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INDEPENDENT VIEW

At a time for reflection on the last 12 months (and not forgetting next year&#39s targets) what do we have to look forward to?

Well, fortunately the world did not end with the arrival of 2000 while the mil lennium bug was obviously sidelined by last year&#39s flu virus as it did not make an appearance, much like the river of fire. There were, however, no doubt some substantial bonuses paid out within IT departments up and down the land.

The events of the year certainly kept us all on our toes and many of the changes as they turned out could not have been envisaged 12 months ago. Some of the developments we thought might happen, particularly in areas such as IT, are still on the horizon but looming closer and will hopefully come to fruition in a reliable format before too long.

B2B holds the key not only to an environment of some reduction in paper but also for a much streamlined admin and client support function. For most, the Financial Times and calculator method for valuations seems an awfully long time ago now and, once they are fully reliable, the various expected systems will transform our business operations. Not before time will we see an end to the phone queue and laborious dealing process.

The pace of product change is becoming faster all the time and the rationalisation, including the disappearance of companies and organisations has become a major feature during the year.

Among the product pro viders, it is a guessing game as to who is now negotiating with whom and how many names will be added to a corporate title or removed from the map entirely.

The range of choice among product companies was always going to diminish, but the rate of change is now far faster than we were perhaps expecting. One un heal thy by-product of these changes is the rapid turnover among fund managers and the “musical chairs” taking place within investment de partments – who on earth said that investments should be considered longer-term when managers are changing as fast as their socks?

There are plenty of challenges but financial advisers have many opportunities to grasp from this changing marketplace.

This year should see the dawn of the FSA becoming a fully fledged regulator but I still think the opportunity is there to make some money by betting on the eventual date.

First indications are that common sense will prevail with the new regime rather than implementing a “tick-box” regulation much des pised by IFAs.

So far as the business opportunities are concerned, stakeholder is going to have an impact but not necessarily in the way the Government envisages.

I am sure, like many others, we will experience an increase in the demand for GPPs at sensible funding levels which will open the way to new corporate accounts.

The unbundling of Peps and alignment with Isa investment limits when taken tog ether with multi-manager opt ions is going to present substantial opportunities to streamline client investment and more especially reduce the level of paperwork.

This is, of course, on top of the normal Isa end-of-year rush when inevitably clients work to a deadline rather than investing at other times of the year when it often represents better value.

Finally, the sad ending at Equitable whose stance on commission I could never reconcile with regard to the level of bonus payments, has left a lot of worried investors who need IFA support to select their best options.

The phone is already in meltdown mode and much investigation is required.

There is lots to do and look forward to this year.

Nicholas Conyers is a director of Pearson Jones

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