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Garry Heath: Time for an RDR time-out

The financial services industry is in a great hole with RDR and it is time to stop digging.

We are six months before implementation and My Touchstone, which maps RDR developments, says only 5 per cent of IFAs are ready. Aifa says 75 per cent. So who do we believe?

The FSA never did a proper RDR impact assessment because if it had it would have been stillborn. It became a virility symbol for Hector Sants who was prepared to trample on the UK’s most senior select committee to get his way. It has also been a very useful diversion from the FSA’s handling of the banking crisis and its unwillingness to regulate those “too big to fail”.

In March 2010, the FSA Board gave considerable thought to scrapping the RDR but continued fearful of losing face. It has been this rather oriental management fear that has driven the RDR on. We cannot disenfranchise millions of IFA advised clients, push thousands on to the unemployment register and turn advice into a luxury for the rich; so a failed regulator and its failed boss can save face. It is time for whoever still exists at the FSA to call a halt on this bizarre social experiment.

Who is tracking the movement of advisers towards the qualification? Estimates range from 5 per cent to 80 per cent ready – both cannot be right. What happens to the 90 per cent qualified adviser in December? We know that exam failure rates are higher than expected, which may speak more to the reported impractical nature of the syllabus, than the abilities of advisers. Retakes are the order of the day.

Much of the confusion derives from the way RDR has been developed on the hoof. We do not know whether 1m or 10m clients will no longer have a live adviser. Gap filling has been a mess. Can anyone explain simplified advice? RDR is missing its central planks and its original cheerleaders. The banks that started lobbying for RDR like crazy, have woken up to the fact that even they cannot deliver it.

What happens at the product providers when a minimum of 1,500 advisers, it could easily be 5,000 or more, all want to novate their agencies in December – 5m plus policies on the move in a 2 week month.

It is time to stop and rethink. We are told we have a new regulator and new EU directive. Unless FCA is simply a rebadged FSA, should it not look at this project and decide its own policy and ensure we only have one well planned change which works across Europe rather than 5 years of constant change?

Mifid II will decide if commission will still exist in Europe. If it does; RDR will fail.

In the meantime all those who have passed level 4 can promote their new found knowledge to their clients. The rest get more time. The movement from commission to fee charging will continue decided by clients not regulators – the way it should be.

This child of vested interest needs to be put back in the nursery before it does any more damage.

Life Change managing director Garry Heath



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There are 29 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Gary, a very good article and unless I have missed something here it is 100% factually accurate. Have you considered putting these points to the TSC and the Chancellor? Someone in autority needs to be made fullyaware that this God forsaken monster is going to kill off proper advice to many many people. For the FSA to say that those who do lose their adviser can make use of the MAS is nothing short of criminal. Those people who have been used to getting advice for years on a 1 to 1, face to face basis (mostly in thier the comfort of their own homes) are now going to be forced into trawling some website and speaking to some faceless person at the end of a phone to get “information” not advice. That is hardly progress and as you say it no one knows if this will be 1 million or 10 million clients who have been used to good quality advice from their adviser over many years. Please send your thoughts to someone in authoruty so this can be put to bed beofre it is too late. I have been in contact with my MP over this matter but it takes a long time to get anywhere with it. Those charged with the RDR’s implementation will not stop the disaster unless forced to do so.

  2. You are wrong

    I came into the industry in 1995 when we saw the introduction of FPC’s in an attempt to raise standards within our industry, as this was desperately needed due to the fact that advisers were selling products with no understanding of the harms that some where doing. As a reminder here are some of the misselling scandals that we have had:


    Occupational pension opting out

    Pension transfers

    Investment Bonds to non-rate taxpayers

    Equitable Life

    Structured Bonds e.g. Key Data

    I could go on but I think you must be getting the point by now that we desperately need higher standards within financial services and this can only be done by raising the level of qualifications and also banning commission.

    Yes I say banning commission, as we still see people justifying investment bonds to basic rate tax payers when really the only reason why the investment bond was sold was the 7% commission compared to the 3% or so, on the OEIC or ISA. The reasons why adviser charging is key to the massive changes that are going on in financial services is for once it will put the onus on the adviser to come up with the charging structure that is fair across all products. The link to remuneration and products will be broken forever and product biased on commission will also cease to exist.

    These are not hairy fairy ideas these are worthy ideas that we all should be supporting. I’m no fan of Hector Sants and in fact I think his agenda was to make the banks stronger as I think non-advice services should be limited and real pressure should be put on the banks to improve qualifications and standards within these organisations.

    We as financial advisers had a real chance of changing our profession into a service that the general public truly value we just have to have a bit of vision and less whingeing and design a model that the general public understand and value.

    I’m sorry to say if you cannot pass the exams you have no place in the industry as I’m fed up of having to pay FSCS fees based on adviser mistakes either due to poor training or systematic incompetence on behalf of senior managers within some financial organisations.

    I am ready for RDR and have spent the last 12 months preparing for it, so why should all my hard work go down the drain because some advisers have chosen to leave it to the last moment after all you have known for the last four years that it was coming!

  3. Unhelpful article. Providers are launching their unbundled charges every week now (Skandia just today). Investment houses are issuing clean share classes all the time too.

    There’s simply no way the FSA would turn round to all those companies and say, sorry, we’ve wasted all your time and money.

    Furthermore, they’ve started issuing client information about the changes.

    Finally, the majority of IFAs have got their QCF4, or are within a whisker of getting it.

    Rightly or wrong, RDR is coming in on 31 December, and anyone who gives false hope to slow-off-the-mark IFAs is ultimately doing them a dis-service.

  4. Garry’s points are totally accurate and restate the central themes that he, I and countless others have expounded since 2007.

    The TSC is powerless and the bulk of the consumer lobbyists are in favour as they do not appreciate the issues and outcomes.

    Martin Lewis and Jeff Prestridge have both commented that the outcomes will be deleterious for both consumers and the industry yet the slow-motion train crash gets ever closer.

    It is clear to me that unless Martin Wheatley looks at this total mess, and is prepared to acknowledge the failings of his predecessors and change things, we will have a meltdown of financial services with less engagement, greater indebtedness, wider pensions, savings and protection gaps and fewer advisers to meet the voracious appetite of the FSCS and the FOS.

    I give it three years at top before the experiment is deemed to have failed and a ‘new big idea’ is born regarding the distribution costs of financial services.

    Of course, the only heads that will roll will be the 30-50% of advisers who will have been forced out of the industry. The guilty will jump ship to KPMG, PWC, Dubai or some other cosy niche where they can continue their mindless regulatory expansion theories.

  5. You are simply wrong and I listen to you going on every single week about how RDR should not happen.

    Well it is and if advisers cannot pass the exams after having 4 years notice and surely they should not be in the industry. You only have to look at the IFA that being disqualified today the selling Ucis products to see that we require better standards within financial services and enforcement.

    So please stop trying to represent the whole of the industry because it’s only your point of view and certainly not mine.

    Maybe the reasons why you’re so against RDR could be that you don’t have the correct qualification level so I was just wondering if you could disclose what your qualifications are and whether you are RDR ready?

  6. Peter Herd – you came into the industry in 1995 because of FPC ?? Good God !!!

    Good article Gary as you know, I too have been one of the anti RDR voices since that infamous speech at Gleneagles.

    I rely on the fact that as a successful adviser (and I am well aware of many CFP fee/wealth/exam junkies are not and probably never will be) RDR simply will not work but I will take no pleasure in telling anyone ‘I told you so’ in probably less than 3 years in my opinion Alan – when the mother of all u turns happens because everyone will be looking at their balance sheets.

    NEST wont work either
    Stakeholder never worked
    Regulatory interference in free markets never works either

    You cant re-invent the wheel – remove distribution costs and you remove distribution !!

    Oh and by the way, I will re-use my original (and much copied) analogy of RDR – its the ‘Emporer’s new clothes’ so somebody, EVERYBODY tell him hes got no clothes on and do it NOW !!!

  7. @Peter Herd. Peter I hear whatyou are saying and I dont think the exam portion of RDR is the stumbling block. Itisthe totally disasterours unintended (or intended consequences) of RDR that have come out as time elapsed. There are dozens of them and without any doubt the clients will suffer as a result. You say the FSA will not say to the companies dont worry we are not going to change they syatem after all? Of course they wont but there is nothing to stop them from making adviser charging a 3rd option of payment and those IFA’s who want or can run their business using that model can do so. There is nothing wrong with giving clients additional choice. It is however totally worng with taking all choice of how they want to pay for the advice away from them. As for advisers leaving things to the last moment, where on earth have you been for the last 4 years? IFA’s have been screaming about this since it raised its ugly head. As Alan Lakey says – give it 3 years post RDR and see what an absolute mess the industry is in. Personally I think Alan may be a little optomistic – not sure how many IFA’s can survive that long

  8. If RDR ends up with better qualified staff, less mis-selling, and clients actually understand what they’ve been charged for it will be deemed a success in 3 to 4 years. I for one welcome our industry turning into a profession rather than being looked upon as a bunch of insurance salesman and charlatans. I know there’s going to be challenges ahead but just screaming from the sidelines and saying everything in RDR is wrong is either suicidal or just plain madness when we’ve had the number of mis-selling scandals that we have over the last 30 years.

    What possible justification could there be for not increasing professional standards?

    How can we possibly justify variable commission rates which often end up in a biased recommendation?

    On the remuneration fund there is nothing in RDR that stops an adviser building in an initial fee and a follower on advisor remuneration, so what’s changed apart from the client knows what they are being charged for.

    I’ve read with interest over the last two years argument against RDR and none of these arguments answer those two important questions.

  9. Re – RDR ready – nearly there for Level 4, one more daft exam to do and I will be able to obtain my SPS (which can take up to 6mths I believe to get) but where do I go from here?

    My clients are mainly middle to low income groups, with whom I have had long term relationships, some for 20 yrs, their finances have been challenged by the governments inability to control inflation, extra taxation and green fuel taxes, but they will still need ongoing planning and advice.

    Why is it necessary to remove from a major portion of the public a payment choice method which has not only stood them in good stead by ensuring the cost of advice and service can be spread over a contracts term?

    Surely the sensible option to avoid all this hoo ha and unnececessary cost was to limit the commission structure and set it at a level which was deemed consumer friendly (3% on UTs and ISAs, why not 3% on bonds and other investment products.)
    That’s what I did in 2003 when I went fee based and offered all investment clients a genuine choice, 3% fee, paid upfront or 3% commission spread over the term of the contract.

    Never took more than 1% on annuities regardless of fund size and never took more then 0.5% servicing renewal/trail.

    Still earn a decent living, still got my 450+ client bank, still loving dealing with clients.

    Delaying the changes re qualifications is a no no, we all need to up our knowledge and our game, after all there is nothing in these ROexams that we should not have knowledge of as professionals.

    This is a great industry being ruined by slavish adherance to a mad cap scheme, which in the cold light of day has such draconian so called “unintended consequences” and consumer detriment that the changes to adviser charging need to be re-thought out.

  10. @ Peter Herd.

    Peter, your description of the financial services world mid 1990s does not meet my recollection.

    You mention;


    Occupational pension opting out

    Pension transfers

    Investment Bonds to non-rate taxpayers

    Equitable Life

    Structured Bonds e.g. Key Data

    and suggest that they are commission-0related crimes when in most observers eyes they are not wicked acts but reflections of the environment that advisers inhabited.

    The Government actively encouraged opting out back in 1988 and then turned on the industry once the flawed SIB review appeared to show endemic mis-selling.

    Endowments failed for many reasons and again the ‘scandal’ was drummed up by tabloid journalists looking for easy targets and juicy stories.

    Equitable Life! Not sure of the point you are making here.

    Nonetheless, we all agree that mis-selling is bad even though we clearly don’t agree with its definitiion.

    Regulation in general and the RDR in particular will not assist consumers although the rhetoric will continue to suggest that they do.

  11. Nicholas Pleasure 30th May 2012 at 2:04 pm

    @Peter Herd
    I agree that RDR should not be delayed but for different reasons to yours. No-one will listen to reason and therefore the train crash that is the RDR must now be allowed to happen to demonstrate regulatory stupidity. After such a disaster there is a (small, remote) possibility that the regulators will be forced back to regulating a free market rather than trying to create and micro-manage a market.

    For the record these are the sectors that will suffer as a result of RDR:
    IFA’s & their staff
    Life Companies – cannot understand why they didn’t stand up to the FSA – this will be a disaster
    Fund Managers – large parts of their distribution will cease.
    Clients – obviously
    Small businesses – who will provide the Group Life, Share protection and other financial advice
    Large PLC’s – less money being invested
    Investors – less money invested means depressed values

    I imaging others can add to my list…

  12. @ Peter
    Do you really believe exams make for better advisers ?
    Better practical knowledge and experience YES the ability to pass an exam NO

    If exam passing was the be all and end all there would be school and university leavers filling all the top jobs.
    Practical knowledge and experiance is the way forward with good CPD.

  13. DH

    Yes I do think that greater knowledge does improve standards look at the legal profession as an example. Would you really want to go to a Solicitor that had no qualifications but knows a little about the legal profession – I think not!

    Nicholas Pleasure

    I don’t see how RDR is micromanaging market in fact it asks the higher standards and clearer disclosure of adviser fees how this is done is up to the marketplace. It is up to the marketplace to develop its own charging structures the FSA hasn’t actually laid down what adviser charges should actually be. All it is stated that in built commission that is not clearly labelled as adviser fees are band from any product being set up after 2013. It even allows for legacy commission to carry on as long as the client agrees.

    Alan Lakey

    You didn’t answer my question on exams so I take it you don’t have a level 4 qualification.


    My first mortgage was an endowment-based mortgage at the age of 21 before I got into financial services and I wasn’t even given the option of a capital repayment mortgage but just sold in endowment style mortgage by the Building Society Manager with no explanation of the risks. If that’s not mis-selling I don’t know what is and I think we can all agree that advisers had no idea back then of the type of product they were selling it was totally reliant on above inflation returns and that low inflation would have such a drastic outcome for endowment policies.

    The fact is that the commission from an endowment was many times that of the term insurance policy!!

    Opting out of occupational pension schemes.

    This goes down to knowledge again as surely as advisers we should have a higher understanding of pension schemes then any government and if the crackpot politicians come up with a great idea surely it is advisers that should counsel against such a decision. After all we are the ones with the knowledge or should be.

    Pension transfers.

    How many advisers over the last 15 to 20 years have carried out a pension transfer only to generate remuneration for them and have little or no benefit to the client. Quite a few if you look at the levels of complaints in this area over last few years.

    Are the clients ever given the option to keep the pension contract where they are and therefore transfer to a suitable drawdown scheme or annuity near retirement. I’m not saying that pension transfers don’t make sense sometimes but quite a few of these are done on the basis of remuneration for the adviser and not for the benefit the client.

    Investment bonds non-rate taxpayers

    Well if you haven’t heard that one Alan you really do need to hit the books I think the unit trust versus investment bond debate has been going on as long as I’ve been in financial services and I’ve certainly had to put some complaints to the FSO before now on behalf of some clients and successfully won.

    Equitable Life

    Well I suppose this was put in there to show that is not only advisers make mistakes but also companies is clearly offering guaranteed annuity without any due regard to the sustainability of the product just shows the arrogance of our industry sometimes.

    Structured Bonds

    This may not be a mis-selling scandal of the 90s certainly was of the 21st-century as advisers had no understanding of where these products were actually invested. The use of the word guaranteed totally misrepresented the risk profile of these products leading many investors out of pocket and IFA’s like me paying higher FSCS fees because some advisers just love the word guaranteed in a product title.

    I’m not suggesting for one moment that RDR alone will solve all of our problems in fact in the short term I think it will take some people some real time to readjust. Sometimes however you really do have to shock the system to get people to wake up and smell the roses. How many advisers really have a good understanding of the products they are selling and how many advisers are product biased because of the commission it pays. I’m not saying everybody in the industry is like that but there is still a healthy number and that needs change.

    You may not like my point of view but as an industry we need to raise standards otherwise the true enemy will be loss of general public’s faith and then none of us will have a business if that happens.

  14. Peter Hamilton 30th May 2012 at 3:45 pm

    The FSA has not covered itself with glory over RDR. The Treasury Select Committee said there should be a year’s delay. There is still time for a rethink.

    By the way, Garry asks, Who can explain simplified advice? The answer is that there is no such thing. Regulated advice can be simple, but that is not simplified advice. See the article I wrote which was published in Money Marketing on 26 September 2011, either on the web-site here or on our web-site The FSA’s guidance, issued in March this year, effectively agrees.

  15. @Peter

    ? Um we do have exams
    My point is why do a rake load more, and as for solicitors they are not being made to do more exams like I said good structured CPD is the way forward which is what they do along with many others doctors accountants etc etc etc
    Personally I dont feel your aguments have much wieght, but then it comes down to which side of the fence you may sit ?

  16. Peter Herd

    Looks to me like you’ve got too much time on your hands.

    Look its simple – if it works for you get on with it just stop telling those like me how to trade.

    Fee based business models have been around for years (as long as regulation itself) and if they are best then everyone of the clients that are/were serviced by the ‘bad old commission junkies’ will/would have migrated to the likes of you – strange however that never happened and frankly its not likely to either.

    I couldn’t care less how you work if it works for you thats great just stop preaching.

    And as far as public faith is concerned, that has been damaged not by advisers in the main, but by cumbersome retrospective mis-regulation. You are sorely mistaken if you believe that RDR will weed out mis-selling or bad apples.

  17. Derek Gair

    I have to listen to others going on about how evil the regulator is and how nothing has to change in financial services, so why is my view point suddenly not warranted or not important enough to spend time explaining.

    There’s enough people like you to do the preaching and giving it large that the whole industry is against RDR maybe I’m actually giving the viewpoint of the silent majority who can’t be bothered to enter into discussions.

    Put a reasonable argument together instead of having a go at the personal and answer some of the points I tried to raise in what I think is a well balanced discussion.

  18. I have my SPS sitting on my wall and have been adviser charging for a number of years, so I could say I’m allright Jack. BUT I agree with Derek Gair and Peter Hamilton, RDR remains a train crash waiting to happen and Hector Sants should have listened to teh TSC. He either LIED to them when he said simplified advice would be a core and necessary part of the RDR, or he was a total incopmetent as there IS no Simplified Advice regime ready to implement as Peter hamilton explains.
    I would be inclined to agree with Nicholas Pleasure if it were those driving the train who would be injured by it’sd derailment, but it will be honest advisers and their clients, therefore, I still think a delay should be agreed with step changes rather than the cliff edge approach.

  19. @Peter Herd 3.25pm. Peter I think it is you who may need to go back to the books to expand your knowledge, not Alan Lakey. Regarding your statement on the bond versus collectives debate: The FSA dropped a probe into this matter as no evidence was found that one was better than the other. When you mention the “FSO” I presume you mean FOS? How you successfully won cases as you say for your clients is beyond me. Please go to the followng link or copy and paste it to see the FOI request by citywire in 2011 which shows wy the FSA queitly dropped this obscene attempt to provide the next “scandal”. – Regarding your statement of commission on endowment policies being a lot more than DTA. If you had been in the industry as long as I have you would remember when proper DTA came in (ie life or CI) back in the very early 90’s the premiums were higher than the coresponding endowments and the commission rates for DTA a huge by comparison. You harp on about risks never being explained – you sound like a reaosnably rational man and if you still had your original illustration it will have said even then something like “These projections are not the highest or lowest that may be achieved and this policy may not pay off your entire mortgage”. Risk as we understand it now is a recent addition to the regulator’s armoury but the wordings were perfectly acceptable to the then regulators. Customers (not clients) all have extremely selective memories when it comes to our business and they can remember every word in the meetings we had and a lot of them have jumped on the band wagon because they could get some “compo” out of it. Please do not try to slate the building society manager for selling what he thought was the best advice for you at the time. I sold my brother an endowment for his mortgage in 1989 and guess what? when it matured in he had just over £7200 spare cash. Granted it was a with profits one but so were most of those sold. Please get your facts straight before trying slate or belittle some of the professions most well known and respected advisers. If you ever listen to these people it should be clear to you as it is to many people, they know a lot more about our business than you or I do. Exams do not make things any better for anyone. I reached the equivilent of level 4 a long time ago and have forgotten 98% of the new bits I learned when studying for the exams. A lot of the stuff that was learned then is now out of date and even more of the study material was totally irrelevant to what we do on a day to day basis as advisers (as I believe is still the case), but then who am I to argue any point – Iam just a fully qualified RDR ready adviser who thinks it is fundamentally flawed. BTW I was never a Building Society Manager in case the thought crossed your mind

  20. Phil

    I would totally agree that there is no such thing as simplified advice but why should that delay RDR if you have even 40,000 qualified diploma ready advisers with a much stronger influx of new staff due to the fact that they will see financial services as a profession like being an accountant or solicitor.

    You cannot say that RDR is a cliff hanger approach when we have had for years to plan for it.

    Congratulations on actually obtaining a SPS by the way!

  21. Billy Burrows 30th May 2012 at 8:27 pm

    Lets stop looking inwards and start looking at how RDR will impact client.

    There is general agreement that a large section of the mass affluent market will be totally confused and possibly driven towards no advice solutions.

    This is made worse by the unfiar playing field with commission still be the norm for no advice sales.

    If there is one single reason why RDR should be delayed or scrapped it is because it will harm the very people it was meant to help

  22. Exasperated Me 30th May 2012 at 10:40 pm

    Delusions all round, following the herd.

  23. Soren Lorenson 31st May 2012 at 10:10 am

    Having read the comments above I am now convinced that a fee based model is the way to go.

    If Peter Herd can afford to spend so much time on here the fee model must be highly profitable. It’s the way to go boys (& girls).

  24. I agree with the Herd. The RDR is not going to be delayed. It will happen. Accept it and move on.

  25. James Harrison-Smith 31st May 2012 at 5:53 pm

    Bring it on – those who want the RDR delayed are the ones that will miss out. Those who have prepared and embrace the world of a minimum level of entrance to practice and where advice is paid for by the client will find the new world to be a positive place for them and their clients. Well done Peter Herd – a voice of optimism and confidence.

    There may well be issues with some of the consequences of the RDR but these should be addressed as the minority they are and not be treated as a reason to delay what is overall good for clients and professional advisers.

    RDR is principally about positioning the adviser on the same side of the table as the client and away from the pocket of the providers – no more product pushing and being paid by the provider; providing appropriate advice to clients is the future and what good advisers have been doing for years.

  26. I am at the risk of spending as much time on here as Peter Herd.

    It always makes me smile – pro RDR advisers always tell me how I should work but anti RDR advisers always say in response I dont care what you do or how you work if it works for you and your clients then you crack on !!

    And there have been fee based advisers since Adam was a lad !!!!

    We live in a market economy thank god !! – thats how we will grow our way out of this recession eventually !!!

    In a market economy, the market ALWAYS determines winners and losers, successful business models and failures.

    I say let the market and the customer decide how he wants to pay – all you pro RDR advisers have NOTHING to fear from leaving the choice of payment by commission if you are right do you !!!

    I and the majority of IFAs happen to think that RDR is a train wreck – but who knows maybe me and the overwelming majority of advisers are wrong. I dont somehow think so though !!!

  27. I fear that Messrs JH-S and PH are expounding their own economic philosophy rather than the reality of what the consumer wants.

    Until the RDR reared its malformed head the whole industry, including the regulator, took the view that choice was king.

    This has been conveniently dropped and we are now told that actually, due to be illogical and basically untrustworthy, this choice is a bad thing. As we (FSA) know what is best for you all here is a restrictive template which will alienate and disturb millions of consumers but, don’t worry, this bad medicine is going to solve every financial malaise.

    I am a great fan of science fiction and this is every bit as fantastic as anything Jack Vance ever wrote.

  28. There are a number of countries that banned sales commissions for financial products a number of years ago. ‘RDR’ is nothing new and the industry will thrive long term, but will have the usual transitional pain as with any big change. Stop crying about it and get on with it.

  29. Peter Herd.

    For one so clearly esconced within the echelons of high standards, as you continually imply, it has to be said that your grammar needs some work…Punctuation man!!

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