I am not sure of the origins of the proverb: 'coming events cast their shadow before them', but, sadly, its truth is repeatedly played out, be it allegations of wrongdoing by charity workers, bankers or film producers.
Close examination of the past emphasises some bitter truths; that suspicions of wrongdoing had been around for a long time, and that it invariably reflects only a tiny percentage of whatever cohort is being put under the microscope. This highlights the harshest reality of all, that a whole sector is often judged by the behaviour of a small minority. Abhorrent as recent behaviour of some charity workers is, I do not believe it should colour our judgement of the many thousands who work tirelessly to alleviate suffering across the world.
This brings me to some of the reprehensible behaviour of a small proportion of advisers, particularly in relation to pension freedoms and British Steel. Since they were announced, I have regularly warned of the inherent dangers of ‘freedoms’. Writing three years ago, I said that, as a result of the lack of advance consultation by the chancellor, “…product providers and trustees are not ready for the avalanche of enquiries and demands that will hit the sector and that there are not enough advisers to help consumers take one of the most important decisions of their lives”. I also forecast that it was “…inevitable that we will see a significant pension scandal within the next five years”.
I take no pleasure in being proved right, as it is sad to see that some rogue introducers and a few reckless or criminal advisers have potentially disadvantaged British Steel employees. Nor is it any consolation to see the DWP report on the British Steel Pension Schemes is equally scathing of the Trustees, FCA and The Pensions Regulator (TPR). Its report suggests that TPR has been fiddling while Rome burns, and makes the point that reputable, local IFAs were overwhelmed by demand for advice which created the perfect conditions for vultures to take advantage.
No doubt we will be told, yet again, that “lessons have been learned” but the fact is the reputational and practical damage has been done. I strongly believe it was simple to foresee the dangers ahead and stop them happening because “coming events cast their shadow before them”.
Ken Davy is group chairman of SimplyBiz