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Phil Wickenden: How are you spending your time?

“Time is what we want most but what we use worst,” said early Quaker and founder of the province of Pennsylvania William Penn circa 1681.

Most things do not happen as quickly as we would like, though. They take time. Even the things that seem sudden are more often the manifestation of the small stuff that has been developing, unseen, over a significant time horizon. Volcanoes are a great example.

Closer to home, many commentators feared the introduction of the RDR at the start of 2013 would have an armageddon-like impact on the sector.

And while the process was certainly an eventful one in terms of regulation, the aftermath for advisers (if not providers) was more business as usual than most had expected – certainly sub-apocalyptic. The media writes about “suddenly”, we notice “now” and we talk about “out of nowhere”, so it is easy to make the mistake of forgetting the gradual: the small investments of time and energy day in, day out. The grind.

But without it, everyday opportunities are missed, little bits of value are lost and clients become unentranced. We do not notice so much until, quite suddenly, our business model is not delivering what it used to.

As American business author Seth Godin blogged recently: “It didn’t happen suddenly; you just noticed it suddenly.”

The same thing goes with success. Trust is earned, value is delivered and lessons are learned. Day by day we improve and build an asset without necessarily seeing the payoff.

Until one day, quite suddenly, we become the 10-year overnight success. But you cannot control when that day may happen – only how you choose to spend your time every day before it.

In the midst of a perma-maelstrom of regulatory wrangling, there is still little certainty around how the industry will shape up in 2019 and beyond. Platforms, providers and advisers alike have, for a long time, had their heads down, doing what is necessary to be compliant. This is a good starting point but it should be just that: the start.

Satisfying the regulator is not the same as satisfying the market, and survival to date will in no way guarantee success in the future. The only thing that will is how you choose to spend your time. As actor Robert De Niro said: “The talent is in the choices.” Which is ironic given his recent CV (sorry Bob).

Phil Wickenden is managing director at Cicero Research

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