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Kim North: Regulators need to stop moving the advice goalposts

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It looks like we are to face a busy period with an increasing demand for financial advice on the run-up to the end of the year.

This will be created by a number of facts such as the S&P 500 and Dow Jones index delivering another pair of record closes, pushing up world economic optimism. UK mortgage lending is up with Nationwide having its strongest half year mortgage lending in the last five years whilst the UK unemployment rate fell to 7.6 per cent according to the most recent figures, its lowest rate in more than three years.

Many consumers will seek financial advice across all areas of financial planning due to these events. Auto-enrolment will also push millions of people into thinking about financial planning for the future, many for the first time. 

We’ve always known that the bank brands have a stronger appeal than the independent advice brand so it saddens me to read that many banks continuing to lay off thousands of branch staff and move jobs overseas.

We’ll walk into vast banking halls with nobody in sight just an array of machines. Not exactly conducive to seeking face to face friendly financial advice. This in itself can be stressful as you wait patiently for hours to see a person to say you wish to invest an inheritance or need an overdraft.

One day machines may be able to provide personalised financial advice hitting all the regulator’s ever changing Conduct of Business rules, but I predict not in my lifetime.

As banks cut and downsize in the financial planning areas this is good news for financial advisers.   

The outcome of proper financial advice is to advice people how they can financially live in the home they want debt free with a reasonable standard of living both in sickness and in health. This has always been basis of financial planning. All other planning issues such as school fees planning and key man or partnership protection are added bonuses to the client, and the financial adviser.

The Association of British Insurers has launched a review of UK retirement needs and is asking think tanks and consumers to help them work out how effective, or ineffective, the current pension and retirement market is at the moment and what changes need to be made. The ABI says that the UK is facing a perfect storm of retirement problems, including rising life expectancy, chronic undersaving, increasing state retirement age, and a growing demand for long term care. A grim list.

If the issues raised by the ABI make people consider pension saving, which is of course a good thing, the forthcoming changes to pension illustrations on a inflation adjusted and self selected growth rate will certainly put the consumer off pension saving.

The constant tinkering with auto enrolment needs to stop as over 30 thousand of SMEs hit their staging date next year.

Please can the FCA and the DWP seriously think about the effect of the new illustrations rules before the damage to auto-enrolment take up and pension saving is irreparably damaged.  

Kim North (kim@techandtech.co.uk) is managing director at Technology and Technical

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  1. Ah Kim – I do so sympathise. However that is unfortunately the nature of regulation – and indeed life. Things change – particularly in our fast changing and evolving industry. We have more than our share of gamers and the regulator is forever playing catch-up. So regrettably changing goal posts seem to be a fist division fixture! I only hope that retrospection is toned down.

    As to AE “The constant tinkering with auto enrolment needs to stop” – on this I can’t agree. The tinkering I would like to see is that firms with 15 employees or less are excluded entirely. We keep hearing about the need for entrepreneurship and how important new business start-ups are. They give a short term incentive with NI on the one hand and then impose another business tax immediately after. (AE is just another business tax).

    They will live to regret it when the numbers of self-employed increase, the black economy grows, agency work becomes even more prevalent and temporary work grows. Firms also have the option of moving elsewhere – and no doubt many will. (We are still the highest taxed nation in the OECD).
    Too many are too young to remember SET – which effectively was the same thing as AE – a tax on business. It just leads to gaming and higher unemployment.

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