Is it just me or is this election campaign simply a non event? Dividing
my time between London Village and Central Scotland, I find that geographic
location has made no difference to the level of public interest in the
Sure, there are posters everywhere, politicians out pressing flesh but
somehow it hasn't all come together. Foot and mouth disease has even
surpassed foot in mouth as the preferred headline.
Very few of us would want to compare ourselves with politicians and the
world of politics but, cynically, it strikes me that there are some
compelling analogies between the worlds of financial services and politics.
What we actually do, day in day out, to sell our products and services is
not a million miles removed from the manifestos, flyers and hustings of the
political arena. Ok, maybe there is less kissing of babies.
Most of us would rather not think about the turgid world of policy and
government just as most of our customers would rather not think about death
As product providers, we, just like Blair, Hague, and Kennedy all deal
with the frustrations of inertia, the partisanship of some elements of the
media and a lack of understanding by the public.
Like politicians we all believe our policies are the best. However, the
reality is that consumers just do not trust us to be objective. Everybody
wants a secure financial future just as we all want an efficient health
service and quality educational system but mostly people can't translate
this into an objective decision about who will best be able to deliver this.
In general, they make an emotional decision based on their perception of
the “brand” – blue, yellow, or red? So if this is true in politics which is
profoundly dull, how much more true is it of the arcane world of financial
services (sorry chaps)? It simply doesn't seem central to people's lives.
In the political world the general election is a call to action, we have no
such parallel in financial services.
As product providers and advisers to the public, our challenge is to make
them aware and care about financial issues.
As I am writing this, my post has arrived with yet another technicolor
manifesto (Conservative, Westminster and City Ward) the improbably named Mr
Field – another link to foot and mouth.
What is the real difference between Blair, Hague and Kennedy on the NHS,
for example, and how will their policies benefit me and my family? The good
news is that while this independent service does not exist in the political
arena, it is well and flourishing in financial services.
We should all welcome the birth of Advice First, a com-pany which is
designed to promote the existence of this unique service.
In this politically correct week, I suppose I should declare an interest.
I am a director of Advice First. Our target is to raise awareness among
consumers and key opinion-formers about independent advisers and to promote
the need for a sensible regulatory framework.
We have been too passive and slow to defend the worthy cause of
independent financial advice. It is time to wheel out our own soapbox and
talk to our constituents – both the man on the Clapham omnibus and the
John Cowan is group sales director of Scottish Amicable Financial Services