Firing Line: Michael Benjamin
Michael Benjamin has been a sole trader for over a decade, and self-employed for longer than that.
As a middle-ranking suburban adviser, with a client book of about 60 – his business is called Miben Financial Consultancy – he simply cannot understand why advisers are coming under so much pressure from the FSA to change. To him it is based on a false premise.
He said: “I’ve never really seen what a lot of the fuss is about the RDR. I’ve never understood this debate about commission versus fees. I’ve always thought I should have a relationship with the client, and it’s whether the client gets value for money.”
He is also critical about new bureaucracy.
“I find it quite amusing that there’s been such a lot of debate about the need to have a charging agreement. If you’re in business and you’ve got a new client you’ve got to have some sort of arrangement with them about how you’re going to get paid.
“I think that a lot of the things people spend time on in terms of how their business is set up and what they’re offering – business proposition and segmentation is somehow to do with the fact of trying to define who you are and what you’re doing. If you’ve always known who you are and what you’re doing, I don’t think it’s ever been a problem.”
In fact in many ways, he cannot relate to the kind of adviser that the FSA seems to think needs regulating – it is a long way from his own way of doing business.
He said: “I really can’t understand why we live in a world where so many people talk about how financial advisers earn their money. I think it largely stems from the fact that the world has tended to be full of people who wanted to sell financial products.
“But I never thought about this. [With a client] I thought, here is somebody and I need to get to know them and work out how to have an ongoing relationship with their financial affairs. People need various sorts of help. I had someone with an endowment and they’re worried about whether it’s going to generate enough to pay the mortgage, and somebody who has an elderly parent who is extremely ill and has an old pension lying around, and they don’t know what to do about it.
“Financial services has developed to be a way of arranging transactions and selling products. I’ve always considered it to be a way of trying to help people with their financial affairs, which may or may not at certain times involve arranging products.”
Mr Benjamin came into financial services after getting fed up with working in IT. He found that IT was not the answer to everyone’s prayers, and that paperless offices will probably never exist. He said: “I wanted to do something where I could deal with people and money. I think it’s a great job.