Retail Distribution Review (RDR) Chaos before Christmas

Just A Few Days Left… until Retail Distribution Review

Most of us now buy a large proportion of our Christmas gifts on-line. Those that have not planned ahead, may have an anxious wait for the parcels arriving during the busiest period of the year with only a couple of weeks left. In a similar way, advisers have been awaiting RDR, the Retail Distribution Review which is also only a few working days away now. It officially starts on Monday 31st December 2012 (that’s in 24 days time). Sadly, whilst full of noble intentions (clearly priced advice, better quality advisers, clearly defined types of adviser) I regret to say that its a complete shambles across the majority of the financial services industry.

What The Dickens?

You need proof of course, but take Nationwide. One of the few mass-market banks/building societies that has intentions to provide advice going forward. Most Banks elected not to do so as they priced their hourly costs at over £250 an hour, which of course is not likely to be afforded by most of their customers, who are likely to scream “more? you want some more?” in that Oliver Twist way as yet another way of extracting cash from unsuspecting customers is served up like a warm bowl of gruel. So in practice most people will no longer be able to go to their bank for advice; (I want to say that this is probably a good thing as bank advice generates the most complaints and most advisers would probably say isn’t as good). That’s a half-truth though, they have more complaints because they have a lot of customers, as for being as good – well some are, some aren’t as with all other advisers. The reality is that it should be the case that getting advice is better than not getting any, so even the Banks have a role to play.

Get Your Goose? Walks, Talks, Sounds, Smells and looks like…

Sadly, due to the way that the FSA have approached “adviser charging” this has created a raft of problem with pretty much all financial products requiring an upgrade and re-think. It is concerning that Nationwide have today announced that they are suspending their pension advice because even at this stage they don’t have the ability to offer an RDR compliant pension. They know that they want to get 3% for the “advice” and 0.5% for ongoing “advice” but bluntly to anyone in my industry this looks very much like a product selling approach. To those in the know, this is akin to “if it walks like a duck, speaks like a duck, looks like a duck… it is a duck”. To enlightened advisers, this would raise the question of Nationwide’s leadership, culture and governance to have allowed matters to get to this point with this “approach” and that is putting it very politely. Natiowide are reported to have about 460 “advisers” and are looking to get the number over 500. in the meantime Nationwide have said that customers wanting a pension should go to speak to an independent financial adviser… which of course Nationwide is not and from the end of the month, will be offering “restricted” adviser solution. As of this moment, their website has not been amended to reflect this fact.

Who hasn’t delivered… Santa or Sants?

Santa will not be bringing you a pension from Nationwide this Christmas, largely thanks to the way Mr Sants (who is seeking new employment) has decided to interpret and apply RDR. Mind you, its not as though there’s a queue of people asking if they can have one. Pensions aren’t really in that naughty or nice  discussion are they? So credit to Nationwide for being nice by suspending pension advice, although of course if they hadn’t they would have probably been found out as rather naughty and on an entirely different list. Mind you, Nationwide are “on your side” this Christmas.