With a surname like mine I was the butt of many a joke. Almost every year on my school reports it had “Kean by name and Keen by nature”, with every teacher presuming they were the first to think of such a witty line on an otherwise pretty dull report.
All these years later, however, I suspect that my school report would have the quote, “Kean by name but a bit battle scarred and peeved at the never-ending changes that blight this once important industry”.
To be clear, I am not talking about the perfectly laudable initiatives that sometimes come out of Canary Wharf, although that is a different story. I am talking about the constant tinkering with legislation that to us insiders makes little sense once applied to the real world.
I have written before that what most of us crave is the not unreasonable notion that we can be left alone for just a while to get on with things, safe in the knowledge that what we recommend might actually be valid in a few years’ time.
Instead we constantly look to protect ourselves from the very real prospect that what we say today will be the polar opposite of what we should have said in five years’ time (let alone 35 years’ time!).
But for once, it seems, the boot is on the other foot. The recent state pension reforms have given the FSA and other interested political people a fleeting glimpse of what we have had to live with for the last 20 years or so.
We now have the crazy situation that a client who is pre-disposed to complain could have ‘legitimately’ made a case against the state, an adviser or pension office, three times for the yoyo assumptions applied to contracting out. And there are still decades to go before some people are due their state benefits, which is plenty of time for several changes of direction by subsequent ‘bright young’ politicians whose only goal is to make a name for themselves before moving on.
And what kind of response did we get from ‘on high’ as a result of yet another change of target – albeit a good one for once?
Well to my mind it was nothing short of apathetic buck-passing. Apparently we should always make sure that the advice we give remains appropriate as the years roll by. Great in theory, but pretty-much impossible with all the constant tinkering and meddling.
Consider for a moment the annual and lifetime allowances as another example of this soul-sapping tampering. What on earth is the point in restricting both input and output on someone’s pension?
We all know it is purely revenue raising, but surely it is not beyond the wit of mankind to realise that this constant badgering is damaging the confidence of our ‘captains of industry’, the drivers of our economy; the very last people we should be annoying with this constant meddling.
With their increasingly vanilla flavoured offerings, providers have ever-more reason to help us lobby for some kind of return to sanity.
Once it dawns on them that we find it increasingly difficult to differentiate between them all, they may start to realise we are all on the same side – after all, we are their free distribution channel and we need something in return for making all these client introductions!
Tom Kean is director of Thameside Wealth