MM Leader: What next for Aifa?
It was not the biggest surprise in the world to see Aifa director general Stephen Gay quit after just over a year in charge to join the relative tranquillity of the Association of British Insurers.
Aifa announced a £200,000 deficit late last year and Gay’s tenure has been spent implementing costcutting measures alongside grappling with the dilemma of how to fund a well resourced trade body to represent advisers at a national and European level.
His strategic review came to the controversial but correct decision to allow restricted advisers to be members on the basis that the FSA has moved the goalposts on independence and many current Aifa members may end up taking a restricted route which would still mean they are independent from provider influence.
Negotiations to try and get bigger networks to pay more, as per member they pay much less than a directly authorised firm, have proved difficult. The tough economic conditions have not helped in trying to persuade any firm to pay for something they will get the benefit of anyway.
When offered an escape route from these stresses and strains, in the form of a high-ranking position at the ABI, Gay probably did not have to think too hard.
The obvious question is where does this leave Aifa and who will be leading it through the introduction of the biggest restructure of financial services regulation for over 25 years?
Gay has been understandably bogged down in internal issues during his short reign and therefore found it difficult to connect with advisers and articulate a vision for the future of the profession.
Just as Stephen Gay has spoken of his excitement about the ABI role, whoever takes over at Aifa needs to show how passionate they are about representing professional financial advisers during a crucial period of change. They will also need the full backing of the Aifa council to ensure they are spending as much time as possible on the front foot.