What would I like to see in the new year? An embracing of change by my fellow IFAs.
Change is a fact of life. However, it appears that aversion to change is endemic in the IFA industry. With every new bit of regulation or inno vation out come the cynics and whingers in their droves with their negative comments and moral outrage at the latest perceived threat.
Our industry's survival flies in the face of Darwinian theory, if the noises made by many of my peers are to be believed, but for how long? The dinosaurs died out – gran ted, they were faced with an apocalyptic double whammy from Mother Nature.
Even corporate giants are not above the law of survival of the fittest. Equitable Life is only the latest victim of an incredible lack of commercial foresight. So what might IFAs' nemesis be? I could name several but in the end it all comes down to attitude.
Any time something new is introduced, it seems most of us feel threatened and handle it in one of two ways:
l Run away (flight) – defin itely the less popular of the two by a very long way. After all, chucking in the towel means no more lovely money.
l Do nothing (fright) and hope it goes away – the famous ostrich manoeuvre favoured by the majority but normally accompanied by the popular squawk option, which entails making a lot of noise and rustling some feathers prior to placing head firmly in the sand.
Yes, both reactions might be instinctive but surely their effectiveness is questionable? On a scale of 0-10 how would you rate them?
Anyone giving a score higher than zero might as well sign their own death certificate right now (unless you have no plans to hang around and have already booked your ticket to Rio or wherever else captures your fancy).
To survive in a service industry, in fact, any industry, means never losing sight of the customer and what they want. As the world changes, so do the needs of the customer and, if we are not prepared to satisfy those needs, I am pretty sure someone else will come along and take advantage of our complacency.
Regulation is just another example of a response to consumer demand. I think a lot of people are under the impression that regulators are only here to make their life difficult. The harsh reality is that their existence is in a large part due to the fact that some pretty unscrupulous people were going around screwing rather than serving Joe public.
The current regulations might not be perfect but how can they be? It is only through application that one can identify if something works or not and how well it is suited to the job. Modifications will always be necessary. Therefore, instead of pointing out the problems why not come up with solutions? It would certainly make for more enjoyable and inspiring reading.
Which brings me to a third way (no I am not canvassing for New Labour) of dealing with the strange and new. That is to face up to whatever is happening and, as the self-improvement gurus say, look at it as an opportunity disguised as a threat. Okay, it might sound like a platitude but there is often a great deal of wisdom in platitudes if we take the time to act on them.
Perhaps it is unfair of me to accuse only IFAs of being set in their ways. It seems this affliction affects the whole of the UK. In fact, the Department of Trade and Industry published figures last December showing that British companies still lag behind their main world competitors when it comes to capital investment.
How can we hope to compete in an ever-changing world if we do not make the res ources available?
As Lord Sainsbury, the industry minister, said: “Our people can't compete using yesterday's tools.”
The big question for us is, do we really want to compete? If the number of complaints I hear about the new tools available is a true reflection of sentiment, I fear not. Most threats are just detail, even the internet. It is just a tool not a monster.
And if, through WAP phones, it distracts mobile phone junkies from telling their friend, lover and everyone else who is unfortunate enough to be within sound range exactly where they are located on the planet every five minutes, more power to it.
Happy New Year.