The integrity of a sandwich

Dominic Thomas
Nov 2023  •  3 min read

The integrity of a sandwich

We all remember the credit crunch and the general ill-feeling towards bankers, perhaps you missed the story of the credit munch? Whilst the Credit Crunch lasted, well…truthfully the long term ramifications are still with us, but it really ‘started’ (became apparent) in 2007. The credit munch took place in July 2022 and lasted about a year.

A financial crime analyst with Citibank was on a business trip to Amsterdam. It appears that Mr Fekete forgot (see what I did there?) to declare that his partner joined him on the trip. They put a very modest sandwich lunch on business expenses, claiming £86.70 of the £100 daily allowance.

Mr Fekete’s managing supervisor queried his submission and wondered whether Mr Fekete had indeed really consumed two sandwiches and coffees. Here I must claim that my own personal battle with a good sandwich does not immediately conclude that such an appetite is implausible; but merely a little excessive… mea culpa! Anyhow, Mr Fekete didn’t confess that it wasn’t simply him and that he had in fact shared lunch with his partner. He was dismissed for breaking company policy of claiming expenses for his partner as though his own. In essence, Citibank concluded that he was dishonest.

A series of emails providing some “optimistic circumstantial rationale” for his forgetfulness was not accepted by a judge, as Mr Fekete took his employer to an employment tribunal for unfair dismissal. It seems that the judge agreed with Citibank that the employee should have owned up when challenged and then been given the opportunity to correct his error of judgement.

The judge said “I am satisfied that even if the expense claim had been filed under a misunderstanding, there was an obligation upon the claimant to own up and rectify the position at the first opportunity. I accept that the respondent requires a commitment to honesty from its employees.”

So, it seems that Citibank are holding their employees accountable and expect honesty from them. Perhaps this is a sea-change at the Bank and within the sector. After all, it was only last year that Citigroup were fined £12.5m for failing to properly implement market abuse regulation (which was a discount of 30% for admitting failure). In the context of all the ills of Banking, I  suspect you will agree that this all seems rather trivial in comparison to a Credit Crunch, LIBOR fixing and so on. However it does speak to a culture of integrity and when your employed job is upholding it, it is hard to fathom why on earth Fekete didn’t simply own up.

I’m reminded of Richard III shouting “A horse, a horse! my kingdom for a horse!”. How little it takes to lose everything. That was some meal deal.

The integrity of a sandwich2023-12-04T12:15:11+00:00

Honesty… maybe better than you think

Honesty… maybe better than you think

The internet and media in general would probably leave most of us wondering about the state of humanity. If people can be as nasty as they sometimes appear, what hope is there for honesty? Well, rather than write a piece about this, here is one that Mark Rober, an American has prepared already.

This 9-minute video is about (an admittedly small sample) 200 wallets deliberately dropped or “lost” to determine the general honesty of those that found them. He attempted to allow for gender, income and geography in his test. Here are his findings

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Honesty… maybe better than you think2023-12-01T12:18:09+00:00

Anything to declare?

Anything to declare?

Having made your way through airport lounges, delays, immigration and luggage collection, the last airport encounter will be customs. Greeted by green signs asking if you have anything to declare. I tend to find myself wishing to say something funny, but am well aware that airports are not places for humour.

Customs generally operates on the basis of trust –  trusting you to tell the truth, failure to be truthful may be discovered, resulting in considerable discomfort, embarassment and possible shame, for those of us that still feel such things.

Declaration forms

Most people don’t like forms, fewer still like insurance forms. Some appear to take the view that full disclosure is optional, it isn’t. At best this is memory failure, more likely selective memory, at worst simple deception.

Full Disclosure

Admittedly insurance forms are tedious, but it is better to complete them fully – too fully, so that you disclose all of the information required. This is particularly important in relation to tax and health, as well as the more obvious identity and residency. I have not had the misfortune of any client misleading an insurer (or anyone else) however it is important to remind everyone that misleading information invariably comes back to haunt.

Lessons from Glasgow

I’m thinking of the very sad tale of the lorry driver in Glasgow, who had a blackout whilst at the wheel of a refuse lorry during a busy morning of Christmas shopping. It would appear that similar blackouts occurred before, yet were not disclosed in subsequent encounters with those charged with assessing the health and fitness of the workforce. Many may have taken a similar approach, thinking that the incidents were “in the past” and “no longer relevant”. Sadly this was a hugely costly misjudgment.

I imagine that the driver feels terrible about the accident and utterly devastated by the assertion that perhaps if he had recorded and presented information differently, his life and those lost and those families and friends effected by this terrible accident would now be rather different. In such situations, it is tempting to simply seek to blame someone, yet perhaps we could all benefit from being reminded that full disclosure is important, questions on forms are invariably posed for good reasons, (yes I know that many may not be) but honesty is there to protect us all.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Anything to declare?2023-12-01T12:20:03+00:00

Pension Exit Charges

Pension Exit Charges

I wonder if I can be honest with you about pension exit charges? I freely admit that I probably spend too much time concerning myself with what others within my industry think. I spend a lot of time improving my knowledge and this involves reading both technical papers and opinion. Yet I find myself increasingly perplexed by the comments on industry media outlets.

THIS IS A LONG ITEM, BUT PLEASE STICK WITH ME…

Like it or not, the financial services industry regularly gets berated for being nothing short of self-serving. Often different or indeed competing elements of the spectrum that make up the financial services get lumped together, frankly this is our collective fault for not clearly defining or explaining the differences, invariably made harder by really rather poor regulatory clarity.

However I was utterly exasperated with my peers on yet another comment section within the “trade press”. This concerned the issue of exit penalties on pensions. At the time Mr Cameron, the Prime Minister was expected to outline his frustration with pension companies that apply high exit fees… for the sake of simplicity, let’s call them what they really are – transfer penalties.

Old World not New Model Advisers

The comments appeared in a publication that I respect by Citywire – New Model Adviser, the article written by a very thorough journalist, Will Robbins. The publication aims to high-light good or best practice and aims to help improve the advice sector and thus help achieve better results for the investing public. So one would hope that the readers and their comments are towards the front forward-thinking end of the adviser population.

The King is dead, long live the King

On the topic of exit penalties it seemed to me that commentators reverted to their historic stances as salesmen, not advisers, preferring to defend high penalties rather than lead a revolution to have them scrapped or at least capped.

Investors are being ripped off

Yes it is true that pensions set up were contracts and that contract law is therefore under the microscope…. but there are times to simply admit that enough is enough.  I have seen some horrendous penalties (the difference between the actual value and the transfer value of a pension)… some taking well above 30% of the fund. That is simply not good enough. OK there was a contract, but neither “adviser” nor investor could have anticipated these penalties which have become increasingly pertinent as investors and advisers seek better, more efficient and cost-effective solutions. Something that I regularly do to great effect for our clients.

Analogies have flaws but…

However suggestions that imposing a cap were largely greeted with derision. I was under the impression that it is the advisers job to represent the client, not the pension company and if engaged by them, to seek the most suitable solutions. I would like to think that it is in the collective interest to allow someone to move their money elsewhere with minimal fuss and cost so that it can grow better (hopefully) – and yes it cannot be guaranteed…. at least it cannot be guaranteed in a way that your life is not guaranteed by the protection that the airbags in your 2015 car should deploy if you have an accident, as opposed to your 1986 car that doesn’t have any of the current safety features. Yes you may be maimed or even die in the accident, but which do you think is likely to provide a better journey?

Aren’t we meant to put you, the client first?

In an industry steeped in scandal and mistrust this ought to be an opportunity for pension companies and advisers to put clients interests first. I find this even more frustrating as in reality it is all to do with commission and the lie that advice is free. Old style policies are those that typically paid high levels of commission, which the pension company advanced to the adviser as payment for arranging the pension with them. Of course it didn’t help that some pension companies offered more commission for using them as opposed to others, thus bringing into question the independence of the advice and adviser. If you went to a Tied Agent or Bank, you didn’t even get any option to compare costs…. which was the job of the IFA at the time.

Thinking that is so last century…

This has been going on for years, yet alternative approaches have also been available for those willing to face some truths. In 1999, 16 years ago I formed Solomons, removing commission, charging 1% on any investment or pension product – no matter who… a level playing field. 16 years ago! The regulator eventually caught up and banned commission on investments from 2013 called RDR so since then all advisers have had to charge fees properly.

Vive la revolution

Why does this vex me so? well as someone still in their 40’s I expect and plan to remain advising clients for many years to come, so I’d like to see things improve. I would like to see the standard of advice improve and the number of scandals and complaints decrease… not least because invariably the way compensation works is that those left working within the sector pay the compensation levy, even if they had nothing to do with it. This summer I had yet another regulatory invoice for this levy, an increase of 64% on last year…there comes a point when I and many (thankfully) like me, simply cannot absorb all these costs without jeopardising our own sustainability.

If you are fed up with your pension or not even sure what its worth, please check out my free guide, which  will help you regain control of your pension planning. There ought to be a box below to download this, if not just email me.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Pension Exit Charges2023-12-01T12:20:04+00:00

Being Open – The Honesty Box

Being Open – The Honesty Box

Perhaps you are a keen golfer? there are many pearls of wisdom that golf offers up as general advice for life. The Open finally finished yesterday, having been delayed by poor weather, something that I’m sure the English cricket team wished for.

Anyway it reminded me of a family holiday many years ago, which included playing at St Andrews and Gleneagles. My folks took my brothers and I to Perthshire to feed our growing interest in golf –  mine has since faded into irrelevance over the years, although both brothers continue to play.

Scotland is full of lots of small beautiful courses, at the time “juniors” weren’t terribly welcome at English clubs, whereas the Scots seemed to positively encourage them. One of the things that struck me was the “honesty box”. I don’t know if they still exist, but back then, this acted as a place to make your payment for your green fees (the cost of playing a round of golf). I was impressed by the sense of trust and goodwill that this created and the impression stayed with me.

Marketing, Spam and Other Ills

As a small business, we have an advantage that we can adapt quickly. I have been working hard on many aspects of the business, one of them being the marketing. I’m of the opinion that this blog serves to provide relevant information, in a format that is hopefully engaging, enlightening and on occasion personally revealing. Ultimately I figure I want to work with people who I like and who like me enough to meet regularly and trust me with their life savings…. So it makes sense to me that this blog should give you a bit more insight into who I am, some of my values and what sort of person I am, rather than just glossy marketing.

It is possible that a round of golf could achieve the same thing, (but I know that golf isnt everyone’s cup of tea…). It has been said that much can be learned about someone over a game lasting 4-5 hours, that is partly competitive, but largely about competing with yourself… exposing strengths and weaknesses, but importantly, whether someone plays by the rules (and spirit) of the game.

Fore: What We Are Doing…

So in the interests of honest feedback we will be providing short weekly emails, providing useful information (I hope) to our clients (and those that are interested in what we do). I’m looking for your input into our honesty box – feedback that will make this blog more useful and more relevant. Ultimately I’d like to help as many people as I can, our financial planning clients have a highly involved service, but many can also be helped along their way with some useful information.

We won’t spam you, we never sell data to anyone else. However our information isn’t perfect and all databases need a regular clean up to ensure that the right people get the right information. So I will apologise in advance if we send now send you something that you don’t want. We have provided an opt-out (and it works). I guess that this is where you have to decide what you do about the honesty box… there’s no payment, but I’d certainly value feedback and help with getting the message out there, by sharing things you find helpful.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Being Open – The Honesty Box2023-12-01T12:20:10+00:00
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