The world of financial advice is as competitive a marketplace as any other industry, which is a good thing. However, it is also a world under threat due to the increasing cost of regulation.
What is more, we have the FCA pulling us one way to tighten procedures and the Government pulling us another to enable greater choice for clients. Times are tough and if we sit back and let it all happen, they will get tougher.
Now is the time for those advisers who care about the future of the industry to talk to each other and take joint action to lobby the Government and the FCA. The Financial Advice Market Review is an ideal opportunity for us to have our say. We should not let this opportunity pass us by.
The key is collaboration. There is no excuse for anyone running an advice firm not to be concerned about the issues facing the sector. Only by talking to each other and then reacting with a single voice can we help influence Government and FCA strategy in the future.
We need a sea change at FCA level too. We sometimes feel it sees the advice sector as a barrier to the client’s best interests that must be scaled to get good outcomes. It is high time it recognised advice firms are not the enemy. We want quality, transparency and fairness for every client, every time.
Yes, we want to make profits – how can we survive as businesses unless we are financially viable? – but we also want to build sound long-term relationships with clients who have become our friends.
Here in East Anglia we have created a group of what we believe to be among the best firms in the region. We call it East Anglian Independent Voice and it is our aim to fight both for higher standards in the industry and for an environment where we can continue to provide affordable, unbiased advice.
Our group is made up of the people who run these firms: the directors or partners who have an eye on the long-term strategies and who hold the responsibility of some 200 employees. Our discussions encompass everything from the service performance of certain providers to the availability and cost of professional indemnity insurance. However, a theme to which we return time after time is how the industry is to survive under the pressures being piled upon it.
There have been attempts in the past to create national lobby groups, some of which have fallen by the wayside. I am a member of Apfa, which may well be the channel through which we can make our voices heard in the future. Whatever channel we choose to adopt, it must have the support of a broad representation of the advice sector.
My challenge to all those who run advice firms is this: do not bury your heads in the sand. Engage in the debate about the future of our industry. Join lobby groups or form your own. Respond to the FCA’s call for input. It is our world, so it is up to us to make it a better place.
Carl Lamb is managing director of Almary Green