In every country I have spoken at conferences in, the regulator operates in an environment of mutual respect with advisers. They value and appreciate the role that advisers play compared with the disdain with which our regulator treat us.
I recently gave two speeches at the Asia Pacific Life Insurance Congress in Macau, China. It kicked off with four CEOs of major Hong Kong insurers debating the issues chall- enging the industry.
Their concerns were very much consistent with the issues we face. It just seems that they are facing up to these as fresh challenges whereas we have largely ignored the same matters for the last decade.
Alongside the theme of professional, holistic, financial planning advice rather than product sales, the CEOs each spoke about the need to focus on long-term relationships by spending more time identifying client needs. There was mention of wraps and building funds under management. There was talk of commission disclosure and increased compliance and bureaucracy.
These challenges are not new to us in the UK, yet each time advisers update their business model, the FSA comes along and moves the goalposts. The constant meddling and bureaucratic dreams leave advisers weary of change and wary of the FSA’s motives.
A confident base of financial advisers is exactly what Britain needs right now. People who can offer leadership to their clients rather than worrying about their lack of future qualifications or capital (in)adequacies. I am certainly not anti-qualifications but I am pro helping the adviser base grow and thrive.
My first speech was entitled, Positioning For Success In A Changing World. The main crux was how to create differentiation through imaginative language to describe who we are and what we do.
In complex times, our prospects become even more discerning about quality and value. Their everyday experiences cause them to revise benchmarks and expectations. Five-star food, travel and comfort are now taken for granted, raising the bar as far as expectations from their IFA are concerned. This raised expectation is not in terms of qualifications but in how any one of us are distinctive from our peers.
Our products still need to be sold and I have no problem in describing myself as a salesman. However, doing so in a relationship-focused way, I do not actually sell anything, I merely facilitate the buying process. I help my clients to make smart, informed decisions.
Bhupinder Anand is managing director of Anand Associates