Gill Cardy: Why the IFA Centre has a vital role

This is a year for big decisions and my big decision is to formally launch IFA Centre as a new trade association exclusively for independent advisers.

Thanks to everyone who supported the initial “kite-flying” but since the idea was first mooted in September, there has been some scepticism and it is important to answer these objections.

“IFA Centre will dilute the voice of the IFA.” On the contrary, speaking only for independent advisers will ensure that the voice of the IFA is heard and not drowned out by better resourced or more influential voices. Anyway, who will speak for independents when conflicts of interest arise between independent and restricted advice?

“There will only be a handful of IFAs left after 2012.” It would be a disaster if independence became a minority activity, which is why it needs a committed and focused defence right now. If you think being independent will be disproportionately complex or costly, then the answer is to address these obstacles, not give up on independence.

“It is going to be impossible to be independent.” Not true. IFAs already disclose status, fact-find, risk profile, research funds and products, dismiss unsuitable options, build plans and portfolios, give suitable advice, keep records, review. There is nothing that an independent adviser will have to do that they are not already doing today.

“IFAs will not join.” IFAs are already waiting to join. With any organisation, survival depends on enough people believing it is worth spending the money, that the benefit exceeds the cost. Good wishes are encouraging (thanks guys!), but, without cashflow, will not achieve much. Those who join IFA Centre will have the privilege of influencing our agenda and will know their case is argued by experienced former practitioners who have already had two meetings with the FSA, briefed other trade associations, and established links with Brussels.

“It would never be financially viable.” Financial viability requires income to exceed expenditure and we must all operate within our means. Of course, IFA Centre needs you to join and to pay the fees! But our funding basis will be fair to every member firm regardless of its size. Additionally, to preserve our own independence, my aim is that core operations are member-funded, and not dependent on provider funding.

“You will never get anyone to agree on anything.” True, so we will not look for simplistic answers. We will consult members and ensure their voices are heard. With the support of members, we will provide well researched evidence-based feedback to consultations recognising that effective member representation is not about coming up with the lowest common denominator on every subject.

Actually, that is not quite true. There is one “lowest common denominator” on which members of IFA Centre must agree.

It is that independent advice is the best advice for existing clients and for clients we have not yet met, who will have needs and product baggage that we cannot predict. Independence is worth preserving, protecting, supporting and advocating. So, IFA Centre is open for business. That’s my decision. What’s yours?

Gill Cardy is managing director of IFA Centre