Reasons to be cheerful - Part 2. Intention, Incredulity, Integrity....and Christmas Cheer


Adios 2016 - almost! A review of any year highlights the good, bad, and the indifferent - or events that have seen intentions delivered, or have left us incredulous,  or present us with benchmarks of integrity to be admired and acknowledged.

Despite some bad and distinctly indifferent aspects, there are still reasons to be cheerful and optimistic - and to look forward to 2017.

INTENTION in the business space saw the clients and projects I'm involved with making excellent progress this year.

Camelot NZ Ltdappointed yours truly as their first Non-executive Director, and thanks to the hard work and dedication of fellow Directors, Management, Staff, and Advisers, the intention of presenting Camelot as one of NZ's leading financial services distribution entities has been significantly progressed in 2016. Sadly, we lost Daryl McLinden in the latter part of the year - he will be remembered fondly by everyone at this time of year, I'm certain. Daryl's contribution, along with that of all his colleagues, is substantial reason to be cheerful and to look forward to 2017 with positive anticipation.

Product Care (NZ) Ltd, which I also chair, recorded another solid year - again thanks to the input of fellow Directors here and in Sydney. The demands on small insurers to meet the regulatory obligations are no less than those required from large multi-national insurers, so the work carried out on behalf of the company by Management and Staff, ably supported by a focused and professional board has again seen intentions met and objectives achieved.

Life-Info Ltd sprung into life in the latter part of the year (after many months of preparatory work), and the tireless efforts expended by fellow Director Brian Klee have produced an outstanding not-for-profit, impartial, and independent resource for the financial services industry and its potential clients. Aimed at educating, enlightening, and informing NZ consumers on the issue of life insurance and personal risk financial planning, Life-Info Ltd has certainly delivered on its early intentions, with the analytics showing thousands of page views since launch. Again, there is every reason to be optimistic about the prospects for this project in 2017.

SuiteBox Ltd moved to its distribution phase in 2016, and while the road ahead is challenging, progress at this early stage is exciting with every prospect of further success in 2017. Taking disruptive technology to an industry undergoing considerable change already is never easy. However, increasing productivity, reducing costs, and enhancing the client experience, all provide compelling reasons for the financial services industry to be aware of the possibilities of using technology to improve efficiency and bottom-line performance to the advantage of all stakeholders.

INCREDULITYemerged in the shape of Brexit, the U.S. Presidential election, and the recent resignation of John Key.

The vote against the U.K remaining in the European Union caught all observers, pollsters, and commentators off-guard, and was totally unexpected. The consequences are still subject to heated debate, and the full implications will take years to be properly understood. Reason to be cheerful? Remains to be seen, but incredulity abounds at the decision to exit the economic advantages provided by a market with some 600 million people!

In the US, Donald Trump defeated the Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton, and again, defied all the pundits, forecasters, and analysts. From his performance in my hometown, as documented in "You've Been Trumped", I am indeed incredulous that this individual has been elected as the so-called leader of the free world. His arrogance, bullying, and callous disregard for others, renders his potential impact on the planet as the world's most powerful individual to be unpredictable, random, and downright scary.

Many have expressed incredulity at the recent resignation of the NZ Prime Minister which certainly took many by surprise. John Key's time as PM has coincided with a solid economic performance by NZ - although the country has not been exempt from the seemingly neo-liberal malaise of increased social inequality. While house prices have sky-rocketed in our biggest city, it's drawing a long bow to blame this on the PM, when Sydney, Melbourne, London, and just about every other major city in the planet, is suffering from the same condition. Of course, it's not the Kiwi way to be incredulous about political surprises for too long. A loss by the All Blacks may be a shock - but such an event is only a temporary setback, and surely normal service will inevitably be resumed - as indeed, it has been.

INTEGRITY is a rarer commodity to uncover these days, but John Pilger has long been, in my view, a source of journalistic integrity that is all too scarce these days. Granted, Pilger is not everyone's cup of tea - his fellow scribes frequently rail against his criticisms of the lack of genuine investigative journalism  - but his works, such as "The Children of Iraq" and "Palestine is Still the Problem" contain documentary evidence of the man's fearless integrity in speaking out against what he regards as injustice. His most recent work, released in 2016, "The Coming War on China" marks John Pilger's 60th documentary, and while the "Establishment" is in scathing denial about his assertions, it's perhaps a testimony to the integrity of his work that such howls of outraged bluster emerge from those he publicly dares to call to account for their actions.

Closer to home in the business context, AdviserVoice in Australia displays a similar level of integrity, albeit in a different space. In the cut and thrust of commercial online publishing, it would be all too easy for a website dedicated to the cause of financial advice to fall prey to commercial pressures and to the influence of advertisers, the 'big end of town', or to those who would seek unmerited or undue favour. The publisher, Susie Newham, has steadfastly refused to take a step back, or to have personal and professional integrity compromised, on the occasions that the rich and powerful have expressed their displeasure at the views published and the opinions presented.

With Pilger shining a light in the murkier corners of international politics, and Susie applying the blowtorch to controversial issues in the financial services space, I remain unflinchingly optimistic that integrity will prevail - it's up to the rest of us to support and endorse these examples of forthright and undiluted honesty.

So while we lost so many great musicians, actors, and public figures in 2016 - and here's to the memory of all who entertained, amused, and fascinated us - I anticipate that the New year will, no doubt, serve up an entirely new set of challenges.

The regulatory, commercial, and political environments on both sides of the Tasman and around the world, look set to be no less testing than 2016, but I remain steadfastly optimistic that we will celebrate a good year in 2017.


To you and yours may I take this opportunity to wish you a safe and enjoyable holiday season - however you choose to celebrate - and may the New Year bring you all the happiness and prosperity you wish.

Slàinte mhor a h-uile là a chi 's nach fhaic!

The Laird