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Blood line

Some things, no matter how unpalatable, are unavoidable. One such bitter pill is that a lack of qualifications makes our profession less attractive to intelligent, young, would-be IFAs.

A further hard-to-swallow fact is that without a healthy injection of new blood into the profession, it will die out. The average age of an IFA is a much quoted statistic but whether we like it or not, the industry is not a young one, with the average age around 54. But how as an industry do we go about bringing that average age down to the level of other professions?

We must allow advisers to make a living out of what they do. Before any bright young thing would consider independent financial advice as a possible career, they need to be able to see that they can make a living out of it. Sadly, unpalatable fact number three in this catalogue of inconvenient truths is that if policymakers persist in focusing all attention on lowering product price and pricing advice out of the equation in the process, then we are sunk.

But that is just one of our profession’s “turn off” factors. What these bright young things also need convincing of is that embarking on a career as an IFA is just that, a career.

The current, pitifully low entry benchmark is hardly a good opening salvo in Operation New Blood. From the perspective of a graduate, you have spent three or more years in tertiary education honing your analytical skills, only to go into a profession that would have “had you at hello” in qualification terms.

Put it another way, would you entrust your business accounts to someone with only GCSE arithmetic passing themselves off as an accountant? No. So why do we think it acceptable to expect people to entrust some of the biggest and most far- reaching financial decisions they will make in their life to the financial planning equivalent?

That is why this latest ruckus over whether the deadline for the revised benchmark qualification should be put back or not is merely a distraction from the real issue. That real issue is that in order to have a profession to argue over, we need to address the issues raised above.

Standards must rise if we are to attract new blood to the profession. Pushing the deadline beyond 2012 will simply prolong the deterrent to new joiners.

Not embracing the move to higher standards means we might as well acknowledge the fact that a few years down the line we will be asking the last FPC3 holder to switch the lights off as the profession closes its doors. With no future generation of proud and properly qualified advisers to pass the baton on to, we will simply be handing over clients to banks.

That is a prospect that should spur us collectively into action, if not for ourselves, then for our clients.

Sheriar Bradbury is managing director of Bradbury Hamilton

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