Recent weeks have seen much political interest in the RDR. Throughout the RDR’s lifespan, Aifa has remained consistent in both its objectives and messages – principally that the RDR must allow greater consumer access to independent, impartial advice. Anything else is a regulatory failure.
Aifa’s elected council, with constituent representation from firms of all sizes, has used this principle to guide all negotiations.
Aifa has regularly reiterated its support for demonstrable, high levels of professionalism. Our purpose has been clear – to ensure any changes from the RDR result in a system where competence is rewarded. Aifa recognises experience is a key factor. We have worked hard to ensure competence does not simply equate to examinations. We have convinced FSA of the value of vocational routes.
Aifa does not support exams as the only route to evidence competence but it does support some form of additional evidence of competence in the move to higher levels of professionalism for all advisers. Allowing bank advisers to continue to offer “advice” without further evidence of competence is not good for consumers. Age discrimination legislation makes clear that if a 60-yearold can continue with FPC, then so can a 30-year-old single-tied adviser. Therefore, Aifa does not support the process of grandfathering.
Where a lack of common sense has existed, Aifa has campaigned hard for change. For example, professional bodies’ support for QCF level six in RDR consultations would not have benefited consumers and would have reduced access to advice. Aifa successfully lobbied to have this proposal dropped.
This success shows both the importance of Aifa’s work and that there is some flexibility among legislators. However, this flexibility, and the recent comments over the efficacy of the RDR from some Treasury select committee members should not be mistaken as an indication that change will necessarily occur. There have been no public pronouncements of the downfall of the RDR and Mark Hoban’s recent statements in the Westminster Hall debate offered no indication that it may be scrapped. Perhaps even more important, HM Treasury has been consistent in its messaging – the RDR will go ahead.
We will continue to raise questions of cost and timing but member interests are not best served by those unwilling to recognise the political landscape. If we do not engage with the issues that really matter, in the hope the RDR will disappear, we risk damaging the profession further and letting members down.
Aifa will continue to campaign for the best outcome for professional independent, impartial advice.
This means allowing for an appropriate, pragmatic transitional period, without cliff-edge dates, for competence to be evidenced through vocational routes rather than examinations, and for a regulatory structure that strengthens the profession.
Andrew Strange is director of policy at Aifa