My friend Robin Powell who speaks for the evidence based investor has republished my comments on SJP’s Value Assessment (it’s nice to see my words properly set). I agree with Robin’s title,
But maybe for different reasons!
Tim Simpson offers an interesting perspective as an SJP customer
..like last year, the first I knew of it was when someone in Citywire recommended your commentary for the previous Assessment. I then checked my SJP Client login: nothing. I had to request it. Yet again this year I still have had no notice of it, so presumably I will have to request it again unless it’s just on their website for anyone to see. Interesting that all their weekly notices that are circulated never mention these or similar publications available. I assume, to use an SJP word, that would be a ‘distraction’. Yes the Contact does quickly reply and is reasonably helpful but, nowadays, they aren’t even SJP staff.
So, in answer to your question, unless your investing over eight figures, I doubt that it will ever be likely..
Actually, the report is on SJP’s website, you can access it here, but Tim’s comment opens up an important question.
“Who owns the client relationship, the platform or the partner?”
As platform manager, SJP reports to the FCA and is responsible for reporting to client/customers such as Tim. But in reality, the relationship is primarily with the SJP partner/adviser who is self-employed and effectively a franchisee.
This most delicate balance has been preserved over five decades since Mark Weinberg set up independent distribution at Abbey Life and then Hambro Life (Allied Dunbar). Owning your own distribution is nothing new, nor are the issues it brings.
SJP’s partners are of course restricted in the products they advise on and responsible to SJP as well as their customers for the advice they give.
SJP have argued to me that the partner is responsible for distributing the Value Assessment but that many partners do indeed see such formal documents as a distraction to their clients.
I would hope that SJP can break down this perception over time. If Value Assessments are to be worthwhile, they need to be high-class documents that tell the truth and that is what the SJP 2021 Value Assessment is. SJP Partners should be proud of their value assessment and Tim should not be having to ask where to find it (psst…here)
I would like it to be talking to a wider public than just its internal stakeholders, as SJP is the largest financial adviser in the land. It has over 4000 regulated advisers meaning that more than one in five advisers are working for them. It is the single largest contributor to FSCS, it pumps £30m a year into training and has its own academy. It is the breeding ground for the next generation of financial advisers. It should talk for financial advisers.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Nor does it talk of its own experience to a wider public. Bearing in mind it owns data on the behavior of around half a million Brits over the age of 55, SJP has the capacity to be authoritative on how the mass-affluent are arranging their financial affairs in later life. If the average drawdown on our Sipps is 8% pa, SJP may be able to show us that with advice, we can do better!
The value that is sunk into paying for advice, comes from the funds people own and the fees that many complain of, are used in part to ensure customers do not overpay tax, do not invest inappropriately for their needs and that cash flow is managed so money is in the right place at the right time for the right people.
I was educated as a financial adviser in the 1980s to focus on adding value this way and it seems that people value financial advice delivered by real people as much today as they did when I worked at Hambros and Allied Dunbar.
Where I differ from Robin is that I am not opposed to the advisory regime or indeed the fees charged by SJP partners if they can be seen to be value for the money they cost. What SJP appear to be defensive about is whether all the money that flows to partners, platform management and shareholders, is delivering value in terms of outcomes.
Bearing in mind the encomiums from those who pay the fees, it could be argued that the value is in the sense of financial security that the client/partner relationship brings. This is well brought out in this study by Boring Money. But the b-side to the Holly’s hit single is the financial proof in the pudding. Are the Partner’s clients and SJP’s customers getting good outcomes?
For all the assessment of value, there is very little hard data in what SJP produce to show that the platform and funds are delivering what Partners promise. And its this that justifies my and Robin’s criticism of SJP falling short. It is not enough to deliver financial well-being today, you have to deliver on expectations tomorrow, expectations that you as an adviser and platform manager have to set.
There is nothing to say that SJP aren’t delivering on these expectation, but there is nothing to say that they are. SJP in the past have told people like me that this is none of our business and that is right, I am not a customer or client and my status as a “commentator” is based entirely on this blog. Nonetheless I will keep asking the question, how are your customers doing to SJP because I can’t ask Partners how their clients are doing.
And if we don’t know how half a million of the nation’s affluent oldies are doing, then it’s pretty hard to judge what can be done for the rest of the nation.
My call is to the management of SJP and to its Partners to be more trusting with the wider public, to get on the front foot and share information that is important for us to know. Principally I think we should know about the outcomes of saving within the SJP Sipp and about how the Sipps are being used to provide income or capital in later life or on death.
This high level information, presented in ways that make sense to the financial services industry and the general public, would be the ultimate Value Assessment and proof that SJP are as confident in delivering on their promises as I believe they are.