Last week saw us at the Turnberry Hotel for the Money Marketing Retirement Planning Summit, where we listened, debated and networked like our lives depended on it.
This event always has its moments and this year was no exception. John McFall delivered a keynote speech and then took an impressive number of questions. Apart from plugging his next think tank – he clearly believes in a portfolio of activities since his days as an MP – he cleverly referred back to the previous speaker for some sort of validation, irrespective of the reasonableness of the connection.
When I suggested to him that the unions had sleep-walked through the rush from defined benefit to defined contribution, with the reduction in contributions not finding its way back to the members, he did what all politicians do and answered a different question.
When I then suggested that Labour treated pensions with contempt, given the 18 or so people who held the post of pensions minister, he remembered he had to go. The one major step forward he can take credit for is his wish to establish a pension strategy – out with the short-termism that is the UK political spectrum.
Regrettably, he had no new ideas about getting people to save and saw no problem in Nest expanding its brief to the detriment of current providers. He waxed lyrical on the Dutch and Danish systems but did not seem to recognise the risk that comes with their solutions. What really struck me was the total absence of new ideas.
In the age of the iPad, we need an iPension if we are to engage the mass market. Auto-enrolment will not cut it, compulsion is inevitable and then the level of contributions need to be sensible or politicians will find themselves in deep trouble.
This week sees the Tisa workshop on employee’s covenants and following on from the Raymond James’ victory over Towry Law. This event needs to focus not on these two companies but on the crazy concept of client ownership. I am firmly in the camp that it is not a non-dealing clause that retains clients, it is a service that people appreciate and value.
The flaw is that people base valuations on the quantum of trail commissions, when profit is far more reliable.
This takes me back to my recent comments on self-employed advisers, over which I was taken to task by my pal Nick Bamford, who suggested the self-employed option is not just about capital adequacy reduction.
I remain unconvinced that if you do not own the clients your asset base will be negligible or, as I once stated, your assets have legs.
The summit finished with a round of golf at the prestigious Ailsa course. I reflected on what I had learned and wondered that if adviser-charging is still to be fully sorted in terms of VAT and unauthorised withdrawals, then it is not only the exams that could prevent a smooth transition to 2013. Any ideas that August is just for holidays could be commercially fatal.
Rob Reid is managing director of Syndaxi Chartered Financial Planners @reidremoney