Is your money an extension of your values?

Dominic Thomas
July 2023  •  12 min read

Is your money an extension of your values?

The financial services sector, like others, has been attempting to evolve over the years, moving with the times. I’m not talking about technology; but the people and culture. The regulator has had things to say about culture for some years, but usually too little too late and with no real weight behind it.

Sentry at your door

One of the things you may not be aware of is who we do not use. As your adviser and confidant, I take my role seriously. One aspect of the role is being a bit like a gatekeeper or ‘bouncer’. Some might say I possess the right thuggish look for this! What clients end up with is hopefully a well-screened experience, but you almost certainly don’t know how that is done and how much dross has been screened out, why should you?  It’s my job to do this and time is too limited to bore you with all the detail.

So, cutting to the chase – price, functionality, financial resilience, performance and philosophy are all perhaps obvious elements. Culture is much more subjective. Whilst this can include ‘greenwashing’, I also consider elements of what, who, why and how things are done. Rare is the day that you will ever hold a ‘Prima Donna’ investment. Stars are for astronomy not your investments.


We are all familiar with the reality that the wrong people are generally leading the world rather badly. Good leadership is vital, sadly the culture within financial services is often intoxicated by its own sense of importance and ‘leadership’, which often gives way to belief of possessing better skills and a Midas-touch. Performance-fuelled and rewarded and then re-awarding itself like an ever-consuming sycophant.

Nobody is without failings, but some people seem to believe that they can behave with impunity. An error of judgement or mistake is one thing, but constant repetition is another. One of the many problems with success is that people tend to ignore details, yet it is the detail that is likely to be the undoing.

Money, power and sex … or rather abuse

Money and power tend to keep those benefitting from it quiet. Sometimes a lowly observer has to point out the Emperor’s predicament. We can all be fooled, but I am often surprised how easily this is achieved.

You could read the article by Marriage, Cundy and Caruana Galizia in the Financial Times on 8th June 2023 for detail about the behaviour of one of its members, (well several actually). However, the network will generally seek to protect and deflect blame, minimising any wrongdoing as ‘misunderstanding’.

Big fish, small pond

You can make the choice with your money to follow these people or not. However, I have no intention or interest in helping increase the personal fortunes of those whose behaviour privately, publicly and corporately appears self-serving. If you prefer to help these particular millionaires (or billionaires) become richer, that’s your choice, but it’s not mine. For me, money should be ‘used’ not ‘played with’ to impress parents who clearly gave up providing enough attention at the beginning.

Accomplished liars

Having been around the sector for over three decades, it won’t surprise you to learn that I do not believe regulation or legal action really makes a difference to characters who simply do not care about anyone else. They will of course utter feeble words about lessons being learned, seeking help, blah, blah … whilst standing beside a spouse who has yet to comprehend the depth of the offence … but this is all too predictable. They haven’t changed behaviour and its naïve to think they will.

They bullied or charmed their way into the spotlight. A lifetime of bluff and overconfidence has resulted in them becoming highly skilled liars. However, they are permitted to thrive by others pretending that everything is somehow OK, when it clearly is not. I don’t mean we should all pass judgement on each other’s choices, but ‘the network’ allows it to thrive. Of course, this is not simply within financial services, sadly most walks of life from the pulpit to the bull pit, the shop floor to the studio, the Boardroom to the changing room.

Another way

Your money is remarkably powerful – it endorses, promotes, approves and rewards. This is why I take great care in how it is invested and the philosophy behind it. As a client, you back our small firm that rewards its staff fairly and takes each person seriously, helping each to build their own lives on their own terms.

Click here for FT piece

Is your money an extension of your values?2023-07-06T16:42:12+01:00

Straining Gnats Test

There are times when I feel quite despairing. The regulator has had an initial go at reviewing the effectiveness of RDR, the new world that was meant to result in better advice, greater clarity and fewer problems. It would be fair to say that there is a wide range of views on the wisdom and merit of RDR as is has been “delivered”. My own opinions aside, the regulator is concerned that investors (that’s you) do not understand percentages. Now call me whatever you like, but if an investor does not understand basic maths, then they really have no place investing their hard earned money. I’m not talking about complex percentages, such as how to put in plain English the interest charged by payday loan companies that the new Archbishop of Canterbury is attempting to address, nothing as complex as that. I’m talking about working out what 1% is. Yes calculating what 1% (one per cent) is.  The regulator does not believe that investors can do this simple sum of moving decimal points two to the left. One per cent of £100,000 is £1,000 (just to be clear).

Now, if things are really as bad as this, then surely the entire education and financial system has failed miserably. Little wonder that politicians do not understand the difference between deficit and debt or how to spot a rip off and how to work out the budget for their own department, rather making the expenses scandal look more like a haphazard attempt at a maths problem. Surely we are all rather brighter than the regulator seems to be suggesting.

So here’s a test, which is bigger?

  • £2,000
  • 1% of £200,000
  • £20,000
  • £20.00

However, the truth is not that this is really about your ability to do sums, but about the framing of information. In fairness to the regulator, this is actually about fees that advisers charge. Its will cost you £2000 sounds different from saying it will cost you 1% of your £200,000. A cynic might suggest that there is an agenda here, but given that many things in life work on a percentage, income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax, annual management charges, dividend tax, bonuses, stamp duty, tips, inflation, gdp, interest rates, loan-to-value, electoral majority, and a gazillion other examples one wonders why this really is made into such a “big deal”. This in the context of an investment world that seems obsessed with stochastic modelling and probability… which are far more complex terms to grapple with, let alone the mathematics of standard deviation and the normal distribution curve. I wonder what percentage will be used to assess whether RDR has been a good thing, in terms of how many more people seek advice and how many are removed from reliance upon the State….

Dominic Thomas: Solomons IFA


Straining Gnats Test2013-07-25T17:07:44+01:00
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