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The links effect

After returning to Carnoustie in Scotland for the The Open golf championships recently, I have no doubt that many people were tired of the re-running of the fateful 18th hole of the final round as played by Jean van der Velde the last time championship was held at the course in 1999.

If you have ever played the links course, or are familiar with it, you would recall that Van der Velde’s descent into the culvert was something that could only turn into farce.

Links golf is difficult at the best of times. When the wind gets up, it is like you have been transported to a different world.

If we were we to ask consumers about what is happening in the world of finance, probably the only event that has been noted and digested us the the change in bank base rates recently.

We need to make it clear to the public what will be available and what may not be if the retail distribution review continues unamended.

After all, they are hardly interested in keeping up with the debate.

The recent moves to educate children in finance concerns me when so many find basic literacy beyond them.

We need to communicate differently. So many seem to rely on the internet as the panacea to all ills but when reading ages are as low as age 8-11 for many adults, how can it be effective unless the design recognises this at outset?

If we are to encourage people to save, we must first teach them about budgets; splitting their money into a series of envelopes may seem a bit basic but basic help is what many need.

Tracking, using methods which might seem akin to a Weight Watchers’ diet programme, is not as crazy as it may at first seem.

People may prefer one to one but is that logistically or financially possible? Working with groups is the better way forward, employers seem the best access point but I am not so sure. Community groups, for example, may be a better alternative and give a better cross-section.

In Kim North’s last column, she recounted the story of my wandering dog. One person asked me why my dog went to Asda. I replied that it was the only store open 24 hours. I recall that night being concerned that our dog would not cope on his own and the same is true of many people trying to sort out their financial future.

Using a mixture of pro bono, mentoring, buddies and some form of group therapy, we might just be able to turn the situation round.

One major influence on the market changes will be the reaction of those who now need to move above FPC3, based on the clarity of the routes they can take.

In making their decisions, they must recognise that fighting the changes are all very well while using the time intervening to study and pass through the required exams. Waiting to find out if the battle against change is lost could simply soak up the time and leave you with an impossible task of trying to pass too many exams in too short a time, and that is an additional pressure that no one needs.

As I said a few weeks ago, we must engage and that means taking the time to read the paper. Simply shouting “no” will not work.

As in links golf, aerial bombardment is not the answer, subtlety is. Perhaps that is also true of how we negotiate to a market where, to paraphrase the words of Callum McCarthy [at the recent Retail Distribution Review Conference], we are entitled to an acceptable return on capital – if the retail environment prevents that being achieved then we are on the wrong path.

Have a great summer holiday and be ready for the debate in the final quarter of 2007.

Robert Reid is managing director of Syndaxi Financial Planning


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