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The MM Christmas Awards Part 1: Cock-ups, brass necks and leaks

It has been another eventful year in financial services with plenty of bust-ups, cock-ups and meltdowns that deserve to be honoured in a formal setting. 

Dangerously, it also appears as if some people think the good times are really back, a sure fire sign of a bubble close to bursting, with a return of a few extravagant parties plus an unforgettable singing performance. Here is the first part of our eclectic list of awards for 2013 (second part coming tomorrow morning). 

Brass neck of the year: Fresh from his appearance on Derren Brown’s Channel 4 show The Great Art Robbery, the judges saw former IFA Ivan Massow as the clear winner of this coveted award.

Massow shut down his service offering to divert IFA trail commission to the client, with a healthy cut for himself, this summer. His website suggested that following the closure Massow’s firm would keep 100 per cent of the trail if the client did not switch away. It said: ”You could do nothing – but we will not be able to rebate any commissions we receive, and will keep them……this may be useful for people who get little or nothing back and quite simply can’t be bothered to move their affairs.”

This was a very odd message to emanate from a firm which was previously promoting itself as an antidote to IFAs keeping commission they did not deserve. After an outcry from advisers on the Money Marketing website, Massow subsequently admitted he regretted the wording on BBC’s Moneybox and said the closure would cost him £200,000. 

Most leaked deal: Legal & General buys Cofunds. After months and months (and months) of speculation and a constant stream of press articles, L&G finally failed to shock the market by sealing a £131m deal in March to gain 100 per cent ownership of the platform. 

Least leaked announcement: In the leaky and “placed exclusive” old world of fund management it was pretty amazing that the first anyone in the media heard about Neil Woodford’s departure from Invesco Perpetual was an innocuous press release sent through by their PR agency on a Tuesday afternoon. 

Performance of the year: Lifesearch chief executive Tom Baigrie’s version of Simple Minds “Don’t you forget about me” at the Lifesearch Charity night was the judges’ choice for this award. Tom needn’t worry, no-one who saw him on stage that evening will ever forget what they witnessed.

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The Fernando Torres award for over the top purchases: The Association of British Insurers represents a membership which vows to be careful, long-term custodians of client money but it knows a thing or two about expensive mistakes. The trade body is being “crippled” by a £4.5m, 25 year fixed rental agreement at its City offices at the same time it is making senior staff redundant. It has even been forced to sub-let the old staff tea room.

Mea culpa: FCA director of enforcement Tracey McDermott finally admitted to the Conservative party conference that too many FCA disclosure rules had been a costly and expensive mistake for advisers and clients. Maybe the FCA (remember they are NOT the FSA) could start owning up to more mistakes.

Biggest cock-up: This is always the hardest fought award amongst the financial services elite and this year was no exception. After hours of debate and a couple of arm wrestles the judges were clear on their winner, an organisation which continues its predessessor’s fantastic track record in category. Step forward the FCA (well to be fair it was the fault of the FSA which, as we are constantly told, is a very different beast). The award relates to a recently identified ”anomaly” in its fee-charging showing it had overcharged advisers by £118m over five years. Unfortunately the FCA has refused to refund the difference back to the adviser fee block. More of the same then. 

Just pipped to the post was the Money Advice Service for its work on annuity comparisons. Buying an annuity is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make and you’d expect a Government-backed and well funded organisation like the MAS to offer information on the full range of choices on offer. Unfortunately, as Money Marketing exposed in August, the MAS annuity tool excluded two of the biggest enhanced annuity providers from its comparison tool. Following our story the MAS added a caveat setting out the limitations of its service.  

Tomorrow the awards get even more competitive with best party, best spat and best meltdown among the gongs being handed out (subject to legal letters). There may even be some time to influence the judges with some last minute lobbying/bribery. 

Has anyone been robbed of a deserved award? Are there any other stand out performances we’ve missed? Let us know below…..

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