Fellow Money Marketing columnist Nic Cicutti believes any hospitality paid for by product or service providers costing more than £50 should be registered not just by financial advisers but also by journalists. This information, he believes, should be accessible by the public.
I disagree with him as I would not include journalists recording freebies in the hospitality book as where would the buck stop? Do columnists that are not journalists need to start recording all the hospitality we receive?
Many activities can be open to bias but I truly believe that in the professional workplace, bias rarely raises its head in the financial services journalistic world.
I do, however, believe that journalists should be incentivised to do product based exams so they know, for example, when a press release arrives in their in-box they know the difference between a Sipp and a SSAS, a Sicav and an Oeic and what makes up a TER.
I believe it is more dangerous for the press to be factually incorrect than the worry that extra column inches are given to a provider that has talked for hours to the journalist over an expensive lunch about a new product launch.
Financial services journalists currently need to understand the implications of the repricing on platforms and funds for clean pricing. Last week, I had to read Hargreaves Lansdown’s new brochure covering changes to its Vantage service. I had to reread a few times to understand the repricing implications as its complex. I did wonder if some customers of Hargreaves and junior journalists would fully understand the content.
With the regulator making platform charges unbundled and no longer able to cross-subsidise fund and platform charges, we are heading into “cheapest is best” competition.
It has been proved time and time again cheapest funds are generally not the best performers. Platforms are simply an open architecture piece of technology that offers service and we all know that the cheapest service is not always the most suitable. By making charges clearer and transparent, the charging structure laid out as a tiered menu approach is more complex for consumers to understand.
Whose responsibility is it to help the public understand these issues when adviser charging makes it too expensive for millions to seek advice? Journalists, I hear you say. So if I continue to train Money Marketing journalists and then buy a bottle of wine for them in the Adam & Eve pub next door, who records what as neither party is a product or service provider?
It is known that journalists are not very highly paid and the ‘free perks’ add to the remuneration of the role. If freebies are restricted, talented young journalists may choose to cover other industries which I am sure you will agree will be a great loss to financial services.
Kim North (firstname.lastname@example.org) is managing director of Technology and Technical