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Campaigning lobbyists and the regulator fret on

It is the week after Aegon UK chief executive Otto Thoresen conceived the embryonic Money Guidance, and the week the much-anticipated Budget hits the desks of worrisome providers, accusatorial politicians and curious reporters.

While lobbyists stepped up their frantic cajoling, swooning and stamping of feet in the halls of the Treasury, it was business as usual for the FSA.

With last week’s concerns focusing on IFAs white-labelling fund of funds ranges, the regulator is now also looking rather worried about the mortgage market.

Announcing a £2m advertising campaign to help mortgage borrowers, FSA director of financial capability Chris Pond says one in five mortgage holders are concerned about meeting their repayments in the next 12 months. Yet he says a quarter have no plans to meet these costs.

Pond says: “Economic conditions are getting tougher, putting pressure on family finances. As the UK’s financial watchdog we can help. Our new checklist sets out simple steps that homeowners can take to manage their money and mortgage in difficult times.”

As for the Association of Independent Financial Advisers, having praised Otto Thoresen’s proposed Money Guidance scheme last week, director general Chris Cummings launched Aifa’s personal finance guide for MPs and regional assembly members’ constituents.

Put together by the Financial Fringe – a coalition of trade associations – the guide contains information to help with constituents’ most common financial concerns.

Cummings, who won an award for Outstanding Contribution to Financial Services at last Wednesday’s annual Money Marketing Awards, believes education is essential if the public is going to effectively manage their finances.

He says: “The proposed money guidance service will play its part in this. However, the industry is already working hard to educate and inform consumers. As part of this approach we have launched, with other financial trade associations, a guide to financial issues for MPs to use when dealing with their constituents.”

Cummings is also hopeful that the Hunt Review into the Financial Ombudsman Service will recommend that case fees should be abolished. Having lobbied Lord Hunt, he is optimistic the peer might take on the organisation’s suggestions for potential improvements to the way the FOS operates.

He says: “We are pushing for IFAs to be taken out of the current FOS structure and for the creation of a smalls firms FOS scheme for advisers as well as the abolition of case fees.”

Cummings believes advisers’ bills for the financial services compensation scheme should drop by £900 and thinks the FSA’s position on fees versus commission appears to have softened.
He says Aifa has managed to convince the regulator that there is still a place for a mixture of fees and commission.

With the pressing nearly over, all eyes are now peeled on the fruits of lobbyists’ lost labour.

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