Blue Monday but brighter outlook

January generally is a dim month, and the financial crisis hitting global markets hardly brightens the scene, but all is not gloom and doom

Was it a coincidence that the biggest fall in the stockmarket for six years happened on blue Monday, officially the most depressing day of the year, according to a researcher from Cardiff University? I actually recall feeling in a particularly positive state of mind at the moment when I read that I was supposed to be feeling miserable.

Before the tremor in the financial markets took some of the shine off my mood, the reason for the spring in my step was the news that at last the Government was starting to take the private sector’s role in promoting productivity through health and wellbeing strategies seriously.

Hearing Nick Kirwan, head of protection at the ABI describing the positive attitude of government representatives towards the idea of tax breaks for smaller employees wanting to put health and wellbeing solutions into the workplace was like receiving manna from heaven.

Add to that the initiative launched by the departments of health and of children, schools and families to give the public financial incentives in the battle to beat obesity and it seems that half of Whitehall is now singing the same tune that our industry has known off by heart for years.

This change of heart in government is one of the most significant developments for our industry for some time. If advisers can be armed with tax breaks when they go in to talk to hard-nose finance directors about why they should put benefits in place their arm will be strengthened significantly. Furthermore, a government seal of approval for health and wellness products that promote productivity in the workplace cannot fail to boost their credibility in the eyes of the public.

It may be a few years before tax breaks for new employee benefits are made law and new products developed ready to take to market. But the prospect of new weapons in an adviser’s armoury is a palatable one.

Developments in the heart of government like this should give comfort to corporate intermediaries as we head into what for many industries, and particularly many parts of the financial services sector will be a difficult year.

It shows that our sector is far from being a mature, saturated market. In fact it feels more like an industry with plenty of ideas still to bring to the table, and one that is actively contributing to making UK plc a more efficient and productive operation. Whatever 2008 may bring in terms of economical challenges, the long term perspective look bright.