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Turner on the back-burner

How many times have you gone to a function where one of the attendees is dreaded by the remainder? Yet when they arrive you could not tell that their presence was unwelcome.

Adair Turner’s report is not going to solve the problem of pensions, mainly because he did not really understand the drivers for change before he started. If he had, he would have taken Brown along with him and cultivated him as an ally, allowing the troublemaker Johnston to be brought to heel.

When Johnston did the deal with the state employees it was to preserve the status quo, so how did these negotiations actually happen, was it: “Hi guys don’t worry, you will be ringfenced?”

Where I come from, when you negotiate, something alters. If you negotiate and the status quo prevails, then you have failed.

As soon as that deal was done, Turner was a busted flush unless it can be unpicked. This would mean strikes but perhaps that is an inconvenience worth absorbing.

The reality is that we have a nation of spenders and not savers. They do not save because of their belief that if all else fails, the state will provide. We need to help them budget better to create the excess income to go towards the pension funding.

We also need to encourage them to take advice as early as possible. Perhaps the Government could be imaginative and link student loans to pension saving, using the offset principle to reduce the interest due.

Once the student loan is clear, then saving in earnest could begin.

But last week was not all disappointment. John Gummer’s speech at the Aifa dinner was not only pertinent but it also had an almost immediate effect.

Gummer was calling for regulation at the time of sale and not at the time of claim so that if an IFA could demonstrate compliance with good practice at the time and was in compliance with regulation in that same period, then any claim based on current conditions would be summarily dismissed.

The chair of the Financial Ombudsman Service seemed willing to move to take an active part in Aifa’s Stakes in the Ground project and this can only be welcomed. He even went on to suggest that the fees for smaller IFAs could reduce where the complaint was dismissed.

The pragmatic way that he responded to the Aifa chair made me feel that there is some hope out there.

That is more than Anna Bradley’s (the former consumer director at the FSA) letter to the FT did. Its venom directed at advisers in general was then boosted by an especially ill considered editorial in the weekend press.

Her leaving the FSA has been very low-key but not as low key as some of the projects she directed where much was said but little was delivered.

If she had made a difference to the degree that many professional advisers have to date then her departure may have caused concern. As it is, perhaps we will see the FSA focus on communication methods that really make a difference.

To achieve this, the regulator needs to work in partnership with professional advisers. After all, simply relying on the internet is probably the most effective way of ensuring financial exclusion and this cannot be allowed to continue.

The last word must go to pensions. Pensions in this country are like the unwelcome guest where no one takes positive action so they never leave.

I call on MPs and senior civil servants to move their retirement age to 67, setting an example to us all.

Will they take up the challenge? Let us wait and see. Now there is a test of mortality.


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