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Dennis Hall: I joined Libertatem to fight for advisers

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In my previous column for Money Marketing, I said I would reach out to Garry Heath to hear what he had to say about Libertatem. You might recall me describing him (and his ilk) as pugnacious. In contrast, I would be courteous and open-minded. Who was I kidding? I had already decided I would not be joining Heath or his band of not-so-merry men.

To avoid not knowing what I was talking about, and also to try and score points over Heath, I found myself dwelling more than usual about regulation, trade bodies and representation. The more thinking and reading I did, the more I began to change my mind. Not about Heath and his not-so-merry men, but about some of their aims.

Then a few more pieces of the jigsaw started slotting together. One piece was a brief conversation with Personal Finance Society chief executive Keith Richards, where I bemoaned the Financial Advice Market Review’s rejection of a long-stop. Richards said something interesting, which I will attempt to paraphrase: he said that every meeting between professional and trade bodies, and the FCA and Treasury was predicated on “what is in it for the consumer?”.

In an ideal world it is a sensible approach to take, provided it is universal and consistently applied. But I left the conversation feeling “what is in it for the consumer?” is interpreted differently depending on which sector is under scrutiny.

When talking about businesses that are not too big to fail (that would include most financial advice businesses) the “what is in it for the consumer?” approach has been applied to the extent firms have gone bust. But when talking about banks threatening to move business overseas (think HSBC) then people in power begin to listen. “What is in it for the consumer?” suddenly takes on a different hue.

Former FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley’s departure was supposedly linked to the leak of market sensitive information, but it also came at the same time the attitude toward big banks became more benign. Coincidence? Probably.

It is knowing I am too small to register on anyone’s radar that tells me it should not only be about “what is in it for the consumer?” but also “what’s in it for the adviser?” I saw very little in FAMR to suggest anything the existing adviser community can bring to the table has actively featured on the FCA or Treasury radar. Their attention is now on organisations with deep enough pockets to develop technology-led advice solutions.

So, to even the score ever so slightly, I decided I wanted someone in my corner with all the fire and tenacity of an angry Jack Russell nipping at the heels of the policymakers. I joined Libertatem.

I have lost count of the number of times I have heard talk about a “regulatory dividend” for going above and beyond what the regulator asks for, but if everything is predicated on “what is in it for the consumer?” it is never going to happen. It is time this worm turned.

Dennis Hall is managing director of Yellowtail Financial Planning


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There are 10 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Well said Dennis. The other thing advisers should understand is that the regulator is insistent that we the financial advisory sector become a fully fledged profession. However, they are also insistent that we are not afforded any of the benefits of a profession, such as parliamentary representation, longstop and all other benefits afforded to Lawyers, Accountants and Medics.
    Until we are recognised and accepted as a true profession, we will never be taken seriously. This is what Libertataem is trying to fight for.

  2. Having been around since Noah was in short pants I have seen quite a few trade bodies. I really cannot recall any significant victories. Yes there has been the odd small advance, but nothing life changing.
    Indeed most trade bodies stumbled from one financial crisis to another and then disappeared.
    Professional bodies on the other hand are an entirely different cup of tea and indeed they have occasionally put in a word or two with no less success than the trade bodies. So as I have said often in the past, why can’t the trade bodies just amalgamate with the Professional bodies, much like the situation in other professions?

  3. Dennis, having been part of APFA’s Longstop working party and been in Adviser Alliance and IFADU all along with Alan Lakey and met with the FCA to discuss the Longstop, they are all a bunch of Shysters and short of making use of your previous careers training Dennis, you, me, APFA and Libertatem will never get them to change as they can’t face the comsumer groups back lash of returning to a rule of law. They prefer the rule of the Financial Ombudsman Commissar. Forget law of precedent, if the FOS don’t like it, they will ignore previous case law and find in favoir of the consumer and if tou challenge them on it they claim that clarifying their decision would breach the DPA, bit not to worry if you have similar cases which case law says do one thing Nestle v Natwest, bit FOS decision goes the other way!

  4. PS I have had no FOS complaints, just questioned some of their published decisions justification which they refuse to clarify by hiding behind the DPA.

  5. Dennis is an intelligent fellow and it is encouraging that he realises the value of having a Jack Russell fighting your corner rather than a limping, semi-comatose poodle.

    Excellent news.

  6. Advice will never be seen as a ‘true profession’ while its keeps arguing for things like trail commission.

  7. Matt

    Nor will it be regarded in a good light as long as it treasures Jack Russells and regards interface with regulation as ‘fighting’.

    • Yes Harry, but much as the F-pack like to try and treat us as employees, we are NOT we are independant minded people working as agents of pur clients who pay us and in turn, we pay the F-pack staff’s wages. When they say “do this” and they are wrong, we have a responsibility to our clients to tell the F-pack, say NO, explain why so they rethink.
      Advice is not about doing what the client thinks they want, it is aboit educating them so they can make an informed decision and we must advise the F-pack when they are wrong and not keep our heads “below the parapet”. Not that you or I could be accused of that Harry (nor Dennis)
      Were I a regulator, I’d be looking at those who apparantly agree with everything they say and no or simply say NOTHING in an attempt not to be noticed.

  8. Aaaahhh !!! the good dog, bad dog argument !

    The good ole faithful golden retriever, ever greatful for the odd bone that maybe thrown their way, pat on the head or a rub of the tummy !!!

    Blindly accepting what their master says is true and the way to go is correct !

    Personally it boils down to, how good the master is…….and they should not be surprised if they start to stand up for themselves and bite back if they forever being thrown to the hazard

    It’s got bog all to do with the breed !!

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