A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at an IFA conference in Prague. I was interested to see that, while some of its market is still very provider dependent, other parts would compare favourably with the lead players in the UK.
The prime fight across Europe is that of the banks versus advisers. Unlike the UK, European advisers only represent a small percentage of the market but what there is is highly valued by their clients and consumer bodies.
I learnt the European banks contribute to a central fund of €300m (£222m) per annum to lobby the European Union and nation states. Their aim is to marginalise any opposition and to create a closed market in which consumers are seen as beasts to be milked, herded and misled.
Sadly, many politicians across Europe look upon their electorate in the same way. According to reports, the hot book on David Cameron’s bedside cabinet is, bizarrely, Nudge by Cass Sunstein, who is a far left US professor. It presumes that once an “elite” has decided a course of action, the herd of electors can be nudged into accepting whatever plan is offered.
As advisers, we are the antithesis of this and it is only when you come away from the UK market you realise how far this determination to better serve our clients has driven us to rise above the competition. We see our role as stewards of our clients’ finances; to help provide for their financial futures. We seek to make our wealth by increasing theirs.
We have increased our professionalism and welcomed full cost and fee disclosure as well as maximised our direct accountability to our clients. This is the defining quality of all independent advisers: their clients are at the very centre of their businesses. It is the unique selling point of our distribution.
The FCA has told us we should not expect “a regulatory dividend”. While we are regulated with banks we never will.
Garry Heath is director general of Libertatem