-chase from the advice process and giving clients some- thing more meaningful than the present key features document.

I also think that we must look at the overall landscape which these various reviews conjure up. The growing concern about financial under-provision, the withdrawal of employers from occupational DB scheme provision and the debate on compulsory pension contributions, which seems afraid to come out into the open.

All these major issues have to be slotted into specific rev-iews and joined up to see if they result in a coherent whole and coherence does not mean the sort of theoretical model beloved of thinktanks.

It means coherence from the perspective of those on the ground who must deliver the products, the advice and the distribution which will make the system operate efficiently.

It means ensuring the room for these activities to be carried on profitably, not simply within a predetermined and arbitrary ceiling, and it means working with the market. That is why we cannot afford to let any of this pass us by.

Otherwise we really are going round in ever decreasing circles of consultation.


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