In Focus: Tax  

What was the most vital thing for advice in 2020?

 

The single most important thing in financial services over the pandemic has been the relationship between client and planner, a senior consultant has said.

Mark Polson, founder of the Lang Cat consultancy, was speaking on the In Focus Fireside Chat about the role of advice during the Covid-19 pandemic, consolidation activity, chancellor Rishi Sunak's tax plans and how lockdown has, basically, "sucked".

On the resilience of the industry during the past 12 months, he said: "It's impossible to overstate how important [the relationship] is between client and planner. 

"Everything that happens in this sector is about an expression of that relationship, and if that had broken down [during the pandemic], then it is game over for lots of things, not least businesses like mine."

Polson said what Covid-19 had also taught us was the importance of the supply side of the sector's ability to adapt to "new ways of working, really fast.

"It turns out, what do you know, we could do it after all."

Polson also praised the front-desk element and business development managers who had to adapt quickly when it came to helping advisers and their clients.

However, he said it has also been evident that advisers and clients have voted with their feet where it was clear providers only did "half a job" or got "throttled by their risk guys".

Consolidation

When it comes to M&A activity, he said it was surprising and exciting to see so much acquisition activity during the pandemic, when conventional wisdom might have suggested people would hold back.

"I can only assume people just got a bit bored and thought 'I'd better get on with this, then'.

"That's exciting, I guess. A lot of these deals had been out there for a while and, to be fair, the consolidation activity has been a long time coming.

"We have people like Bain coming in and taking LV, and Phoenix and Standard Life radically changing, and I do wonder whether some of that stasis that comes with deal-making [changed as a result of the pandemic] and people just got on with it."

He said some advisers have expressed concern about the Nucleus/James Hay deal, as reported by FTAdviser, where there might be some "fundamental changes", but, generally, advisers were pretty confident that "if something was suitable for their clients yesterday, it would be suitable for their client today".

That said, for those who are concerned, Polson added: "Don't rush, don't do anything too hasty – even if you are freaked by the activity."

It's the economy, stupid

In Focus asked that, when it comes to the nation's finances, should people be saving or spending? What sort of trends have been visible over the pandemic?