Hello, hello, me again. Sorry for breaching your inboxes yesterday in an unexpected fashion and thanks to all who dropped a note to say you’d voted for Steve for Professional Adviser’s Personality of the Year. Double thanks to those of you who managed to crack a joke about Steve’s personality too – all of those are going on a list for his annual review this afternoon. The vote is closed now – actually it closed at 5pm yesterday – so now we wait and I must remember to stand down the Russian spambot factory we’d spun up. It won’t be suspicious if Steve gets about ten million votes from the same IP address in Vladivostok will it?

So the nights are getting shorter, the whiff of Vitamin D is in the air and all talk is of a route out of lockdown – but we do have a way to go yet. Back in the mists I did the occasional long-distance walk, including the Caledonian Challenge a couple of times. That’s a 54 mile walk down most of the West Highland Way which you try and do in less than 24 hours. I learned plenty of things when doing it, not least to avoid changing your footwear strategy an hour before starting. Hamburger is such an interesting word, isn’t it?

Anyway, one of the things I remember vividly was the guy who did the main brief telling us that the number of folk who drop out in the last mile or two is insane. Your body is already toast by this point; it doesn’t really know whether it’s done 36, 47.9, 52 or 54 miles; it just knows it’s sore. It’s the mind that does it – the last bit is always the hardest. So it will be with this, and it’s yet another reason to keep looking after one another.

We may be in stasis but the market isn’t and yet more corporate activity graces our inboxes this week. ‘Tis the season, and our attention turns to either end of Princes Street in fair Edina, where Phoenix who will shortly be called Standard Life (at least in part) and Standard Life who will shortly be called something else are now clarifying exactly whose CDs are whose and firming up visitation rights for the dog.

Mixed emotions on this one.  Easy stuff first – the repatriation of Wrap SIPP and the bonds and the TIP and the clarity over who owns what client bank is a good thing. It was never tenable for some of the wrappers to be over here and some over there and the whole thing had the tang of unintended consequences about it. This is a welcome clarification and while it’s not the most important development in the world it’s one less thing for firms using Wrap to be bothered about.

As for the selling of the name to Phoenix and the rebrand – well. I think there are two issues here. The first matters; the second doesn’t.

Firstly, so far as whether the current SLA business is a suitable home for client assets and an appropriate platform provider is an issue that exists entirely independently of the name of the business. SLA could rebrand as “Stephen’s Big Happy Fund Shop” and it wouldn’t matter in the slightest (well, maybe a bit). What matters are the two questions we always encourage advisers to ask of any provider – is it a safe home for your client’s assets, and does it help you deliver the financial plans you’ve set in train for your clients? If the answer is yes to those questions (they’re quite tough questions) then the name above the door is of passing importance at best.

Secondly, we all get to have an opinion on the passing of one of the grand old names of the sector from one business to another as a commodity. Brands don’t really belong to companies; they belong to the customers and to the wider public consciousness. The truth is that the Standard Life most of us remember hasn’t existed for some time, and certainly not since the original Phoenix transaction. But Phoenix House at the back of the Caley Hotel is stuffed with the people who used to work at SL, and there’s more to a brand than a logo and a set of colours. So it feels weird, but it’s all in the mind and this too shall pass. It doesn’t pay to get too sentimental in this game of thrones.

MIND THE LINKS

  • Nice to see good folk landing well – congrats to Ed Dymott who is now in charge of the kettle at Schroders Wealth and Richard Denning who has now officially been given the keys to the secret cupboard where the good coffee pods are kept at Ascentric. Fair sailing to both.
  • HomeGames this week is going to be a good one – not that we ever have a bad one – with Martin Jennings, CEO of Parmenion. Lots going on, lots to talk about. 12.30pm as ever, grab your spot here. And our YouTube channel is always at your service if you can’t make it live.
  • Good piece here from Attracta Mooney in the FT on AGM pressures for fund managers on climate change (paywall). Would be daft not to mention that our ESG paper is still live and free on all your interwebs – lots to be thinking about in this space.
  • And your music choice this week continues last week’s instrumental theme. This time it’s post-rock gods Mogwai with Dry Fantasy from their new record As The Love Continues, which is a thing you should buy immediately with all the money you’ve saved from not going out.

See you next week

Mark