Nick Bamford: Ucis scams shake my optimism

Nick Bamford MM 700

This morning my grandson Barnaby asked me a typical question for a six-year- old: “Grandad, how many days have you been working?” A quick calculation came up with a figure running into many thousands.

There have been exciting days, frustrating days, painful days, enjoyable days and I am sure some days when I really should have followed through with my desire as a youngster to become a zookeeper. But I have to say, if I had my time over again, I would still become
an adviser.

We can really add value to the lives of our clients: helping them plan for their financial futures; preventing them from making some costly errors and helping them mitigate risk, not just from an investment perspective but also ensuring their security if they were to suffer a catastrophe.

As advisers we are able to develop long-term relationships with the vast majority of our clients and get to know them and their ambitions at a level I suspect few other professions are able.

And by being around for the long-term we get to see the outcome of our advice.

But while I have claimed before to be one of the world’s most optimistic individuals, there are some things that really do make me angry and frustrated.

My least favourite acronym is Ucis. Every time I see it written somewhere I see pound signs flash up. It seems that when the Financial Services Compensation Scheme publishes a list of advisory firms in default these days the common denominator is almost always Ucis.

We have had financial services regulation since 6 April 1988 (you do the math and tell Barnaby how many days that is) and yet here we find ourselves, it seems to me, no better off from a consumer protection perspective than before.

Scams abound. Post-pension freedom and choice the most written about subject is not that of the benefits but of the risk to hard-earned pension funds due to scammers. Did no one in the Government or at the regulator see this coming?

And who pays for the consequences of the scammer’s actions? Well, where that “scam” involves the combination of adviser/Sipp/Ucis you can bet your life it is going to be down to the adviser community to pay to sort out the mess. By the by, I also get annoyed when I read that the FSCS “pays compensation” to the scammed consumer. No it does not, we do. The FSCS pays no compensation at all; it simply administers the payment.

It does not take a genius to work out that what the FCA has to do is ask every Sipp provider to give them a list of advisers that have set up Sipps into which have been invested Ucis products. They can then focus their supervisory efforts in the right places.

I do not know how many more days I have to work as an adviser (many more I hope) but I could well do without any more reports of Ucis scamming.

Nick Bamford is executive director at Informed Choice