As if the pandemic wasn’t causing enough havoc; it also coincided with the major deadline in financial services – tax year end.
Ideally, all our clients would have made their pension and Isa top ups, used their CGT allowance etc. well before 5 April.
However, for practical and human reasons (read: forgetfulness), this is often left until the last minute.
And recent events have highlighted for me the importance of platform administration and the need for better processes when attempting tax planning in the current situation.
I can discern no rhyme or reason to the requirements of each product with each provider.
If one phones them, however, the well-meaning associate on the end of the line acts as if the need for a document signed in triplicate with wet signatures and the client’s blood type are well-known FCA requirements.
I would never wish to move clients away from platforms they are happy with unless necessary.
We are independent advisers, and I am usually happy to put up with minor inconveniences such as filling in extra documents for the sake of avoiding any cost to the client.
However, recent events have altered that opinion and highlight the need for simpler, streamlined processes.
Take the example of a simple Isa top up, held in cash.
Some providers require only a bank transfer by the client (with the account number as reference) but others a signed document, and the only payment option a cheque!
The government guidelines bring to the fore how outdated some processes are.
For example, when recently executing for a client on paying into an existing pension, one provider required two documents, one seventeen pages in length and one four, requiring signatures from both me and the client.
A difficult task given the timings they gave and the directive to stay indoors.
A combination of printing, scanning, and phone conversation overcame this hurdle.
The client posted the letter (via snail mail) along with a cheque (those old paper things banks no longer give out, unless specifically requested).
As her local post office had closed, she was unable to send it by recorded delivery.
Lo and behold, unfortunately the documents never arrived.
Handily, my client had scanned the documents before she posted, and thus could reprint.
However, the deadline was looming. Would they be able to cash the cheque in time?
I called the provider for clarification again and, given the circumstances, was told the client could in fact telegraphically transfer the funds.
This was frustrating, given that I asked for the most straightforward way of completing this and was not told it was an option in the first instance.