Some things never change: Best dressed man goes to Justin Urquhart Stewart and IFP chief executive Nick Cann is suspiciously bronzed. But PIMS is about more than that, so here are a few highlights...
Not doing what's right
Is it ever acceptable for an adviser to go against a client's wishes, even if said adviser felt it was in their best interests?
I put the following, hypothetical scenario to a handful of delegates at PIMS 2011 this week: Sensing a downturn in the market, you recommend reducing a client's weighting in equities and shifting a significant chunk into cash. Inaction, you feel, will harm your client. But he will not budge.
You do not have the necessary discretionary approvals to make changes to your client's portfolio anyway, unless it is with your client's consent. So what do you do? Sit and watch the capital erode, or intervene on the sly to protect your client's investments?
The verdict was unanimous: Watch the capital erode.
"If I can not convince my client that what he is doing is wrong, I won't do anything," one delegate said. "My job is to inform my clients about all the upsides and downsides of the options available, and let them decide. Then and only then will I action it."
Tell (and show) your clients everything
The first session of PIMS 2011 tackled the thorny issue of whether to outsource the investment process, or keep it in-house.
Saran Allott-Davey, of Heron House Financial Management, said that, after careful consideration, her company had opted for the latter.
A quick show of hands in the room, in which sat about 100 people, suggested the vast majority do the same (Quite how many had conducted the due diligence to see if this was the right thing for their clients, as opposed to it simply being what they had always done, was not disclosed).
But more interesting was how Heron House had decided to document the entire investment process for each client, with the eventual aim of showing it all (rewritten in plain English, of course) to the customer. You can't get more compliant than that.
But... would the clients read and, more importantly, understand it?
Allott-Davey had an answer for this too: By issuing a short questionnaire to the client, effectively testing their knowledge on details including the firm's charging structure, it was possible to establish whether or not they had grasped the information.
'This is how we do things now'
The FSA is keen on firms having a centralised investment process. But is shoehorning all your clients into it really the right thing to do?
During a recent round of TCF sessions, the FSA highlighted the following, real-life, example of how building a centralised system can be misinterpreted by firms, potentially to the detriment of the client:
An individual with a small stakeholder pension worth some £23,000 had his money transferred into a SIPP - to be run by a discretionary manager - with a 3% annual charge.
The firm's explanation for why it had done this? 'Because this is how we do things now'.
PIMS 2011 worst Tweet
"Good and bad news for those going to PIMS. Not enough room for speedos so packed thong instead." Nickcanncfp
Overheard at PIMS 2011
"Ah, I remember my first PIMS. Happy days. This is my 12th. Not in a row."
"This may be the first PIMS when somebody hasn't been found asleep on the deck the morning after the first night."
"I had to come. They charge you £1,000 if you don't show up?"
"Did you go to the thing on EU regulation? Man snoring in that one. Seriously."
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