Recently I was having a frothy scoop in the Fly Half and Firkin Tavern with a friend and some of his associates, the subject of conversation meandered onto what I do for work.
Innocently I divulged that I package secured loans, the response was less than complimentary, with some only half joking that the likes of me were responsible for the banking crisis.
My protestations were met with suspicion but I think I managed to put enough of a gap between my underwriting of Mrs Jones consolidation loan of £10,000, and the $613bn owed by Lehmann Brothers. Poor Mrs Jones, if she only knew her profligacy with the Debenhams card had inadvertently led to global financial meltdown!
It did get me thinking about the lazily formed opinions of the general public though, and how they appear to be flocking in their droves to take financial counsel from meerkats.
Meerkats are vermin, rodents, I have never met a meerkat capable of doing an affordability calculation, neither have I met a meerkat who can create an accurate medical disclosure for a life cover client.
Meerkats are manifestly unqualified in all facets of financial services yet they get all of the business… something is afoot. I can’t help thinking that Joe Public takes comfort from the meerkats’ closely set eyes and charmingly mottled pelt.
Coincidentally the level of clients who entrust their high street bank with their life cover, pensions and mortgages without taking financial advice is truly baffling.
It seems that sound advice is becoming a commodity that is less valued by the Regulator of the moment than gimmicks. Whilst the regulators scrutinize to the Nth degree the advice given by IFAs and Mortgage Brokers; Sergei (the Russian citizen) meerkat is offering a stuffed likeness of himself and his rodent pals in order to take insurance products. Is this incentive strictly ethical?
On top of which we are told that the Regulators will deem “simple mortgage rate switches” an issue that does not require scrutiny, in the same timeframe as Tesco launch a “non advised” first mortgage product! I bet you a fiver that within a year mortgages through Tesco will come with a thousand clubcard points and 5p off a litre of petrol.
Well perhaps if you can’t beat ’em join ’em, meet our new member of staff Klaus. Klaus is a ferrett, he can’t count further than 6, he once used a calculator accidentally and worked out the square route of 8008135 (yes his schoolboy charm is there for all to see), he is Hungarian and he gives out stuffed rabbits for loan applications, at least we hope they are stuffed rabbits and not his latest kills.
What could possibly go wrong?