No year goes by without its fair share of rogues and do-gooders, and 2012 was no exception.
Here is our run-down of the heroes and villains of 2012. First, the heroes...
Alun Cairns, MP
It is no secret that most advisers consider the £110m Arch Cru redress scheme (which is currently under consultation but could see up to 800 intermediaries who recommended the funds compensate their customers) unfair on IFAs, particularly as it suggests they are largely to blame for any consumer detriment.
But they are not alone in their view – an MP is vociferously fighting their corner. Alun Cairns, conservative MP and chairman of the Arch Cru all-party parliamentary group, has defended advisers, suggesting many were acting in good faith when they sold the products.
Take a look at our gallery of 2012's rogues and do-gooders
He has been one of several MPs calling for an independent inquiry into the scandal, despite the fact that the government has consistently rejected the need for one. Although Cairns conceded in May this year that some financial advisers may have responsibilities for redress, he also called for other parties, such as the FSA, “to step up to the plate”.
Similarly well-received was his explicit criticism of the Association of IFAs (now the Association of Professional Financial Advisers) in July for insufficiently representing its members’ interests on the issue.
Rory Percival, technical specialist, FSA
It’s rare for a representative from the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to get an endorsement on the IFAonline.co.uk messageboards, but one, writing about Percival earlier this year, commented: “This guy knows what he’s talking about”. Praise indeed.
What may help Percival is his past: for more than a decade, he was training and compliance director at women-only IFA Fiona Price & Partners, so he knows a thing or two about both the advice process, and the culture of the advisory industry.
By urging advisers to appease their clients rather than satisfy their regulator – as he did when speaking at a platforms event in May – he left many advisers with the message that he shares, or at least understands, their concerns.
Phil Billingham, consultant and chartered financial planner for Perceptive Financial Planning, is an admirer. In an interview with IFAonline, he said: “I would like to see him write more if I’m honest. He writes sense. It isn’t always popular, but it’s certainly sensible.”
Andy Bell, chief executive, AJ Bell
Andy Bell spent a chunk of 2012 pestering the government to reinstate the 120% Government Actuary’s Department (GAD) limit on maximum drawdown levels.
In October, the government gave the campaign the brush off. But George Osborne used his Autumn Statement to announce changes would take place – moving back to 120% GAD (though we are still waiting for an implementation date).
AJ Bell canvassed support from providers and advisers, and set up a template letter to send to the Treasury on the issue.
The coalition changed drawdown rules in April 2011 but, since then, AJ Bell lobbied against them, branding them obstacles which affected thousands of pension investors, many of whom saw their income drop by between 30% and 50%.
Bell argued the government failed to grasp the strength of feeling on the issue, and its concerns about excessive depletion of drawdown pension funds were “imagined rather than real”.
The campaigning finally paid off on 5 December, when Osborne announced the drawdown cap would be upped from 100% to its previous level of 120%, “giving pensioners with these arrangements the option of increasing their incomes”. We think Andy Bell had a part to play.
The former Cazenove veteran founded the Battle Against Cancer investment trust this year. It raised some £200m from investors when it launched on the London Stock Exchange in October and will donate 1% of its assets to charity every year.
It feels wrong somehow to single out an individual involved in this year's terrific charity Financial Services Honesty Dinner, but it also feels wrong not to mention The Beaufort Group's Alan Easter - the event's chief organiser. The event raised thousands for the Brathay Trust (and fed more than 100 people from the industry).
A little late to the party perhaps but, rightly or wrongly, hats off to Lord Flight for speaking out against some aspects of the Retail Distribution Review when others in a similar position said little or nothing.
Click through to the next page to see our villains of 2012...
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