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Get in the choir

Having had a busy Saturday, I found myself dozing off as the Williams sisters grunted through two sets at Wimbledon. Why is all this noise necessary? But I digress. As I awoke, a new singing competition – Last Choir Standing – was on the go. Choral singing was never usually this engaging for me but some of the choirs were so different that I was completely engaged.

Around 20 per cent of the adviser community are at diploma level or above and 20 per cent are on their way to diploma, so that leaves 60 per cent doing nothing.

When I came into the sector, I was put in to sit the exams for the ACII and progressed well until I became a broker consultant where the exams, being more generally orientated, got more difficult and I put them to one side.

Ten years passed until I started studying again – something would eventually help in my firm’s quest to become a registered insurance broker. Two years later, I had finished. In those two years, we had our first child so studying was not my only activity.

There is old adage that if you want something done, ask a busy person. Perhaps this is why many of those who reached chartered status in the first wave were busy men or women.

When discussing the retail distribution review, many have cited a lack of time as the reason they are yet to progress to diploma level. This is an excuse which I have been not been receptive to, given the fact that I managed the exams when my family were at their youngest ages.

So what really holds people back? Well, many see themselves as fully competent and exams as unnecessary. Indeed, some even claimed that the FPC was guaranteed to be a one-off test for all time. Sounds to me like a parent trying to get a difficult child to eat, where promises are made out of desperation.

These will be the same advisers who would find moving to fees very difficult or they know instinctively that their clients would reject fees, that is, they can read their clients’ minds. More important, they are unable to communicate the value of advice as they have never broken it down into its constituent parts.

Breaking things into parts has two effects. First, you start to realise just how much you do when giving advice and how little you are paid for it. Second, you start to see that in some cases, you are adding no value or substantial value.

A major factor for many people delaying the inevitable is the number of IFAs who are self-employed and I do not mean those who own the firm, I mean the regular advisers.

The firms are unlikely to pay for them to sit the exams. After all, these assets have legs.

This is a major issue as I believe that as many as 70 per cent of advisers are self-employed.

I think that treating customers fairly may make self-employed practice models unworkable as it is nigh on possible to deliver consistent results.

As to those firms delivering a service that could be seen as a brand, that is not even a vague possibility. I realise that some of these firms have over 20 registered individuals but if there is no consistency in delivery, are they not just a network in all but name?

If you are part of the 60 per cent, do not hesitate to take action. There is plenty of help out there. You need to make sure that you make full use of it.

We need to ensure that if the maximum numbers of advisers are to reach diploma level, like those choirs, we need to ensure that we are singing the same song and supporting each other.

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