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Nic Cicutti: Massow should do the right thing with remaining trail

Carl Lamb MM blog

Many years ago, shortly after I left my role as a reporter for Money Marketing to work on a national newspaper, I went for a drink with a highly respected financial adviser in Soho.

We proceeded to get steamingly drunk in a pub, discussing industry matters and swapping gossip. I do not remember who brought up the subject of Ivan Massow.

Back then, in the early to mid-1990s, Massow was a startlingly successful IFA who was receiving attention not just from the trade press but from all the nationals.

My impression was of a clever young man who, through a combination of luck and shrewd judgement, had stumbled across a fantastic niche audience beginning to stand up for itself and discover its financial muscle.

Moreover, Massow’s positioning of his IFA business, including a brilliant reworking of Allied Dunbar’s slogan – from “For the life you don’t yet know” to “For the life you don’t want Allied Dunbar to know about” – spoke to more than just the gay community of which he was openly a member.

It resonated just as loudly with a hedonistic post-Acid House generation of fun-loving twenty-somethings for whom the subject of financial services was a total bore.

If he played it carefully, I thought, Massow could build a great business by crossing over into the mainstream, catching people young and keeping hold of them as they became gradually more affluent.

Back to my evening at the pub with the financial adviser. When Massow’s name came up, far from entering a discussion over his business potential, my drinking companion shocked me by launching into a foul-mouthed homophobic tirade.

He was only a few years older than me, well educated, mildly left of centre politically and someone with whom I had previously felt an affinity.

Yet like many of us, he harboured his own prejudices which, when alcohol had loosened his tongue, he was happy to share, perhaps because he felt we were kindred spirits in that regard. We were not.

The more I tried to argue with him, the worse – and louder – he became, to the point where I was so embarrassed that I made my excuses and went home.

I remembered this episode last week after reading that Massow’s latest trail commission rebating venture,, had bitten the dust.

I have not been a fan of Massow’s entrepreneurial skills since the late 1990s when it became increasingly evident that he was falling victim to his own hubris.

His business collapses and reinventions – from niche IFA catering to the gay market to becoming an agent for Zurich, a company he had previously excoriated in its Allied Dunbar days – became too much to bear.

For me, Massow’s credibility finally vanished along with CompareForGood, the price comparison website he briefly launched in 2010 which promised to pay two-thirds of its commission earnings to Oxfam.

CompareForGood has disappeared, the only clue to its once-promising existence being a few online press stories and a link to BeatThatQuote, the site that provided the white-label comparison service on Oxfam’s behalf.

Two years ago I wrote about Massow’s latest venture,, saying: “I would find it incredibly difficult to hand over any portion of my savings to a firm headed by [him].” That comment sounds even more prescient today.

Bear in mind also that, even assuming a huge part of his claims about the “tens of thousands” of clients he was attracting was pure bombast, is still receiving a large amount of trail commission, none of which will now be rebated to clients.

Massow should announce that after any winding-down costs, he will donate all of this recurring trail income to charity. Oxfam, the aid organisation selected for his previous failed attempt at altruistic munificence, is one potential recipient.

All that said, I cannot help feeling that an element of the schadenfreude displayed in last week’s online comments from advisers about Massow’s failed business is about more than a former adviser who tried to grab some of the trail earnings from their mouths. I suspect that at least part of it is down to something darker and more primeval than that.

Either way, it does not matter. The important thing about Massow’s trail rebating idea is that he was neither the first nor last person to come up with it.

It is almost certain that more credible proponents of the same message will emerge in the coming years. They will find eager listeners.

Nic Cicutti can be contacted at



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There are 36 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. “Darker and more primeval”? Nic, are you accusing commenters on these pages of homophobia? If so, would you care to call them out by name?

    No, thought not.

  2. I didn’t even know Mr Massow was gay and really don’t know what relevance it is anyway!!!! I’m sure that Martin Luther King wouldn’t mind me altering his words.

    I dream of the day when a person is not judged by their sexual orientation but by the content of their character.

    The last part of this quote is of particular relevance to Mr Massow who promised one thing and did something else that is what I believe the commentators on last week’s articles were basing their comments on.

    I think this is a very sloppy piece of journalism and is well below the standards of Money Marketing.
    I think you need to ask yourself a question Nic – when did being gay give you a defence against misleading clients. You’re the one that seems to have the problem with this and not the people commentating on a failed business venture.

  3. What a horrible, horrible, article. Deplorable,disgusting, unfounded accusations. This really is a step too far.
    Unsuitable or offensive comments can be removed, where is the button to remove unsuitable and offensive articles?

  4. No Nic, it was purely commentary on Massow’s attempt to reveal the trails myth ‘urban legend’ to the general public, like he was this Knight in shining armour to rescue people from the nasty, thieving IFA community…only to end up damaging the industry again and worse still, taking money under false pretences; this may have been his plan all along to build himself a retirement income from ill gotten gains…who knows but we are suspicious of him and his motives. It has nothing to do with being homophobic, you really do need to get over this hang up, it is so last year…

  5. Didn’t even know he was potentially gay, doesn’t enter my judgement processes so it wouldn’t matter.

    What mattered was that he was taking away trail from people who earned the money and taking a cut himself who hadn’t earned it, also potentially removing these people away from people who advised them.

    Also the fact the business failed and then taking all this commission himself, lying over what he was offering.

    Gender preference for sexual activity didn’t come into it.

  6. Money Marketing – this is a disgusting article and totally unecessary.

    Please remove it immediately!



  7. Didn’t know, don’t care – the 90’s are so before my time in this business.

    A most distasteful article.

  8. I have just written to the editor of Money Marketing and would encourage anybody who has problems with this article to do the same.

    I believe that this is a disgusting slur and one that should result in an immediate apology just in case anybody has any doubt please find enclosed a link to the article with the most comments.

    I don’t see any homophobic comments so where is the facts to back up this outrageous accusation, unlike many I use my real name when posting and I really do take offence at Nic’s article.

  9. Appalling article and so non-PC.

    I think Massow has had a bum deal.

  10. Paul McMillan, Editor of MM can be contacted at this email address.
    This article is disgusting and offensive. Ask The Editor to remove it immediately and demand an apology at the same time.

  11. I must admit at no stage reading any comments over the last week did I get any hint of homophobia. Maybe I’m just naive.

    I usually like reading your articles for a variety of reasons, sometimes agreeing, sometimes not.

    But this one is a bad turn Nic.

  12. After ignoring the bit where Nic accuses readers of homophobia and the entire first 3rd of the article because it is, basically, Nic blowing his own trumpet about how rightous he is in the face of bigotry i can’t seem to find anything worthy or the title ‘journalism’.

    This article should be removed for a number of reasons but mainly because it’s rubbish.

  13. @ Peter Herd

    Have emailed…lets just hope he does something!!

  14. I think it is Nic who might have homophobic traits by suggesting that comments made in previous were based on Mr Massow’s sexual ethics rather than his business ethics.

  15. OOOooooOOOO get over yourselves!

    The only people who have taken any homophobic conetations from this article are the people who are commentating.

    And please if you really think that most of what Nic writes is not worth reading then why read it?? and then comment about how rubbish you think it is?

    I maybe niave but maybe Nic is suggesting that the ‘darker’ and ‘primeval’ issues are more linked to the fact that Massow was attempting to make a business out of something that wasn’t there and some IFA’s are annoyed they are potentially losing on going commission for doing nothing?

    Having said that Nic has as usual made a mountain out of a mole hill and everyone has bitten! Everyone moans about Nic’s articles but yet everyone reads them and still comments about how rubbish they are! If you really want him to stop then stop reading and stop commenting – it aint that difficult!!

    But dont worry Nic one person will keep reading and will keep chuckling to themselves in the same way i am sure you do each time you write an article – i’m getting paid to write this and i still dont have to sleep with the editor, magic!

  16. @Anon@ 4.14
    You must be niave, whatever that is.

  17. Nic Cicutti has serious issues.

  18. RegulatorSaurusRex 29th August 2013 at 5:21 pm

    Over the years we have seen the mighty fall from grace and comments reflecting the sentiment “just desserts” coming from the readership, were all those people who came a cropper homosexual? I don’t think so.

    When a journalist lowers himself to this level reasonable people might believe it is time for him to move on.

  19. Hi all.

    I think this discussion is a bit silly. First off, I’m not accusing any one particular individual of anything.

    That said, we’ve all been in the game long enough to know that what people tell you in public is one thing and what they believe (and sometimes say) in unguarded private moments is another. “Some of my best friends are gay/black/lesbian/ginger/disabled/St James’ Place partners/Norwich City supporters….” and all that.

    My story about the IFA in question a little over 20 years ago is a case in point. For people to focus on the phrase “I cannot help feeling that AN ELEMENT etc” (my emphasis) is bizarre.

    For Peter Herd, a man whom I otherwise respect even when I disagree with his views, to feel singled out or to ask for an apology to an entire IFA industry – when the issue has been commented in by upwards 50 people and up on Money Marketing’s website alone – is bonkers. Is he really saying that he knows the privately-held views of ALL those who commented, including the anonymous ones?

    Moreover, I didn’t even mention MM comments as the focus for my concerns.

    So there could be one or two out hundreds of people, not necessarily in MM, I have this suspicion about. What are the protestors saying, that I’m not allowed to voice this opinion? That I shouldn’t have freedom of speech? That advisers are above all of this? That they are completely unlike any other segment of society, some of whose members are prejudiced?

    I’ve been around this industry for almost 22 years, I’ve corresponded with thousands of advisers in that time (maintaining anonymity whenever requested), met many hundreds and got drunk with scores of them. So for anyone to suggest I have no idea what some people are thinking is just not credible.

    If some of you reading this column want to use the comments space below it to insist you’re not anti-gay, feel free. But don’t tell me the industry is completely free of homophobia, because I KNOW differently.

  20. Gillian Cardy @ IFA Centre 29th August 2013 at 5:36 pm

    Why is it all down to Ivan Massow to do the right thing?? Why does no-one expect the fund managers to repay unpaid commission to their investors – or to reduce fund charges, or switch them to the clean share classes that are appearing like a bad rash everywhere we look?? Until product providers are forced to do the right thing, investors who don’t want our advice will never be better off – and those who do will end up paying twice – once through product charges and once through adviser charging.

  21. Err…..just what exactly does Ivan Massow’s sexual orientation have to do with his business acumen?

    I don’t find this article offensive. I just wonder what it’s trying to say, other than the fact that Nic seems to have some peculiar hang-up about homosexuals or about other people who have one.

  22. I recall something said by China Miéville, which seems apt, this:

    “It is depressing to have to point out, yet again, that there is a distinction between having the legal right to say something & having the moral right not to be held accountable for what you say.

    Being asked to apologise for saying something unconscionable is not the same as being stripped of the legal right to say it.

    It’s really not very f-cking complicated.

    Cry “free speech” in such contexts, you are demanding the right to speak any bilge you wish without apology or fear of comeback.

    You are demanding not legal rights but an end to debate about and criticism of what you say.

    When did bigotry get so needy?”

  23. Well said Cassy

  24. I am not homophobic. It is drunks I cannot stand.

  25. Gill Carry makes a much better point than Nic in fewer words. She is also only likely to upset fund managers by her comments and not this article which has annoyed many advisers who would question Ivan Massows moral right to retain ANY commission going forward as he should simply wind the company up and allow the trail to revert to the insurers until such time as new agents are appointed by the clients, perhaps a firm who will pass 100% of the trail to charity rather than IVan or even the FSCS perhaps so it can be used to offset FSCS interim levies.

  26. Actually this has got me thinking, we have residual trail on consumers we no longer service as they are not willing or able to pay sufficient fees to cover our regulatory costs including having to get our level 4s and 6s. How about an acceptance of the timebars & longstop where an adviser agrees for the trail to be paid to the FSCS instead of retained by us? If the consumer then appoints another adviser who then takes the trail, the new firm would be confiming ongoing suitability and become liable not the FSCS.

  27. Massow used true potential as his back office system. The clients could/ will be passed to them.

  28. Ha! These comment sections are worse than the daily mail website!

    You can’t demand an apology for anything.

    I dont think there is anything wrong wth hm keepng the trail, to do anything else would be a logistical nightmare, If the customers are unhappy, they can switch it off.

  29. We all have our prejudices and they are allowed – free speech still exists, even in financial services.

    As soon as the right to speak your mind is removed we are one step away from totalitarianism

  30. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights expressly provides that the right to freedom of expression is qualified by such restrictions as are necessary “for the protection of the reputation and rights of others.” That means that the law does not guarantee the right to publish defamatory statements that injure others’ reputations

  31. This is not about Ivan Massow’s sexual orientation which for those of us who have been around for a reasonable time is well known and frankly I don’t care.

    His business acumen seems to be one of being a ‘chancer’ trying to latch on to another get quick scheme whereas we know that creating a business is a long term process.

    Despite recent tendencies it is not a fact that the minute one mentions phrases such as ‘gay, black, minority or ethnic’ that one immediately can be accused of being homophobic. I don’t always (often) agree with Nic Ciccuti but some of the comments here are absolute rubbish.

  32. Seems Nic by his own admission has identifiable problems including alcoholism.

    Repetition is a another. How many times has he used expression “for whom I otherwise respect even when I disagree ” etc.

    Too personal? No, just more in the same tone of his article

    Lay off the bottle Nic and stop repeating yourself; that way you might make sense hereafter

  33. Most of you are missing the point. This is not about homophobia. Nic is bang on. Take a look at Massow’s history of “running” companies. Every one has failed. He is a master at generating publicity, but when it comes to business …. As to his motives of all these failed ventures: that’s another debate. Again, I think Nic’s hint of what’s behind this last failure (and others) is absolutely on the mark. (Other journalists please note: do your homework before deciding on your vocabulary for any future articles on this man [and I don’t mean Nic!]: “successful”, “multi-millionaire”, etc, I would suggest need some serious consideration.)

  34. One wonders what the slant of this article might have been if Mr Massow were in some other way a “non-standard” member of British society, perhaps by virtue of race, religion or physical disability.

  35. He has all ready sold the clients to another trail harvesting firm.

    Very TCF

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