Someone once said that the only thing that is constant is change. We certainly see plenty of that in financial services and change that is wider than regulatory.
While change can bring unwelcome costs, it can deliver positive outcomes. In just the past few weeks, aspects of the Budget and the outbreak of swine flu have changed the landscape for financial advice and created yet further need for professional advice – and not just for the very wealthy.
Budget changes affect most of an adviser’s clients and the threat of a pandemic immediately affected a sensitive stockmarket still experiencing volatility from the unsettled economic climate.
Advisers rise to these challenges again and again. Getting to grips with the tax changes, identifying which clients are affected, reviewing financial plans and recommending adjustments to ensure clients’ objectives are still on track are all in a day’s work.
Clients also need reassurance as uncertainty in these troubled times means that even the financially astute want that extra comfort of discussing their affairs with an experienced professional.
Advisers are rising to the challenges of changing regu- lation and, in particular, those driven by the retail distrib-ution review.
The latest figures from the Chartered Insurance Institute confirm that there were 8,845 bookings for the CII diploma exams in April (up by 35 per cent from April 2008) and already over 2,000 bookings have been taken for the July and October sittings. Combined, this represents 85 per cent of the total 2008 bookings for diploma and these figures only relate to the end of the first quarter.
Also of significance is that the movement is not just regulatory- driven. There were 1,400 bookings for the CII advanced diploma exams in April and again members are already booking October exams.
In total, over 3,000 candidates already holding the diploma are on the path to becoming chartered financial planners, which will add significantly to the 1,600-plus that we already have.
What is especially encouraging is that this drive to higher professionalism is not isolated or confined to any particular sector of the adviser community.
Product providers, adviser firms and banks are stepping up the plate to help advisers meet the challenges.
In partnership with the CII and Personal Finance Society, a plethora of corporate schemes have, and are continuing t o emerge, offering both financial and learning support.
All this adds up to an unprecedented drive towards higher professional standards that demonstrate to the FSA, Government and, most important, the general public, that we are serious about our profession.
I would like to leave you with a quote I came across recently.
“Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change”
Fay Goddard is chief executive of the Personal Finance Society