Ahead of speaking at Money Marketing Interactive in Harrogate on 13 September, Harbour director David Roberts shares his thoughts on how advisers can improve their public image and says who his advice market heroes are
What can be done to improve the supply of advice?
I’m not convinced the supply of advice is the issue. We have a generation of people for whom saving and investing is alien. Low wages, a highly developed consumer society, house prices that are many multiples of the average salary and a low-wage economy all serve to undermine a culture of saving. More must be done by government to change this culture, then we may find out if the availability of advice needs increasing to meet the demand. Needless to say, I shan’t hold my breath.
Have advisers reached a point of true professionalism yet?
True professionalism is a constantly evolving goal. What was acceptable business practice twenty years ago is not considered acceptable in today’s world just as surgeons of Nelson’s navy would not pass muster in today’s medical world. True professionalism means refining, developing and reaching for higher standards.
How important is it for the advice community to share best practice?
It is absolutely essential for best practice to be shared across the advice community. However, it is important to recognise that best practice for one firm may not work for another firm. Their respective target audiences may be different with varying client demographics by age, size of wealth or even personal circumstance. It is also important not to confuse best practice with conformity to guidelines; an adviser’s customers deserve more than this.
How can advisers best improve their image with the public?
The public image of advisers and the financial world is constantly under challenge whether caused by the recent defined benefit pension transfer scandals, fraud, or poor advice and miss-selling of investment advice and payment protection insurance by the big banks. The public rightfully has a cautious view of advisers due to the large amounts of money involved and that advisers are, in some form or another, sales people.
Trust is at the heart of the client and adviser relationship and is probably the number one attribute because the adviser is looking after the client’s money. Earn that trust, deliver an outstanding investment and pensions advice service and the adviser is in a good position to ask for referrals from the client’s family and friends.
Continuity is an important attribute for an advice firm as we all remember retail banks who appoint one’s “personal manager” who seemed to depart and change every couple of months.
The regulator must continue its monitoring efforts as well as provide for assistance and guidance. Perhaps even more important, professional industry groups such as the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment and the Personal Finance Society should play their part in not only raising standards but working even more closely with the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and Financial Ombudsman Service. I can imagine that my suggestion will be viewed as highly contentious by many.
If you could scrap one piece of regulation, what would it be?
I remember well one meeting with a financial adviser in a firm in the heart of London a couple of years ago who uttered the immortal words: “I wish we could go back to the days of caveat emptor”. I realised then that any discussion about investor suitability and Harbour was a complete waste of time. No, I do not think that there is one piece of regulation that I would scrap; tweek or modify perhaps but scrap, no.
Who is your advice market hero?
There are many “heroes” working in the advice market and I would draw attention to those who work at the coal face of advice, those advisers and paraplanners who diligently, honestly and professionally deliver advice and investment services in the best interests of their clients.
There are some individuals who I have high regard for and by virtue of their mentoring, encouragement, intelligence and, in particular, professional insight, I would nominate Chris Gilchrist of advice firm FiveWays Financial Planning and Patrick Ingram of platform Parmenion.