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Family first

Stepping down as PFS president was bitter-sweet but I look forward to supporting Paul Lothian during his term for what will be a defining year for our profession.

When this column is published, we will know the latest for the retail distribution review. Professionalism will, I believe be the defining element, with a short time to raise personal educational standards before extra supervision becomes the norm.

Diploma is but an interim step. Professional advisers must aim high if they are to have the level of recognition they seek. Chartered is the pinnacle.

The days of selling products you do not really understand are over. There is no defence for cash that was not really cash or structures that over-complicate to the point of being unintelligible. Peter Hargreaves is right and I defy any seller of structures to prove that they have scenario-tested for all possibilities.

I am also pleased to report that Julian Stevens has set in motion the campaign for the 10-minute bin test.

If we cannot understand a new product or fund in under 10 minutes, then it needs to be in the bin with no delay. The arguments for structured products are unconvincing and do their promoters no favours as they only serve to illustrate that it is most likely that it is back-protection that spurs their denials.

As the recent Ipod report by the CII & Reform stated, the 18-34 group seeks less complex products and impartial advice and they expect their advisers to be impartial.

They are also looking for communication in their preferred mode. We need to encourage this group if we are to have any perpetuity in our businesses.

We need to encourage saving with low-cost flexible products and the Inland Revenue/HM Treasury need to realise that sometimes less is more, with rules that aid and do not discourage savings.

Securing the next generation as clients, even if they cannot pay, helps underpin our business and adds to persistency statistics, especially in the case of funds under management.

I am not suggesting that we all move to become family offices but being the first option for the family is definitely the way to move onward and upwards.

Young people need imaginative messages or we will find ourselves talking to ourselves if the status quo is observed and that can be avoided.

At the Aifa dinner, we were treated to some CPD from Treasury Economic Secretary Ian Pearson. He told us the Isa limits and he enthralled us with thfirste child trust statistics.

He clearly had done no research into the job of an IFA. He did forget the fact that when we had Pep, single-company Pep and a Tessa, the current limit of £7,200 was a significant reduction.

He gave us the impression that it was a cut and paste speech written by another and delivered by less than an accomplished politician.

Had he explained the rationale behind the bank bailout or the latest view of the IMF, we may have been impressed but he did not and we were not.

The quality of personnel in the Treasury (civil servants excluded) is not what it should be and some serious training is required if public confidence is to be regained.

On the other hand, John Gummer was a breath of fresh air with his common sense and understanding.

He said that his daughter is currently studying and he was surprised that her business-oriented course had omitted the option of becoming an IFA. Thinking back, this girl does seem to miss out on the options, be it choice of food or career.


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