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Interest in charges

Like many of my industry colleagues, I felt a surge of indignation on reading Dianne Hayter’s statement that “for the mass market, it is hard to find disinterested, professional, free or moderately priced assistance”. Oh yes?

Disinterested is what a judge presiding over a legal conflict between two parties is supposed to be, namely without bias towards the interests of one side or the other. So what two parties are involved when a member of the public submits his circumstances to the scrutiny and analysis of an IFA?

Just him and the IFA, who is – in an ideal world- the provider of carefully considered advice unrelated to the possible sale of a product.

Such a service cannot be provided free of charge by any profession. We have overheads, Ms Hayter – don’t you? Oh, sorry, I forgot, the financial services consumer panel is not a commercial organisation and thus does not have to worry about how much it charges clients for the work in which it is engaged.

However much you may wish it, Ms Hayter, an IFA cannot be totally disinterested in the affairs of his clients because he has levies and bills and salaries to pay.

Even the FSA is willing to admit that IFAs have to charge something for their services, which is why we have to offer prospective clients a choice of how they pay for the work they may wish to appoint us to undertake on their behalf.

I am unaware of a fourth option on the payment menu which asks whether or not the client would like us to work for them free of charge. Or do you think the payment menu is sorely lacking in this regard?

And on what basis does Ms Hayter consider professional advice so hard for the mass market to find?

The majority of most IFA firms’ client banks are almost certainly mass market and, apart from those who have been encouraged to raise complaints about artificially concocted endowment shortfalls, I would estimate that most clients have no complaints about the professionalism of their adviser.

As in every profession, some IFAs are better than others and our industry has its share of spivs and a few crooks but there are plenty of professional IFAs around.

So, Ms Hayter, when moralising about commentators getting their facts straight, please get yours straight too.

Julian StevensWDS IFAs, Bristol


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