Despite the recent Budget revelations, which proved to be the most radical changes seen since pension simplification,
I still live in hope that one day we will all be allowed to live in peace from the tyranny of change.
While a sportsman says: “The older I get, the better I was”, an IFA says: “The older I get, the more resigned I become to the omnipresent threat of the goalposts being moved and having to try and second-guess political manoeuvrings from career civil servants trying to make a name for themselves”. Sorry – I know that doesn’t trip off the tongue.
Regardless of the almost universal praise about the Budget, a truly enlightened politician would recognise the need for stability and leave things alone for many years, giving us all time to embed our advice with clients and allowing us to do away with the need to caveat our advice with “we haven’t got a crystal ball and that this is what we recommend as rules stand at the moment”.
I have a good friend who is returning to the industry after having a family, so has been out of the mix for seven or eight years now.
We chatted the other evening (over a glass or two of wine) about her return to the fray with a mix of incredulity and amusement. Some of our reflections were funny (if it weren’t so serious) and some, of course, were plain-old farcical.
I should explain that my friend is no ordinary “insurance bod” – she is a high-level product development professional for a major international provider most of us use.
The half-dozen or so years away have left her agog at the wide-ranging changes that, to her, make an already fuzzy landscape even more impenetrable to understand.
From the capping of both input and output of pension funds to the absolutely crazy world of commission and fees, her “re-learning curve” is indeed a steep one. What hope, therefore, for the man on the street?
Her most interesting reaction came when we spoke about how nowadays most offices outsource the data input function to us IFAs. Disguised as “new and shiny online functionality”, we both recognise that this is actually the providers simply outsourcing the data input to us at zero cost to them. Offers of enhanced commission rates; or reduced charges, leave us in no doubt that we have been hoodwinked into doing all this ourselves with scant benefit.
The fact is forms still need to be printed and signed and handled in the old-fashioned way. Indeed, in the run-up to the end of tax year, the most reliable and cost-effective way to submit an Isa or pension was with a cheque.
At the risk of sounding like a Luddite, I try my hardest to embrace all these new ways of working and am pleased to say it is starting to feel robust once more but it is never going to be like it was in the simple good old days.
Not that I want it to. We, along with most others, want to move on and embrace a new way of working but I long for the feeling that it is actually an easier way.
Tom Kean is director of Thameside Financial Planning