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Martin Bamford: Advisers must face up to the Paul Lewis challenge


It is easy in this profession to get upset by the little things. Sometimes it feels like every public comment made is a personal attack on our character, behaviour and professional judgement. For example, when we read the latest Money Marketing columns by Paul Lewis and Nic Cicutti, it is only natural to take offence at the merest hint of a perceived sleight.

So when Paul attempts to construct an analogy about washing machines and the cost of advice, some advisers get very upset. And when Nic suggests some consumer champions are better trusted than some financial advisers, it upsets some of the latter to an even greater extent.

I think it is because we care. In my experience, most advisers care passionately not only about their clients but also about their reputation, and the reputation of the retail financial services sector more generally. An attack on one is an attack on all of us, as far as they are concerned.

I care too. Family aside, nothing is more important to me than my professional reputation or the reputation of my business.

None of us work as hard as we do to ever feel entirely comfortable when someone is critical of our profession. It is therefore only natural to feel protective about your identity.

At the same time, however, I think there is a risk that taking offence has become a national pastime.

A notable example of this is that vile creature Katie Hopkins, who appears to exist to incite offence in others. As much as I despise the woman – and have in fact taken steps to block any mention of her from my social media feeds – she tweeted something quite important earlier this year. Neatly inserted between her usual xenophobia and general horridness, Hopkins said: “Offence is not something I give. It is something you choose to take. You need to make better decisions. Own your problems.” I rather liked that.

So when Paul Lewis delivers a tortuous analogy that offends, is he giving offence or are you choosing to take it? When you read Nic Cicutti’s latest column, what decisions are you making?

When the retail financial services sector comes in for more criticism about an aspect of what we do collectively, or at least what elements of our community choose to do, are we owning our problems? Or are we simply taking offence and attempting to shrug them off?

We should not live in denial about the historic challenges created by advisers around trust and reputation. In some cases, these continue to store up significant problems for the future.

So rather than automatically taking offence, perhaps we need to listen to what Paul, Nic and others have to say. Instead of getting upset at perceived sleights, instead we need to recognise these perceptions exist and than actually do something about them.

Martin Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice


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There are 9 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Are you going to be joining Libertatem Martin? See their new site at Membership for the year is only (a tax-allowable) £240.

  2. I wasn’t offended by Paul Lewis’ column, I just thought it was a rubbish analogy, badly written. Trying to make sense of it reminded me of when Homer Simpson attempts to navigate through the rainforest using a children’s maze puzzle drawn on the back of a Happy Meal menu. Trying to work out how the crudely drawn picture maps to reality was a torturous and inevitably frustrating and pointless exercise.

    As for Hopkins, there is a crucial distinction to be made here. If I make a political joke and someone finds it offensive – not just unfunny, but offensive – then they are choosing to take offence. Because I wasn’t trying to cause offence, I was trying to make people laugh. They have made a conscious choice to take the joke in a matter in which it was not intended.

    Hopkins however is not trying to make people laugh, she is deliberately trying to cause offence. So someone who takes offence *is* taking her comment as it was intended. The question is whether Lewis did not intend to cause offence and is just a very poor writer, or whether the article was deliberately written to get advisers’ backs up.

  3. The problem i have with the Paul & Martyn Lewis types is they actively encourage people to ‘tyre kick’ advisers ( comparing charges etc) and get as much as you can for free without any respect to the adviser or their industry… maybe we should get them to work for nothing.
    They pontificate on the radio/tv and the un-educated believe what crap comes out of their mouths. Eg ” Martyn Lewis advises me NOT to buy an annuity” … yet neither of them have the gonads to get the appropriate qualifications and experience to get pension/investment permissions to see if their ‘advice’ stands upto a complaint… both are clowns

    • Martyn Lewis is an inoffensive newsreader. I think you mean Martin Lewis (no relation). Hope your attention to detail for clients is slightly better.

  4. First excuse my ignorance – who the hell is Katie Hopkins? I have no truck with all this social meeja rubbish and it would seem just as well!

    Anyway to the case in point. Paul Lewis is a decent bloke, but when he talks of the industry in general (or if anyone does for that matter) not only do I not take offence, quite often I agree. What counts is what your clients think of you and do they criticise you? I can now look back over 30 years with a degree of satisfaction. None of these comment applied to me in the main. I admit that to the best of my recollection one or two had the temerity to voice discontent and in short shrift they were invited to go elsewhere. Dissatisfied clients lead to complaints and anyway life is too short to deal with moaners.

    The same applies to all this agonising over ‘the advice gap’ and the marginalising of the less well off. If you wish to trawl in those waters that’s your affair, but there is plenty of opportunity to deal with those who have the wherewithal and are willing to pay our charges and value our advice. In the main those who express dissatisfaction either have never used an IFA or in the main are somewhat less well off.

  5. Maybe Paul Lewis and Nic Ciccutti should take the Independent Financial Planner’s test as well.

    As you’ll be aware Lewis spoke at the PFS conference this year and he was truly appalling, it was like listening to a financial version of Life on Mars!

    There is a reason why [sic] that whilst not being blind to criticism, one just very now and again gets fed up of journalists selling their copy for an undisclosed fee and in so doing, causing mis-trust. As you know, we’ve all worked pretty hard and paid a lot of money to get where we are.

    On the other hand Martin Lewis made a pile of money in the process. Maybe we all just wrap up and seek their advice.

    Rant over, I’m off to buy a washing machine!



  6. Who’s upset? He wasn’t talking about me.

  7. I posted comments on the original article, but at no point was I offended or upset at what he said. Other than some business models that are stuck in the 1980s, like a certain “saintly” outfit, I just didn’t recognise what was being described.

  8. I haven’t read the comments above yet having only recently got my head above the surface on my return from a loveley holiday in Europe.
    Whilst Martin Bambford and I do not always see eye to eye (and Martin did once take offence at something i wrote, which was not a personal attack), he and I finally met and had a nice chat in January of this year.
    As to his article, I entirely agree with what he has said. As tp what Paul lewis wrote recently, I haven;t read it yet, but I suspect as with Rob Reid’s article which I have just commented on, people are taking offence when the writer is trying to encourage thought rather than tell people how to suck eggs.
    I have ahd sopme real humdingers with the FCA and FSA before them, but it doesn’t mean I am anti FCA. How can I be…. whilst a legal entity, they are more like the Borg!
    As to taking unintended offence. Liek many I am on linked-in and my interests are very wide ranging, including military and terrorism (Both small scal and state) as well as religious extremism, which is why when the Soviet Union collapsed, I started reading about where the enxt problems perceived or designed would occur and in 1992 I made sure I had a better understanding of Islam, not because I perceived it to be a threat, but because it was a logical “baddy” for some in power to focus on.
    My point her is that last week there was a post with a photo asking people to like or unlike an American Soldier who was asking for support. I clicked Like, then read the comments including the one from the person who I have a connection with on linked in (a prominent Danish academic) as he had said “I woudld rather support the victims”, I thought it appropriate to say “you can support the military AND the victims” wherupon I (as I then found out others had been to) was subjected to rather a lot of vitreol, including being accused of “Hating America” a lefty/commie and the only think which was left off was “Limey”
    As with the FCA, I support them and Western Democracies plus their military, but NOT unconditionally. As with the American forces (and our own), I support them provided they abide by International Law. The same applies to the F-pack, which is why I continue to argue that the removal of teh 15 year longstop from the rulebook when FSMA 2000 was both immoral and possibley illegal as you cannot overide common law in this way. There are solutions to the hole the F-pakc have dug for themselves, many including APFA continue to offer them a step out of that hole, but they have continued to prefer to ignore any reason and continue to prevaricate and cancel meetings, including those with APFA last week.

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