Hello, happy Wednesday. Unusually, I’m writing this early this morning (if you’re reading it on the day it comes out; if you’re reading it later then that last statement is fake news and you should ignore it). As I’m doing a quick scout of news to see if there’s anything that would make a better Update than my carefully worked out plan, I’m reading more horrible stories and having to force myself to hunker down and get on with it. You don’t come to the Update for social commentary so I won’t, but man I’m glad my kids are going into school this morning here rather than there.

To our subject, then. “Everyone gets everything he wants” said Captain Willard. “I wanted a mission, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice mission, and when it was over, I never wanted another.”

I guess that when Stuart Kirk stood up to do his “why investors need not worry about climate change” speech he wanted a bit of limelight, to be thought of as an iconoclast, to say the unsayable and to show he wasn’t one of the SHEEPLE, amirite? Well, he certainly got his wish, and now he’s had it I suspect he’ll never want another. I don’t know if Stu is into An Ideal Husband, but “when the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers” is a pretty apt summary. Oscar knew what he was talking about.

As happens with stuff like this, the usual predictable bunch of libertarian moonhowlers and penny-ante iconoclasts have peeked out from behind their mummy’s skirts to lend their voices about why anthropogenic climate change isn’t a thing and also why if you go woke you go broke and why a V8 Rangie is essential when you live in Surbiton and why…oh, I can’t be bothered. And that’s a shame – about the moonhowlers, not my lack of motivation to finish off the last bit.

It’s a shame because hiding under the nonsense was a reasonable point about ESG-washing. The investment industry is particularly enthusiastic at bandwagon-jumping, particularly when it comes to stuff that justifies the salaries of many very clever investment analysts. The wider industry has jumped on it too – in our last State of the Adviser Nation report, 44% of firms said they offered clients an ESG portfolio option. Not everything’s cynical – some people in firms both big and small approach this with a sense of conviction – but for every true advocate of the E in ESG, there is a chief exec driving their V8 home from the climate conference.

If you don’t like the current bandwagon, don’t worry. There will be another one along in a minute – and in fact I think I can see it hoving into view. This one is called Consumer Duty and it’s a cracker. Oilier and slippier than a greased piglet, Consumer Duty is already being used as a regulatory Batfink-style Shield Ov Steel by many who should really know better. And that’s before the rules have even been published. Here’s a recent example, where people who aren’t selling enough financial products are being eighty-sixed because…Consumer Duty.

Inside that particular story is a bunch of undercurrents (careful how you say that) about the AR regime, and I don’t mean the Armalite sort. But ignore that for the moment – and let’s concentrate on why it is that regulation meant to ensure clients are being well looked after results in major propositional and business change for so many shops, especially ones focused on new business and selling products. Is it that they weren’t doing the right thing before? Or is this an early example of Consumer-Duty-washing?

We’ll need a better term than that, because I think we’re going to see a lot of it.

Anyway, for what it’s worth we’ll be right across all the Consumer Duty stuff. I am also instituting a modest prize for whoever spots the most egregious piece of financial industry Consumer-Duty-washing and sends it in. This may be the traditional pack of Rolos, or perhaps something less good. So hit me up, and chocolatey/caramelly goodness may be yours.

CONSUMER DUTYLINKY

  • On the subject of ESG, if you’re interested in looking beyond the noise of endless new fund launches and instead get into the practicalities of the advice process then our Steve is hosting a debate (including actual practitioners) tomorrow at 11am on the new client process.
  • Big if behind-the-scenes news as Origo stops being owned by 12 providers and is bought out by management backed by PE firm Vespa Capital. If you want a difficult life, try being owned by 12 providers…whatever your view on PE, it feels like this should enable Origo to go faster and the more firms we have working faster on connectivity in the industry the better.
  • Speaking of integration, we need your help. We’re doing a big follow up to our Disconnected World paper of 2019 and we need to hear how integration or the lack of it affects you as planners. If you’d be up for a quick chat please grab a slot here and we’ll also put you in the hat to win £250 for your favourite charity. Thanks.
  • Angry value pixie alert – in the face of the industry’s inability to work out what value means (and there’s a reason it can’t) DC schemes are having a go. What starts in DC often ends up in IFA-world, so definitely worth having a read of Holly’s piece.
  • And your music choice this week celebrates the life of Cork lunatic musician Cathal Coughlan, formerly of Microdisney and The Fatima Mansions, who has died age 61. Long-term TCWU readers may remember that I featured the Mansions’ cover of Nite Flights when Scott Walker shuffled off, and it’s a shame that Cathal wasn’t really all that far behind. Fatima Mansions never got the exposure they deserved, largely because Cathal always made things much harder than they needed to be. So here’s The Loyaliser (check the lyrics about ‘lockdown London’) from Lost In The Former West and here’s to those who embrace the harder way.

See you next week

Mark