So, so many gas jokes you could make this week – do you go down the industry being full of hot air route, the Mark-Locke-with-a-hangover-after-the-Platform-Awards route, the wasn’t-me-it-was-the-dog route, or simply repeat Marina Hyde’s gag of this morning that if you want a really solid investment you should pop out and buy a Calor Gas bottle from the petrol station? I can’t choose, but I’m reassured that the problem isn’t so serious that the government paying a couple of factories for a few weeks won’t make it go away. The market works…until it doesn’t. Thank goodness is all I can say; some things don’t bear thinking about.

Also on the ‘things that don’t work’ list this week: pensions. Or at least, for 134,000 pensioners who were underpaid up to £1bn (not each) over the last however many years. We talked last week on HomeGames with Steve Bee about the complification of the pension system and it seems that this sort of thing is an inevitable consequence.

Clever people make things complicated, and that’s not just true of government. Happily I’ve never been burdened with that level of cleverness, and so I am sometimes left scratching my head as to how things end up where they end up. I think, but I don’t know, that in the private sector the answer lies somewhere between commerciality – the need to have a business that lasts – and fairness – the desire to make things work for lots of different people at the same time. Both of those things are OK and maybe even desirable, but of course (as Steve used to say) – if it’s fair it can’t be simple and if it’s simple it can’t be fair.

Maybe the answer needs to be that the Stuff we design – be it a CIP, a platform, an advice proposition or whatever – needs to understand that it will necessarily be limited. There will need to be more than one of whatever it is – that way what faces each individual can indeed be simple. There is complexity in the multiplicity of offerings perhaps, but that falls to those who are most able to navigate it, which is the professional adviser pulling the strings behind the curtain.

Random thoughts, random thoughts – but if we are to get the pensions sector in particular back to its fighting weight, it needs to just work. If that means designing out complexity, then let’s have at it.

SIC TRANSIT

A wee word on the passing of Alan Steel. You can’t really come up in the financial services / IFA-related world in Scotland and not know of or bump into Alan. Indeed, being told to go and do one – always with a bit of a twinkle in his eye – was a rite of passage. I remember back in my provider-side days having a good go at getting Alan and his team to change their ways and favour my employer of the time, and if you wanted a dictionary definition of ‘futility’ then that was it. He’ll be remembered with great fondness by a great many and if nothing else his focus on what he felt was right for his clients to the exclusion of all the usual industry nonsense – including the complexity and legerdemain of Equitable Life – is an example of how it should be done. RIP Alan.

HIGHLY COMMENDED LINKS

  • Please will you help us with our biggest research exercise of the year? It’s time for State of the Adviser Nation 2021/22 and we desperately need to hear your views, hopes and fears. Nice things will happen for those who do the decent thing. And we all like nice things. Thanks! You can access the exercise here.
  • Folk on the move – congrats to Nucleus’s Barry Neilson and Garry McLuckie who will be chief commercial officer and marketing director respectively of the newly reconstituted Novia business. One door closes, another opens…or as we say up here, ‘wan in wan oot’. Good luck to both once gardening duty is finished. Also congrats to David Tiller who swaps Abrdn for Quilter.
  • HomeGames this week will – as ever – be a good’un. Craig is joined by the brilliant Iona Bain. Fighting the corner for young investors for more than a decade, her career has seen her appear on Question Time, Radio 4’s Women’s Hour and the One Show. She is also Radio 1’s resident Money Hacker, and has written for every money title you can think of. But she hasn’t been on HomeGames yet. That long run ends today at 12.30pm – come join here or later on the lang cat’s YouTube channel.
  • Glittering prizes, etc at the Schroders UK Platform Awards last night – congrats to winners, but especially young, sleep-deprived Jack Gilbert for journo of the year, lang cat client Praemium on discretionary platform of the year and bewheeemoth I did a spot of judging for the first time in a while and was struck at how far everything has come.
  • And your music choice this week is something you won’t have heard before – some Chilean doom which will, if you let it, give you all the feels. Please do give some house room to Rise To The Sky and End My Night.

See you next week

Mark