Dennis Hall: Why I’m giving Garry Heath’s trade body a second look

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Like many of us, I have received several emails over the last 12 months from Libertatem’s Garry Heath, all part of his flag-waving and fundraising efforts.

The first few I deleted immediately without a second thought but eventually I started reading them and have actually found myself nodding in agreement with some of the things he says although I have not been convinced  enough to join.

My trouble is that I am unable to shake off my first impressions of Heath when he was heading up the IFA Association (which became Aifa and is now Apfa). I avoided the IFAA because, to my eyes, it appeared to represent a type of adviser I never wanted to be. And I thought they were a pugnacious lot too.

That is a huge generalisation and risks offending a lot of people – no doubt many that had similar values to me but joined Aifa because they wanted to be a part of something that stood up for them. I was younger and awkwardly uncompromising back then.

My outlook softened during Paul Smee’s tenure at the trade body and I finally stumped up my dues after Chris Cummings filled the chair. I am still a member, although largely through apathy and a sense of duty than any real feeling of engagement, which is as much my fault as Apfa’s.

But back to Libertatem. It has made some valid points and highlighted aspects of the current state of regulation that make me uncomfortable as the owner of a small business but there is too much rhetoric and too many things I do not agree with, such as fighting for a reversal of the trail commission ban. Really?

Yet something else is holding me back; there is something about the language that is bothering me. It is the underlying pugnaciousness and the sense it is a fight they are after.

Of course, I could be totally wrong (it would not be the first time) and perhaps I am naïve to think you can tackle the issues without a fight. But when I look through the names on the Libertatem board, those I know I would not describe as moderates.

This is not a criticism of the individuals but a criticism of the board make-up. I just do not think it represents me or what I stand for.

Thinking more about that sentence, however, I find myself questioning who is representing me and what I stand for? Is it Apfa or the Personal Finance Society? Do I have to agree 100 per cent with Heath and the rest of the Libertatem board? Heck, I have been a card-carrying member of a political party whose policies I frequently disagree with simply because the alternative is worse.

I guess if the Financial Advice Market Review had delivered something tangible for the small and mid-sized firms that are the backbone of financial advice, then I would care less.

But with the Financial Advice Marfket Review  in thrall to technology and fast-tracking sandboxes rather than Financial Ombudsman Service and Financial Services Compensation Scheme reforms, and Apfa is not really focusing on the smaller directly regulated firm, perhaps I should at least call Heath to hear what is behind the rhetoric.

Dennis Hall is managing director of Yellowtail Financial Planning