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Across the great divide

Should Stephen Gay’s product provider background have precluded him from becoming the new director general of the Association of IFAs?

A commercial tension between provider and distributor has always been present in the financial services landscape since the advent of the IFA and questions have been raised as to whether Gay can cross the fence to represent the IFA community.

In a perfect world, it would have been great if the person leading Aifa had experience on the coalface as an IFA alongside the strong negotiating skills, leadership qualities and gravitas needed to make a success of the job.

The Aifa board needed to find the best candidate to represent the interests of its members in Westminster, Canary Wharf and, increasingly, in Europe.

Aifa also needed someone with a deep and intimate knowledge of the distribution landscape to hit the road running in the debate about the future shape of regulation.

Taking all this into account, there is no reason why Gay cannot be a success in the role.

Persuading Aviva to invest large sums in its RDR Academy to help advisers reach the new qualification requirements has got to be seen as a positive and Gay has been in the thick of industry RDR discussions.

It is simplistic to suggest that his provider background has forever tainted him and advisers should at least give him a chance to set out his beliefs and views before passing judgement.

However, there will be no honeymoon period for Gay and he needs to set out his stall to members early on a number of big issues.

Top of the list will be the future direction of the trade body. It is reasonable to suggest that a proportion of Aifa’s membership will decide to take the restricted advice route following the RDR and Aifa will have to decide whether it will choose to represent restricted advisers.

The trade body decided against admitting multi-tied firms following depolarisation but no decision has been made on restricted advice.

Many members will question whether a move away from a focus on independence and whole of market will dilute the power of the trade body. There may well be commercial pressures on the trade body to admit restricted advisers.

Gay will be representing a fantastic profession at a crucial time for the industry. Money Marketing wishes him the best of luck.

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