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Independence Under Attack

Gill Cardy Reflects on 25 Very Fast Months

A week may be a long time in politics, but 25 issues of IFA Magazine is a veritable lifetime. Can it be any coincidence that this new publication launched at almost exactly the same time that IFA Centre was born?

Could there be a future for a different type of publication, we asked?  Glossy, monthly, eschewing short termist news items in favour of in depth political and economic analysis, and focussed on Independent financial advisers?

And could there also be a future for a different type of trade association?  Practitioners with experience of business and regulation delivering support and representation, eschewing provider sponsorship in favour of member funding, and focused on Independent financial advisers?

A New Starting Point

It ought to be worthy of note that both the new magazine and the new membership organisation started at what many said would be precisely the worst moment in the history of Independent financial advice.

So what did IFA Magazine and IFA Centre both see, when all around us were rapidly rebranding their propositions, revising their logos, renaming their organisations, and all deleting references to Independence as fast as the marketing and design teams could deliver the goods?

Commitment

The demise of Independence was being dramatically over-stated – mostly by those who had most to gain by the uptake of Restricted advice and investment propositions.  The complexity of the new rules was seriously over-played, mostly by those who had most to gain from the uptake of compliance and other support services.  The market demand for Independent advice from the investing public was questioned by industry insiders, not by the investing public themselves.

Finally, pretty much everyone underestimated the commitment from advisers to continue delivering the Independent advice to their clients that they had been delivering for the last twenty years.

Emerging numbers now show that Restricted advice has not been the whitewash that commentators predicted.  And there’s a really simple reason: advisers want to deliver Independent advice just as much as their clients want to receive Independent advice.

Complexity

Of course, IFAs are not out of the woods yet.  The FCA keeps moving the goalposts, and in regulating to the lowest common denominator runs the risk of ensuring that the best advisers lose the heart, the will, and the profit motive to stay in business.

There is a concern about the advice gap, but the regulator makes regulation costly and the advice process complex and costly.  The Government designs pension schemes that business owners need advice to implement, but that they can’t afford to pay for if commission or consultancy charging isn’t available.

Products are designed and created with layers of complexity which mean advice is not a luxury but a necessity.  Attempts to create both simplified products and simplified advice got, somewhat ironically, bogged down in the complexities of how to deliver compliant products and services cheaply and profitably under the current regime.

Before issue number 50 goes to press, we should press for a meaningful commitment from the regulator to create an environment in which advisers can deliver Independent advice simply and cost-effectively, closing the advice gap in the process.  Then everyone will be a winner.

 

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