All Blogs

Peace out from the lang cat

by

So that was the year that was. As I write this I’m on a train back to Edinburgh having missed the lang kitten v1.0’s carol concert. It’s been that kind of year. Work/life balance? Not so much.

Never mind. Being a talking head is no fun if you can’t do a review of the year and some worthless predictions for the year to come. So here’s mine. Don’t all thank me at once.

Some landmarks for me included:

Platforms hitting profitability – Cofunds, Nucleus, Ascentric and one or two others all broke through into the sun drenched Elysian uplands of not actually losing money, albeit marginally in some cases. Now it’s time to make a dent in all those sunk dev costs…

Platforms losing money – some clever actuarial types pointed out that a bunch of the lifeco owned propositions were continuing to need heavy support from the parent. Even companies with massive AUA like Skandia are needing to check behind the sofa. This is, I suspect, a symptom of the tech not doing enough of the heavy lifting, so another £5bn AUA = x more staff. That’s not sustainable and no one has it cracked yet. For my money this is the biggest challenge facing the platforms sector.

PS11/9 – lots of good stuff and some utterly mental stuff (cash rebate ban anyone? Anyone? Hello?) but mainly notable for a newly buffed and toned FSA getting punchy with self-interested groups, right there in print. Biff! Pow! Kablooey! Etc!

The lifecos sans platform joining the party – Aegon hooked up with Novia to the satisfaction of both parties, and ARC looks broadly fit for purpose. Whether they can get it away is another matter. Zurich are on the exercise bikes at the side of the pitch, having had to put back launch. Frustrating for them, especially as loud tee-heeing noises reached their ears from certain quarters. Still, better to delay and get it right.

Mid market / wrap light (never lite) propositions starting to emerge. Can platforms take on the off-platform world for lower end / less sophisticated clients? Aviva, Skandia, Aegon and others think they can…

Signs of transparency from the big 3 – Cofunds launched their new pricing and RDR plans, Fiddy published their rebates and Skandia decided transparency was excellent, exactly what customers need, sort of thing, and as soon as they get round to it they’ll have some, or at least when they’ve finished this really tricky Sudoku. Are these guys going to be like reformed smokers? The lang cat will be on humbug patrol in 2012…

A fiscal wedgie for adviser favourite Transact to the tune of £3.5m for not tidying up the play-room after themselves. Client money is a serious business, and these fines are calculated mechanically, but even so this was harsh. Anyone wanting to set up a client money process consultancy may do very well with some other platforms who are whistling tunelessly and staring at their shoes at the moment…

Away from platforms we had the first General Strike since Methuselah were a lad over pension cuts that leave the public sector only massively better off than most private sector workers. Fair play, they’ve gained big concessions and hopefully we can put all this behind us. Why can’t folks just get along?

For next year – it’s all about RDR. The legacy commission ban is huge news and will seriously hamstring a lot of development agendas for those with legacy books. We’re just getting started. For platforms, I hope that proposition managers read a spot of Thoreau – ‘simplify, simplify’ – and stop adding tools, tricks and shiny sparkly Things for the sake of it. Let’s get some usability love in the room.

For all our self-absorption, this is a great space to work in. In a year which saw horrific events in Norway and Japan, continued fiscal meltdown and a light shone in some pretty dark places where people only dream of the basic freedoms we accept as our birthright, our problems, challenges and squabbles seem kind of stupid. Maybe that’s the abiding memory for 2011 we should keep.

I hate big picture people, don’t you?

So all that remains is to say thanks to clients and friends of the lang cat – you know who you are and your support as ever means a huge amount. Have a fine Christmas, a good kick of the baw at Hogmanay and I’ll see you on the other side.

Peace out
Mark

Posted in: #general   #Uncategorized  

About Mark Polson

lang cat founder and boss. Expert on all things platforms, pensions and investments. Prolific writer and public speaker, even when people ask him not to be. Knows more about Scandinavian black metal than you, and isn't afraid to prove it.