Brave Ones, Timid Ones, Faithful Ones, Reckless Ones – Fearless Richard Harvey’s Seen Them All During His Travels
Recently the editor of this esteemed journal recommended that advisers should pay closer attention to consumer research. Sage advice – but then, as a pensioner contemplating drawdown or annuity, I would say that, wouldn’t I?
My experience of IFAs, from the consumer perspective, has varied wildly over the years. In my 20s, my first adviser was an ex-England cricketer who had about as much knowledge of financial investments as Mister Magoo. But then, in those days sporting celebs were hired to flog policies to star-struck punters, regardless of whether the savings plans were appropriate or not.
Come the 1980s, I was persuaded by a chap who worked for Allied Dunbar to start a pension plan with his firm – and , to be fair, it performed well, even if his illustrations of eventual returns were hilariously optimistic. (Remember those forecasts predicting 18, 20 and even higher percentage increases in annual performance?)
The recession of the late 1980s and early ‘90s, plus some squeaky bum encounters with my business bankers, persuaded me to look for more conservative options. But somehow my new IFA seemed more concerned with completing his voluminous paperwork than with talking to me about little incidentals such as my hopes and ambitions for the future.
He was a nice bloke, and reasonably competent. But my boredom threshold is lower than an anaconda’s abdomen. And, as business picked up I went for a more exciting alternative – a London firm with a posh address.
Back To The Free Lunch
Not only did I feel pretty swish, strolling through the Square Mile to my review meetings – I was also seduced by the prospect of being taken to lunch. As my wife regularly reminds me, I’m anybody’s for a splendid scoff and a decent claret.
So, being a total tart for a freebie, my ‘something for nothing’ antennae twitched vigorously at the news that The Pensions Advisory Service – or Pension Wise, as it’s more snappily known – was being established to offer free advice on the newly-liberalised pensions regime.
Many people, particularly those with small savings pots and who don’t have an independent advisor, will find this government-provided service comforting. (Although history – and IFAs – will subsequently judge the quality of that advice).
We Interrupt This Programme…
Someone, however, seems to have forgotten that the May 7th General Election means that advertising government services is prohibited by law for six weeks up to polling day. Which pretty much covers the all-important first few weeks of the new pensions system, when savers are going to need information about PAS, and how to access it.
This provides a convenient window of opportunity for the battalions of ‘get rich quick’ chancers, who are already hitting their databases of over-55s to offer them riches beyond the dreams of avarice.
They say that timing is everything. Sadly, not in this case.