How hard can it be for the various life offices left out there to make our lives a bit easier once in a while?
You would think in the middle of the current land grab they would be bending over backwards to gently persuade us they are among the chosen few to carry on receiving our precious business. But no – they interpret ridiculous European legislation to the lowest and most inconvenient denominator and make our lives utterly infuriating with all kinds of puerile procedures that only their own staff can relate to.
For example, in what parallel universe does anyone think normal emails are in any way less secure than hard copies delivered by some non-vetted postie? Instead, we are increasingly subjected to banal encoded emails that inhibit the smooth flow of work to the point of exasperation. Even emails with simple exchanges of pleasantries have to be decoded. I know the rebuttal will be that once set up it will be quick and easy but believe me, no one else thinks it is. Thirty or 40 of those a day is enough to drive you to drink.
We are fed lies and spin about how the modern way of doing things is so wonderful and efficient yet, when it comes to pushing that submit button, you find yourself back in the dark ages, needing to print everything and having to ask the client to enter into a good old-fashioned postal exchange. The only beneficiaries are the printer cartridge manufacturers and the providers, whose cunning ability to co-opt us indirectly as unpaid data entry clerks is fooling no one.
And the different degrees of pragmatism applied to business procedures clearly show that joined-up thinking is a rare trait. Initiatives such as Unipass and Origo, and offices such as Standard Life and Axa which can do pretty much anything over the phone nowadays, give me hope for the future. And yet the laggards out there still insist on making people’s lives a bit of a bind.
I can understand why my fellow IFAs are tempted to gravitate towards just a handful of providers; learning the foibles of each system is so painful and makes a diverse offering to clients almost impossible, rendering the notion of being independent as a bit of an urban myth.
I have always imagined our policymakers, on both the regulatory and provider side, actually employing some joined-up thinking once in a while. One great opportunity to display some common sense was for the task of setting client risk levels. How easy would it have been to pop down to the local wine bar and all agree a scale from 1 to 10 rather than the jumbled mess we use today?
As we all digest the staggeringly poor value-for-money FCA and FSCS fee demands landing on our doormats, I ask myself what I get in return. Any notion of benefit is vanishingly thin when I look at the idea of “free and impartial face-to-face guidance” as people approach retirement.
I wonder how the motor trade would react if the Government started offering free servicing for pensioners? Turkeys voting for Christmas springs to mind.
Tom Kean is director of Thameside Financial Planning