Recession and a dose of Panorama may be enough to consign poster-led bank advice to the scrapheap. Already, one major high-street bank has headed down the platform route. Does that leave the way clear for IFAs and financial planners as the sole providers of meaningful financial advice?
I am increasingly seeing some very impressive financial planning in our industry. There are many planners out there just quietly getting on with it. I see solicitors and accountants in their numbers beginning to appreciate us rather than look down their noses. But what does the general public think?
Have you looked at the growth of financial DIY? There are year-on-year increases in the number of adults that believe their knowledge is as good as that of financial advisers, with many citing the internet as an essential source of financial information. There is some very good information available on the internet but also a lot of dangerous noise.
If you ask people what they think of IFAs generally there is still a lot of negativity. The perception is of overpaid salespeople, jacks of all trades and masters of none. There is a risk the publicity on banks’ bad practice might add to the problem unless we are recognised as a different animal. Negative image can drive the clients we seek down other routes.
I believe the way to earn respect is to deliver high standards of advice using specialist skills, so the recent announcement of a major national IFA taking on ex-highstreet bank managers is not helpful. Even though most of us did come from tied backgrounds, there have been so many changes since then that the Jurassic Park banks are too far behind the curve to make a successful transition. If we are not careful, they will bring the scandal and fines with them, damaging our own profession as we try to improve it.
There are plenty of IFAs busting to put the positive message across. There is the team at IFA Promotion who do a tremendous job of profileraising – what other industry has such a tenacious promoter? But as media become increasingly personalised and fragmented, it will become more difficult to reach people without a seriously sophisticated and expensive approach. What a shame, that in our industry, Jurassic Park has the biggest budget and the loudest voice.
As the Government has interfered so much, it is about time it told everyone. If it can afford to waste money on adverts wrongfully purporting to provide free advice from the information-led Money Advice Service, it can afford to invest in reassuring the public that the bar has been raised and there are now professional standards in providing real, life-changing financial advice.
Mel Kenny is the director of Radcliffe & Newlands