Let’s start by taking a quick look back at last year. 2016 will be remembered as a year of unprecedented political and economic change, underlined by the UK’s decision to leave the EU and the rise of political populism in Europe, and of course across the pond. Against a backdrop of considerable global uncertainty, it was very positive that the UK’s financial advice sector continued to evolve in 2016, into a more professional, trusted and transparent marketplace for consumers seeking professional financial advice and planning services.
Throughout the year, the profession’s attention was focused on the much-anticipated outcome of the Financial Advice Market Review (FAMR). The Personal Finance Society’s (PFS) focus for this year is to continue with our own evolution, and to ensure that as a profession we capitalise on the once-in-a-generation opportunity for reform that FAMR has provided us with. We will continue to engage with policy makers and consumer groups to ensure the profession is represented in all relevant discussions as we go through 2017.
Being at the heart of consultation activities with the FCA and Government, I have been heartened by their commitment to meaningful reform. This has already shown itself in some major announcements, including the Government’s decision to axe plans for a secondary annuity market just one week after we submitted our own input in which we expressed serious concerns regarding poor consumer outcomes. This was indeed most welcome. The FCA has also taken on board our input on FSCS funding, and pleasingly, is now considering an overhaul of professional indemnity insurance (PII) as part of a broadened review.
In 2016, we continued to evolve our CPD programme to meet the ever-changing needs of a growing membership. I’m pleased to report that we currently have more than 37,000 individuals as members across the country.
This evolution will continue in 2017 with several major new initiatives lined up. These initiatives will complement our ongoing commitment to delivering a relevant, informative and innovative programme of events and other CPD activities to support members develop their knowledge, skills and competence.
The format of our successful regional conferences will continue, with close to 15,000 delegates expected to attend 108 conferences across the country. Agendas will include technical sessions, complemented by soft skills guidance, as well as ongoing economic updates as Brexit negotiations progress.
Also in the schedule are a growing number of specialist events catering to niche groups within our membership. These include paraplanners, Chartered professionals, financial planners and members of the Society of Mortgage Professionals.
By working closer with our local institutes, we will ensure that members across the country are offered a wide range of insightful events relevant to their ongoing development requirements.
Festival of Financial Planning
Our flagship event in 2017 will be The Festival of Financial Planning, which will be our biggest conference ever and one of the biggest in the UK financial services calendar. We’re expecting more than 3,000 delegates and 150 exhibitors to take part in this year’s festival, to be held at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre (NEC) on 7th-8th November 2017. It will cater to the full cross-section of the advice profession, offering an insightful and tailorable programme of workshops, panel discussions and keynote speakers.
Good practice guidance
As well as events, good practice guidance remains an important way for us to offer members direction on topical issues in the marketplace. Most recently, we have published guidance on peer-to-peer lending and we will continue to roll out additional guidance as the year progresses.
Call to arms
While we continue to invest in our programme of events and CPD support, the PFS is about much more than just education and training – important as these things are. To support the vulnerable in our community, we will be pressing ahead with a series of consumer-related initiatives this year. So what exactly are we doing?
Join the fight against scammers and fraudsters
Firstly, we will be expanding our recently launched national anti-scamming campaign, urging members to sign up to a four-step commitment aimed at stamping out the activities of scammers and fraudsters. Central to this initiative, which we launched late last year in collaboration with the FCA, is a commitment for advisers to spend just 15 minutes each month scouring press, web and telephone promotions to help identify and report potential scams. We know that as professionals, advisers are more likely to be able to spot these scammers. By working together I believe that we really can help protect the public from scammers’ unscrupulous behaviour.
Our pro bono and social inclusion initiatives will continue to play an important role. Throughout the year we will continue to work with consumer groups, including Citizens Advice, to extend our programme of existing and yet-to-be-announced initiatives which are aimed at supporting vulnerable consumers in our communities.
We are expanding our MoneyPlan initiative, which is now offered at more than 100 Citizens Advice services across England and Wales. This is where professionally qualified advisers volunteer their time and expertise by providing generic financial guidance for free.
As I write this, we are looking forward to the official launch our Advice for Heroes initiative, offering injured and recovering service personnel and veterans access to free generic financial advice. This is scheduled to start in early 2017.
I have been overwhelmed by our members’ response to our pro bono initiatives, which shows they are always keen to give something back to the community.
We are continuing to work on some other very exciting pro bono and social inclusion initiatives and plan to make announcements on these as the year progresses.
About Keith Richards
Keith is Chief Executive of the Personal Finance Society. He has over 30 years’ experience within financial services, operating at executive level across both manufacturing and distribution. He has an established media profile and is a visible figurehead within the intermediary sector, regularly called upon for comment on UK financial services matters both home and abroad.
Keith established a strong media profile whilst representing Tenet Group as Group Distribution and Development Director. Actively engaged in the promotion of financial services within the UK, he has contributed to the boards of both AIFA (now APFA) and AMI. He is Chairman of TISA Exco for Adviser Protocol and has represented the intermediary sector over many years on a number of panels and strategic leadership forums.
Keith was appointed Chief Executive of the Personal Finance Society in May 2013. In addition to guiding the strategic evolution of the society he has evolved a greater level of government and regulatory engagement, brought about enhancements to membership benefits and its national CPD programme and introduced a number of key consumer facing initiatives – the Consumer Confidence and United Profession Campaigns being such initiatives that have been embraced by the majority across the advice profession.