You want to know who I feel sorry for? The producers and writers of the new Spitting Image, that’s who. Satire – puppet-based or otherwise – made sense in 1985, but in this new auto-satirical time there really doesn’t seem to be much point. Sigh.

Let’s kick things off this week with an OFFER YOU CAN’T REFUSE. That’s not strictly true, of course. You can refuse it. We just don’t want you to.

The Top Class Wednesday Update goes out to around 7,000 individuals. Now, I have confidence that a vanishingly small percentage of those are spambots, so let’s say 6,500 once we’ve discounted Balkan Beauties Who Want To Date A Man In Your Area. A good chunk are providers and various non-adviser folk. That’s fifteen hundred or so. So we’ve got 5,000 folk who work in financial planning, advice and paraplanning businesses to play with, give or take.

The arithmetic is because we’re trying to get our biggest ever sample size for our annual advice census, State of the Adviser Nation. Just over 400 firms did it last year, and our 2020/21 wave is open now. We want to smash that 400 into tiny shards, and so if you work in any kind of advice business – restricted, independent, paraplanning, vertically integrated, whatever – we very much want to hear from you.

You need an incentive because life’s like that, so in return you get…

  • a copy of the report where we talk through the headlines and themes
  • an invite to a respondent-only webinar where we’ll talk through the main findings
  • and the biggie – a complimentary copy of our 2020 review of the platform sector (due out in the new year when the embargoes are done and full year data is released to the market). Firms tell us material like this that helps them with their ongoing platform research and due diligence.

We reckon that’s a decent return on your time. If you agree, the survey is open now here. We really appreciate it. We want to hear from you and we promise we won’t shout over the top of you.


I’m out of funny sub-headings this week. Anyway, the big story that I thought we might touch on is the potential for two of the big remaining mutual insurers to consciously couple, and presumably make lovely little chubby mutual babies. Royal London and LV= are the ones potentially getting it on, and as Alex Brummer says here, it’s surely better for Dorset’s finest to team up with Wilmslow’s finest rather than be scarfed by private equity.

The bigger point behind stories like this is whether consolidation of this kind ends up hurting future customers or not (we assume existing policyholders will be alright, and some may even get to dust off their carpetbags). As the industry reforms itself into relatively few mega-providers, does choice disappear and is innovation throttled?

For what it’s worth, I suspect it does and it is. But I also suspect that it doesn’t matter very much. My hypothesis is that the difference between providers of mainstream retail investment products isn’t about product innovation really, and hasn’t been since the days of clever-clever MIPs. We can throw a blanket over most modern pension products and pretty much all investment ISAs except the less mainstream variants. Product teams have got pretty good at hollowing out what’s allowed, and regulators have got fairly good at defining the perimeters. If that’s true, then it’s scale that counts and we have a market that purely plays out on service level and price. I guess we’ll have to look elsewhere for excitement.


  • This is an interesting piece on how an adviser is coping with FSCS levy hikes. Seems like a reasonable approach to me. (Oh, and sorry but if you want to vent about your fee hike and your PII too there’s space to do that in State of the Adviser Nation.)
  • Andy Agathangelou and the Transparency Task Force are doing a great job on pension scams and got face time with a floppy haired public schoolboy as a result. Worth reading the open letter.
  • We’ve got the wise and luminous Kate Shaw of Financial Life Planning on HomeGames this week. One for the practitioners and anyone who wants to hear about behavioural financial planning from someone who practices what she preaches. 12.30pm start, or watch later on YouTube.
  • And your music choice this week? Well, this is the most extreme song I’ve ever put up. Anaal Nathrakh say they’re trying to create the soundtrack for Armageddon, and while it’s a bit too catchy for that, this is pretty full-on stuff. Do me a favour, and give it a try – you won’t hear much heavier than this. Please dedicate four minutes and two seconds to AN’s new song, Endarkenment.

See you next week