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30 Sep 2022 - Hedge Clippings |30 September 2022



Hedge Clippings | Friday, 30 September 2022

Amid all the chaos facing the world at present, ranging from nearly three years of COVID, to the invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent threat of nuclear war, surely the most bizarre is the economic and political chaos now facing the United Kingdom.

At first glance, it might seem this has been an instant reaction to a knee-jerk budget from a newly appointed PM, Liz Truss, and her equally new and inexperienced treasurer, Kwasi Kwarteng. Together, and after months of a drawn-out and damaging internal selection process, they announced a mini-budget and tax cuts which prompted an intervention from the Bank of England to prevent a run on pension funds, and a slump in the value of sterling which makes the under pressure Aussie dollar look strong.

Truss didn't improve things in a series of disastrous radio interviews on the BBC by trying to blame Putin for her and Kwarteng's own goal, which also drew a warning from the IMF which issued a statement saying "we do not recommend large and untargeted fiscal packages" at a time of high inflation, and suggesting the UK government re-evaluate its plans. Ratings agency Moody's also got in on the act, saying that the unfunded tax cuts were credit negative, and likely to weigh on growth.

Truss is between a rock and a hard place: Should she back down and admit she's made a serious boo-boo within weeks of being appointed, or continue to brazen it out, and no doubt in due course lose the next election? In reality, this shambles can all be traced back to the chaos created by her predecessor, Boris Johnson. However, somehow he seemed to have the brass, or b---s to be able to bluff his way through countless crises, until finally "Pinchergate" and "Partygate" finally ended his act.

In the case of Truss, there's probably never been a better example of the "Peter Principal" (so named after the 1969 book of the same name written by Laurence J. Peter) which observes that people in a hierarchy tend to rise to a level of respective incompetence. Depending on one's point of view that might also have applied to Boris.

Thankfully, although possibly also depending on one's political point of view, it seems that Albo, our new Prime Minister, has hit the ground running, and in spite of troubling global and economic times has yet to put a foot wrong. Of course, it is early days, and long may it last, but it seems a long apprenticeship, both in government and opposition, and a lifelong career in politics, has benefitted Australia and its 31st Prime Minister.

Changing tack, and back where we belong to financial services: The latest figures from ASIC covering financial advisor numbers in Australia, compiled by Wealth Data and reported in the AFR, show that AMP's adviser workforce has dropped below 1,000 - a 60% decline since January 2019, and a far cry from the 3,329 advisers it had on its books in 2014.

AMP hasn't been the only institution at the "big end" of town to lose advisors, or in the case of the big four banks, leave the business. Over 10,000 advisors have left the sector since the Hayne Royal Commission shone an unwelcome spotlight into some dark corners of certain practices.

Many advisers have left the larger dealer groups to set up on their own or in smaller "boutiques" finding that they had greater flexibility to provide high levels of client advice - particularly at the higher end - in spite of the compliance support (or constraints) previously provided by head office. The risk of course is that with lower adviser numbers, but still with a large number of people requiring financial advice, some of the latter are going to miss out.

Compliance and regulation in the industry are necessary, albeit often tedious. However, the Treasury's Quality of Advice Review is reported to be considering watering down the requirements for financial advice - and general advice in particular - enabling so-called "finfluencers" to flourish.

This would appear to us to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but maybe that's the wrong metaphor to use. Let's just say that social media is responsible for enough damage as it is.

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