Abacus Financial Options

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Abacus Financial Options's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Abacus Financial Options is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Managing Director JennyLeeder
Over the past two decades Abacus Financial Options
has developed into a firm that provides a wide range
of financial advice. Through utilising the services of a
number of expert financial advisors, Abacus has succeeded in
developing a loyal range of clients throughout the South of
England. In spite of constant regulatory changes, Jenny Leeder,
the firm’s Managing Director, has seen Abacus thrive in the
current political landscape.
Abacus Financial Options, formed in 2006, has evolved from a firm that principally
offered mortgage advice into the comprehensive practice that it is today. Our team
of advisors and dedicated support staff have a range of specialities, allowing us to
build longstanding relationships with a wide variety of clients across the South of
England, growing primarily through word of mouth.
Although the 2008 financial crisis brought many challenges, it was also a time
for reflection and progression of the business. Out of those tough times, Abacus
emerged significantly stronger. A major influence came with the Retail Distribution
Review (RDR), focusing the mind for all in the industry.
Responding to industry changes
Since the RDR, one of the key influences in the growth of our practice has been
the change in pension regulations. Pension freedoms, introduced in 2015, certainly
helped financial advisors to hold more informative meetings with clients, who, in
turn, now see a pension as a flexible and more meaningful part of their long-term
»Managing Director: Jenny
»Founded in 2006
»Located in Dorset
»Services: Independent financial
»No. of employees: 13 advisors,
5 members of staff
»Advice on mortgages through
to inheritance tax planning
Abacus Financial
Highlighting best practice
financial plans. It has, undoubtedly,
been positive for our practice,
allowing us to develop an even more
comprehensive financial planning
service, providing an opportunity for us
to enhance relationships with our loyal
While we have embraced and
benefited from some industry changes,
we are also facing many challenges.
We are concerned that the current,
and future, direction of regulatory
change appears to shepherd the
less wealthy towards cheap and
cheerful financial signposting, while
disenfranchising the public from
the long-term benefits of complete
financial planning.
In our view, we simply cannot see
that decision trees, “robo-advisors”
or guidance lists will be capable
of delivering anything more than
marginally positive outcomes for
consumers. Taking into account
the apparent ease with which
these simplified solutions can bring
widespread reputational damage to
financial services, it is no surprise that
a growing number of consumers have
developed a mistrust of the industry as
a whole.
Delivering value to our clients
We have wholeheartedly supported
the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)’s
drive to improve and maintain advice
standards, but face-to face discussions
and advice continue to achieve the
best outcomes for consumers. We
are well qualified and continue to
update and enrich our knowledge for
a reason: to deliver the highest-quality
outcomes for consumers, regardless of
their wealth.
The FCA wishes to close the advice
gap, which it had not appreciated
would arise from the many legislation
changes introduced over the last
decade. This phenomenon brings
into question whether the work
of a general advisor’s practice is
totally understood or appreciated
by the regulatory and legislative
decisionmakers. In among the positives
of RDR, it was instantly apparent
that there were to be negative issues
for the many longstanding, yet less
wealthy clients. It was hoped that the
2015 Financial Advice Market Review
was going to give guidelines on how
to improve this situation, but to date,
there has been no evidence of that
being the case.
Changing perception of the
Overcoming the public’s perceived
value of professional financial advice
is something we consider to be a
major challenge. Whether relating to
borrowing, investing or retirement
planning, quality advice can only lead
to improved outcomes for clients.
The feeling among our peers is that
consumers are being failed by the lack
of public promotion to explain the
differences, benefits and drawbacks
between generic guidance and tailored
Mortgage Adviser
Johanna Kemp
the public’s
value of
advice is
something we
consider to be
a major
It is hoped that the FCA, through
consultation with those working at the
coalface, can improve this situation.
We would like it to become a common
trend for the public to see that paying
for ongoing pension and investment
advice has real value for the long
term. We have seen from first-hand
experience the level of wealth that can
be accumulated by clients who fully
embrace the relationship with their
advisor over the years.
The new Senior Managers and
Certification Regime was implemented
in December 2019. We acknowledge
that this gives the relevant persons a
new label, to be logged with the FCA,
which has the benefit of increasing
and compartmentalising accountability.
Our concern about this process,
however, is the limited functionality of
the FCA register which will be born out
of this regime.
For a 12-month period, neither the
public nor the companies with which
we work will be able to validate the
regulatory status and permissions
of any investment advisor if they
are not also a member of senior
management staff. This can only be
to the detriment of consumers and
the industry as a whole. It may take
until the end of 2020 before a new
register will become available. We feel
let down on this matter, as it does not
represent the improved transparency
that the industry strives for or offer the
reassurance clients require.
Succession planning is often cited
as a challenge for advisors. We are
fortunate at Abacus to carry a wealth
of knowledge, from the more mature
advisors through to the younger
generation, helping us to manage the
transition period without disruption
to clients. This allows the retiree to
consider which of the team’s advisors
will be best suited to each client.
It allows time to incorporate joint
meetings to provide continuity of
service. We cannot exist without our
clients, and we therefore feel it is our
duty to manage handovers respectfully
rather than sell their loyalty to the
highest bidder.
In the future, we would like to see
the regulator focus its efforts on
improving the accessibility of financial
advice for all consumers, regardless of
means. We would also like to see the
media held somewhat accountable for
focusing so narrowly on infrequent
bouts of negative news from the
financial world, rather than providing
a fair and balanced view. This could
easily be achieved by also highlighting
the often beneficial work carried out
by all sectors of financial services on a
daily basis.
With each new challenge that
faces our industry, the team at
Abacus embraces the opportunity to
strengthen our business and improve
the service we offer to clients.
In the future,
we would like
to see the
focus its
efforts on
improving the
accessibility of
advice for all
regardless of
Investment and Pension
Adviser Stuart Ross


This article was sponsored by Abacus Financial Options. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development