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Picturing 2001

In July, Bank of England economist DeAnne Julius&#39 published her long-awaited report into UK banking codes. The report criticised the Treasury for failing to regulate mortgage advice and called for the mortgage code to be strengthened. To the industry&#39s surprise, the Treasury has since handed the FSA responsibility for the regulation of mortgage advice and general insurance broking.

IFAs were left confused about the timing of the publication of the FSA&#39s report into its handling of the Equitable Life debacle. Treasury economic secretary Ruth Kelly told Parliament the review team was not ready to complete the report but the FSA denied there was a delay. The Baird report, which eventually emerged in November, looks set to shake up life office regulation.

In August, the head of the Treasury&#39s financial services review Ron Sandler stunned IFAs by questioning their relationship with clients because of commission. Sandler then suggested at last month&#39s Aifa dinner that IFA clients might be satisfied because they mistakenly believed that advice was free.

Towry Law chief executive Douglas Black caused widespread indignation by claiming the £30m bailout by the ICS after the £48m Advizas&#39 pension misselling represented a good deal for the industry. IFAs responded by saying Towry would struggle to attract the 800 advisers it was seeking to recruit. Black quit at the end of the year.

In September, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington resulted in the deaths of more than 5,000 people. The events sent shockwaves across the world and caused stockmarkets to plummet, leaving the global economy perilously close to recession.

Pensions minister Ian McCartney disappointed IFAs by ruling out a change in existing annuity rules on the grounds that only the rich would benefit. Retirement Income Reform Campaign head Dr Oonagh McDon-ald hit back by claiming the Government had no idea how annuities work.

In October, Ruth Kelly told IFAs they were crucial and critical at a Labour conference. IFAs were given a boost when the head of the FSA&#39s polarisation review David Severn said the abolition of polarisation makes for good headlines but would require the implementation of more rules. But by the end of the year, his boss Howard Davies seemed to indicate more full-scale reform.

In November, the PIA handed Prudential a £650,000 fine for review failings – the regulator&#39s biggest ever fine for this offence. A week later, chief executive Mark Wood finally axed the 175-year-old Scottish Amicable brand after months of denials.

A National Pensioners Convention rally at Westminster saw thousands of pensioners call for free personal care, attacking Government LTC plans.

In December, the Consumers&#39 Associa-tion went to Canary Wharf to urge the FSA to get tough on rogue providers and advisers. CA director general Sheila McKechnie wrote an open letter to the FSA demanding that it identify where consumers are most vulnerable to poor products and financial information.

Equitable Life policyholders were sent the final compromise scheme from the troubled insurer aimed at preventing it from edging closer to insolvency. Policyholders have until January 11 to cast their votes.


A consumer&#39s view

Nobody loves the regulator. Having them all in one place, now that the FSA has taken over as all-encompassing watchdog for the financial services industry, at least gives disgruntled practitioners a focus for their irritation.It cannot be much fun being a regulator but there is one oft-complained of area in which they could make their […]

Optima hedges bets on US

Optima Fund Management has introduced the Lee Munder growth fund, which is a hedge fund that invests in small and medium companies in the US.The fund is structured as a Bermuda-registered Oeic and will use long and short equity hedge fund strategies mainly in the technology, healthcare and business services, which are companies that provide […]

Dazed and confused

Since the Chancellor&#39s pre-Budget statement, domestic political attention has been focused on the NHS. Almost unnoticed in his report was a new commitment to massively increase means-tested welfare spending on pensioners – by £2bn in 2004/05 and successively larger amounts in the future.This, however, increases the complexity in an already opaque system, which has implications […]

Julius and EU responsible for decision says FSA

The FSA says the decision to regulate mortgage advice is a result of a recommendation from Bank of England economist DeAnne Julius.The move to regulate general insurance advice comes as a result of pressure from the European Union according to the regulator.DeAnne Julius made a powerful case for mortgage advice to be regulated in her […]

Tax avoidance (the fight goes on)

In recent times, we have witnessed high-profile celebrities and sports stars make the headlines for potential tax liabilities on ‘failed’ tax avoidance schemes. We are now used to reading about these individuals, but what about those who advise on such schemes? Read more


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