Rewind and relax

As many of us settle down on our towels by beach or pool, we will surely find it impossible not to reflect on a period of unprecedented change. By the time schools reopen it will be two years since the run on Northern Rock, and the difference between both the business and the consulting environment then and now is phenomenal.

Back then, personal accounts and auto-enrolment were like some cloud on a distant horizon. Today, joined by the Retail Distribution Review, they figure as a clear and present danger to the way business is conducted in the here and now.

Two years ago, insurers were worrying about insuring up to 65 without discriminating on grounds of age. Today we are looking at a situation where employers could potentially be asked to insure the income of employees of all ages for an unspecified period into the future. If that sentence sounds nebulous, it is meant to.

The advisory sector has changed considerably, too. Consolidation has been the watch word, nowhere more spectacularly so than in the proposed merger of two global consulting colossi into Towers Watson. Whether other major mergers will be on the cards, its hard to say. But if and when credit starts flowing again, we may see more of the same.

But despite all the change, most intermediaries seem to be weathering the storm, albeit with a reduced staff count in many cases, and in many quarters there are positive developments.

The group risk sector has got its public face in order, if not the funding of its leading body, meaning it will be better placed to push for the protection it needs to defend itself against future pressures, both regulatory and businesswise. However, a tiered charging structure for GRiD’s membership would make the worthwhile task of expanding the organisation’s reach far more achievable.

Pensions professionals appear relaxed with competing with personal accounts, comfortable in the knowledge that its potential customers are businesses the private sector never wanted anyway, and are now looking at how to create a truly differentiated proposition.

And the healthcare sector is in a period of reflection about what the inevitable cuts in NHS funding will mean for it.

Consultants and advisers thrive on change. The market I see is one with change written through it like a stick of rock.