Anyone who knows me will understand why I thought 2013 was a strange year in more ways than one.
Firstly there was the RDR to contend with and all that that entailed. I find it odd now looking back that the doom-mongers (again) predicted our imminent demise, but it seemed the lack of accurate data, especially regarding adviser numbers, was fuel to the naysayers’ toxic diatribes causing many amongst us to panic.
I then had my new venture to set up following a decision to go it alone and strike out for something fresh given the new world in which we must make a living.
It was an easy decision to take things up a notch or two and really gun for the higher end of the market, as has been my plan for a while given our client base. The banks of the Thames beckoned, finally making our name worthy of its lofty image.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; we have never had it so good, just as long as flogging products isn’t your thing. And who left amongst us can seriously think that product flogging is the way forward? Many a business based on this premise has already fallen by the wayside, and not before time it could be argued, although I have always thought certain things need to be sold, which is a different and gnarly debate for another time.
I had an interesting chat the other day with an old family friend who was a bank employee for most of his life. He regaled me with tales from the banking world when they went through an “Americanisation” way back in 1993.
He could pinpoint almost to the day when they went from old world banking to target driven banking, with the disastrous results we witnessed some 15 years later. He was adamant that it all began precisely then and it was never the same again.
I even remember writing in this column years ago about a certain bank and its decidedly dodgy incentives being rather too much like a giant sales machine. Suffice it to say that very same bank was at the epicentre of the global banking woes and domestic PPI scandals.
This chap then left banking and became an auditor for NHS procurement and swiftly made a name for himself uncovering scams of every variety, from double invoicing to hugely disparate pricing between the differing NHS Trusts up and down the country.
I have also said in this column that “spending other people’s money on other people” is the least efficient way to spend money. As the MAS, NHS procurement and countless other enforced activities prove time and time and again to be wasteful to the point of pain for connected parties, be they tax payers or stakeholders in financial services who ultimately pay the bills.
So it is with my money that I set up here in Henley to make the most of this RDR environment. No surprise then that I take everything I do absolutely personally, which has to be a better model for any regulator than a large and sterile machine, especially if it has “bank” in its title.
Tom Kean is director of Thameside Financial Planning