A recent article in the Daily Telegraph once again reinforced the prejudices and stereotyping we, as professionals, face every single day.
Apparently, there are not enough doctors, teachers, accountants, engineers or quantity surveyors in the UK.
I suspect if I look hard enough someone will be extolling the virtues of estate agents and traffic wardens. But who cares about professional financial planners?
We operate in (probably) the most highly regulated profession. Unlike surgeons, who can simply move between hospitals, financial advisers are required to evidence qualifications, fit and properness, technical knowledge, continuing professional development and past performance to transfer from one business to another – yet the business they join is primarily accountable for what the adviser does anyway.
The number of people leaving or planning to retire, exit, or slow down far outweighs those often self-funding their way into the profession and then taking personal liability for the next 20+ years.
Unregulated marketing companies, claims management (ambulance chasers) and even our own regulator occasionally can be accused of painting an unflattering picture.
But middle England needs financial advice. Not robo-advice or some other self-service fad, but honest human professionals helping people achieve their goals in a sensible and realistic fashion. There are just not enough of us.
Moreover, we have failed to unite in presenting our case to the masses, which is why some are inundated with new business and others struggle to find new clients.
Since RDR, I’ve been amazed and disappointed by the number of professional people who genuinely believe adviser charges are too high and our services too vanilla. I’m no macroeconomic genius, but any market with strong demand and static (or reducing) supply does not lower its charges – it increases them.
Most firms I’ve met in my 30 years in the profesion are under-capitalised. While many are content to be lifestyle businesses, many more could be a lot more if only the firm could generate the income to reflect the work, the risk, the costs and the resources necessary to deliver professional financial planning advice into the future.
I believe the commission standards that were paid to advisers in bygone days should not be the benchmarks for charging in 2018.
For me, treating advisers fairly is about paying a fair fee and being confident in receiving a quality service for years to come. In return, we need to invest in future generations, in our public persona, in our infrastructure, in our resources and in our technology. We need to overcome the constraints of a fragmented cottage industry and start to speak with one voice.
I believe we all have a responsibility to support the adviser community by demonstrating why this profession should be allowed to flourish alongside others regarded as expert in their field. It’s only fair.
Nick Kelly is chief executive officer and founder of Alexander House