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Dear Rob&Roderic…

Our resident agony uncles and The Ideas Lab directors Rob Reid and Roderic Rennison answer adviser questions

I am getting really confused with all the seemingly competing exams on offer but I am attracted to the new Aifa option as it seems

an easier approach than certain others and good value. What’s your view?

Apart from comparing what the content of the Aifa exam is with others, you would be well advised to think long term rather than short term. What might you want to do after passing your Aifa exam – progress to level 6? And if so, what would the options be at that stage?

I think that aside from what you think about the ease – which should in theory be the same as others – you should also think about the content in terms of what it does to help you in your day to day activities and the support you can expect to pass the papers involved. Study material is just one aspect but an equally important aspect is the support/tuition on offer. This, if used, makes a demonstrable difference to the chances of examination success.

I have been looking at wrap selection software systems. Which would you recommend?

In a word, none. If you are expecting any one of them to give you a perfect answer, where you can avoid doing any further work or research. At best, they can only provide a guide and you still have to make your own mind up based on your knowledge of your clients and be able to stand behind it when the FSA comes asking. The research tool may provide a part of the supporting documentation but it is only likely to be a part.

You need to be clear about the clients you have (through segmentation) and your proposition(s) to inform your choice of platform or platforms.

The selection systems should be used as a check against your own initial research, not a substitute. You also need to think about changes in the future necessitating a move of platform. How easy is this likely to be and what is the cost? This may lead you to a different answer than looking at the cost of placing and maintaining funds on the platform.

The subject of VAT seems very unclear. Who should I listen to?

The position regarding VAT has not changed materially since the late 1990s. What has changed is that the advent of adviser charging will force advisers to have to confirm and justify why VAT is or is not payable. Shoehorning your proposition to seek to be VAT exempt is the tail wagging the dog and you should not blindly follow what others are doing. You should first decide what your proposition is/are and then work through whether VAT is payable.

There is joint guidance from the ABI and HMRC and reading it is a good starting point. Next, you should ask your accoun-tant for assistance if you need to where you run your own business or if you are an adviser within a firm or network, they should be able to provide you with guid-ance.

As Rob says, do not blindly follow others but understand when and why VAT is payable and make sure you keep good records and account for payments on time.


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