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Aifa is the wrong body to represent multi-ties

While I agree with some of Simon Chamberlain’s comments regarding membership of Aifa (Money Marketing, July 21), I believe they are typical of those who advocate the multi-tied route. I think he misses the point, which is that the public are not best served by depolarisation and that multi-tied advice is not in the public’s best interest.

What independence means is that the adviser’s advice is not coloured by whether they are tied or multi-tied and limited in product choice. The products available via an IFA are indeed from the whole market and not restricted to those on offer from tied providers.

The old chestnut that we all have FPC1, 2 and 3 does not hold water. Yes, product selection has always been the second stage. This shows there are two distinct elements to what an adviser does, irrespective of his chosen route – a fact the FSA should have noted and understood but, sadly, did not.

An adviser should be paid a fee for the advice he provides and, if required, also for the provision of the appropriate product. The question is would the public be will- ing to pay for the advice separate from the product?

It is true that many IFAs were once tied agents or members of direct salesforces and they had a choice when they left or were made redundant from those salesforces. However, I disagree with Simon in that many, like me, wanted to offer their clients the best possible solution to their needs and chose to be IFAs, in spite of many golden hellos or promises of expensive and exotic conferences to entice one to join other direct or tied companies.

I wholeheartedly agree that we do have a great deal of snobbery in this industry, no better exemplified than in the creation of IFA trade bodies or the IFA Defence Union (why not Advisers’ Defence Union?). All of us advisers need to work together to give top quality service and all need to be equally represented. Until the elitism and egoism are removed, we will all suffer.

The debate over whether Aifa is prepared to represent multi-ties is spurious. As a trade body representing IFAs, as its name suggests, I can- not see how it can represent multi-ties because they are not independent and no posturing can change that. I am disappointed that companies such as Bankhall have torn up their principles, giving in to the call for multi-tied advisers, having been advocates of true independent advice for so long and not subscribing to panels of preferred providers.

We need a body to represent all advisers and, if possible, product providers, with a code of conduct that is all-embracing. True, we should not have a situation where complaints are instigated by one adviser against another, although I believe that Simon’s comments are somewhat cynical.

Having an organisation with a clear set code of ethics monitoring the behaviour of members is, I agree, a must if we are to gain trust and respect and all advisers should endeavour to attain the highest qualifications possible. The former LIA, although never a trade body, had a worthy five-year plan, which included the standards that members were required to achieve, irrespective of whether the adviser was tied or otherwise, coupled with a programme to enhance consumer awareness. I doubt if that can be achieved now that it has sold out to the CII.

The creation of one organisatton with all-embracing qualities representing all the industry before it is too late is a must and I, for one, would be happy to see the debate carry forward.

EWART MATTHIASIFA, Chester

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