The IFP has just set out its strategic objectives for 2008 off the back of a record year in a number of key areas. Membership grew by over 35 per cent to 1,850 with over 500 new members.
Nearly 200 new individuals became certified financial planner professionals in 2007, taking the number to 800.
This year will see the IFP gearing up for significant growth as a result of the implications and ultimate outputs from the RDR. It is already clear that the minimum benchmark qualification is set to increase and that advisers will have a limited time in which to attain the further qualifications that they need.
This outcome is already incentivising those with a more progressive outlook to take the necessary steps to equip themselves for life after RDR. Irrespective of whether CAR is able to be implemented or not, there is a consensus that a greater level of disclosure to the consumer is still required. The RDR will not satisfy its authors unless account is taken of how the less affluent consumers in the UK can gain access to the appropriate advice or support for their financial needs.
The outcome from the RDR process must contain some pragmatism to allow the banks and other bigger organisations to participate in a way that is a win for everybody involved in the chain.
There will be some significant changes this year as the career of financial planning is further developed, preparing for a time after the RDR when financial planners at all stages in their career, from student through to retiree, can find their place within the profession. Following on from the job competency profile that was outlined at the end of 2007, the IFP will be similarly defining the role of the paraplanner.
Further consideration will be given to ISO 22222 and, more important, perhaps appropriate considerations for the QCA and also IS0 17024 to ensure that the IFP is recognised as a certifying body. Requirements here are similar to those needed to be an affiliate of the FPSB and therefore should not prove too onerous to conform to.
Perhaps the most exciting initiative will be the first financial planning week in the UK, which the IFP will be leading. This will take place during the week starting September 8 and aims to reach out to financial planners and consumers across the UK.
This year will have its fair share of challenges as volatile markets and economic uncertainty continue. It was during the last bear market that the IFP saw its first big surge in new members as advisers realised that in poor markets, it was difficult to sell investment products to potential clients. A genuine advice and service proposition was what was required and many saw the CFP accreditation as the foundation for this change in their business model.
That outcome has not changed but in addition to a potential recession, there is the inevitability of the RDR consequences. We cannot seek professional equivalency with accountancy and law if we are simply brandishing an O level or GCSE equivalent qualification.
The 80 per cent or so of the adviser market who have no more than the basic level qualification need to improve their knowledge and take further exams.
Nick Cann is chief executive at the Institute of Financial Planning