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Independent view

I usually have a huge amount of respect for my colleagues who make the effort to write articles or be quoted regularly in the press. We do not have to do it and we are rarely paid to do so. I know, some of you will say we do it for our own egos but the fact is that we give up much of our time to help educate, stimulate debate or provide an alternative opinion.

However, when in the public arena, I feel we have an obligation to ensure that what we say is generally positive and upbeat about our profession. The media, watchdogs and even our own regulator are constantly trying to beat up our industry, instead of using their power and influence to instigate change in spending habits.

In my last Independent View article, for example,I wrote how there was very little consumer education about the need for the different types of life and disability insurance.

We should use every opportunity to look at the positive, rather than falling prey to the sensationalist headlines the media seeks.

I was disappointed to read some recent outpouring of ‘wisdom’ from Mark Dampier, research director of Hargreaves Lansdown. I do not know Mark personally but I have always considered him a responsible individual and have admired his high profile in every sector of the media. But recent quotes in The Sunday Times have left me confused and concerned that Mark has lost the plot.

The following is from the February 27 issue of The Sunday Times: “One of Britain’s leading financial advisers said last week that the country’s financial services were in such a disarray that the best home for savings was a no-frills deposit account.”

In the article Mark said: “The ING account paying 5 per cent is hard to beat at present, even for a millionaire. The trouble is there is absolutely no confidence in any product from a financial-services company.”

I was shocked by such a statement from someone so highly respected but maybe that was his objective.

If the industry is in such a bad state then, perhaps, Mark should seek another career. I would not want to be part of an industry which I felt was like that.

Given his damning condemnation of all products, I do not understand why Hargeaves Lansdown is selling anything at all if they have no confidence in them? Given his preference for the ING deposit account, why is there no mention of this on the its website? If it is so good, why can I not invest in it or, at least, link to it, from their website?

Should these sensationalist comments be said publicly by an industry spokesman? What good does it do, compared with the harm it causes? There are many professionals in financial services who will be offended by being told, by implication, that there is absolutely no confidence in them.

In an earlier issue of The Sunday Times, Mark used his expertise to advise a reader as part of a “money makeover”. The reader was funding several hundred pounds a month to a Maximum Investment Plan. Instead of solely considering the reader’s circumstances, Mark chose to make a sly dig at the level of commission the adviser had originally earned.

In my opinion, this was not what was concerning the reader and was irrelevant. I do not understand why anything had to be said about the original level of commission, which no doubt had been disclosed to the client in making a presumably fully compliant sale.

Why do some commentators have to get on their high horses about commission? The way and amount we are paid is of no concern to anyone other than the client we are dealing with. For some clients we will charge fees and for some we will earn commission. It is not a case of one is better then the other, it is what is appropriate for the client.

For those who think fees are the only way and that all commission-based advisers are crooked because they are biased by the level of commission, I have some simply questions. If you were commission based, would you be influenced by the level of commission, to the client’s detriment? If the answer is ‘yes’, then you have to question your own ethics. If the answer is no, what gives you the moral authority to think that other advisers will behave unethically?

Perhaps, the reason Hargreaves Lansdown are not promoting the ING deposit account, despite Mark’s re-sounding endorsement of it and their website proclaiming it offers ‘The Best Information’, is because it does not pay anything. Or is that just me being cynical?

Bhupinder Anand is managing director at Anand Associates

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