The chairman gets to grips with big industry report thingies
'I guess what really hurts,' said the chairman of the insignificantly sized investment company SmallBlue Planet, 'is that the FSA didn't even see fit to shortlist me to write one of those big industry report thingies that were published recently. I mean, you couldn't honestly look me in the eye and tell me I would have done a lesser job than Sanders.'
'On the contrary I agreed,' I said. 'I think you would have been easily as good.' And I was being serious. After all, it now seems obvious that Sanders and the chairman are pretty well matched when it comes to their understanding of the wonderful world of retail savings and investment.
And let's face it, it would hardly take one of his legendary lunches for the chairman to come up with a report that pandered to the Government by repeating the words 'stakeholder' wherever possible and arguing a tax relief be abolished. Or one that backs index trackers at a time when markets have regressed to 1997 levels and encourages people to sign their lives (and chances of redress) away rather than risk the evils of financial advice.
As for the revolutionary ideas of a pension, a with-profits product and some newfangled gizmo called, I believe, a Eunuch Trussed ' I think we can safely presume the chairman would have got there well before the second Bloody Mary.
'It all seems hardly worth the wait,' I said. 'Especially when you think of all the fuss that it caused both before and just after it was published. And yet now, if I were asked about the long-term implications of the Sandler Report, I'd have to come up with the answer that there won't be any.'
'I agree,' agreed the chairman.
'And it's almost now as if that was the actual intention ' that we travel all this way but get nowhere.' 'You mean it's as if somebody senior at the FSA knew they had to sort out a review of the whole industry but didn't actually want to come to any firm conclusion for fear of ruining their chances of getting an even more senior job somewhere else like, oh I don't know, the Bank of England?' I asked. 'Surely that would never happen.'
'You're right,' said the chairman. 'It's a preposterous idea.' 'Absolutely,' I replied. 'Although I do have a confession that you might consider even more preposterous.' 'That would be what?' asked the chairman.
'Now I don't want you to get upset,' I said. 'But some time back I was approached by two men wearing grey suits, grey ties, grey shoes and ' and I'm not joking ' grey sunglasses. They told me a senior industry figure they referred to only as 'H' was anxious to have a word with me and that we could either do this the easy way or the hard way. When I asked what the difference was, they said it came down to a cab or Docklands Light Railway, so I chose the cab.
'Anyway, we pulled up outside the FSA's luxurious offices in Canary Wharf and soon I was in a lift ' a bit like the one that accesses all the best bits at SmallBlue Planet ' heading down and down and down. Eventually we reached our destination and I went through the open doors to be greeted by the sight of some of the most disturbing looking creatures I have ever seen. There were scaly reptilian creatures and smaller rodent-like creatures and some that oozed and some that just sat in one place smelling funny. But I guess that's why we don't get to meet too many FSA employees out on the town.
'The men in grey accompanied me to an office, indicated I should step inside and left me to my fate. The man at the other side of the desk from me, who was dressed identically to my erstwhile escorts, motioned I should take a seat and then got straight to the point. 'I'll get straight to the point,' said H ' for it was he. 'We're planning a review of the medium and long-term savings and investment industry and we thought you would be an ideal candidate to write it.''
'He said what?' interrupted the chairman. 'This is outrageous. I'm going to need some time to take it all in.' 'By my calculations you have a week,' I said.
Paul Bruns and Elaine Parkes
3,000 left to transfer
Record numbers of people aged 90 plus
From 3 to 10 October