SJP, robo-advice & Harry Kane: the winners and losers from 2018

It has been a colossal year for finance news. Our traditional round up of the year that was begins here, with the winners and losers from 2018.

It has been another huge year for news. We have been rushed off our feet!

Whether it was Brexit making the headlines, platform technology debacles, or the ongoing narrative surrounding company consolidation, defined benefit transfer regulation or those pesky EU laws, we were there bringing you all the headlines.

We have all survived - phew - but who won and who lost? Who is finishing the year in a better position than they started? Who has really impressed? And who has proven wanting.

Presented for you here: our year in review. 

Enjoy!

It has been another huge year for news. We have been rushed off our feet!

Whether it was Brexit making the headlines, platform technology debacles, or the ongoing narrative surrounding company consolidation, defined benefit transfer regulation or those pesky EU laws, we were there bringing you all the headlines.

We have all survived - phew - but who won and who lost? Who is finishing the year in a better position than they started? Who has really impressed? And who has proven wanting.

Presented for you here: our year in review. 

Enjoy!

Winner: Transact

It has been a very good year for Transact, the original wrap platform. 

After listing on the London Stock Exchange in March the platform's owner Integrafin Holdings saw an immediate jump in share price. 

Even though shares have now fallen back to lower levels in a volatile market, Transact has continued to have a great 2018. In fact chief executive Ian Taylor (pictured) said this year was 'our most successful so far' as the company recorded pre-tax profits of £40.9 million

Loser: Cofunds & Aegon

Platform technology changes have in many ways been the story of the year, and Aegon's move has been one of the most well documented. 

Customer service problems have dominated advisers' Twitter feeds since the company moved Cofunds to new technology in May. Incorrect adviser charges also caused problems for the company. 

On the bright side Aegon UK chief executive Adrian Grace has committed resources to fixing problems. Things can only get better next year!

Winner: Nextgen Planners

What a year it has been for the Nextgen Planners, fronted by founders Adam Carolan and Rohan Sivajoti (pictured centre left and right). 

The group is using its clout to promote best practice and professionalism among the upcoming leaders of the financial planning profession, and boy has it succeeded in 2018. A big annual conference in Manchester this year was followed by our profile of the Nextgen directors, which include Carolan and Sivajoti alongside chartered financial planner and technical consultant Charlene Young, and Clarion Wealth managing director Jonnie Wittle. 

You can read that piece here. But do not forget to check out our lowdown on the best nextgen planning cases of this year. 

Loser: DB pensions

Cast your mind back to the beginning of the year, and you may remember the collapse of contracting giant Carillion. 

It was yet another example of a big business with a big pension liability going bust, and that was just the start for defined benefit pensions in 2018. We all know they are gradually disappearing in the occupational space, but there has been plenty of bad news for people with entitlements remaining, not least when the British Steel Pension Scheme continued to dominate headlines this year. 

That, combined with regulators found wanting and a still all too evident consumer vulnerability mean that we are putting defined benefit pensions on this year's loser list. 

Winner: Regulatory consultants 

There have been some tough moments in regulation this year, but at your side every step of the way has been former FCA technical specialist-turned consultant Rory Percival (pictured), whose often candid contributions to our discourse have always provided clarity. 

Take his latest blog post for instance, whose title we shall not repeat in print... 

You can read that here.

Product Intervention and Product Governance Sourcebook rules, and how they affect client segmentation, were decoded by the likes of Percival and The Lang Cat, while other consultants graced our magazine and website to help explain this year's Mifid II and general data protection regulation.  

Loser: Aviva

It was a difficult year for Aviva. The company moved its platform to new technology provided by FNZ at the very start of the year, which caused all manner of problems. 

Advisers complained of clients not being paid income, of problems seeing lifetime allowance numbers and in at least one case, of clients being double charged for advice. 

In among all this Aviva chief executive Mark Wilson quit the company in October. His successor will be hoping 2019 is a lot smoother. 

 

Winner: Harry Kane

How could we have a review of this year's without mentioning England's Word Cup team? Okay they did not actually win anything, but they took the team to a semi-final for the first time since 1990. 

Striker Harry Kane (pictured) was even more successful in claiming the golden boot award for top scorer during the tournament. 

But perhaps Kane's greatest achievement came in financial services, where he did what Brexit and Trump could not by bringing down new business at advice juggernaut St James's Place (SJP). 

Loser: The FOS

It has not been a great year for the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). A Channel 4 Despatches investigation broadcast in March showed undercover footage from the obudsman that did not sit well with MPs, least of all the chair of the Treasury Select Committee Nicky Morgan (pictured), who subsequently turned the committee's attention on the organisation's failings.

You can read more about that particular affair here, but suffice to say that, although the FOS is now reviewing its processes and getting back on track, we fear there may be more to come for the service in 2019. 

Winner: SJP

Harry Kane may have slowed down new business over summer, but there's no doubt that St James's Place (SJP) continued to succeed in 2018. 

The advice giant passed the £100 billion assets mark in the third quarter of the year, and was tipped by analysts to be one of the big winners from defined benefit pension transfers. 

SJP may not be the most popular business with advisers, but it still seems to be winning at the moment. 

Loser: FSCS bills

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) remains the bain of many advisers' lives, with further levies imposed on the financial planning profession this year following poor Sipp and defined benefit transfer due diligence by a minority. 

May this year saw the upper limit of FSCS payouts increased to £85,000, while in November we reported that the bill for three collapsed Sipp providers would hit a whopping £17 million. The FSCS is also still reviewing its payouts to British Steel workers who lost their pensions as a result of poor financial advice. Chief executive Mark Neale (pictured) announced his intention to step back in October. 

Winner: Backto60 campaign

Progress has been slow for women state pension age (SPA) campaigners over the last few years, but at least one group made a breakthrough in 2018.

The Backto60 group will be able to take their case over mishandling of increases to women's SPA to a judicial review

Their victory followed protests by the Women Against State Pension Inequality, better known as Waspi, campaign that received support from MPs on all sides of the house. 

Loser: Politicians

It is fair to say 2018 has not been politicians' finest year either. As we discussed earlier, there has been a bit of problem with flexible deployment of the truth by our leaders at home and abroad.

Although we acknowledge that not all the politicians are bad, the UK is clearly in need of solutions to big problems, and we wonder who is 'truly' stepping up to the plate.

Maybe 2019 will be the year in which we start to break the gridlock...

Winner: ESG

Finally, some good news. It is a monumental task, but saving the planet was never going to happen overnight. Step forward environmental, social and governance (ESG) funds, which have come to the forefront in 2018 and are doing their little bit to ensure that we still have a planet for our own children to invest in.

January's New Model Adviser® conference and awards saw 'futurist' Ed Gillespie issue a stark warning to any IFAs still invested in fossil fuels. It was very obvious from our polling results that these words did have an impact. 

November was a particular high note, when two-time New Model Adviser® star profile adviser and three-time regional award winner Darren Lloyd Thomas (pictured) took home an ESG award at Worthstone's inaugural impact investing awards. 

Here is to keeping up the good work and spreading further awareness about this in 2019. 

You can read more about that success here

Loser: Anyone tracking Brexit

After two years of negotiations Theresa May finally came back with a deal from the EU...only for parliament to reject it. Well, attempt to reject it, as May decided it was best not to have MPs vote on the deal. 

Instead, Conservative MPs voted on whether they have any confidence in their leader and the prime minister. A vote she won narrowly, meaning that her deal still does not have the support of MPs. 

So now she heads back to the EU to try to renegotiate. Except the EU has said it will not budge any further and this is the only deal the UK will get. 

Confused? Everyone following Brexit appears to be. In fact the only thing May has achieved is to unite everyone, both Remain and Leave, against her. 

 

 

Winner: Podcasts

2018 has been a great year for podcasts. They are absolutely everywhere.

Whether you want the latest on politics or a serialised narrative about one family's discovery that a loved one had been pursuing a secret literary career, there is absolutely something for everyone. 

This is also really important in the context of the information warfare mentioned above. In soundbite Britain, podcasts come longer-form, and allow listeners to get the depth they might otherwise miss with rolling 24-hour news. We hope our own efforts on this front have been successful.

Look out for our final podcast of the year, which will take in all the goings on from 2018. 

Loser: robo-advice

You have to hand it to robo-advisers, they are trying their best. 

But several things mean they are firmly in the losers camp for 2018. Growing scepticism about a business model that requires scale but - for many - is not achieving profit, means that we are holding back on declaring robo a success (for now).

It is also clear that the Financial Conduct Authority and MPs have not yet reached consensus on whether robos should be given special regulatory treatment, as numerous of our stories from this year testify.

You can check out our own journalists' accounts of what it was like for them to invest their own cash with the different robo-investors here

Winner: Acronyms

And while we are talking about regulation, 2018 was a great year for acronyms. ERG, Mifid, Prod, GDPR, Acta, TVC, SMCR, Vreq. Got your head around those? Basically the FCA, itself an acronym, loves them, so we better get on board. 

Loser: Sipps

For many savers and investors, Sipps represent a great place to put their money.

But there is no getting away from the torrid year that Sipps have had, and it all came down to one court case in particular. 

At the end of October, Sipp provider Berkeley Burke lost its four year long battle to overturn a Financial Ombudsman Service decision against it.

And, minutes later, we learned that Financial Conduct Authority chief executive Andrew Bailey had issued a 'Dear CEO' letter to Sipp companies warning them of their obligations to customers and the regulator in the event of any insolvencies. 

The regulator is now keeping a close eye on the Sipp market, a story we do not anticipate will go away in 2019. 

Loser: The pensions dashboard

It was always going to be tricky placing the pension dashboard in a list of winners and losers, but on balance, we are saying that it has not been a great year for the project, which has been beset with delays.

It is all to do with the promised feasibility study that (finally) saw the light of day last week. That was good news and gave experts cause for hope, but it came months behind schedule and (apparently) not without some fighting behind closed doors in Whitehall. 

We will leave it there on that one, just in hope that there will be more good news for the dashboard next year. 

Winner: New Model Adviser®

Okay we know this is all a bit 'Donald Trump' but the last year has been a successful one for the New Model Adviser® team.

Chief reporter Jack Gilbert won pensions trade journalist of the year at the Headline Money awards. 

There was more success at the same awards for Elliot Smith (pictured) who won the rising star award for business to business award. He also scooped the Finance prize at the British Journalism Awards for Specialist Media for his coverage of British Steel. 

New Model Adviser® also won publication awards at Headline Money and the Personal Finance Society awards. A good result, if we do say so ourselves.

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