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Slainte mhath from the lang cat

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Well, that’s been quite a year. As I look around me I see an industry full of completely done-in, knackered, farmutshet folks. Don’t know why, it’s not like anything big’s happening at the end of 2012…

…Ho, ho. As I write, it looks like pretty much all the providers have just about got most of the basics done so they can trade in January. You’ll notice some weasel words there. I think there’s going to be a fair amount of what systems folk call ‘frigging’ (stop snarking at the back) and manual processing done for the next wee while. I’m properly concerned by providers putting huge change in at the last minute and hope it all goes smoothly.

On the IFA side, some folks is well set, some ain’t. It’s one of those dissertation things, as those of you who were students will remember. Your dissertation’s due in a year, no problem, there’s beer in the pub and increasingly desperate flirting to be done (or was that just me?) Then one day you wake up and you owe the whole bloody thing in a week. Cue Pro Plus and all-nighters. IFAs have had a long time to get ready for this change – there’s a school of thought that says for some it might have been too long. Congrats to those who’re all tooled up; everyone else – you’ve got some decisions to make.

I’ve done a highlights of the year article for IFAOnline which I’ll link to when it’s up, so won’t subject you to it here. It’s all history, right?

But amongst all the grinding it out stuff, there were some jewels of innovation this year. Nucleus’ addition of protection shines out. Transact’s new bulk clean-share-class-conversion button (need a better name for that) is cool. Zurich’s front end of ZIP is awesome. AJ Bell jumped from SIPPland to platformland and is ripping it up. Aviva has redefined the price point for lifeco-owned platforms. AEGON was the first to bridge workplace savings and retail on the same platform. Alliance Trust Savings undercut everyone else by a comical amount and started to get some people really thinking differently.

From the lang cat point of view, we end the difficult second album phase in good shape and with an expanded workforce in the shape of the mighty Samantha Lynn, who you can link to on Twitter under @langcatsam. We’re hiring in the New Year too – 2013 can’t come soon enough.

This was the year we started publishing in earnest, either on our own with the Pricing Guide or with our friends from The Platforum on the workplace side. We ‘did’ the CII J11 textbook – 100,000 words of pure platform goodness. We’ve advised providers, done proposition development across workplace and retail, written brochures, supplied consultants, redone terms and conditions, helped IFAs make better decisions and kept a running commentary going on the platform, pension and fintech sector. We’ve produced somewhere just under half a million words in the process. And we’ve done this while keeping our sense of humour(ish) and not forgetting what the lang cat is about, which is to make this little corner of the industry less po-faced, less corporate, less dry, more responsive and a bit more human.

We can only do this because we have ace clients who share our view that there is value in specialism and that making the highly technical world of platforms and investments more approachable to folk without a financial services degree is worthwhile. Thanks to you all, for your humour, your support, your money and for helping this odd, noisy little business grow into something a bit special (we think). And to everyone else – what the hell is wrong with you? Sort it out.

As families in the USA, in Syria, in Kenya and elsewhere contend with unimaginable tragedies, we remain fortunate in this industry to have a phalanx of clever, funny, collegiate, warm and fully evolved human beings to work, compete and be friends with. We end this year stronger than we began it. Be thankful. There’s lots still to do. Let’s get on with it.

Now go and get drunk, and report back in January.

#thatisall

Slainte mhath

Mark

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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.