There was much amusement this summer as Monty Python references entered the debate about trade body politics. This left some younger members scratching their heads but it did cause me to reflect on that other famous sketch which asked: “What have the Romans ever done for us?”
Let’s look at just some of this year’s outcomes and how they were achieved.
Our work on the Keydata interim levy caused the FSA to issue an open letter allowing IFAs to resubmit their tariff data. This resulted from probing the basis for the calculations and the rules and may make a significant difference to many IFA firms.
The delay announced on capital adequacy requirements followed persistent lobbying by Aifa and others and will save significant amounts of money.
The Consumer Focus enquiry and report on renewal/ trail commission was much altered and received little traction after 10 months of lobbying by Aifa. Our response in the press was forceful and effective. If you have not heard of Consumer Focus, that is a great result – you certainly would have.
The recent simplified advice consultation from the FSA takes a line which is helpful to the IFA community and follows discussions between Aifa and the regulator at a senior level. We have consistently pressed for a level playing field so that banks would not be allowed to operate advice at a lower standard than IFAs.
It is worth noting that different issues require different approaches. Sometimes, it is shaping and lobbying, sometimes it is probing and debating the rules and sometimes the best approach is vocality – there is no single tool to do the job. It is also important to see that some of the above points did not result from Aifa’s work alone. There is greater chance of success when different elements of our community lobby on the same issue with a consistent perspective.
But the work goes on. The four members of our policy team are working on RDR implementation issues such as legacy commission, data reporting, European directives, taxation, mortgage directives and the MMR.
And centre stage is the work to influence the new regulatory framework as the Financial Services Bill goes through the Parliamentary process this autumn. Aifa’s purpose is to work for a better trading environment for its members and this is an important opportunity to make our voice heard.
Of course, it is not just our members that benefit from our policy work – their commitment and subscriptions allow non-members to benefit too. For example, Aifa’s work on FSA fees benefited the IFA community to the tune of £11.7m in 2009/10, which is equivalent to subscriptions to Aifa for many years.
Some IFAs are vehemently opposed to Aifa’s policy positions and I would not expect them to rush to join.
To those who have not really thought about membership, I would hope the message is clear. And to those whose subscriptions allow the Aifa team to continue its work for the community, I simply say thank you.
Stephen Gay is director general of Aifa