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Compensation challenge

After much lobbying, the FSA has finally agreed to look at the Financial Services Compensation Scheme afresh.

We now have the challenge of presenting a solution that meets the needs of the industry whilst still offering consumers the protection needed. Aifa is calling on members to get involved and give us their ideas.

To answer some of the basic questions first. We do need a compensation scheme of some kind. It is reassur-ing to clients that if the worst should happen, they will not be left high and dry. It is also politically necessary to have a scheme funded by the industry rather than the general taxpayer.

Aifa made its views clear when the FSCS was considering whether to impose an extra levy this year. It is hard to put a firm estimate on just how much this month’s extra levy would have been but my suggestion is that there would not have been much change from 10m. That is a hefty blow to land on the industry out of the blue and so I was firmly of the view that there must not be an additional levy at this time.

Delaying payment of a bill is not the same as having it waived but there are some very good reasons for my view. First, we are in the middle of a complete review of the FSCS and who knows what difference that may make for the level of future invoices.

Second, we must lobby harder to re-engage providers on the future of the sector. It would seem fair that with the majority of business coming through IFAs, providers may have an element of (self) interest in keeping their own firms afloat and that means genuinely supporting the profession. Third, our sector needs stability. No firm can plan ahead and consider its investment needs and general financial health if it can be surcharged at any time.

Finally, in terms of affordability, we are working to see the regulatory fee instalments scheme improved for next year. I understand 4,000 firms have taken advantage and, with more competitive terms, this figure could grow.

We must face up to the challenge of coming up with a better scheme – and fast. The product levy has many attractions, devising new levy blocks could also be a solution (mixing different types of firms – or develop-ing many smaller, bespoke, funding groups). It has been suggested we should scrap the current approach and simply have a single fund. The attraction is that the costs are split across the industry but the downside is that IFAs will have to share the pain of the collapse of different businesses. The key thing is to find a solution that works across the whole of retail financial services as a part-solution could be worse that no solution.

It is difficult to imagine a new system in place for next year but we will see what can be done. We must find an affordable solution to the levy. It is top of my priority list. May I ask you to consider if you would be happy writing out a cheque today for several hundreds, or thousands of pounds, to the compensation scheme?

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