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Alan Lakey: Why I quit Apfa council

Highclere Financial Services partner Alan Lakey says he quit the Apfa council because he was unable to exert “any influence whatsoever” during his 18 months as a council member.

Earlier today, Apfa said in a statement that Lakey had left the council to “pursue other opportunities”.

Lakey says: “I quit Apfa at a council meeting today. It is true that I have many more opportunities now I do not have to devote any more of my time to playing Apfa’s games.”

He says he joined the council in the hope of exercising influence over issues like the long-stop, but has been left frustrated by the way the trade body is perceived and run.

Lakey says: “When I joined Apfa I was told that the council formulates policy and the executive team follows it through. What actually happens is the executive team forms policy, and it is rubber stamped by the council.

“In my 18 months on the council I feel I have exercised no influence whatsoever. There is a political inner circle within Apfa which means ideas can be squashed before they have a chance to be considered.

“Many people view Apfa as a toothless organisation, and the problem is that perception is everything.

“People do not know what Apfa has achieved. It claims every victory it can, but it cannot prove that any of those outcomes were down to its influence.”


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There are 12 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. E L Wisty (an only twin) 24th July 2014 at 4:12 pm

    My congratulations to Alan for giving it his best, and then being open and candid about his reasons for quitting.

    Hopefully, his forehead will recover from all the banging against the proverbial brick wall and APFA will finally wake up and start acting in the interests of its members. However, I won’t hold my breath; as this is unlikely to change without fundamental reform.

  2. Not being as perspicacious as you Alan – it took me over 4 years to discover that.

    This inner circle is in fact the ‘big boys’ who are the ones with the big wallets. If they ever failed to get their own way they threatened to throw their rattles out of the pram – and with the loss of their contributions AIFA and then APFA would sink. Their biggest mistake, in my view, is that they didn’t pursue individual memberships, but then that would have meant somewhat less lavish remuneration for the staff. Even with their sugar daddies they are surviving on wafer thin margins. If they were a truly commercial enterprise they would have closed years ago.

    The interests of these big players are rarely aligned to those of the smaller guys (who make up by far the larger portion of advisers) In spite of what Neil Liversidge may say – he’s been a bit quiet lately – will he be the next to go?)

  3. Shame, Alan seemed a fighter and my general impression of Apfa is that its too conciliatory in the face of moves that never would happen in any other industry. How on earth can projections prescribed by the regulator that show you are better off putting cash under the mattress get passed if not without a passive lobby.

  4. Julian Stevens 24th July 2014 at 9:23 pm

    Could someone (anyone) remind me (us) why Richard Carne stepped down a while back? Or the (real) reasons why Steve Gay quit as DG? And, before him, when it was still AIFA, Chris Cummings?

  5. Neil F Liversidge 25th July 2014 at 7:03 am

    I am sorry that my friend Alan Lakey has left the APFA Council and I am sorry aalso he has done it in this way. It’s a bit like smashing up a musical instrument just because you don’t play it very well. The puzzling thing though is that Alan was not as lacking in influence as he would now have us believe. He wanted APFA to major on a longstop campaign and it has been doing and continues to do so. He like me has been a vocal critic of CMCs. Chris Hannant and I met with the MoJ to voice those concerns and we continue to do so. Alan is critical of the FOS and knows full well that APFA is looking hard at how it operates because he’s been there in the discussions. And when the Big Chief himself, Martin Wheatley, came to the Council, did we all sit there blowing smoke up his posterior? No. It was a polite but very frank discussion and I don’t think Mr W left with the slightest doubt in his mind as to the concerns of the professions. It is NOT true that the Council just rubber stamps policy decided by the exec team. When it became APFA policy that FOS claimants should pay a commitment fee that proposal came from me and the Council, of which Alan was one, got behind it. Yes a lot of policy is fined out by the exec team because it’s what we pay them to do but to suggest that the staff effectively dictate policy to the elected members is a gross fallacy and unfair to both staff and volunteers alike. So Alan, what is your real beef? The only knock-back you’ve had to my recollection happened yesterday when you proposed that the number of small-firm representatives be increased from four to six. Your proposal gathered no support, not even from me or the other small firms’ rep Gary Bottriel. We didn’t see the point of adding two more when all the current seats aren’t even filled. Contrary to the oft-propagated myth APFA is not a battleground between the networks and nationals on one side and the small firms on the other. All concerned work for the profession as a whole and there is give and take to that end. The proof of this Alan has seen first-hand; there is hardly ever a split vote. I can’t remember one while I’ve been on the Council. Unanimity has been pretty much the norm and that unanimity has not, to my recollection, excluded Alan.

  6. Dick Sprinkler 25th July 2014 at 8:53 am

    Lets stop kidding ourselves shall we !

    This organisation is simply not fit for purpose and has no legs. It will not garner support in any meaningful way because it is irrelevant but perhaps more importantly is seen to be irrelevant unless and until it draws a line in the sand and takes face on regulatory stupidity it will slowing but surely disappear.

    Now I am sure that it will say what it would do if it were properly funded but lets be honest nothing much would change and frankly (Alan Lakey aside who at least understood the issues) in my experience APFA has always backed the wrong horse.

    APFA will continue as a group pontificating amongst themselves and organising dinners whilst achieving absolutely nothing!

    Go on APFA prove me and everyone else wrong !!!

  7. Neil
    I’m afraid some of what you have said is factually incorrect. I think I may have sat on the AIFA council a little longer that you have been on the council with AIFA/APFA. I certainly agree with you that policy is not handed down by the exec team, although on occasion their guidance in matters has been helpful.

    However, like it or not, the whole show is run mainly for the benefit and to promote the interests of the networks and nationals and I felt it was very much a battleground between them and the smaller guys. I wasn’t aware of Alan’s drive to increase the representation of the smaller members, but it is certainly one that I would have wholeheartedly supported.

    The biggest and most salient example of the networks and nationals driving the agenda was the fact that AIFA became APFA. I don’t think you were at the two day ‘brainstorming’ with Steve Gay at E&Y when all this was thrashed out and at which it was promised that there would be a collegiate approach as compensation for the big boys pushing through their desire to become restricted.
    I well recall in the early days of the RDR announcement that AIFA was lauding the idea that Independence was ‘the Gold Standard’ (Lord Deben’s words). The networks soon disabused them of this stance.

    Additionally I was muzzled repeatedly when I brought up the topic of fee equality. A network member pays less than a quarter of the fee than a sole trader stumps up.

    Bear in mind that AIFA/APFAs financial position was (still is?) in a parlous state. Much of the last couple of years of my tenure was spent in ruminating how to avoid insolvency. I was keen for AIFA to merge with a professional body and therefore tap into the positive cash flows of the SPS. This wasn’t even debated as it would have meant an individual membership structure which would have marginalised the big boys. (Apart from dismantling some fiefdoms on the way).

    I wonder if the minutes of all these meetings have been trashed, but I’m sure others who were my co –directors at the time will back me up on this.

    As I have said many times before, the structure of both AIFA and APFA is such that it has no option but to favour the big players. Plain economics.

    In conclusion Neil I have to say that your stance on the organisation has always seemed to me to be “My country right or wrong”. Perhaps a more clinical appraisal might be realistic.

  8. I am not always a supporter of Alan’s style but at least he had a go at issues that he thought were important.

    Small businesses like mine are desperate for some form of trade body, Gill Cardy tried this with IFA Centre but failed to get enough support.

    The one thing I would agree with Alan over is that APFA has become the mouthpiece of big providers only and that the IFA community is too fragmented to become a realistic voice within financial services partly because we seem to always be moaning about the regulator rather than trying to come up with ideas on how to improve it.

    The truth is nobody listens to a little child moaning on the side lines and stamping their feet, if you want to get things done you have to build allies and come up with good ideas for change that are realistic.

    I would agree that Long Stop is an important issue for IFA practices but we also have to see the perception of both the regulator and the consumer. Are we simply trying to cover up any potential mis-selling that could have gone on before that date and is this an attempt to cap liability?

    That in my opinion is where Alan failed but I do believe that his motives and efforts were actually worth thanking him for.

  9. Results speak louder than words and, in the results stakes, APFA doesn’t seem to have a great track record.

  10. From experience Advisers have a history of being vocal but insular. This could be for much the same reason that Adviser Firms tend to remain small, namely that advisers have in the past tended to be salesmen with strong egos. In small firms they can function without too much fuss, but above a certain level the tensions prove too much and there is a parting of the ways. I’m not saying this is bad, merely a factor.
    Even Networks are really just umbrellas for lots of smaller firms.
    This “isolationist” approach has been evident in the lack of perceived success in the representative societies. Strong egos are rarely an ingredient for group cohesion. A possible counter to this trend could be for the group to blow its own trumpet a lot louder, and by doing so tie in the constituent council members to decisions.
    I doubt that Advisers could argue with the points made by Alan Lakey or Neil Liversidge because their remarks are likely to come as “news” to most readers. During my time as an IFA I knew of the existence of “representative bodies” but rarely knew what they did. As in so many walks of life they were perceived as just an “inner clique” engrossed in their own pre-occupations. (I agree that this says something about me as well.)
    It was interesting therefore to read that Alan’s “only knock-back” was a proposal to increase small firm representation. Extrapolating from Mr Liversidge’s comments 100% of the current representation from small firms was present, but the same couldn’t be said for other sectors. Could the thinking therefore be that it would a) imbalance the council if 100% of a bigger representation of small firms constantly turned up thereby gaining a disruptive majority because others did not bother to turn up and b) the greater number of small firm representatives may carry the message of what APFA was doing to a greater proportion of small firms (who I would guess make up a decent proportion of the notional membership. I do understand the potential menace of having an increasing level of noise arising from the hoi polloi.

  11. Never has the industry needed a collective voice more than now so it is sad to see such a woeful review of the only current candidate.

    I have never really been a fan of unions and tend to find that they ignore advancement and efficiency in favour of maintaining staffing levels while simultaneously campaigning for more time off for their members. In general (in my view) they hold outdated ideas but they do one thing very well, they stick up for their members and campaign for their benefits. We desperately need that kind of voice for the advisory community.

    The FCA has no one to answer too, not once can i remember them ever having an idea putting it out to consultation with the industry and then changing that idea because those at the coal face told them it was a bad idea. The FCA’s policy is reactionary when they should be anticipating problems, when the problem is of their own creation a “we’re blameless it’s how you interpret the rules” persona is adopted. The advice sector is treated as a cash cow used to fund lavish away days, 6 figure salaries and office decor. Who in their right mind could believe that it is in any way fair for an advice firm to fund a service that means members of the public don’t have to use the advice firm? The FCA, thats who.

    Until we have a voice that represents the advice sector the FCA will continue to be able to make these outlandish decisions without fear of reprisal. That voice obviously needs as many people as possible to stand behind it so that means IFA’s and networks. Basically anyone with a vested interest in better the advice sector.

  12. It is pleasing to see, there is more common sense in the written comments above me (whether you agree with said words or not) than there is in the whole 8million or is it 8 ft tall maybe both? in the FCA hand book.

    See we do know better than the regulator, which is probably why they are having a little giggle over all this.
    And with this valuable insight, I wonder if the small IFA subscriptions to APFA slowly stop ?

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