Getting focused messages across to clients is more important now than ever, considering such an indistinct future post-EU referendum. As the Government moves to try to exit the EU (I say “try” as I do not believe we will find it easy) it reminds me of a family party where people go to leave then spend almost as much time chatting in the hallway as they have done all night.
While we are in this limbo it is hard for advisers to be definitive but perhaps that is a good thing. As one of my planner friends said recently: “when trying to understand things, try to separate the facts from inferences and opinions”. Seems to me this is very sensible in the current environment. My only issue is: where do we get the facts from?
There is no doubt the Brexit disruption will have side effects. On the one hand, some people will simply take no action but others realise you cannot just put things off for any significant length of time. The latter group will recognise the value in what financial planners can do for them.
I have several clients with property in Europe who are now reviewing their plans to move there once retired. This was never simple even pre-Brexit but, if we do end up leaving, many more people will need to discuss the same, once again stimulating the demand for advice and regular reviews.
Incidentally, another side effect is that people in the UK might now understand the voting system in a way they had not done previously. In short: if you do not vote you cannot complain about the outcome, and if you vote from emotion and/or prejudice you may not get the result you need.
What we need is real leadership – not just in Government but also at the regulator. We need people to recognise that, while they may be able to connect the dots looking back, it is impossible to connect the dots looking forward. Looking forward needs a level of trust in those producing the strategy. Taking the ostrich approach to potential change and sticking your head in the sand is never sensible.
We need leaders not despots. Post-Chilcot Inquiry, those making decisions will hopefully understand that at some point they may be called upon to justify their actions. We do not need to be patronised. We need clear communication from every agency or corporate that impacts on our financial wellbeing.
We can take the lead as professional advisers by disclosing charges in a format that avoids complexity or obfuscation. As I have said more than once before, we need better disclosure, especially on the total cost of investing. At the moment finding out what is actually charged and when takes a huge amount of patience.
In some ways, the current quality of information from providers is not dissimilar to the information the UK public received regarding the referendum: lots of opinions but little in the way of facts. We should not wait for Government or providers. It is time we stopped simply following. Let’s lead the way.
Robert Reid is director at The Ideas Lab