Thursday, 19 June 2008

Our business is in retail financial services. We have traded since 1995 and the business was set up from outset as fee charging and consultative. That is a completely new model to the commission earning product sales businesses that predominated at that time. Our customers were charged for what we know and can do, not for what we could sell them. Our product is 'advice'.

This of course reinforces the client' agent relationship enjoyed by independent advisers everywhere.

So what you may ask. What's the point of this? Lots of firms now do this. Even my bank says its a financial planner now.

Well he beef is that in those 13 plus years only a small number of retail financial services businesses (in which I include all providers including banks) have gone this way. That is genuinely trying to offer a client value for money in a transparent way.

Well, you say the Governmint should sort them out. Ho bloody Ho Ho. is my reply. We have had under Nuliebor and its Great Leader the most comprehensive, and useless regulators you could ever imagine.

In those 13 plus years we have seen shed loads of initiatives and new ideas and reports and consultation papers and discussion documents and what have you and we are now just about getting back to where we, our firm, came in in 1995 (it was actually 1990 when I had the idea and I was actually trading in my way from then - but this business was only formed in 1995).

The latest 'idea' is CAR. Customer Agreed Remuneration. Or to put it simply we give the client an estimate. Erm, what! This is supposed to be new? Do me a favour. Every single independent adviser of any reasonable quality that I know has been doing this for the last 13 years.

And we've also got TCF - treating Customers Fairly. This is a nonsense as how can any business survive in a competitive market if it treats its customers unfairly? It's just another regulatory job creation scheme.

At the root of the problem is the politics and the 'free market'. Broadly the 'free market' is an anathema to control tendency politco's like nuliebour. They just cannot believe that they are not clever enough to devise a 'fairer' system. (We'll come onto 'fair' in a minute). So their sub-contract apparatchiks in the Financial Services Authority - FSA - try and devise a universal rules manual to cover everything and every eventuality. And of course it fails. So they move to a principles based manual which has no legal certainty but is enforced by the FSA as law.

So where does that leave the poor bloody adviser? Well, basically liable to be stuffed by the whim of a bureaucrat. And with less rights than a terrorist.

Brown's tripartite regulation is useless if judged by my experience of one third of it.