Investment platforms can bring drive down the retail cost of funds. They can offer distribution to fund managers and they can allow advisers to organise their client’s affairs so that they can plan their finances in a meaningful ways.
Platforms can also be turned against the consumer, offer advisers huge commissions and legitimize the products of the morally bankrupt who set out to steal people’s money through scams.
Whether the scams are outright fraud or the fractional scamming or “skimming” of hidden charges amounts to the same thing.
While it could be argued that some UK platforms exploit the weakness of the wealthy for over-engineered investment solutions, I do not know of any FCA registered platform that is complicit in scamming.
But there are platforms that sit are registered as close to Britain as the Isle of Man which replicate the UK platforms right down to the branding of the product which are downright ugly. They not only abuse the concept of the platform but they abuse brands that resonate with probity; brands like Friends Provident, Old Mutual . Scottish Widows, Clerical Medical, Rowan Darlington and Generali are being used to sell products that frankly fail to deliver what they promise.
What is ugly about these close to home platforms is just that, they are close enough to home for us to trust them, but far enough from the FCA’s “regulatory perimeter” to enable the very worst practice. The long history of financial chicanery includes the sale of private client futures, penny shares, pension liberation, and now select portfolios of toxic investments that make the CDIs of the early years of these centuries look benign.
Who stands against them?
There are a few noble people who stand against the offshore platforms that distribute toxicity. Angie Brooks is at the fore, there are others such as Chris Lean, who support her. Angie has had a rough time this summer but her work, fighting for restitution for her clients continues as do her blogs. She is feared, not just for calling out iniquity when she sees it, but for her capacity to use the courts in Spain to stop the sale of offshore bonds and the fund platforms they offer.
Her website www.pension-life.com is the Private Eye of pensions and Angie brings the wit of Peter Cook, the courage of Richard Ingrams and the ferocious hilarity of that organ’s early days to her work.
The abuse of platforms is the scandal of 2020 and must be stopped in 2020.
There is a retrospective tendency among regulators to chase after scams after they have happened. This week we have seen the FCA lamenting their technology failings which are slowing their investigation into mini-bonds. The past will tell us of the distribution channels that have been closed down. But we need to have regulators investigating the distribution channels of today.
Mini-bonds are still being sold abroad to British citizens and if you want to know where, ask Angie Brooks. The means to distribute financial tat is through semi-legitimized offshore bond platforms all of which are listed in detail on www.pension-life.com
If we are to move from reactive to proactive regulation of scammers, we need to recognise that the scammers are moving on, they are not using UK Sipps , they are using offshore bond platforms. They are leveraging their past ownership from FCA regulated companies to provide a false aura of integrity.
Where there are still links between UK regulated entities and offshore subsidiaries, those links need to be leveraged to get the offshore platforms to cease and desist.
Where bad practice is happening beneath the noses of the local regulators, the FCA needs to leverage the seniority of its regulatory reputation and co-operate.
And we must use international policing to crack down on know financial criminals and stop them repeat offending.