Be careful out there!
The other night, my wife and I were invited to a performance of 'Shrek The Musical', performed entirely in Welsh by a local Welsh-language school. It was held in a large conference centre in Cardiff, and the event was packed, sold-out, heaving with excited children and their proud parents.
It was a dazzling display of talent and sheer exuberance. The children sang their socks off, the performances of individuals were confident and redolent with future promises of Oscars. They obeyed their teachers, kept in order, did everything to cue and were clearly delighted to be the centre of attention. As an Englishman, way out of my cultural depth, even I could understand that something exceptional was going on.
In a whimsical moment, I found myself wishing that these children could remain like this. Innocent, joyful, enthusiastic, grateful...The slightly depressing thing is that they don't. Those youthful ideals don't generally survive the secondary education system, where the wonder gets progressively flogged out of them, and replaced with a kind of churlish compliance with regulation. Whether inadvertantly, or by design, they become saddled with their parents' cynicisms and peccadilloes. They become adroit at picking up bad habits from their school-friends, and slower to develop good ones. In short, they become altogether too much like us.
It is worth remembering these simple facts of life as we deal with clients. It would seem altogether naive to ignore the possibility that the people we deal with may have their own questionable motivations, that they may not always be entirely straight with us (treasure those that are!), and that they operate on the basis of a personal morality which is somewhat less transparent than our own professional ethics. Those would be rash and dangerous assumptions for any Adviser to operate under, given the now compelling motivations for disingenuity supplied, lavishly, by the various systems of regulatory redress, and also the legal system, following the abolition of Legal Aid.
I was reminded of this on my first day back after study leave in the USA. The first two cases on my desk to look at were both complaints. Both, in their own way, were equally egregious, and reinforced the debilitating effect of jet-lag. One was from a firm of ambulance-chasers in London in respect of the client of an ex-AR of ValidPath's, who clearly has so little confidence of success with the FOS, that they will risk all with a legal firm which has become a byword for bully-boy tactics. For any of us whose view of the legal profession involves the assumption that it has something to do with truth and justice, successive encounters with firms like this will very effectively disabuse us of such false notions. It is worth observing, in passing, that the old Legal Aid system provided a key restraint upon baseless opportunisms, in that there was a preliminary level of scrutiny before Aid was granted. That is no longer the case, encouraging a kind of unbridled appetite for the worst kind of adventuring.
The second was an exercise in pure Post-Modernism, where the facts were clearly not an obstacle to the narration of a story which really should involve talking animals, a Witch and a Wardrobe. Such was the effect of the jet-lag, that I felt uncharacteristically weary in the face of fictions which would normally at least bring a little wry smile to my face. That there are people who will concoct such fantasies at the drop of a hat is now one of those inviolable, but depressing facts of modern existence. That there are IFAs who might hope for the best, whistle a happy tune, and pretend that their current best-buddy clients will remain forever friends, requires an optimistic view of human nature which I would advise is entirely unjustifiable.
It's a tough world out there, folks. As you don your Superhero IFA Bat-Cloak, and venture out there to magically transform people's otherwise dubious financial circumstances, remember that the Best Practice Adviser Checklist is there for a very good reason.
Older ValidPath Members will hopefully see the significance in this link.