So, after last week’s intermission, normal service is resumed for TCWU. Or at least it would be if it wasn’t half term in Scotland. Boss man is on holiday in a top-secret location up North so for one week only, fresh from my own holiday, it’s down to me to deliver the weekly missive. Plenty to talk about, so here we go…
11. 16. 18. 19. 25. No, not England’s batting scores in Cape Town last week, but something way more serious. From the start of September last year the FCA has been tweeting out a running scorecard of consumer warnings they issued over the previous 7 days. Since you last sat down to enjoy TCWU there have been 14 warnings issued, or around 3 a day. There have been over 100 issued already this year. It’s an astonishingly depressing run rate.
Some of these warnings related to clones of authorised firms. Others relate to firms claiming to be authorised. All are outright scams and are dangerous. The FCA is attempting to address the issue, but it’s like a high-stake version of whack-a-mole. These firms are unregulated, so by definition couldn’t care a jot about what the regulator might be saying or doing. It goes much wider than that.
For many of these ‘firms’ their shop window is Google. If you search for anything investment related, for example “best ISA” there is a good chance that many of the ads that will appear will be exactly the sort of dodgy outfits the FCA is warning about. Paul Lewis (BBC Money Box) tweeted yesterday that you should “never ever ever use Google for that”, and for what it’s worth I completely agree. Something needs to change.
The good news is the FCA is in contact with Google. The bad news, as reported by Ali Hussain in last weekend’s Sunday Times, is that progress appears to be glacial. However, this issue goes wider than just Google and the regulator. The impact of these scams is hugely damaging, not only for the individuals involved, but for financial services and society as a whole. Be under no illusion, if you work for one of the good guys, be it asset manager, product provider, adviser or even unregulated consultancy (hello), your brand and reputation is being slowly damaged by these scammers. It’s time for the industry to fight back.
One small step to help achieve this is the current (and ongoing) campaign to reform the FSCS funding. Now of course the FSCS sadly won’t protect anyone unfortunate enough to be caught up in the unscrupulous firms mentioned above, but the current system of funding is almost universally recognised to be unfair. If people are to avoid being scammed, increasing access to high quality regulated financial advice must be part of the answer. It is good to see the PFS building on the work recently undertaken by friend of the lang cat David Penney, and especially good to see Professional Adviser campaigning on their behalf. We would encourage all readers to support these efforts.
BACK TO REALITY
- The FCA snuck out another Dear CEO letter last week, this time aimed at Platforms (poor Platforms). Whilst dated 2020 it appears to be covering issues that were relevant around four years ago and have been talked about, by us and many others, for even longer. I’m not even going to go over them again here. Suffice to say any provider who has not already addressed all of the issues really hasn’t been paying attention and deserves a very public visit to the naughty step.
- We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive feedback to our newly born Platform Analyser. Read all about it here, and give any of the lang cats a shout if you want to know more.
- The fun never stops at lang cat HQ. This week we’re opening the doors to our quarterly platform ratings. If you’re an adviser or paraplanner we’d love to hear your views on all your favourite (and not so favourite) platforms. You can access the survey here, and thanks in advance for your time. Oh, and advisers or paraplanners only, or we’ll send Terry round.
Finally, this week’s musical treat comes from Kanye’s Sunday Service Choir, covering the Soul II Soul classic.
See you the next time the boss is on hols.