An open letter to Tony Blair
I am not one to write to readers' columns, having done so only once before in my 30-year career in financial services. Total frustration and very long, unnecessary hours have prompted me to find the time to put pen to paper.
Now that you have survived the Hutton report and the student top-up fees vote, perhaps you could turn your attention to an everyday issue which could vastly improve the quality of life for every one of Britain's citizens. Who knows, it may even save the country billions of pounds.
I refer to eliminating that out-of-control monster that is slowly strangling every business in this country, the ever increasing and suffocating red tape.
To give you one typical example of this widespread phenomenon, let me brief you on a recent case. A client had some funds invested in a Pep and a stocks and shares Isa. Unhappy with the performance of these existing investments, the client wanted to transfer to another provider and to other funds which met their current investment risk tolerance. I carried out the necessary compliance fact-finds and research, produced my suitability letter and reported back to the client.
After the transactions were completed, I checked my client's compliance file to ensure that all the required evidence was present and correct. In view of the relatively small monetary amount involved, I was taken aback by the astounding thickness of the file.
On counting the pages within the file, I was shocked to find that there were some 240 pages. This total excluded the additional paperwork involved in complying with the money laundering regulations.
By way of providing a meaningful comparison, the Government's Assessment of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction dossier (with which you will no doubt be very familiar) contains some 55 pages. On the strength of the evidence and content of these few pages, you committed the country to war, costing the taxpayer billions of pounds while far too many of the members of our brave armed forces have made the ultimate sacrifice.
My transaction only affected one client by moving their money from company A to company B. Being an existing Pep and Isa investor, my client was familiar with the workings of these products.
Against this background, perhaps you could provide some sensible justification for the necessity of amassing such a quantity of paper, purely to justify the investment of a few thousand pounds.
I suspect that if I were to apply for a firearms certificate, the evidence to justify its issue would only consist of a few pages. Yet armed with a firearm, I could do untold damage to human life.
The system obviously needs an urgent overhaul so that in future the level of justifiable and required paperwork is directly proportionate to the seriousness and threat posed by the consequences of the particular transaction.
It is one thing to try to educate consumers, it is another to overburden them with so much paper that they just do not read it.
The search in Iraq for weapons of mass destruction has to date proved fruitless. Perhaps now is the time to start looking for them nearer home.
For starters, there are plenty to be found in my own over-regulated profession. Perhaps a good place to begin your search would be at Canary Wharf.
The weapons of mass destruction that you need to find, isolate and eliminate are easy to identify. They masquerade under the guise of bureaucracy, paperwork, rules and regulation.
Perhaps a recent example would be the WMD that was recently launched in an unprovoked attack on Standard Life.
No matter what professional and other business people I talk to, their work-related problems are identical, an overburden of bureaucracy, paperwork, rules and regulations. Please do something to address this situation before the whole country grinds to a halt, never to recover.
If you would like to get in touch, I would be delighted to personally show you the coalface effects of the plethora of regulations introduced by both your own Government and by its predecessors.
I look forward to reading your next dossier, which you may wish to entitle the Government's Assessment of Britain's Weariness of Meaningless Drivel.