Portafina comments on the Autumn Statement

The first from our new chancellor.

Autumn Statement

In his first Autumn Statement, Philip Hammond made it clear that the Cameron and Osborne years are over. Theresa May has said that this government will work for everyone, and now we can see the policies that aim to help the so-called ‘JAMs’. Borrowing to spend on infrastructure and new homes, tapering the Universal Credit reduction, introducing a new savings bond and scrapping letting agency fees all target this group of people and are likely to be met with approval by broad sections of the public. At the same time, honouring the manifesto pledges to raise the personal allowance to £12,500 and higher rate tax band to £50,000 shows that the core Conservative voters are not being ignored.

The big news for the pensions industry is the potential ban on cold calling. Scams targeting people using cold calling have been a concern for a long time, and were brought into sharp focus after the pension freedoms were introduced. A ban, in the interests of public protection, is long overdue.

The caveat to that is it needs to be handled carefully and appropriately. There’s a risk of collateral damage to the financial industry, which wouldn’t be helpful to anyone but least of all those most in need of financial advice. A ban on cold calling shouldn’t stop regulated advisers who operate inside the law advertising or using legitimate methods to reach new clients, in the same way other industries can.

Expectations also need to be realistic on what a ban can or will achieve. Criminals may well continue with their activities, but by raising public awareness a ban will go a long way to making sure people know that if they receive cold calls they are not talking to a regulated firm. Consumers should be protected, and this will help them know who to trust with their hard-earned savings.

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