Fears raised over finance industry shake-up
08:00 17 February 2014
The boss of Norwich-based financial advisors Almary Green fears a shake-up of the industry is in danger of creating an unlevel playing field.
Carl Lamb, managing director of the firm, has flagged up his concerns with the Financial Conduct Authority, the industry watchdog and has been to Westminster to lobby against the proposed “capital adequacy rules” which could see the firm required to hold £500,000 capital in reserve.
He has also persuaded Norwich North MP Chloe Smith to raise his concerns with the committee amid fears the changes create an imbalance between firms which employ advisors and those who use them on a self-employed basis.
He said: “If the rules remain the same I can forecast a major reduction in both firms and advisors taking place. The option open to ourselves to reduce the capital adequacy burden would be to put all our advisors on self employed contracts which goes against the spirit of the retail distribution review and operating in the new world or simply to make people redundant to reduce our fixed overheads.”
Meanwhile, he was also critical of the constant flurry of changes to the pension system which he believes puts private sector staff at a considerable disadvantage to those in the public sector.
“The last eight years have seen some radical changes in pension rules,” he added.
“We started in 2006 with ‘A Day’, which was billed as pension simplification and was supposed to a once in a lifetime overhaul of the system. It soon became clear that it was anything but simple.
“We’ve had a constant stream of changes and tweaks to the rules in the intervening years.
“The lifetime allowance has gone down from its original figure of £1.8m and will drop again to £1.25m in April. In addition, we’ve seen a dramatic drop in the maximum annual contribution level from £225,000 to £50,000 – and it goes down again in April to £40,000.
“While this won’t impact ‘Joe Soap’ and his average pension pot, it is affecting serious investors. Planning to tax maximise their tax position is a hugely important part of the advice service we offer and, frankly, the constant reworking of large pension fund protection schemes is getting to be a bit of a joke. My question to government is: What message does this send out? Pension planning appears to be in the hands of our political masters, not the individual.
“Individuals in the private sector are still seriously disadvantaged in comparison to their counterparts in the public sector.
“You now need a fund of around £1m to purchase an index-linked annuity providing £20,000 per annum. Even those who wish to invest large sums in their pension funds are finding it almost impossible to do so without paying inordinate tax penalties.”