Having spent 7 pages introducing itself and setting out its stall, the Friends Life IGC Chair Statement concludes, 7 pages later;
It’s a case of say hello say, say goodbye and I’m afraid that the 7 pages which deal with the work of the IGC in 2015 really don’t tell us much more than “watch this space”.
I’m not suggesting it’s in anyone’s interests that Aviva run separate IGCs for Friends Life and Aviva but I hope that the new “super-IGC” is a case of 1+1=3 as this report shares with its counterpart at Aviva, a lack of engagement with what is really going on.
Friends Life were a Quaker outfit and it pioneered socially responsible investment in the 1980s through its Stewardship Fund. For many people, Friends as a brand still stands for these values. This is not reflected in this report, nor indeed is any sense of the social purpose of investing over the long-term in a pension. Happily, the only IGC report to make any mention of social purpose is Aviva and I hope that we will have more on what Aviva will be doing in this space in 2016.
My personal experience of dealing with Friends is not quite as happy as the IGC report would have us believe. Where I have encountered small schemes run by Friends they have been paying commission to advisers who have not been seen by employer or employee for some time. When I have taken over these arrangements it has been difficult bordering on impossible to get Friends to stop the commission payments and quite impossible to negotiate lower charges.
I note with approval the IGC’s statement
- All commission will have been removed from schemes which Friends Life will allow to be used for Auto Enrolment purposes. This means that members in these schemes will see a reduction in the charges they pay.
Clearly it has succeeded where we failed. I will check with those organisations I conspicuously failed to help (in this respect) to check that Friends have made good on their promise.
While I am about it , I will mail the inauspiciously named email address email@example.com ask Friends Life why the IGC Chair’s report is not linked to their IGC page ! Thanks to Steve Budge of Mercer for passing me this report in PDF. Let’s hope that members have more luck in getting hold of the report than I had!
IGC report spotted hiding behind the “more info” button on this page. Why is this report hidden?
For what its worth (and seeing the IGC Committee has built in obsolescence,I’ll make the following points
- The position the IGC was adopting to value for money, and in particular, the assessment of value for money benchmarked against best practice gets an amber– there really isn’t a position on offer
- The tone of the document is formal without being over-formal, Steve Carrodus – the chair- knows his way around and the tone is similar (if not so testy) as Paul Trickett’s L&G statement (Steve is also on the L&G committee). I’ll give this an amber
- I really should give this report a red for its ineffectiveness but will give it an amber as Aviva have effectively spent most of this year in the purchase of Friends Life making the capacity to work out what change is down to the IGC, what to Friends and what to Aviva- too hard for me to call!