Should we have a national wealth service?


This article was composed on the day after the Government closed down the pubs, restaurants cinemas and theatres. It’s a day after the Treasury announced that it would subsidise the wages of those ‘furloughed” by their employers by up to 80% or £2500, for at least three months.

These interventions dwarf those proposed for WASPI, changes in pension tax relief, they make the costs of the various compensation levies and the rules laid down by various regulators look like disappearing ripples . Everything is focused on the cause of the interventions, the almost certain explosion of COVID 19 cases and the likely swamping of the NHS by cases of pneumonia resulting from contracting the Coronavirus.

In the context of such events and such fast and major responses from Government, an article about compliance with pension regulations is quite hard to focus on. I am sure that I am not alone in asking myself just what is the point of our concerns about the lifetime or annual allowance.

Indeed it is very hard to get others to focus on much other than the life and death issues that are now dominating the headlines. But this is to ignore the particular nature of the business we are engaged in, long-term financial planning.

The practice of financial planning is imaginative; it takes a view on the future and looks to ensure the “right money, in the right place at the right time”

The practice of financial planning is imaginative; it takes a view on the future and looks to ensure the “right money, in the right place at the right time”. At the time of writing , markets are down 30% but our future liabilities remain the same. It takes quite a leap of imagination to understand how expectations will be met.

in current times, the role of the financial planner turns from maximising wealth to providing resilience to clients who are struggling to see the wood for the trees. For this purpose it is emotional rather intellectual experience that is most valued. Technical issues take a back seat and life experience is most valued. You cannot learn experience.

Ian Neale of Aries, argues that what we need in the UK is a national wealth service on which we can rely as we do the NHS. Lincoln IFA Howard Gannaway argues that we can no more trust financial planners to provide national and universal coverage than we can the NHS. Gannaway argues that financial advice is a private service and that guidance – like the NHS – is a second class service.

If we have any structure capable of providing a “national wealth service” it is the Government’s Money and Pensions Service (MaPS). Currently MaPS is a digital service for “money” and provides a variety of services for pensions – including Pensions Wise.

I have been critical of MaPS for spending too much time on creating strategies and business plans for itself and insufficient time on delivering the service. I suspect that similar criticisms have been levied against the NHS for over-employing administrators and consultants.

But that doesn’t mean that MaPS cannot provide a nationwide and universal service. indeed the current crisis may lead to a new interest in our financial planning. What is more, the interest in digital information that has been prompted by the current Coronavirus crisis, may make the MaPS website and other digital sites very much more popular.

If financial planners step up to the mark, then they too may benefit from what is happening today. They can become a part of the national wealth service.



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Henry straddles the world of traditional finance and FinTech and is an active entrepreneur who helps people make good pension decisions. He founded AgeWage and the Pension PlayPen to map the pensions genome and ensure everyone gets data driven information on value for money

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