We are barely a month into the new year and the retirement planning market has been anything but quiet. Stock market turmoil means advisers investing clients' retirement savings are in for a bumpy ride for the foreseeable future.
In addition to feeling the effects of the credit crunch, the market has also been hit by the recent uncovering of a massive loss at French bank Societe Generale. How or why a trader was able to carry out such a large scale fraud is still to be determined but its impact looks set to hang over the investment markets for some time to come.
On the pensions side of things we've seen further upheaval at the Department for Work and Pensions with secretary of state Peter Hain tendering his resignation after only seven months in the job. As a result James Purnell has become the fifth person in only three years to take on this post. At a time when the pensions arena is undergoing real reform such rapid changes can only be a bad thing. On the bright side Purnell's stint as minister for pensions reform at least means he has a good grasp of the issues in hand. We only hope that he bucks the trend of his predecessors by staying in the job for a reasonable amount of time.
Given the bumpy start to the year it will be interesting to see how the rest of the year pans out. The industry continues to face many challenges and it will be interesting to see how these issues move forward. How will personal accounts progress? Will the government do another u-turn on allowing women to purchase additional national insurance contributions? How will the SIPP market evolve post regulation? What will happen to third way products? These are just some of the many issues we will need to get to grips with during the course of this year. This month's cover feature (p.22-23) and big question debate (p.24-25) focuses on another growing issue for the industry, that of service standards. As horror stories abound at the length of time even routine fund transfers take surely the time has come to take decisive action? While many providers advocate self regulation and are involved with the ABI in formulating a set of standards there still remains a number of firms who are not making service their top priority. If they can't be compelled to toe the line by their peers then the government may have to intervene with more formal regulation. In an industry arguably already groaning under the weight of regulation should we really be looking to introduce more? Only time will tell.
Achievements, charity work and other happy snippets
Laughable excuses for persisting
Spent 56 years at Schroders
Warns on profits