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An opportunity missed

Most people on my twitter feed seemed to agree that Dispatches was an opportunity missed. I agree, but not for the reasons many would think.

I was looking for more sensationalism not less. The was a fear it would all be doom and gloom, it would lead to fewer people saving, we should be much more positive, we will get tarred with same brush as bankers, or this years bankers, the energy companies. We have cleaned up our act, lot of this is history and we need to move on.

I don’t buy it, there remain some shocking practices in our industry. We kid ourselves that significant progress is made because we follow disclosure rules or introduce code of conduct practices. Disclosure is so murky and hidden that it is pretty useless to most people. With around 20 “interested” parties in creating code of conduct there is simply too much horse trading to make it viable. Even the new PICA initiative falls short on where it could and should have been. These steps allow us in the industry to pat ourselves on the back and say progress is being made. It’s not.

There is very little new money entering the long term savings market. AE will change that, but not nearly enough. Almost 70 per cent of savings are still held in cash. People would rather trust the banks with their cash.

What concerns me more is we have been here before. Small steps are taken, people placated. Everyone hunkers down in the hope the next potential scandal will blow over. That is why I wanted more shocking headlines, not less. Most people in the industry would recognise there is a significant problem. The OFT report is pretty damning. But yet we still hope by keeping it complex people will just give up and accept its hard.

Lets not pretend we are all about the customer, and at the same time fleece our oldest and most loyal customers. Many people like me are currently helping their parents or relatives make sense of what their savings mean. So, whilst new world saving is a little clearer my biggest experience right now is the old world, and there are still really bad practices. It’s not scientific but when I chat about this in the pub there is mistrust. No one can quite put their finger on it, but they smell a rat.

So I wanted more headlines, more shocking claims, because people need to be angry about this. We need to shine a light on the bad practices that exist, both in the old world of pensions and the new world of annuity broking. We need to make sure the torch goes into those little nooks and crannies that seem to generate one off profits every time some sales have dipped.

It will be painful, it will be messy, and there will be some blood on the floor. But I think we might just have a better and fairer industry after it all.

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