1949: Death of a Salesman – Miller
I have never liked commission. I don’t think its entirely bad, it does help people to pay for advice. However, I have always argued that if an adviser is paid to sell products, then it is hardly surprising that it is products that are advised. Hence when I set my own firm up in 1999, I did so without the normal problems inherent within financial advice. I charged fees for the work and a fixed implementation fee, which was the same irrespective of the type of product. This saved our clients thousands of pounds (and continues to do so).
Today the Managing Director Martin Wheatley of the FSA, soon to become the FCA, announced that he wants to see and end to mis-selling created by sales incentives. He is particularly concerned to tackle Bank staff who are incentivised to sell their products – everything from a bank account, credit card, cash ISA, loan all has a commission incentive to the Bank staff. He said:
Why is it that every time I walk into the bank to do something simple, like pay my credit card bill, the person behind the counter asks me if I would like to extend my credit, take out more insurance or look at their competitive mortgage rates? When did this happen? Banks for me used to be a service – a place where you would go in, stand in a queue, have a pleasant chat with the clerk and go about your daily business. Some time ago, this changed – financial institutions have changed their view of consumers from someone to serve to someone to sell to.”
This does not apply solely to Banks, it applies to financial advisers, Fund Managers, Investment Companies and pretty much anyone within financial services. I’m with Mr Wheatley on this in principal, however we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Motivations and incentives certainly need to be in place. People do not wake up and form a queue at my door for impartial fee based financial planning. I have to play my part to promote what I do and make people aware of why they should consider using my services. That’s even part of the motivation behind this blog post. So whilst I’m in full agreement, a note of caution as big budget Banks and Investment Companies may simply flood us all with information overload and of course if base salaries for these sorts of employees were to rise to offset the “lost” bonuses, it is likely to lead to either higher costs, passed on to us all or increased redundancies, which is passed on to us all in the form of additional State benefit burden. So yes Mr Wheatley I fully agree, but don’t let them get away with a smoke and mirrors dance on how this plays out.
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