Scam

Matters encroaching on the sensitive ground of Scam’s dealings with financial advisers are raised in rather more emotive terms than the chairman would have liked.

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“Do you remember the good old days when we didn’t seem to spend every conversation discussing bizarre instances of financial regulation?” sighed the chairman of the implausibly-sized investment company Second Coming Asset Management as we enjoyed a pint or two of Code Switcher at The Conversion of St Daniel.

“I do indeed,” I said. “Instead, for really quite an extended period, we seemed to spend every conversation discussing bizarre instances of financial surveys and, as I also recall, you weren’t too keen on that either.” “I may have been overly hasty,” the chairman conceded. “You don’t by any chance have a nice little survey we could look at now, do you?”

“Afraid not,” I shrugged. “I don’t think austerity, volatility, fiscal cliffs and shifting regulatory landscapes is considered a good backdrop for spurious surveys. Either that or I’ve just been struck off an awful lot of mailing lists. Still, not to worry – I wasn’t planning to discuss anything very regulatory today. In fact, I thought we might chat about Scam.”

“Ah,” said the chairman. “You wouldn’t prefer to hear my thoughts on FATCA instead?” “Not in this or any other world,” I replied. “What I wanted to talk through was this ongoing asset grab that appears to be going on among a number of fund groups, life offices and discretionary fund managers. Why do you think so many companies are parking their tanks on advisers’ lawns?”

“Oh now I do think that is some terribly emotive language you are using there,” the chairman protested. “What you call ‘asset grab’, for instance, I would call ‘working in partnership with advisers to address the upcoming challenges to the traditional IFA business model’.” “And what I call ‘parking tanks on advisers’ lawns’?” I prompted.

“Well, obviously I would call that … er …” erred the chairman. “Maybe, ‘working in partnership with advisers to address the upcoming challenges to the traditional IFA business model’?” I suggested. “Exactly,” beamed the chairman. “Couldn’t have put it better myself.” “Still,” I said, “you can see how advisers might be starting to feel a little oppressed by all this.”

“In my experience advisers always feel oppressed by something,” growled the chairman. “I think we should probably clarify that to say ‘some advisers’,” I said quickly. “And anyway, as the saying goes, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.” “True,” the chairman nodded. “But by the same token, we providers are pretty much damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

“If we draw attention to the splendid multi-asset portfolios and various other offerings that might conceivably ease the adviser’s burden in the new regulatory environment, we risk being charged with encroaching on someone else’s turf. Choose to hide that particular light under a bushel, however, and we will no doubt end up being accused of failing to do enough to help a beleaguered advice sector.”

“You may be right,” I agreed. “But don’t you think some of it just comes down to presentation? It’s probably impolite to pick specific instances – but then again it’s also fun so let’s have a look at the combined example of Axa Wealth, Architas and Elevate, who of course wish nothing but the very best for the UK’s financial advisers.

“Indeed, this can be demonstrated by all the hard work they have put into business support, investment resources, platformery and so on in the run-up to you-know what. Then last month Axa Wealth issues a call for advisers to resist ‘the attraction to action’, saying ‘a back-to-basics approach can help them find peace’. Then a week later it is reported the group is looking at closer links with adviser firms.”

“And?” said the chairman. “Yes,” I nodded. “It’s probably just me. OK, changing the subject – just one last thing then. You know Scam’s much commented-upon list of jolly fine financial adviser firms operating out of Cardiff, Swansea and so on that the firm views as superior alternatives to others available on the market?”

“The Welsh 150?” said the chairman suspiciously. “What about it?” “Why are there only 112 names on it?” I asked. “Austerity maybe? The erosive effects of inflation?” “Oh, don’t you start,” the chairman sighed.