“At least if you are dealing with a crook, he is an educated crook.” Which wise man would say this to a television audience of millions, live, on BBC1 business breakfast? A lawyer maybe? How about a judge talking on the way convicts educate themselves in prison? Worse still, a politician talking about the Chancellor?
None of the above, I am afraid. No, these words did not come from someone with intimate knowledge of criminal behaviour, these immortal words came from the lips of a once respected journalist banished from the broadsheets to the heady heights of web land.
Why do I bring this to your attention, ladies and gentlemen? Because his comments were about us, the independent financial adviser. In direct response to a question about qualifications, he intimated we were a bunch of crooks. What the hell does that sort of comment do to the already confused consumer?
Now I know our industry has been highly effective at shooting itself in the foot but this really does take the biscuit. And talking of biscuits, he said: “Never offer one to an IFA because you'll never get rid of them.” Charming.
I only wish I could work in the same Utopian environment that this journalist does. It must be a tough job working in an industry as unblemished as his. No rotten apples over there then, no insider dealings, no editors making hods of cash on the nod, no bent media owners falling off boats, no press trips to exotic locations to hear about the latest product launch. No, everything just hunky dory totally squeaky-clean. Hmm?
I think, Mr Journalist, you fail to realise that we have gone through a metamorphosis over the last few years. Not before time, I grant you, but the standard today cannot be compared with yesteryear – we have got our collective acts together and will continue to improve.
The cowboys have largely gone but you are never going to eliminate them. Unless, of course, you are suggesting we get rid of human beings all together, interesting thought that. But hang on, that would mean the only place consumers could go for advice would be the web. Oh, now I see, I am so slow sometimes.
You see, it really does make me ever so slightly mad when people who have never actually done the job, tar each and everyone of us with the same brush.
Let me tell you something, we do a great job. We, as an industry, affect people's lives for the positive every single day do you? You see, Mr Journalist, we do make a difference. Getting people on track to achieve their goals is no stroll in the park.
Contrary to your blinkered view, we are not all uneducated Neanderthal types, dragging our knuckles along the ground, searching for the hopeless sap stupid enough to give us his cash. We are a proud bunch of people who take time to ensure we do the right job for every client. This, after all, is the only way we will stay in business.
May be you should come and join me for a week and see what it is really like. You know the sort of stuff, actually talking to clients face to face. Getting to grips with their financial situation, understanding their attitudes, building a long-term relationship, guiding, educating, motivating and organising them for the better.
It is a bit tougher than sitting in front of your keyboard communicating with cyberspace every day but, hey, you might just learn something. Now that really is an exciting prospect.
On a completely different note, can I just say hearty congratulations to Scottish Provident on its recent CD-Rom that arrived with the pinks this week. Very innovative, great tongue-in-cheek humour and a brave departure from the norm. A big thumbs up.