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Can Severn bridge the divide?

Aifa has made the hugely controversial decision to select the architect of depolarisation as its new director general.

The gamekeeper turned poacher is the FSA’s David Severn. Severn will
be assisted by a new deputy director general, Chris Cummings, who
retains his role as head of the Association of Mortgage
Intermediaries, probably a logical step following mortgage regulation
and depolarisation.

The news comes just after Aifa told practitioners that they were not
suitable candidates.

Short of appointing the industry-bashing former minister Helen
Liddell, it is hardly possible to imagine moves to make IFAs’ blood
boil more.

This is no disrespect to Severn – he is a smart operator who has
shown an ability to listen and was hardly responsible for
depolarisation. That was a stitch-up between the Treasury and the
Office of Fair Trading although the FSA did not exactly resist.

He oversaw a move from the defined-payment system which would have
meant a bonfire of the independents to the menu system which at least
is equally harsh on the banks, although we hope he has not left any
booby traps for himself. He has the skills to negotiate with Europe
as it intrudes into the running of IFA businesses.

Yet there is a question over whether the Severn/Cummings team has the
ability to rally advisers, particularly IFAs – otherwise the Personal
Finance Society may have a huge opportunity.

Aifa should not be surprised if some members call for a new round of
interviews, arguing that the new DG should have had to compete
against IFAs. It may lose the support of some smaller IFAs and, given
the way the process has been handled, that may be no more than it
deserves. When he takes over, Severn will have his work cut out to
carry the members with him.

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