Playing the personality card


Of all the financial myths that remain unchallenged, the myth of personality is least challenged and most lethal.

For it allows the congregation of expert panels/committees/boards – stuffed with perceived “personality” to validate all manner of iniquities.

For those personalities are – by dint of CV – considered unimpeachable in their wisdom, their integrity and their good intentions. Taken collectively, their judgements can be used to rubber stamp any old rubbish – and this is precisely what we are about to see happen as the Investment Association seek to kick the debate on costs and charges into the long grass.

Here is how the Investment Association are playing the personality card.

Chaired by NEST Chief Investment Officer Mark Fawcett, the Board includes other senior figures from the pensions world as well as representatives from the Financial Services Consumer Panel, Transparency Task Force and Local Government Association.

Lest we are in any doubt that this board will comprise the great and the good, the IA’s press release goes on to list them.

The Disclosure Code Advisory Board

Mark Fawcett (Chair) NEST
Andy Agathangelou The Transparency Task Force
Yvonne Braun The ABI
Richard Butcher PTL
Tereza Fritz The Financial Services Consumer Panel (in an advisory capacity only)
David Hare Chair, Phoenix Life IGC
Chris Hitchen RPMI
Jeff Houston The Local Government Association
Thomas Mercier PLSA DB Council
Alex Pocock The Society of Pension Professionals (SPP)
Graham Vidler The PLSA
David Will The Society of Pension Professionals (SPP)

The list represents all the vested interests, the fund managers, platform managers, insurers , mastertrusts, occupational pension schemes, IGCs and even the Transparency Task Force. The point of inclusion of names is to leave us in no doubt that our interests are being represented.

The FSCS clearly had some reservations but everyone else seems to be happy to be displayed and representation on this panel is already on at least one of the panelists linked in CV.

There is safety in numbers.

IA as impressario

The Advisory Board sits in a wall garden under an oath of secrecy, its terms of reference are not available to less mortals.

Those on the panel have been invited, there are notable exclusions – the awkward squad who would ask difficult questions; Chris Sier, Con Keating – organisations such as Share Action, PIRC, Manifest and consultancies such as Novarca.

In a week when our new Prime Minister called for boards to have independent representatives, this Board is theatrically stage managed.

Why we should not dare to make it personal

The IA are in a doubly strong position, because of the myth of personality. In a recent blog I made an attack on NEST for allowing the position of NEST CIO to be (ab)used to give this Advisory Board credibility and I questioned the credentials of Mark  Fawcett to chair the board. I said he did not have sufficient experience managing assets and that NEST had no great track record on investment governance . (NEST have outsourced investment administration to State Street, this State Street.)

These are my opinions, I am also of the opinion that Mark is a good man and is doing a reasonably good job as CIO of NEST. He should leave it at that.

This was sufficient to earn me the  threat of legal action from NEST who spend a considerable amount of time monitoring my blog and presumably a considerable amount of (our) money, protecting their corporate reputations and those of key staff.

The myth of personality persists because of the ever present threat of legal action from the usual suspects who are happy to be blogged about when the weather is good, but run to the lawyers when they don’t like what they hear.

Let’s be clear,the IA in its press release , played the personality card. Those of us who see the Advisory Board as an attempt to sanitise the IA’s ongoing attempts to stop the proper disclosure of costs and charges, face legal threats for daring to oppose their tactics.

Standing up for yourself

The value of independence is often talked about, but when independently minded people speak their mind, especially when they publish their thoughts, they are not listened to, they are threatened with legal action.

Almost invariably the legal action is brought by corporates to protect the reputation of the corporate and key staff. I do not blog on behalf of a corporate. These views are my personal views (please send the writs to me).

The Disclosure of Cost and Charges needs to be overseen by Government

My justification for writing what I have done, and what I write now, is that the proper process for getting a Disclosure Code in place is via the FCA who are completing a market review of asset managers (the FCA are not on this Board). The person overseeing this work is formerly of the IA and was fired for promoting transparent promotion of cost and charges from IA members (the fund managers)

There is a second piece of work being carried out by the Local Government Pension Scheme which will require fund managers who want to manage our money to disclose costs and charges according to a new code (the authors of which are not invited to the Advisory Board).

There is an outstanding call for evidence from the FCA going back to April 2015 which is still due to publish the evidence submitted.

There is work to be done on the disclosure of cost and charges as part of the DWP’s charge cap disclosures for workplace pensions, due to be rolled out in April of next year.

By April 2017, the IGCs are due to have not just considered, but adopted a way of measuring costs and charges as part of their value for money formulation.

Whether through the FCA’s Market Review of fund managers and investment consultants, through its 2015 call for evidence on cost of charges, through the LGPS disclosure requirements or the DWP’s work on an inclusive charge cap, there is ample work going on within Government.

Knowing what we are paying for our fund management is critical to the success of our pension system (as all this recognises). Putting the solution in the hands of a trade body that acts for the fund managers who have most to gain by hiding these costs and charges is wrong.

Those people who are on the IA Advisory Board are , by being on that Board, giving credence to the IA’s behaviour. I call upon the Board to be disbanded , for individual members to resign and I will continue to campaign against the IA’s involvement in the creation of a DC code on cost and charges.

The Investment Association is not the solution – in fact it is the problem.

Legal Action against those who want a solution is not the solution – it is part of the problem.

Those who sit on the Board are not providing a solution, they are simply giving credibility to the problem


About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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3 Responses to Playing the personality card

  1. ginanmiller says:

    Brilliantly said Henry. This is a farce that will not result in a consumer friendly solution that is ‘clear, fair and not misleading’. If it turns out that the FCA is once again deferring their responsibilities to the IA and this group, it should be ‘off with their heads!

  2. henry tapper says:

    thanks Gina, you are no stranger to the kind of stuff that’s mentioned in this blog. it’s great that you and Alan persist in your work on the retail side of this argument and i hope this comment is a weak acknowledgement of the thanks we owe to you

  3. Colin Meech says:

    Incorporation of your opponents is one of the oldest tricks in the book….a good article Henry – I have written to and contacted Andy Agathangelou and suggested he stand down but at the moment he will not – I asked him who he represents and who agreed for him to attend – he did not answer

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