Employee Benefit #1: Financially Organised Workers Are Happy Workers

HapNav @ Work

The most important asset of any business is its people. Financial wellbeing is critical if employees are to be engaged, motivated, and productive. Yet, all but senior executives and managers are underserved by the financial adviser community on account of their limited wealth. That was, until now!

Until now, the workforce must rely on the internet, sponsored media propaganda, or ill-informed friends and relatives. They are financially vulnerable and have limited ability to withstand financial shock.

Over the past two years there has been a basic living cost surge for low-income families, and there are no signs of anything improving soon.

Money worries can be hugely amplified in the workplace with lost engagement, absenteeism, presenteeism, and stress induced bad behaviour.

It’s time for employers to step up and support their workers who may be suffering from financial worries. Whilst employers may not be able to offer bigger wage packets or prevent their employees getting into debt, providing them with access to financial, physical, and mental wellbeing assistance programmes can make a real difference in their day-to-day lives.

Of course, positive money management is only a small part of good mental and physical wellbeing. To discover what businesses can do to ensure their workforce remains happy, healthy, and productive, check out our complete Game Plan to health and wellbeing via the links below!

We offer HapNav – The Happiness Navigator!

We help with positive money management with a unique offering…

HapNav is the world’s first end-user financial planning application with an open banking application inside.

Some extra programming every B2C fintech app needs, that we have in HapNav:

  • Advising on the 100% of client wealth, not just the 5% that is regulated investments.
  • Advising on how to make money, not just saving money.
  • Advising on the client, not just the money.

HapNav Artificial Intelligence (AI) produces “Fix It” solutions free from transaction-bias of humans! You’ll be surprised how many of the fixes do not involve the purchase of a financial product.

Try it and see. Model your favourite future with our “What-if” modelling tool. Track your journey to it, with integrated open banking automatically updating income, outgoings, and balances.

What does this advanced tech mean for you?

Embedded banking + Customer-centricity = Market First, Market Leader!

Embedded Banking:

“We are now seeing the embedded finance trend picking up, which wasn’t the case three or four years ago. Financial services are becoming increasingly distributed and Embedded banking is one of the enablers.” – Dr. Efi Pylarinou, Global Influencer, Fintech & Disruptive Tech.

Customer-centricity:

Successful financial services firms display a new way of working that is multi-disciplinary and mission-focused, pulling in the same direction to achieve value for end-users. Customer-centricity is becoming a key focus, and millennials and Generation Z will play a big part in the shape of things to come. To be part of this exciting future, business leaders in the industry must prioritise their tech strategy and place software engineering at the heart of business planning.

For details of these trends see: fintech trends for 2022 free to download report (erlang-solutions.com)

“I think the future cashflow planning tool should be end-user, to give a user the adviser portability, privacy, and data ownership. It should be open banking integrated to be accurate and updated. It should be probabilistic to avoid linear assumptions. The planner should be an educator. When this happens, the planner can offer the service to users in groups and on a subscription basis for a fraction of one-to-one advice so plugging the advice gap. Millennials and Genzies love having this on their mobiles. Did I say the future? I meant today.” – Steve Conley, CEO HapNav.

We put the tools of the planners in the hands of end users, as the best place to find a helping hand you can trust is at the end of your own arm.

To find out what else HapNav has to offer, check out our website: www.hapnav.com

HapNav Tech Support via www.academyoflifeplanning.com

Try it out for free, with our Guest Pass, or Register for Free with our free 30-day trial (this remembers your details).

What Kind Of Fools… is the investment industry voting on its own pay?

The UK investment regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, suggests relaxing sales rules for £90bn in consumer savings to be switched to assets it regulates.

The FCA has spotted nearly nine million people holding cash of £10,000 or more, which it describes as “investable assets” (money that could be switched to regulated investments). They suggest that holding cash is a bad thing, and consumers would be far better off holding assets it regulates. They think that relaxing rules to protect consumers from unscrupulous investment salespeople will result in better outcomes for consumers. I’m not so sure.

We could be looking at a red-herring here. According to ONS, financial assets are 13% of the total wealth of Britain. Split 8% short-term (savings), 5% long-term (investments). Excludes business assets (how money is made). What’s wrong with this mix?

You’ve got to ask, why is this even on the agenda? Given spotlights elsewhere at the FCA. Could it be because there’s a conflict of interest?

Eighteen months ago, the FCA said:

“Too often consumers leave their savings in cash because they don’t have confidence in the alternatives. That’s why we have made Consumer Investments a priority in our current Business Plan. The overwhelming majority of retail investors are best served by readily understood, well-diversified and low-cost investments which are already available from a range of providers, but many retail investors don’t choose these.”

Twelve months later, the FCA suggests that investment availability or access were an issue. The conclusion was either that or consumers were fools.

“We take the view that many of them simply do so because they are either unable to access an investment product or are unwilling to do so. The reasons behind this are behavioural but they are also clearly a function of a lack of knowledge.”

Access isn’t an issue. Investments are easy to buy, and consumers are no fools.

Could these be genuine emergency funds earmarked adequately for the upcoming crisis in living standards? Could this be an asset that needs to be accessible in the next five years, short-term? What’s to suggest that consumers are mistaken?

While moving surplus assets (money not required in the short-term) to investments mitigates inflationary pressure, there’s a host of reasons why cash is good. And, while the investment industry, including the regulator, feed on a percentage of funds under management, they shouldn’t be the ones calling the shots on relaxing rules put there to protect people.

Could it be that consumers are suspicious and distrusting? Maybe rightly so.

Did the retail distribution review a decade ago cause savers not to invest? The advisers of today have always served higher net worth investors. Nothing has changed here. The advisers to the lower net worth disappeared, as they were unable to demonstrate value for money.

The bancassurance advisers disappeared, and a decade earlier, the home service advisers disappeared. Seven in ten adults stopped having an investment conversation because the fees charged were disproportionately high than the sums saved. Was this such a bad thing?

Maybe it’s the wealthy pensioners? According to ONS, one-third of the adult population are over age 55 yet own two-thirds of the wealth. All that boomer wealth in drawdown sits in higher proportions in short-term assets. Gen XYZ has little or no savings, and a higher proportion needs to be in cash to navigate the cost-of-living crisis. This dynamic would skew financial asset holdings in favour of cash deposits. The split would favour investments if wealth distribution were the other way around.

Is B2C fintech even addressing the correct issues? The industry explores using technology to shift the savings (money already made) to investments (long-stay parking). With little regard to helping consumers with little or no savings make money in the first instance.

When you have little money, twice as much can make you twice as happy.

When you have little in the way of savings, taking it away and locking it in long-term investment products makes consumers twice as sad.

Recommending that assets be shifted is expensive. Coaching on the options for shifting assets less so. Robo-advice to shift assets can be made available fee-free. All this advice on shifting assets. Where’s the advice on making assets? It doesn’t exist.

Why should the consumer shift assets to other people anyway? Why can’t they be allowed to possess their assets? Invest in themselves, and make money?

I understand that inflation erodes short-term assets. I also understand that short-term assets are essential in times of crisis. I also understand that the industry pays itself on long-term assets. There are a lot of decision-makers with their fingers in the pie here.

The industry calls consumers fools. It looks as though the outcome will be the investment industry empowers itself to nudge people towards itself.

What kind of fools do you take us for?

Will FCA proposals to improve access to advice be successful? – FTAdviser.com

Persistent Debt Regulations Hit One Million Credit Card Holders

The average Brit household faces an unsecured debt of half annual pay, which at minimum payments would take 30 years to repay. But a million consumers are in for a big shock this Spring.

I’m writing to highlight that the regulators and bankers are calling in unsecured debt under the guise of doing good – at precisely the wrong time in the economic cycle from the consumers’ perspective. They call it persistent debt regulations. If you search it … all you find are positive comments. I’m not so positive! I don’t have any credit cards for the benefit of full disclosure.

Persistent debt is where, over 18 months, you’ve paid more in interest and charges than you’ve repaid of the amount borrowed. Lenders wrote threatening letters to 2 million cardholders during the pandemic.

Remain in persistent debt for a further 18 months, so for a total of 36 months. Your credit card provider will get in touch again, freeze your card, and set out ways that would enable you to repay your outstanding balance within a reasonable period, which the FCA sees as usually being between three and four years. 

Over the last 36 months, bankers wrote to customers at or close to credit card limits.

  • They wrote to those making minimum repayments during covid when payment holidays were supposed to be the norm.
  • The bankers demanded that these customers increase repayments by 50% to 100% in many cases.
  • They froze credit facilities ahead of this Spring Crisis.
  • They demanded invasive disclosure of personal financial data to assess circumstances beyond their contractual powers to do so.

These customers are typically low-income, often single-parent households with young families to support during the economic crisis and with little or no savings. They are long-time customers of the banks and have lived this way, from pay cheque to pay cheque, using their cards within the agreed terms for years. It is used as a facility or float to dip into when there is more month than money. For example, at Christmas to treat the kids. Or for a much-needed holiday break. These customers are not in default on the cards; they often have always made payments on time. They have good credit scores. These customers have been loyal cardholders for 20 to 30 years in many cases.

To date, these customers have been faithful, trustworthy, satisfied, and strong advocates of their banks. Due to the high-interest rates on the cards, they have proved very profitable for bankers over the years. The banks have attracted borrowers with click-bait rates and made repeated unprompted increases to lending limits. Banks have remained satisfied with repayments from debt-ridden borrowers for years, even though the borrowers themselves suffer from inefficiency due to debt overhang. Win-win, you would have thought.

So, what is going on? Are the bankers raising capital to shore up their balance sheets – at the worst time in economic history from the consumers’ perspective? Is it to satisfy the regulator? Or the taxman, who doesn’t want to have to bail out bankers anymore? Perhaps the Government seeks to offload banks from their balance sheet? What’s this mass cross-subsidy from borrowers to lenders about?

Due to bank failures and bailouts, we have just had ten years of austerity—two years of covid pandemic hitting low-income households with 7 in 10 homes financially worse off. And now customers face a Spring Crisis due to high inflation, fuel problems, tax hikes, and geopolitical unrest.

Ten years ago, bankers turned their marketing budgets away from savings (due to low interest rates) and investments (the retail distribution review). They filled their boots with high-margin unsecured loans to satisfy shareholders and pay banker bonuses.

Why call debts in now?

People aren’t stupid. They know bankers charge exorbitant rates of interest on their credit card balances. They know that items bought on credit are paid for three times over. They voluntarily will reduce debit balances when they can afford to do so – when they do not face difficult choices of eating versus heating. They remain within the lending terms originally signed up to when the bank sold the product.

Even when borrowers make large one-off payments to reduce debt balances by half, the banks still send the letters and freeze the cards, removing lending facilities. Because the computer says, it is the monthly repayment amount that must increase.

Initial estimates were that around 2 million accounts could reach the 36-month stage. However, we can now see from industry data that this has reduced to about 950 thousand customers (who have 1.1 million accounts), or just over 2 percent of all credit card accounts.

That’s 1 million customers increasing their repayments, throughout the pandemic, in response to the earlier communications within the persistent debt process.

We are leaving 1 million unable to do so.

People aren’t stupid.

Why vary the terms now? And don’t tell me because the regulator told banks to!

Regulators say, “consistently making low payments for a long time is an expensive way to carry longer-term borrowing, and these rules have been created to keep your overall costs down.”

The regulator adds.

“If having the use of your credit card suspended will cause you significant difficulties with your wider financial situation, it’s vital that you engage with your card provider to explain this, so that they can take this into account and consider whether this action remains necessary based on your updated circumstances.”

“If you are worried about meeting your everyday bills, you may want to consider seeking free debt advice.”

With a final kick in the teeth.

“Your credit report will continue to reflect whether you have met your contractual minimum monthly payments, but it’s important to consider that only making minimum or low payments over a long period can influence your credit rating.”

This process is happening because it is Government policy, as a debt-ridden nation threatens a persistent recession, which loses votes. Debt reduction after a financial crisis can work as a macroeconomic policy that restores economic growth. Debt-ridden borrowers from excessive debt can improve their efficiency, thus helping aggregate productivity in the overall economy.

I say these 1 million people need some breathing space.

We face a future of increasing global economic and geopolitical uncertainty and employment insecurity. More so now than ever. Events like this Spring are more likely to become the norm in the future. Times like these are not times for promoting debt restructuring or wealth redistribution from borrowers to lenders.

My advice to the 2 million affected by this cruel regulation is this. Make a note to rid yourself of credit cards in the future, as these times will pass. Maintain your contractual obligations on the cards, but always pay yourself first. Get yourself financially organised as best you can. Seek help where you can.

And here’s a tip the sellers of loan products or saving products, the providers, or the other unaccountable hierarchies of profit and power fail to tell you.

Whether you are an asset or a liability on their books, the banks, related companies, and their distributors are tapping into you for fees to pay shareholder profits and bonuses. They are not in the business of helping you make money in the first place.

My tip to you is to make more money during these challenging times to navigate the cash flow valley. Turn hobbies into a portfolio of side hustles, help one another, and create a better future for you and your loved ones.

Put yourself first. Don’t feel guilty. See the bankers for what they truly are. Highway robbers!