What is January good for?

04 Jan 2012

Listening to the radio just this week, I heard one presenter utter the immortal words, ‘What is January good for?’ There is a tendency to follow questions of this ilk with the requisite response of, ‘absolutely nothing’, but I am not Edwin Starr and, quite frankly, I think January is good for a lot of things perhaps most notably setting oneself up for the rest of the year.

When entering a new year, the phrase, ‘Start as you mean to go on’, seems to be a perfectly sensible option and indeed when one looks back over a previous twelve months, January can often set the standard for the other months that followed. ‘Hitting the ground running’ is also a perfect way to start the New Year, especially when it is likely that you and your business have just been through two weeks of relative inactivity.

But now we’re all back to work and therefore it is time to concentrate on the business in hand.  For this reason I am often perplexed and a little confused by the constant need for industry players and commentators to indulge in what I call the ‘Predict-athon’.  Cast your eyes in any media direction and we have a constant stream of predictions about what may or may not be coming over the horizon in 2012.

Now, to my mind, there’s nothing wrong with a spot of forward planning, but predictions are not really part of that process.  I can’t be alone when I observe that within the last few weeks I have seen predictions of; increases in arrears and possessions, falls in house prices, increases in mortgage lending, falls in mortgage lending; predictions of interest rates staying the same for the duration, with the potential for interest rates to be increased if inflation falls sufficiently, (which many predict it will do). There have been predictions of unemployment levels stabilising or rising substantially, and perhaps most abundantly there have been predications of Greece leaving the Euro and, following this, the world going to hell in a hand basket.

In our corner of the market it is safe to say that mortgage lending levels look unlikely to increase substantially in 2012 from 2011 levels.  With that information locked away it appears clear, as it has done for some time that intermediaries and advisers are going to need to look beyond mortgages in order to grow their businesses.

I’m pleased to say that vast numbers of Paradigm members have done, and continue to do this and therefore 2012 will not herald with it a radical change of direction.  Our only prediction is the one that says firms will need to keep looking for new income streams and maximising their current value-driven opportunities in order to survive and thrive.

And this is where we come back to January and forward planning.  This time of the year heralds a perfect opportunity to review what you are doing and what you perhaps could be doing.  As a distributor I’ve always felt that we are in the business of presenting as many opportunities to our members as possible.  We are in no way saying that our entire proposition will be suitable for all, however it’s important to present them and let the firm decide which ones could be suitable for their clients.

I’ve always thought that the very least a firm can do is to consider the other opportunities out there.  We constantly come across advisers who were unaware of certain product opportunities that could easily be bolted on to their core offering.  Indeed, in many circumstances having started to offer these products they end up becoming core services anyway.

Therefore, January can be a particularly good month for business.  It offers planning and forward strategy opportunities and it can also set the firm up for the year ahead.  A strong January is never certain – no-one can predict that – however if achieved it can be the start of a strong 12 months and beyond.


Bob Hunt

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