Lawrence Miller & Co

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Lawrence Miller & Co'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 Lawrence Miller & Co 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

www.lawrencemiller.co.uk

THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
THE PARLIAMENTARY REVIEW
Highlighting best practice
16 | LAWRENCE MILLER & CO
Founder Will Harris
Will Harris set up Lawrence Miller & Co in 2001 from
the shed in his back garden. Will had been working
in the financial services sector since 1996 and decided
it was time to set up his own business. Today, Lawrence Miller
& Co prides itself on being different and on being “truly
independent”. Will tells
The Parliamentary Review
that clients
are at the very heart of everything the firm does, and discusses
his hopes and fears for the sector.
I knew from the start that I wanted Lawrence Miller & Co to be truly independent.
I also knew that all of the advice we gave had to be genuinely free of any bias, ties,
affiliations or obligations.
I place a lot of importance on clients being fully involved and in control of the
decision-making process. It was apparent to me that good financial advice is mostly
about peace of mind and not the accumulation of wealth. They are, in fact, two
very different things, as a large number of ex-British Steel workers have so tragically
found out.
Tackling rogue advisers
This is why I am a passionate backer of the campaign to help the pensioners who
may have been duped out of their defined benefit pension schemes by rogue
“advisers”. Many ex-steel workers have contacted their MPs and some, in turn,
have approached us for advice and support.
It has led to us working with their MPs, as well as calling on the Financial Conduct
Authority to compensate those affected and to prosecute the rogue “advisers”.
It was all too easy for those advisers to operate under the regulatory radar
and, ironically, while a minority did the right thing by transferring out, not
one of the former employees can be sure that they made the right decision.
Understandably, it’s a very anxious and worrying time for them, their dependents
and theirfamilies.
In order to arrive at this situation, where steel pensioners are now so vulnerable,
a number of factors and reasons converged. Of these reasons, one of the biggest
was the end of commission-based payments for financial advisers. We fully
supported the decision, as did many like-minded adviser firms. It meant that the
financial sector couldn’t be accused of favouring one product or company, and
remuneration is now absolutely transparent.
The downside was that sales people, masquerading as financial advisers, needed
to replace their income, and very large pension pots accumulated by British Steel
employees became fair game. Sadly for them, the pensioners found themselves
AT A GLANCE
LAWRENCE MILLER & CO
»Founder: Will Harris
»Established in 2001
»Based in Cwmbran, South
Wales
»Services: Independent financial
advisers and business services
»No. of employees: 6
»No. of clients: More than 600
»Originally operated from a
shed in Will’s back garden
Lawrence Miller & Co
17LAWRENCE MILLER & CO |
FINANCIAL SERVICES
targeted by advisers using ever more
sophisticated and devious methods
of working under the FCA radar,
often without the knowledge of their
advisory firm.
The FCA seemed only to realise what
was occurring in South Wales, and
the other British Steel sites around the
UK, long after the horse had bolted
and the ex-employees were left high
anddry.
In our experience, we have found the
FCA to be rather distant, lacking in
empathy and completely unaware of
what is happening on the ground in
the financial sector it is there to police.
Prevention is always better than cure.
The FCA should have realised that
the British Steel pensioners were
vulnerable and worked with financial
advisers to ensure that they had the
best possibleservice.
A potential solution
Clearly a solution must be found
to prevent events like this from
happening again. We’d like the FCA
to open a network of 20 offices
around the UK. Each one would have
a manager and three members of staff
who’d have the time to get to know
and make regular visits throughout the
year to adviser firms in their area.
Just dropping in for a coffee and a
chat would give the FCA time to build
up a rapport with the adviser firms and
to take action, if it had any concerns,
to protect clients. The arms-length-only
approach to regulation isn’t working.
The FCA could use a star system,
similar to the one adopted by the
Food Standards Agency, which scores
establishments that handle and serve
food. For example, a firm of financial
advisers with a rating of 5 would be
judged to have very good standards
and another with a 0 to be in need of
urgent improvement.
A star mark wouldn’t necessarily be
a comment on the quality of advice,
in the same way that the star rating
for restaurants is no guarantee of
tastyfood.
Instead, it would give clients, both
new and old, a quick and simple visual
health check on a particular firm. It
would also allow them to make an
informed judgment on the processes
adopted by the firm in meeting
clientneeds.
The cost shouldn’t be any more than
£7 million per annum, which is less
than two per cent of the FCA’s budget.
As we’ve found out in South Wales,
qualifications for financial advisers are
no guide to the culture at a particular
firm. Sadly, too many advisers see
them instead as a sales tool.
The British Steel pension scheme
scandal has focused the minds of our
sector and we call on the FCA to make
sure it doesn’t happen again.
Most people fail to realise that they
can lose everything if they act on bad
advice from so-called advisers. For their
sake, and the sake of others like them,
it mustn’t happen again.
Sponsoring U15 rugby in
Wales with the Lawrence
Miller Bowl – part of the
Dewar Shield, which
is the oldest schools
competition in the world
A solution
must be found
to prevent
events like this
from
happening
again
BEST PRACTICE SPONSOR 2020
17LAWRENCE MILLER & CO |
FINANCIAL SERVICES
targeted by advisers using ever more
sophisticated and devious methods
of working under the FCA radar,
often without the knowledge of their
advisory firm.
The FCA seemed only to realise what
was occurring in South Wales, and
the other British Steel sites around the
UK, long after the horse had bolted
and the ex-employees were left high
anddry.
In our experience, we have found the
FCA to be rather distant, lacking in
empathy and completely unaware of
what is happening on the ground in
the financial sector it is there to police.
Prevention is always better than cure.
The FCA should have realised that
the British Steel pensioners were
vulnerable and worked with financial
advisers to ensure that they had the
best possibleservice.
A potential solution
Clearly a solution must be found
to prevent events like this from
happening again. We’d like the FCA
to open a network of 20 offices
around the UK. Each one would have
a manager and three members of staff
who’d have the time to get to know
and make regular visits throughout the
year to adviser firms in their area.
Just dropping in for a coffee and a
chat would give the FCA time to build
up a rapport with the adviser firms and
to take action, if it had any concerns,
to protect clients. The arms-length-only
approach to regulation isn’t working.
The FCA could use a star system,
similar to the one adopted by the
Food Standards Agency, which scores
establishments that handle and serve
food. For example, a firm of financial
advisers with a rating of 5 would be
judged to have very good standards
and another with a 0 to be in need of
urgent improvement.
A star mark wouldn’t necessarily be
a comment on the quality of advice,
in the same way that the star rating
for restaurants is no guarantee of
tastyfood.
Instead, it would give clients, both
new and old, a quick and simple visual
health check on a particular firm. It
would also allow them to make an
informed judgment on the processes
adopted by the firm in meeting
clientneeds.
The cost shouldn’t be any more than
£7 million per annum, which is less
than two per cent of the FCA’s budget.
As we’ve found out in South Wales,
qualifications for financial advisers are
no guide to the culture at a particular
firm. Sadly, too many advisers see
them instead as a sales tool.
The British Steel pension scheme
scandal has focused the minds of our
sector and we call on the FCA to make
sure it doesn’t happen again.
Most people fail to realise that they
can lose everything if they act on bad
advice from so-called advisers. For their
sake, and the sake of others like them,
it mustn’t happen again.
Sponsoring U15 rugby in
Wales with the Lawrence
Miller Bowl – part of the
Dewar Shield, which
is the oldest schools
competition in the world
A solution
must be found
to prevent
events like this
from
happening
again

www.lawrencemiller.co.uk

This article was sponsored by Lawrence Miller & Co. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

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