Garry Heath: All roads lead back to unaccountable regulation


One of the biggest challenges we face as an industry is unaccountable regulation. However, even if we were able to completely reform regulation tomorrow the advice sector would still have to resolve some major issues. These are context, productivity and capital.

Context is driven not only by what we are but by what others project onto us. Your client’s attitude to personal finance is probably as much influenced by their parents and grandparents as anything you say.

Grandparents may well look nostalgically at industrial branch advice while their children may feel burnt by direct salesforce advice received in the 1970s. Whatever the attitude, advice was free in all cases. The sector must now get clients to value advice. We are seeing progress but it will take at least a generation.

Productivity, meanwhile, is an adviser’s Achilles’ heel. The only true value an adviser has is in front of their clients. To make this work they need management and, our final issue, capital.

In 2012, I met nearly every private equity house in London. Last week, I met someone who was doing the same thing this year. Nothing has changed. We were both ready to bring a new form of distribution into the UK. We both had great numbers. The biggest challenge? Capital.

The market loves the idea of new players in financial services but will not invest in a sector with such an eccentric and unaccountable regulator. Unless we can access capital, the sector cannot expand or create new ways of bridging the advice gap. Sadly all roads lead back to unaccountable regulation.

Garry Heath is director general at Libertatem