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Are IFAs staring down the barrel?

Money Marketing has too much respect for its readers to call for Sir Howard Davies to be stuck in a barrel and shot. Or any of his staff. After all, two or three of them may even be quite good at their jobs.

The FSA chairman is reported in The Independent to have made a similar remark about IFAs – that he is “trying to get all the IFAs into a barrel and shoot them one by one”. The conversation supposedly took place with a big, unnamed IFA while in discussions over CP121.

Unfortunately, Sir Howard is on holiday so he is in no position to deny, confirm or apologise for the remarks although, of course, on his return, Money Marketing will be making enquiries.

Let us assume that the story is accurate. There are two ways to view these comments – one, that they are simply an off-the-cuff remark, the jokey sort of aside much beloved by the chief regulator.

The second way is to suggest it under-mines the credibility of Sir Howard to be involved in the CP121 process and arguably undermines his ability to do his job in its entirety.

There are things that a regulator should not do and one is to generalise and slander an entire sector it is responsible for regulating. In a more benign climate, the remarks might be forgivable. IFAs may, on occasion, frustrate the regulator as the awkward squad of financial services although that is perhaps a strength, not a weakness. But the current atmosphere is poisonous. Research from the FSA is being used to level all manner of accusations against IFAs despite the fact that many of the numbers are in dispute.

In this climate, these remarks, if true, are very unfortunate. On his return, Davies should disown them or apologise.

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