Steve Bee is not afraid to speak the truth to power. Long may it continue

Steve Bee’s move to Paradigm is a huge coup for the firm. It may represent a shift in the balance of power from providers to platforms – platforms will certainly say as much. But it may simply be a measure of the persuasive powers of Paul Hogarth or a symptom of the fact that Mr Bee was getting a little bored where he was. Essentially, there is probably only one way it would be really bad news for IFAs and that is if the big project Bee will be involved in with Mr Hogarth means that he has to keep silent, or at least engage less frequently in the debate on pension reform. Hogarth is no fool so I am sure that will not be the case.
Bee’s views, his attention to detail and his skills at publicity, have been essential in reminding IFAs and others that Governments get things wrong. He has been a bulwark against too much group think in an era of group think. At times, particularly in arguments with ministers, he has been able to say things that others have only been willing to think privately. This has been essential when ministers and officials have often bristled at even slight criticisms over small details of policy.
Most would argue that Government thinking has been at best woolly, at times cynical or buck passing, and often just plain wrong. So as we say, losing that plain speaking voice would be a great shame.
The next six months provide an opportunity to influence policy as a new Government grapples with what its pension strategy should be. The debate is shifting quickly. But ministers will be advised by some of the same officials as the current incumbents so we need people prepared to speak out about past mistakes even when the Conservatives are making noises that suggest Bee’s ideas will get a fairer hearing. Hogarth, I’m sure, will be well aware of all this.

Is it a blow for Scottish Life? Well, Bee drove internet traffic like no other especially from IFAs. He is the king of the financial bloggers (obviously this blog is working on catching him up. Maybe one day.) He got IFAs to roadshows like no-one else too. But Royal London and the Scottish Life division of it make up a big group these days. It’s a challenge but it might be just what they need to think about new strategies. It certainly doesn’t have to be a disaster though it probably smarts a bit today. One thing the group should get credit for is allowing Bee to speak the truth to power. Long may that continue.

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