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INDEPENDENT VIEW

Change is a funny thing and I am not talking about the stuff that jangles in your trousers. It is the sort of thing you sometimes hope will happen but, when it does, you wish it had not. You can never get it exactly right.

Change is occurring everywhere, not least on top of my head. Increasingly, I have noticed shiny pink bits appearing through my mop. They did not used to be there but now, as if by magic, they are – and I thought baldness was never going to happen to me.

Now, every so often, I look in the mirror and wish for that hair to ret urn. Please I plead, let it grow.

The trouble is that someone upstairs heard me. Now, I cannot stop the stuff from protruding everywhere. The trouble is, none of it is on the top of my head. What on earth happened in the evolution of man that requires him to have hair growing at an unabated pace from both sides of the head and the front of the face?

Where once I used to have sleepless nights thinking about nuclear war, it is now nasal and ear hair. Did you know they even sell clippers designed especially for it? Thank goodness, I am not alone. Change is constant.

You only have to look at the way our industry has changed over the last few years and yet, in reality, it has been more like standing in a queue for a rollercoaster at Alton Towers. We know the ride has yet to begin, we might think we know what it is going to feel like and we know that, once it has started, we cannot get off.

Well, let me tell you something, we are all on that rollercoaster and the ride has star ted. Are you ready for it?

The industry is going through dramatic change – change that will alter the way we think and conduct our bus iness for ever. Just take a moment to think about what changes are happening over the next six months – new regulator, stakeholder and multi-ties. This is just the beginning.

I urge you to look around at how you can better streamline your businesses for the future, how you can save costs and improve productivity. In many cases, you might need to swallow your pride and look to amalgamate your business with others. There is, after all, strength in numbers.

There is nothing wrong with creating synergy within local areas, sharing things like training, IT, admin, even floor space. The industry dynamics are changing drastically and at an alarming pace. Are you?

I really believe that, to survive in the future, we must tot ally re-engineer our bus ines ses and change the way we view ourselves. I think the role of the IFA will move away from that of advice giver and product seller to that of advice giver only.

This makes a big difference to the way we remunerate ourselves. Charges are being driven out of the industry, forced upon us by Government and regulator, so what do we do? Ignore it?

The writing is on the wall. Even if you are the most highly qualified and professional IFA in the country, you cannot make a living by being a non-corporate pension specialist in the future. Call me naive but how will you survive on commission only?

No, the time has come to drop the 1980s style of commission-hungry salesperson and start charging fees like other professions. It will take time, it will not be an overnight process but it will happen – it must happen.

If you are not prepared to change the way you think about remuneration, as far as I am concerned, you are dead in the water. The threats will be too great from all sides.

You need to plan for change and be different because of it. Change can be daunting, it is certainly stressful and it will require bravery. No one likes it but, without it, you may as well give up.

Rest assured, history will show that 2001 was the year this industry changed for ever.

Mark Howard is managing director of Maddison Monetary Management

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