OpinionMay 9 2013

You’re on your own

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Talking to Hugo Thorman of Ascentric recently, it seems that many businesses are trying to jump on the execution-only bandwagon. Not only does it seem that providers are trying to get into platforms, but that wrap providers are trying to come up with non-advised platforms.

So Mr Thorman’s model is to offer a platform that advisers can steer their clients to if they want a non-advised option to follow.

A few years ago this would have seemed like sacrilege, steering a client away from advice, but the RDR has changed everything. Advisers are having to charge fees, and for many clients, especially those with not much to invest, it has become more expensive. The banks are not picking up those falling through the net in the way as predicted as many are closing down their advice arms.

And so the only option is to do it yourself - armed with more knowledge and spending more time doing one’s own research, with maybe occasional input from an adviser.

But it struck me this is part of a general trend for financial services - that we all have to take responsibility for ourselves. Defined benefit pensions are no longer an option for the majority - people have to take the risk themselves and revert to a defined contribution, hoping that it will all work out in the end when one comes to retire. Self-assessment, it could also be argued is for those with complex tax affairs to take charge of matters themselves, even if it means hiring in an accountant. And even the Open Market Option could be interpreted as a means of persuading people to be less passive about their finances.

It is probably a good thing for the fit and able to take more active interest in their financial affairs, rather than just assume it is all going to be all right in the end. The challenge is what to do for the vulnerable and the clueless. One can only hope that autoenrolment and the Money Advice Service will work out.