Libertatem has gained ground as the new adviser trade body on the block but may yet fall short of its original ambitious membership target.
The trade body launched in May 2015 and is run by former IFA Association director Garry Heath. It originally set out plans to secure 1,000 members by August 2016, but with 500 members under its belt to date has now set itself a new target to reach 1,100 members in 13 months’ time.
The trade body is focusing on directly authorised firms and counts a number of sole adviser businesses in its membership.
The organisation has agreed partnerships with four providers whose funding will assist Libertatem’s marketing campaign to attract new members.
Heath aims to sign on at least 20 partners and says there is no minimum funding requirement for providers looking to work with the trade body.
He says: “We will be discussing it on an individual basis and are seeing what they want out of the relationship. Most of them just want access to the IFAs and to do meetings.”
Heath is not currently raising a “fighting fund”, having netted £30,000 of a targeted £50,000 at the end of 2015 to contribute to lobbying around the Financial Advice Market Review.
He says: “We might relaunch it in a different way at a different time. We used the money for lobbying and for getting MPs understanding what was going on. I’m not particularly raising a fighting fund. We want to bring in more partners and that will be very helpful.”
Elsewhere, Libertatem has set up a commercial company, called Libertatem Services, and is due to launch a software product and professional indemnity facility in the coming weeks.
Since Libertatem’s launch, Apfa director general Chris Hannant has emphasised the importance of advisers lobbying with a single voice. Heath is clear he does not want an Apfa versus Libertatem situation.
He says: “This is about how can we get a trade association with the size and the resolve to get things done. That means we have to find a trade association that has £2m turnover. We are not there yet and Apfa is not close to it either. Even if we combined we would only get halfway there.”
“The task is not to compete with Apfa; it is to give the sector something that will stop it being the whipping boy for anything and everything else around.”
How the other trade bodies compare
Hannant says Apfa will remain the constant voice for advisers.
He says: “We have been around for 17 years and we have been the principle voice for advisers in that time. Various groupings have come and gone. None of them have really lasted for more than 18 months.
“Realistically, five years down the track I expect we will still be here. Aifa and Apfa have been the one constant representing advisers over the past 20 years and I would expect us to continue as the principal sole voice for the adviser community in the next 20 years.”
Despite this, Apfa has seen a slight drop in members in the past year. In May 2015, Hannant told Money Marketing Apfa counted around 65 per cent of the approximately 21,000 advisers nationwide as its members.
According to Apfa figures, at the end of 2015 there were 23,864 advising staff working in advice firms. Hannant says Apfa membership currently stands at 60 per cent of the market, which would equate to around 14,320 members.
He says any drop in membership is not attributed to the establishment of Libertatem.
He says: “Openwork left about 12 months ago, otherwise membership has been more or less level. We pick up some members, we lose some, people retire.”
Highclere Financial Services partner Alan Lakey was a member of both Apfa and Libertatem but last week ceased his Apfa membership due to dissatisfaction with internal communication processes.
He is happy with Heath’s lobbying efforts but admits membership numbers are not as high as many would have expected.
Lakey adds: “The membership of Libertatem is less than Heath would have liked but it continues to grow – something that can’t be said of Apfa.”
Number of members of Libertatem
Estimated number of Apfa members
Total number of Personal Finance Society members
Notes: Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment did not provide figures