Paul Lewis is the clients’ agitator and is often roundly condemned by the adviser community for it. For this alone he is our (belated) Hero of the Month for February.
Paul is probably most famous for presenting MoneyBox on Radio Four and as such he is well known as a consumer champion. He is much loved by a large audience for taking on banks, insurance companies and helping callers to make sense of the UK’s complex benefits system.
In addition to this Paul does an exhausting range of other activities and he earns an extra crust campaigning on issues he believes in, via the financial press. Now, here his audience is less in love with Paul and you have to admire the man for his thick skin. He has recently called into question percentage charges, preferential tax rates for investments, the dogma that shares outperform cash and slayed many other sacred cows.
At Altor we once watched an excellent presentation from one of the only Barclays employees we could stand. Paul was the following speaker and having watched the previous presentation promptly went ‘off script’ to tear a new hole in Barclays’s, already shabby, reputation.
Over the years he has displayed a capacity for being right, early. Adviser commission was one that he was onto early (2005) and was criticised for his comments about how advisers were biased towards products that paid the highest rates of commission. Roll forward several years and commission is now banned (2012) and the consensus generally is that it was a bad thing all along. Sadly being right, early means you take all the criticism up front and no one apologises when you are proved right.
Paul hasn’t always got it right, his promotion of performance fees is an example where the client would lurch between paying too much and paying so little, their adviser goes bust. Generally though it is worth watching the frenzied reaction to what he says and then waiting for everyone to catch him up.