The Future of Pensions

The Future of Pensions

I am currently at my annual conference in Wales – the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investments (CISI) with whom the IFP – Institute of Financial Planning merged last year. Yesterday we covered a number of valuable topics, but the talk that resonated most with me was from former Pensions Minister MP Steve Webb, who talked about the future of pensions – amongst other things.

I had to admit that my BS radar is usually on hyperdrive when listening to any politician these days, which is probably a sad reflection on me, however I was very impressed by what he had to say, albeit he did not paint a terribly pleasant picture of the future. Of course, only time will tell if his predictions come about and in fairness, he was quick to remind us of the problems with predicting the future, particularly in a climate where since the last general election all of the major political parties have changed their leaders and the country has voted to leave the EU.

Book cover of Yes Minister - A Very Courageous Decision

Play it again Sam…(or Phil)

Webb was clear that changing pensions is pretty difficult and appears to be a low priority to either the Government of Civil Service. He gave an insight into the slow turning wheels of Whitehall, sounding much like an episode from Yes Minister. Given all the change that we have had (State Pension, Auto Enrolment, Pension Freedoms, Annual Allowance Taper, Lifetime Allowance…) he suspects and urges a period of quiet inaction from the Chancellor, Philip Hammond. This is particularly pertinent to those concerned about the loss or reductions of tax relief on pension contributions or changes to the tax free cash entitlement. He made the case that the public and financial planners could not plan ahead in confidence if the rules are changed every year, yet warned at Chancellors are easily tempted by ideas to collect more tax, however short-sighted.

Whilst on the subject of tax he made it clear that the Treasury are naturally inclined to taxing now rather than in the years ahead, so there is a very real pressure to take the view that tax relief reductions in the short-term outweigh the advantages of taxed incomes in the future, so by inference, a system of loss of tax relief and no taxation of pension income is a genuine prospect. He argued that this was evidenced by the Treasury’s love for ISAs and obvious contempt for pensions with the Lifetime Allowance reductions (and associated tax penalties) and the new tapered annual allowance. Personally he would scrap the LTA but retain a cap on annual pension contributions (which I certainly agree with). He did point out that of course putting trust in future Chancellors to honour a commitment not to tax pension income in the future required a high degree of faith, which  deliberately provoked some mirth from the audience.

Turning to Brexit, he simply outlined his view that interest rates are likely to be very low for a long time, which would place pressure on people to look for better returns than the puny sums they achieve from their savings. He argued that this would likely lead to yet more scams as people fall for yet more illusory promises of high returns. He also warned of the impact on final salary pension schemes which, because of the assets that they hold and the way calculations are performed, would have larger deficits in their pensions (due to low interest rates) probably leading to some, or perhaps a majority of companies trimming their dividend payments.. which in turn makes the task of achieving investment income harder still.

He seemed to have little regard for our regulator of whom he said was “not fit for purpose” and thought the new LISA was perhaps the most badly constructed investment idea for years. If you follow me on social media, you will know my thoughts on this already.

So, whilst Steve Webb found a receptive audience, I was left with the sinking feeling that there was little hope for common sense to return to the Treasury… but who knows… we all get to find out in a few weeks time for the Autumn Statement.

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

The Future of Pensions2023-12-01T12:19:06+00:00

Should advisers fear being black listed?

Should advisers fear being black listed?

There are numerous benefits of social media. One is the ability of peers in any field to discuss topics and share ideas. Sadly this comes with the inevitable double-edged sword of whether to post under your real name or a pseudonym… or “nom de plume”. This I assume is connected to a fear of being black listed.

Of course there’s a lot to disagree about, and it appears that many will take considerable time to vent and click send. Not always a great choice, I’ve been guilty of it myself. There is a general perception, whether explicit or implied that somehow anything critical of those in power will result in some form of retribution. Hence many publish comments under false names for fear of being “black listed”.

Invariably the problem within my own sector is that of fear of the regulator. Of course on the one hand I think this is quite a good thing, advisers ought to be “afraid” of the regulator. That would really mean that they are surely there to keep people on the “straight and narrow”. So I welcome good, strong regulation – it’s in my interests (and yours). The hope is that strong regulation reduces the potential for people to be ripped off.

A critical voice brings change

On occasion, of course some criticism of the regulator is entirely appropriate (after all is anyone or any organisation perfect?). It is this that advisers fear (good ones too). The concern is rather obvious – raising a critical voice may be met with a sudden barrage of requests for information, which can prove time consuming and frankly unnecessary. I take the view that the regulator needs to be held to account and publish under my name. Frankly it is rare that I am critical of them – my main gripe is invariably a difference of approach to the way investors who have suffered scams or mis-selling are compensated following advice from “bad” advisers.

At present, the system is such that “bad” advisers rip off investors. The product, fund, adviser and their PI cover all fail and the remaining “good” advisers pay the compensation. By remaining, I really do mean a diminishing number. At one point there were about 250,000 “financial advisers” today there are about 22,000. Most advisers pass this cost onto their clients. To date, I haven’t despite a 30-day demand for payment increasing by 67% in 2015 on top of a 69% increase in the previous year! Hard to explain and pass on such fee rises in a period of virtually no inflation!

I don’t think I’m being too radical or inflammatory in my industry comments. This isn’t the 1950’s, McCarthyism has not returned (as far as I can tell). On which note, there is a very good new film out called Trumbo – the true story of a man that was blacklisted by some very unsavoury people in Hollywood. Trumbo was forced to write under a pseudonym to allow him to earn a living and he wasn’t ripping anyone off. I’m not so sure that advisers publishing under pseudonyms is really the same thing at all. I wish I had the creative writing skills of Trumbo! I only stand with him in the sense of being free to write or speak without fear of reprisal.

Oh, and you are welcome to check out my industry comments online at places like New Model Adviser, Financial Adviser, Professional Adviser.. but they are pretty dull and aimed at advisers.

Here is the trailer for Trumbo, you may recognise Bryan Cranston (who plays Walter White in Breaking Bad) and Helen Mirren has a small role, but has you piping venom… well it did for me. It has only just been released here in the UK… its one of the few films that I gave 10/10… but of course I may have been influenced by issues raised here!

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

Should advisers fear being black listed?2023-12-01T12:19:27+00:00
Go to Top