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FSA must take the blinkers off over banks

It is heartening to read that the survey commissioned by Sesame concluded that 97 per cent of clients are happy with their IFA and, God bless him, Chris Cummings says that we need the Government and the regulator to build on this level of trust and increase consumer access to independent advice. We surely do.

The trouble is, though, that along with pushing the IFA sector to establish higher standards of ongoing long-term customer service (nothing wrong with that), the FSA is also burying us in red tape and pointlessly bureaucratic procedures and charging us a fortune for the privilege while at the same time continuing to turn a blind eye to the shenanigans of the banks.

The benefits of higher qualifications are one thing and, within reason, cannot be argued against. Let those who want to study and to take lots of exams do so if the result is that they increase their market share and incomes, providing a higher-quality yet unavoidably costlier service for the more affluent and financially sophisticated end of the general populous. Good luck to them.

But if 97 per cent of all clients are already happy with their supposedly under-qualified, commission-hungry, poorly organised, flog and forget IFAs, whereas the banks generate not only by far the lion’s share of all complaints but also the lion’s share of all unresolved complaints that are then referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service, this surely tells us something very fundamental in letters writ large on the canvas of the UK financial services industry.

The old truisms remain as true as ever – there are none so blind as those who will not see. If only the people at the FSA could remove those blinkers and see the broader picture, then we might just be able to move this industry forward at a faster rate than wading through treacle. A level regulatory playing field would not go amiss either.

Julian Stevens

Harvest IFM Bristol

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