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Becks to the future

As David Beckham negotiates his image rights, maybe IFAs could take his lead and focus on the image of advice.

Recent activity in the depolarisation debate simply underlines the need for a permanent IFA lobby. Before you cry: “Isn&#39t this the role of the trade bodies?”, yes it is, but the current bodies – Aifa, the LIA and the ABI – have many functions, with lobbying just one of them. Perhaps they are too widely spread over too many functions.

What we need is the effective delivery of the message that advice is central to the Government&#39s wish to encourage all individuals to take responsibility for their own income in retirement. To do this, we need to stop all these daft campaigns such as “£Xbn in tax relief lost” and look at taking the Oliver Wyman study and breaking it into easily digestible facts.

I say daft campaigns as the way to obtain these reliefs often entails transferring assets between husband and wife and, as an IFA heavily involved in pensions and divorce, I can tell you that the involuntary transfer of assets is hard enough without doing it from choice.

Our lobby has to be distinct from the product providers and cannot receive money from anyone other than the people who dispense advice to the general public. Taking funds from those with a different agenda is not conducive to an effective lobby of the powers that be.

It has been clear that many in power do not recognise the effect that high-quality advice can have and perhaps the unwillingness of the sector as a whole to push for a professional standard for advisers has simply allowed the devaluation of advice in the eyes of those who make the policy.

We must also ensure that the public understand the way in which we are required to give advice. Compliance is something that we, the advi-sers, recognise as non-optional but many of the public do not realise just how much needs to be done in order to comply. If they did, I am sure many would seek to contract out of regulated sales and perhaps this is an angle that we should pursue with the regulators, Ron Sandler and the rest.

The need for an IFA lobby will become even more apparent when the definitions of “authorised financial adviser” and “independent financial adviser” are finally settled.I, for one, believe that it will be difficult for IFAs/AFAs to make our point against the effective lobby from the bancassurers as the rules come up for comment. But comment we must if the voice of the adviser is to be heard before it is all put in place.

The power of the bank lobby is there for all to see, from stakeholder pensions to the market review we find ourselves in today.

To set up such a lobby takes three things – money, commitment and someone with a wish to speak out in a form which attracts positive PR. If we want this effective voice, then perhaps you could let me have an electronic show of hands as to those willing to contribute.

I am not suggesting something with a secretariat and high fixed costs but a collective where output is more important than logos or egos. My email address is at the foot of the column.

If David Beckham is the image that many children aspire to, perhaps we can tag on as the people who can give them the financial wherewithal to achieve that goal.

After all, given our skills, I am sure most of us can, in financial planning terms, “Bend it like Beckham”.

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