The Personal Finance Society is attempting to shed some light on what the future holds for the industry with the launch of Tomorrow’s Client, a one day conference designed to look past the RDR and examine the demand for financial advice after December 31, 2012.
PFS president Eddie Grant says: “It is really about getting advisers to think about the future after the RDR. I think the deadline of RDR is a bit like Y2K. Everyone was focused on getting to that point and no one quite knew what was going to happen afterwards. But Y2K happened and planes did not drop out of the sky.”
The free one day event takes place on September 28 in partnership with Money Marketing, and will feature speakers from companies as diverse as Google, Citizens Advice, YouGov, Future Foundation and Platforum presenting their expectations of the financial services client of the future.
Grant thinks that the big challenge for IFAs is business transition rather than qualifications and hopes that Tomorrow’s Client will help advisers think strategically about what the future could hold.
He says: “It is a bit like Tomorrow’s World. Some of Raymond Baxter’s predictions came true, and some did not. The idea was to raise awareness of the possibilities.”
The inclusion of non-financial services companies is a deliberate move to understand a broader spectrum of potential clients.
Grant says: “I have tried to get people who are not in the usual circuit of speakers. I think there will be genuine interest in what these firms have to say about what consumers are thinking, which is what YouGov and Future Foundation will be looking at.”
Google, whose representative will be speaking about potential market entrants, is the speaker Grant cites as one to watch.
“Google is a really good example of a business that is not a traditional marketplace player. In the US it has launched in the financial services space and it could be a real competitor going forward. If it ever really got going in the advisory marketplace it could be very powerful, because it is a brand that people trust.”
Trust is an issue that Grant sees playing a substantial role in the Tomorrow’s Client programme.
He says: “Research says it is an issue. I watched the Panorama report on the banks and my reaction was that it is not good for any part of the industry to be hit in that way.”
One thing Grant is certain will have an impact on the consumption of financial services is technology. “Think of how people treat health problems today. They go to their GP having researched their problem online, so they know what is wrong with them. They go to their doctor for a solution. In the same vein you can go to a website and get generic financial guidance, but there is still a place for sitting down with an adviser and talking about your goals.”
Grant believes technology will change the way advice is given.
He says: “You may not need to go and see someone face-to-face. I think that social media will play a larger role in how advice is both given and signposted. Peer recommendations are going to be even more important. We are seeing a trend towards consumers narrowing down their social media circles, so the question is one of entering and engaging with these smaller, trusted groups.”
Grant hopes that Tomorrow’s Client will answer some of these questions, as well as turning the adviser community’s focus away from the RDR and towards the longer-term.
“Although I totally understand the obsession with jumping the hurdle of RDR because it is tangible, this is more about the rolling forward of a changing client. I want Tomorrow’s Client to be an ongoing theme happening every year, to demonstrate that the real winners will be people who think beyond RDR.”