Aifa director general Stephen Gay says he could not turn down the “exciting” opportunity to join the Association of British Insurers as director of life, savings and protection.
His departure comes just over a year after he joined Aifa in December 2010 from Aviva where he was director of distribution development.
Gay’s first move at Aifa was to launch a strategic review which has resulted in a range of cost-cutting measures and Aifa opening its membership to restricted advisers.
In an interview with Money Marketing, Gay admits his tenure at Aifa has been short-lived but says: “You can never tell when an exciting opportunity is going to come up. When it does, you have to weigh up your options.
“The role at the ABI is an exciting one, it is about pursuing the issues on an ageing population and the reputation of our industry and the saving gap and these are things that I feel passionately about and I know many IFAs feel passionately about.
“It should not be considered that this is in any sense going from one side to another. Aifa has always had a close relationship with the key members of the ABI who are associate members of Aifa. The agenda between the two organisations varies at times but by and large we are all after the same thing, which is to do the right thing by the British public.”
The last year has seen Aifa’s financial situation laid bare. Money Marketing revealed in November that Aifa posted an operating deficit of £194,419 for the year to June 30 after a surplus of £14,919 for 2009/10.
Gay says the lack of resources proved Aifa needed strong direction. He says: “The costs of the organisation have been taken down very considerably under my direction. The revenues of the organisation have improved. The organisation has started now to move back to profitability.”
Gay counts among Aifa’s successes last year the lobbying of the Treasury select committee over the RDR, which last July called for the RDR deadline to be put back by one year. He says Aifa is making good progress with the FSA over the future of trail commission and has also worked with the FOS over its current plans to change the case fee structure and increase the number of free cases for advisers from three to 25 a year.
He also highlights Aifa’s work with the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, which led to firms who were overcharged on their interim levy payments to cover the compensation costs of Keydata being able to resubmit their tariff data. Aifa is continuing to challenge the FSCS over the way it is pursuing advisers through the courts who sold Keydata products.
Gay’s leaving date is yet to be agreed but is expected to be around the end of February.
Adviser reaction to Gay quitting Aifa
“There was negative comment from a lot of people when Gay joined. But to be fair to him, I felt he gave the job everything he had. It remains to be decided as to how we take this forward. At least in the short term, we may have a collegiate form of leadership with the elected board and the appointed chairman.”
Aifa council member and West Riding Personal Financial Solutions managing director Neil Liversidge
“IFA Centre has a future as the voice of the independent financial adviser. I look forward to working with Stephen Gay’s successor on matters where there are common concerns.”
IFA Centre managing director Gill Cardy
“I gave Gay the benefit of the doubt when he joined, despite criticism of his provider background. But some might say now it was inappropriate to give him the benefit because he has not been in the job five minutes. Just over a year is a pretty poor show really.”
Philip J Milton & Company managing director and Aifa member Philip Milton
“Without wishing to be unkind, it appears Gay’s heart was not in it and he was looking for an escape route. He is leaving Aifa in the lurch at a crucial time. He has put his personal ambitions before that of advisers.”
Highclere Financial Services partner Alan Lakey
“You would have to question whether a potentially good candidate would actually want the role. Aifa is facing really difficult times and somebody who comes in would have to agree with the direction or look to make some swift changes.”
AWD Chase de Vere head of communications Patrick Connolly