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An early warning system would prevent scandals

Open letter to FSA chairman Howard Davies

We contacted your organisation on April 29 asking for infor-mation to put on our IFA information website. We have emailed a reminder since but it bounced (have a look at our site&#39s suggestions on improving communications).

I then spent 10 minutes on the phone to a very helpful receptionist who was not allowed to put me through to either of the departments which might help.

What we would like is a list of areas where you have concerns. Most IFAs are fed up with everyone else being wise after the event and would like you to advise in advance where you feel that issues may not be being handled correctly by IFAs.

Your help in this respect would allow IFAs to consider advice in these areas more carefully long before any potential “scandal”. You will appreciate that the “scandals” IFAs are paying for were all initially provider-driven.

If you monitor developing areas in co-operation with IFAs (and I mean practising IFAs – networks understand being IFAs as little as the FSA appears to), then early warning systems and an “on watch” listing should minimise any potential damage. In other words, let us fix the latch on the stable door before we put the horse in it, not after it has bolted.

To put it bluntly, spotting scandals after they happen is not doing your job properly – you should have the expertise to spot them early on. I am sure you do actually do that. But let us take it a step further and put the “on watch” areas up to IFA scrutiny, with links to your site and feedback contacts.

There certainly has been some progress in this area. We would like to make some more. On another tack, you may care to comment on my view (shared by many) that CP121 seems intent on break-ing the advice process into discrete parts which can be completed by the lowest tenderer.

Does the FSA have no sympathy with the view that financial planning is an ongoing process where consistency of advice and the best possible understanding between adviser and client is vital?

Do you not understand that undermining the ongoing relationship damages the ability of IFAs to invest time in helping clients develop their early financial planning in the expectation of future reward?

Are you not aware that fee-paying is not a one-off exercise? It is a permanent change which cannot be reversed?

Who will look after the plans of those whose income drops and can no longer afford fees? Selling one plan means an IFA is committed to a lifetime of service, something the FSA clearly does not understand. Many IFAs believe you have no idea of the value and scope of the ongoing services they provide.

Steve Pett



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