The Chancellor may not have dumbed down but he has prudenced down. Only three uses of the word, after double digits last year. Nothing in the speech really ignited my professional interest. But there was a conspicuous omission; I was hoping for a move, however tentative, on annuities. After all, the annuity trap is especially acute for those who are likely to save small amounts in stakeholder pots.
This nettle should be grasped sooner rather than later. There are good models such as Oonagh MacDonald's report on which the Chancellor could have built.
What did we get instead? Another review, this time of capital and information flows in personal financial services. To deal with one review may be deemed a misfortune; to have two thrown at you looks like bloody hard work. Does this review supplement or supercede work by the FSA in the same area? Can we fill in the same form for both? And what happens if the various reviews come to different conclusions. This is review-overload with a vengence and with an unclear purpose.
I also hope that the with-profits baby, a product which has served many investors well, does not get thrown out with the lack of transparency bathwater . And the need for well-capitalised long term savings institutions should be explicitly recognised.
All the references in the body of the Myners report to the effect of different levels of commission on provider recommendation seem to have been written without reference to the last review of the subject by London Economics which found no evidence to back up worries that this was going on. This is not “joined up reviews”. Small businesses who have to tackle this welter of analysis deserve better.
But enough whinging. I believe that we have a good story to tell to all these reviews and we should approach them confident in what we have to say.
And the Chancellor did not mention polarisation. Shurely shome mishtake (ed).