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Hales’ wise words on commission

Everybody’s talking about commission again. Norwich Union’s sales and marketing director Peter Hales says that in a personal capacity, he would like to see pension commission increased.

He believes this is appropriate in the context of increased transparency and a debate on what com-mission attaches to products in general.

Although not an outright attack on the ABI paper, Money Marketing gets the impression that Hales, who probably will not mind being described as one of the older, wiser heads in financial services, does not quite agree with the ABI. Nor does MM. Readers can make up their own minds. On page 38, ABI head of regulation and strategy Francis McGee makes a sterling defence of the paper and Aifa’s David Severn makes a sterling attack.

McGee notes that the work does show some IFA bias. Some did not recommend Isas when arguably they should have and there was product provider bias. This is concerning. But what is the correct place for these concerns to be raised? We suggest the FSA. It may be grounds for a debate and perhaps regulatory guidance. Is it grounds for a revolution? No. But we fear a newly elected crop of backbench MPs may make merry hell with some of this research.

In terms of IFAs themselves, should they increase the proportion of business they do by fees? MM has always suggested that increasing the amount of fee work may make advice businesses more sustainable. But should they be forced into fees? No.

The ABI says that, without reform, the commission debate will be running a decade hence. This is true, particularly as multi-ties establish themselves. But just because something is unpopular does not mean it should be abolished. Talk of removing commission is Utopian.The reality, as people such as Hales appear to suspect, is different.


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