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Tom Kean: Providers are using advisers as unpaid data entry clerks


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



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There are 6 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Tom, what a great article, you are spot on!

  2. The Secret Adviser 16th September 2014 at 11:40 am

    Very good, and all so true. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if those in authority read things like this once in a while, then maybe they would get the hint.

  3. Brilliant artcile. This could easily be turned in to a simple survey by MM.
    Do you as an adviser agree with what Tom has said about the Providers and F-pack Yes or NO.

    We use Unipass wherever possible and the providers who send secure email through barious other systemes including the FCA itself just don’t get it.

    Using Unipass and a noticeboard system you can just get an email telling you to log on to a secure internet sight (using Unipass or a simple password as Transact does) and the job is a good un – Yet so many providers complicate things!

    As agent of the client, why do some providers accept what we say and make changes and others require meaningless signatures from clients?

  4. I totally agree with the risk profiling aspect.
    I agree with the encrypted emails also. I used it once and never again!!
    I also have left UK financial services as it became too onerous on the IFA – they were the easy target and the providers were rarely scrutised. An IFA isn’t going to bring down an economy, whereas a large bank can!!
    I now give financial advice, do the necessary paperwork and have a life outside of work. Something that was slowly disappearing in the UK. The thing is we just get used to it bit by bit until we no longer recognise the industry we are in AND ourselves!
    And we let it happen to us as we have been conditioned to be compliant!! Thank goodness there are people like you Tom and I just hope you can made the providers sit up and listen.

  5. Too true but only the tip of the iceberg. With Scottish Widows we have a secure email which we cannot open because the browser is incompatible. We use Internet Explorer 11 – the latest. Having just started a new IFA firm we have 45 company logons and same number times 2 for advisers/staff. Add secure email and it gets worse. Some providers are easy, others demand paper (wet) signatures, others email etc.
    Our experience with Cofunds has been awful and has upset clients and therefore us. Three forms have been rejected because the client signature does not match their records – one client is 75, another has MS and the other a flamboyant signature which is recognisable by anyone except Cofunds.
    There is one disturbing trend in society – because the possible outcome from a risk is perceived as being so great that it justifies whatever method is used to mitigate that risk. Providers are ignoring the real risk of data protection breach through fear.

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