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First footing

I have just completed my first week in my new role and the pace is just as hectic at a professional body as at a trade body.

One of the things that strikes me most about the PFS is its size and regional coverage of its membership.

With over 24,000 members and 24 active regions, it is by far the biggest professional body for financial advisers and related services in the UK and, as part of the CII group, part of the biggest professional body for financial services and insurance in the world.

The PFS is a big, well structured membership organisation but it also feels a bit like the world’s best kept secret. That is one thing I intend to change.

I am excited because, having spent over 20 years in financial services, the majority of the time within the IFA sector, I have seen the advisory community grow and develop. It has faced many challenges and obstacles and has come a long way but I feel we are not there yet. The Government agenda is putting more responsibility on individuals for their financial well-being and there has never been a greater need by the public for professional advice and assistance.

We are at the crossroads of significant regulatory change and there is a desire to increase the professional standing of financial advisers and those that support them.

The retail distribution review presents a golden opportunity for financial advisers and planners to be clearly discernible as true professionals and it is essential we deliver services to consumers that they can trust and have confidence in. The PFS can help shape the future and I want it to lead the changes.

There is still much detail to be thrashed out, some aspects of which we will be heavily involved with and some we will not.

The PFS, jointly with the CII, has already been instrumental in influencing the “professionalism” strand of the review and I firmly believe that professional bodies will play an increasingly important role in the future in developing standards and overseeing the way that the financial services market operates and individuals behave.

The RDR presents challenges, with almost certainly a requirement for higher qualifications and professional standards but it also presents the best opportunity ever to create a true profession – one that engenders trust through the expertise and behaviour of individuals.

The PFS is not just there to shape and influence. Its key role is to support and help its members. It already delivers an extensive programme of training events and support services but in the brave new world we face, it must provide members with what they most need and want – targeted and relevant assistance with preparing for exams and changing business models and robust CPD relevant to the variety of roles in the advice sector. As our RDR submission to the FSA makes clear, if we are to expect a step-change in standards from our members, then we must raise our game to support them.

I am very much in listening mode and want to know what members think about their professional body, what they like and what they think needs improving or changing. I will evaluate the feedback and I will not be sitting back quietly. I want to see the PFS revitalised and rejuvenated. Its identity needs strengthening so all financial services professionals will want to be members while consumers will recognise it as a brand they can trust.

Fay Goddard is chief executive of the Personal Finance Society

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