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AIFA’s view – Paul Smee

This is my last attempt at a column. There is much which I will miss about the IFA sector and it has been a privilege to represent (most of) the IFA community for five years.

My second round of whinges (see previous column) is directed at some of my external contacts.

Note to FSA: lay off the initiatives. You don’t have to be the architect and driver of change in every part of this sector. With more room to think, we might drive change quicker and in directions more relevant to the consumer. Regulators should arbitrate, they should goad, they can even threaten to fill any vacuum which the industry leaves. But they should not be the principal engines of change. I will be watching to see how the Treating Customer Fairly project pans out. Is this passing the baton to the industry or FSA micro-management? Most IFAs didn’t get where they are today by unfair behaviour to their clients.

Note to Treasury: please don’t let your EU counterparts assume that more legislation will deliver a better-performing financial services action plan. There are lots of reasons why intermediaries and advisers stick primarily to their national market and these are not going to change after another round of legislation. You will only end up tinkering at the edges and causing lots of hassle for minimum gain. And it would be nice to have the results on the N2 plus 2 Review.

Note to FOS: please let’s talk about how we stop future concerns about retrospective reinterpretation of today’s standards by the adjudicators of tomorrow. I hope my successor will be able to get the stakes in the ground project to fly.

Note to providers: a bit of focus on raising admin standards would make many people happy. Dealing with this has been like pushing porridge uphill. There seems no energy to address legitimate concerns from IFAs and the delays make everyone look frankly just incompetent.

Note to my successor: very few IFAs bite. Get out and see them and listen to them and talk to them. It may be tiring but it is very worthwhile. And in what other job do you get to Truro, Aberdeen and all stops in between?Paul Smee is director general of Aifa

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