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Evan Owen

The chief of the IFA Defence Union says terrorists have more rights than IFAs bec-ause of the Financial Services and Markets Act and he wants it overhauled but, while committed to fighting the IFA corner, he is also quick to ack-nowledge that those who flout the rules are indefensible.

Some may view the IFA Defence Union as the militant version of Aifa but IFADU chief Evan Owen prefers to see it as the one body that will doggedly fight for advisers’rights in the face of FSA adversity.

Love it or loathe it, the IFADU has backed many advisers having problems with the FSA or Financial Ombudsman Scheme, providing legal advice and support when the adviser had nowhere else to turn. Owen has also been something of a lone voice, championing the IFA profession in the national press, often in the face of vitriolic criticism.

The IFADU was based on the successful Legal Defence Union, which itself was the result of a joint initiative by the Scottish Law Agents’ Society, one of the oldest solicitors’ organisations in Scotland, and the Glasgow Bar Association.

Owen spent several years spent as a sole trader, with a stint at Barclays Insurance Services, so he has experience of being on both sides of the fence.

He has fought with the FSA and the Government over the Financial Services and Markets Act which he believes is in contravention of human rights law. He recognises that the market needs regulation but has long campaigned for a lightertouch regime that does not burden IFAs with such onerous compliance requirements and makes both the Financial Ombudsman Service and the FSA more accountable.

He says: “Terrorists have more rights than IFAs because of this piece of legislation. We have queries in with the FSA over the FSMA and they want to meet but the only way out of this is for the Government to back down and change what it is doing or we need a change of Government.

“We could have it struck out but there are definitely bits that need amending but apparently the FSA is waiting for the FOS to get back to them on certain issues. I accused one of them of misconduct in public office. Ultimately, it all rests with Gordon Brown so I do not think there is much hope.”

Owen and the IFADU have forceful views and Owen says he is aware that some advisers are scared of dealing with them overtly and he believes several members have been targeted for close scrutiny by the FSA.

“It does deter some IFAs from being associated with us but someone has to tell the truth and if something is not right, you have got to say something. The FSA is picking on known members of the union. They have been targeted for extra special visits, which they see as one way of wiping us out, but they do not realise how strong-willed we are.”

Owen says he knows of one small IFA business with known links to the IFADU being visited by three FSA investigators over two days after he made an official complaint to the FSA about them wasting his time.

The IFADU currently has 180 members and more than 360 names on its mailing list but many advisers seek advice anonymously because they are scared of the FSA or their networks.

Owen’s campaign for justice does cut both ways. He admits the union turns down IFAs’ requests for legal assistance where the adviser was clearly in the wrong. “You cannot defend the indefensible,” he says.

Similarly, he acknowledges that phoenix firms, those companies that dump arms of their business with hefty liabilities on to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme to continue trading, do tarnish the image of advisers.

“As the FSA says, businesses do fail but when they have been blatantly selling products that no one else bothers with, such as precipice bonds, then it does unfortunately damage the image of the advice profession. The national press says the industry has done everyone a disservice over the years and has tarred them all with the same brush but there are a lot of professional IFAs who have done and do their job very well.”

When not championing justice for IFAs, Owen spends a lot of time on another issue that means a lot to him – providing affordable housing for local people in Wales. He has even offered to set aside some of a plot of land he owns for this purpose and has been working closely with the local affordable housing enabling officer to get the project running.

Part of his land includes a Neolithic stone circle, which is protected under law. Owen says it is a fine place to visit when one wants a breath of fresh air and to relax. Fresh air and beautiful scenery are in ample supply around Snowdonia where he lives and it provides a refreshing counterbalance to his more frenetic and at times turbulent work life.

Owen predominantly uses the land to share another passion with his five children – horse-riding. Owen has three pure-bred Welsh Cobs named Misty, Ellie and Minyffordd and another on the way as Misty is pregnant.

Owen says he is looking forward to retiring in peace and it is probably safe to assume that many people at the FSA hope this is sooner rather than later but when he does, which is not expected to be any time soon, the industry will lose a distinctive character who is not afraid to stick his neck out and stand up for what he believes in.

Born: North Wales, 1954

Lives: Snowdonia, Wales with wife and five children aged from eight to 23

Career: 1985-present predominantly a sole trader IFA, with some time at Barclays Insurance Services.

Education: Secondary school and “university of life”

Interests: IT, walking, horses and spending time with his family

Likes: Fair play and justiceDislikes: Unfair justice

Ambition: To retire in peace and quiet and let someone else take this monster (the FSA) on

Heroes: My colleagues and friends

Drives: A Toyota Landcruiser


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