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Grabbing the microphone on budget day


Many of us will have financial services clients who want their share of the limelight on budget day. The Chancellor’s speech, nearly always a hodgepodge of measures tied together by some electorally resonant themes gives tax advisers, economists, estate agents, landlords and many more the opportunity to showcase their expertise to the nation. I’m always looking to see if anyone steals the show and if so what we can learn from them.

In my opinion, this year (6 March) the limelight belonged to A J Bell. The company is one of the UK’s biggest investment platforms catering for stocks and shares ISAs and a long-standing campaigner for ‘ISA simplification.’

Jeremy Hunt’s ‘British ISA’ which will offer savers an increased tax free investment allowance of £5,000 providing they allocate it to UK stocks (definition TBC) drew A J Bell’s ire for its complexity. The company denounced the proposal as a ‘white elephant’ and were echoed by other powerful voices in the financial commentariat.

Although some readers were cynical about A J Bell’s campaign the introduction of the ‘British ISA’ allowed it to lead the conversation and showcase its convictions about how the ISA system should really work. The fact it was willing to take up such a strong public stance certainly helped it.

A J Bell had a strong, well-argued position but it was also one of the most logical companies for publications to focus on when it came to the ‘British ISA’ story. It was also elaborating on an argument it has made for a while – ISAs need to be more simple. It is usually not as easy to lead the conversation on budget day but some tips we can take from A J Bell are:

·       It’s never a good idea to wake up on the morning of the budget and decide you want coverage. Instead financial events present a good opportunity to reinforce arguments you’ve been making.

·       Sitting on the fence doesn’t pay – a spokesperson or a company prepared to take a firm stand has a better chance of cut through

·       Experts who have already figured out to make a complicated subject simple are at a premium. There’s nothing worse than trying to make sense of complex financial topics while faced with the pressure of getting a comment out to the media within an hour of the budget speech. Work out how to talk about the topics you’re interested in well in advance.

·       It’s good to have supporters. A J Bell wasn’t alone in making the case against the ‘white elephant’ and it gained greater credibility by being seen to be in agreement with other fund platform and stock market experts.