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Why? An inaugural blog from Mike Barrett

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Sorry if I’ve mislead you with the blog title, but this blog is about me and nothing to do with Annie Lennox’s 1992 smash (no. 5) hit.

Everyone knows you should never start a presentation with an apology, although curiously some of the best presenters I’ve seen do. On that basis it must be even worse to start a new job with an apology, so…sorry. Again.

You still here? Good. Let’s crack on.

So. It’s all about me. It’s my third day so if ever I’m going to get away with being pretentious & self-obsessed today is the day.

Over the last few months I’ve had a bit of time to be able to think. I’ve only ever had one proper job (unless you count supermarket baker or part-time DJ) so it was a big decision for me to join Leith’s leading independent platforms, pensions & investments consultancy.1 Toss in the fact that the lang cat HQ is around 480 miles away from my home in Cowes and the natural question I was asked by a lot of people was “why?”

I believe the question of “why” is a critical one for financial services firms to be able to answer. What do you stand for, but more importantly, why do you believe it matters? Most providers are hilariously bad at answering this, normally trotting out lines about how they passionately believe in great customer outcomes, as if anyone would say the opposite.

If you can’t articulate what you do, why you think its important and why it matters then your business, whether that’s advice, provider, asset manager or leading investment consultancy is a commodity. Your customers will feel the same loyalty and engagement with you as they do when putting petrol in their car.

A few months ago, Paul Resnik from FinaMetrica tweeted the 20 industry changes that, in his view, make this time the most challenging time he has ever experienced. I view these changes as exciting, rather than simply challenging. And I would add 3 others to his list.

  1. The current system of saving and investing desperately needs to change. The recent (excellent) research from True Potential “Tackling the savings gap” shows 54% of Britons are saving nothing for retirement. Of those who are, the average amount was £1640 over the 3-month period in question. Not a bad amount, until you consider that on average £1849 of new debt was taken on during the same time. Oops.
  2. Moving to my favourite subject of platforms, it feels like this market is about to experience a whole heap of change all of its own. Firstly, generally speaking, platform technology is old and in some cases in desperate need of updating. Most providers are going through this process over the next few years, and the one thing you can guarantee is a bumpy landing. The associated costs are significant and advisers will need to closely interrogate platform technology upgrade plans to ensure their businesses and their clients are not adversely impacted.
  3. Linked to the above will be the imminent thematic review into adviser due diligence, potentially covering investment solutions, DFMs and platforms. This will be the first time some advisers will have seriously looked at platform due diligence since the RDR and, realistically, sunset clause too. How will platform selections pan out in a new world, with a new set of regulatory good practices, adviser revenue less reliant on trail commission, and easy (in theory) re-registration of assets available? Any provider who can’t demonstrate why they deserve to be trusted with a client’s savings might find the next few years very challenging indeed.

So, why did I join the team at the lang cat? I don’t for one minute think we are going to change the world and solve all of the above, but there is more than enough change happening to keep us entertained. The good news is the team love all this detail and can see the absurdity in a lot of what the financial services industry does. Better still, we really love decoding all of this detail into plain language that people will actually be able to read without wanting to weep.

So if you need help understanding more about these 20, sorry, 23 significant changes that are currently taking place, and building your own answer to the “why” question, then get in touch.

1 – probably…

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About Mike Barrett

Consultancy director and sole proprietor of the Isle of Wight division of the lang cat. Superstar DJ by night and investment and platform proposition expert by day. Driver and survivor of several major platform change projects. Ask him anything.