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IFA Centre faces closure unless numbers double

Beth Brearley Contact Us
Cardy says IFA Centre needs 500 members to be viable.

IFA Centre needs to more than double its individual memberships by the end of the year or it will be shut down.

The trade body has 218 individual members across 88 firms. Managing director Gill Cardy believes IFA Centre needs to reach 500 members in order to remain a viable, representative adviser body.

Individual members pay £195 a year to join the trade body. Corporate membership is charged on a sliding scale based on a firm’s number of approved persons, starting at £195 a year for one approved person and rising to £1,410 a year for 10 approved persons.

Membership costs increase further for each approved person where there are more than 10 per firm.

Former Professional Partnerships principal Cardy set up IFA Centre in October 2011 as a trade body purely for independent advisers in an effort to rival Aifa. 

In November 2012, Aifa rebranded as the Association of Professional Financial Advisers and began accepting restricted advisers as members. Cardy argued there was a need for a body to solely represent IFAs’ interests post-RDR but concerns were raised about funding the new group.

Cardy says: “We are a non-profit membership organisation with no product provider funding. To be an authoritative and respected representative body, IFA Centre needs more advisers in membership. This also provides the financial resources to provide the support that advisers want in terms of regulation, consultation, lobbying and other benefits.

“Ultimately, our existence and success depend on advisers, who said they wanted different and better representation.”

ValidPath director and IFA Centre member Kevin Moss says: “I would be sad if IFA Centre had to close because Gill has created something quite special. Advisers who have tapped the trade body for advice seem shy to pay what is an extraordinarily small subscription.”

Apfa, previously Aifa, has struggled with funding in recent years. It posted an operating deficit of £194,419 for the year to 30 June 2011, down from a surplus of £14,919 for 2009/10 and a loss of £154,000 in 2012.

However, the trade body suggested last October that it was on course to make a surplus for the year to June 2013. Results are published in the autumn.

Money Marketing understands St James’s Place is close to becoming a member of Apfa. Restricted national Openwork joined earlier this year

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Comments

There are 35 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Fully Informed 31st July 2013 at 9:15 am

    IFA’s want something for nothing, shock horror!!

  2. Dominic Thomas 31st July 2013 at 9:17 am

    Gill is doing a great job at IFA Centre. I would encourage every independently minded financial planner to join. IFA Centre provides a thoughtful and intelligent voice to and for the IFA community.

  3. Richard Bishop 31st July 2013 at 9:22 am

    What have you done so far to help IFAs that’s worth £195.00 a year?

  4. Jonathan Davies 31st July 2013 at 9:24 am

    IFA Centre is a waste of time and money, no need for it I’m afraid, hence the lack of membership.

  5. It would be a shame to see IFA Centre disappear due to lack of numbers. As other commentators say she does a very good job. Even if it does close I think it says more about how totally fed up IFAs are in relation to the industry. According to some stats around 90% of the 21000 registered advisers as at Dec 31 remain independent so in my book that is around 18900 IFA;s and yet since 2011 IFA Centre hs only attracted 216 members when there were several thousand more? I think that says it all. My view is that IFA’s have just been put off by the then trade body AIFA.. Personally I am whole of market restricted so do not qualify to be a member and I hope it works but am not confident she will manage to get the numbers required. I hope I am wrong. All the best Gill

  6. Richard Bishop 31st July 2013 at 9:33 am

    Does a very good job – please expand on this.

  7. Becoming a headcase IFA 31st July 2013 at 9:34 am

    It is not that IFAs want something for nothing.

    What IFAs needed was one single, but powerful, voice to represent them. This should have been AIFA but the main individuals running it, a few years back, let the side down and lost support.

    Financial adviser ‘unions’ are coming from a very low point and trying to sell themselves to a, largely, dispirited bunch of advisers who don’t believe anything they do or say will make a difference now.

    Unless somebody with a lot of charisma steps forward and shows IFAs that their particular representative body can make a difference there isn’t going to be much of a future for trade bodies.

  8. £195 per year is quite a lot of money. At least with a phone bill or gym membership or something you can see what you’re getting. I respect what Gill is doing but I can’t see it making the slightest bit of difference to an IFA’s life whether he is or is not a member.

  9. If the FSA/FCA can go tell the TSC to go F&&*K themselves what hope is there for the likes of IFA centre or any other representative body for that matter ?

    The only obstacle, in my view; for IFA’s (independent or restricted, no difference really) is over regulation and costs

    As Julian Stevens keeps saying we need a “regulatory oversight committee” who the FCA are accountable to, anything else is frankly just a waste of time and money !!!!

  10. Anon@9.46
    Correct. An IFAs’ life will be no different, regardless of a trade body.
    The FCA listen to no one.
    The most they will commit to is “we have taken this on board” The End.
    IFAs’ are marginalised and disenfranchised. They have no rights such as those afforded to ordinary citizens. They are treated with contempt and outwith the laws of natural justice. It is the government that needs to address these anomalies.
    Trade bodies did not represent their members in the past especially with regard to grandfathering which affected a good number of IFAs’
    Why throw money at something which is of no benefit when we already do enough of that with regulatory fees etc?

  11. The word in the wind seems to be that a mass migration from independent to restricted status is already underway, so there’ll be less independents left to join the IFA Centre. Much will depend on the outcome of the IFA Centre’s efforts in respect of the ArchCru debacle. If that gets nowhere, IFA’s will shrug their collective shoulder and decide the action to have been a worthy campaign but one that ultimately achieved nothing.

    As I see it, APFA is our only hope, but the trouble with APFA is that it seems to be just a talking shop with a weak agenda and no backbone. Just writing articles in the trade press and letters to the FSA which are either dismissed or ignored aren’t getting us anywhere.

    APFA needs to build alliances in parliament with MP’s who can get its voice heard and listened to. For this, Lord Deben (John Selwyn Gummer), who sits on the APFA council (and is paid £25,000 a year for so doing), ought to be instrumental but, from what I hear, he does virtually nothing. He doesn’t even turn up to every council meeting.

    The two central planks of APFA’s agenda should be to hold the FSA to the Statutory Code of Practice For Regulators (which it completely ignores) and the creation of an Independent Regulatory Oversight Committee (which the TSC patently isn’t, because all it can do is ask a few pertinent questions but it has no power to force action if it’s not satisfied with the answers it receives).

    As was the PIA before it, the FSA is an unbridled monster that simply rides roughshod over anyone or any body that dares to try to stand in its way. Articles and letters aren’t going to change that one iota. How can APFA not see this and, more to the point, why isn’t it adopting an alternative strategy?

  12. I find this so ineffably sad. First I must respond to Anonymous at 9.46. If you think £195 is quite a lot of money for the membership of a trade body, I think perhaps it’s time for you to look for a new career. Compared to other bodies its peanuts.

    I resigned my directorship when AIFA dropped the ‘I’. I see from today’s news that their long courtship of SJP might yet bear fruit. I seem to have been prescient, as I don’t want to be in the same trade body as a firm such as that – our interests are not aligned.

    I joined the IFA Centre precisely because it is the only body that now represents independents. To those who carp about what has been achieved I would say that firstly you have to join in order for there to be a critical mass. Then and only then can you expect some really positive results. On the shoe string on which she currently operates I think she has done remarkably well. It has to be a matter of faith in the early years while the hoped for membership grows.

    If you don’t think the Independent cause is worth representation then one wonders why you are busting your butt trying to remain Independent at all. If you do believe in the cause a couple of hundred quid a year should be merely a rounding error for even the most modest of IFAs. Most probably spend more than that a month in the pub or eating out.

    If you don’t think Gill is doing a good job – still join and then help her out with your invaluable input.

    Sometimes I really do wonder what sort of people populate this business.

  13. Jeepers creepers!

    No wonder IFAs struggle to make their views known and improve their lot.

    £195 per year is a lot of money? Ye Gods
    At least you can see what you get from a gym membership – which gym are you a member of at £195 per year? How can you draw such a pathetic comparison.

    Looks like the mealie mouthed majority want to see instant results and ain’t prepared to give any sort of support – not even £16 per month to try and help get those results.

    What a pathetic bunch. Frankly you deserve nought and will end up getting nought.

    You should be ashamed.

    Gillian is working her butt off to try and help you guys, but you know what if I were her I’d go back to the day job and earn some money.

  14. PS To my previous post.

    I see from some of the remarks that many (if not most) see a trade body’s main task as interlocutor with the regulator. What about the PR role in the wider world? Promoting the concept of independence to the press, the other professional bodies and the public at large. Remember that IFAP or whatever they now call themselves have also deserted and now swim in the polluted pool with all the rest.

    There is more to a Trade Body than just interfacing with the regulator – although I concede it is an important part.

  15. @ Richard Bishop

    Gill got George Galloway on board to table an EDM re Arch Cru.

    I view that as fairly useful, unlike your comments.

  16. When I and other formed Adviser Alliance we set it up not to oppose AIFA but because AIFA, ABI and other bodies were conniving with the FSA to bring about the RDR demolition system.

    We found that support was quite thick on the ground but parting with money was not so easy to arrange.

    I fear Gill will never hit the critical mass she requires and don’t forget, unlike the IFA Centre, Adviser Alliance wasn’t funding the sustenance of directors or even claiming expenses.

    If we couldn’t make this model attractive and workable…

  17. It might help to know which brand of independence the IFA Centre stands for. Is it just the FCA definition or does it cover more?

    If it’s the FCA then it’s investment products only that determine what independence is. Or is there more to it than that?

    Can I join if I don’t give advice on long term care or pension transfers or protection products or equities? I could still be independent under the FSA definition.

    On the other hand, if I’ve chosen not to give advice on Mexican collective investment schemes but cover everything else on a whole of market basis then I am, by FCA’s definition, restricted. Can I join then?

    The IFA Centre website is strangely silent on what independence actually is.

    Under the new regime I strongly suspect that many ‘restricted’ advisers are more ‘independent’ in the sense that most people understand than many FCA defined IFAs actually are.

    Marty and Alan might even be able to join if there was a sensible definition.

  18. Grey Area @ 11.09
    “Under the new regime I strongly suspect that many ‘restricted’ advisers are more ‘independent’ in the sense that most people understand than many FCA defined IFAs actually are.”

    Can you tell me how that works in your mind, there is no definitions that exist where Restricted is more Independent than Independent. The FCA definition of Independent is very wide, I do not understand how you can come to the conclusion you have done. I would even go as far as to say that when advisers talk about the confusion around Independent and Restricted it is not the fault of the FCA but instead advisers making comments like that.

  19. @PensionMan

    Allowing George Galloway on board your table is not an achievement, it’s a health hazard. You don’t know where those paws have been.

  20. No wonder IFAs get picked off.

    A lady with vast industry experience tries to bring “Independent” IFAs together with one voice to speak and fight for true independent advice and most of the comments above knock her.

    Genuine Independent IFAs are doomed to be walked over by regulators until you form for want of a better description a trade union where you all speak AND ACT as one.

    For example you all moan about regulatory fees going up but single voices are easily ignored.

    Single actions ignored.

    But a genuine trade body with all its members behind it all refusing to pay increased fees could not be ignored.

    A single body could successfully lobby MPs, may be telling them that members will refuse to vote at the next election if their concerns are ignored.

    Until the day that IFAs speak and ACT as one you will be easily ignored and pick off one by one!

  21. GROUNDHOG DAY !!

    Gill Cardy however well meaning was doomed before she started and the fact that she ran it for an income compounded the problem in a way

    Its been said many times before and in the case of Adviser Alliance tried too.

    Unless advisers speak with one very strong voice – well you know the rest !!

  22. Working Together 31st July 2013 at 1:27 pm

    I follow the blogs and there is still a lack of co-ordination which is where IFA Centre can come in. There are potentially so many issues within the industry that they cannot all be dealt with at once. Perhaps if IFA Centre were to publish the key areas that need to be addressed, and then put it out to its members those that are being actively pursued, we might start to gain some traction.

    To begin with, we should not expect too many changes but if enough well considered, professionally organised arguments are constantly being ignored, then parliament and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (responsible for the Statutory Code of practice for Regulators) must start to take note. I say this because some of the comments by supposed industry professionals on this website embarrass me.

    I appreciate this has been covered before, but I have copied below the main aspects of the code;

    Economic Progress:
    Regulators should recognise that a key element of their activity will be to allow, or even encourage, economic progress and only to intervene when there is a clear case for protection.

    Risk Assessment
    Regulators, and the regulatory system as a whole, should use comprehensive risk assessment to concentrate resources in the areas that need them most.

    Advice & Guidance
    Regulators should provide authoritative, accessible advice easily and cheaply.

    Inspections and other visits
    No inspection should take place without a reason.

    Information requirements
    Businesses should not have to give unnecessary information or give the same piece of information twice.

    Compliance and enforcement actions
    The few businesses that persistently break regulations should be identified quickly and face proportionate and meaningful sanctions.

    Accountability
    Regulators should be accountable for the efficiency and effectiveness of their activities, while remaining independent in the decisions they take.

  23. @ Gavin 11.45am

    I did give an example but here’s my reasoning why restricted can be more independent…

    The FCA definition is based solely on whether you give advice on packaged retail investment products. Nothing more, nothing less.

    So, an adviser can be independent without giving advice on long term care, pension transfers (both exempt from ‘packaged products’), shares, government and corporate bonds, protection products and anything to do with cash. ISAs are not packaged products either but get caught if you put a product in.

    On the other hand an adviser who provides advice on all of the above on a whole of market basis, but who refuses to consider South American collective investments, is restricted.

    Call me old fashioned but I would suggest that the latter adviser is more ‘independent’ than the former.

    Client: “I’d like advice on my shares and pension transfer please”
    Adviser: “Sorry, I cant help you, I’m independent”

  24. @ grey area

    Totally agree, which makes the whole Indy V Rest a bit of a joke really ?
    Much better when it was just Indy or Tied

    or am I being to simple ?

  25. Dear Grey Area

    Many of us contributing to this site quite evidently enjoy being polemic, but you, dear chap, take it to a whole new level.

    I can’t imagine that there are Independent advisers who are constrained in the way you outline. It may be a Regulator’s definition, but most IFAs I come across advise on anything to do with money. (Admittedly I prefer not to get involved with State Benefits and happily it is a Blue Moon event when it crops up with my clients).

    Furthermore I think it’s a pity that you consider it important to remain anonymous. You often have some very pertinent things to say and being anonymous does detract somewhat.

  26. Trevor M Harrington 31st July 2013 at 3:28 pm

    I am not going spend this time (your time) telling you how wonderful Gill is, which she is, as others have already done that most eloquently.

    At the very beginning of the IFA Centre, I asked Gill to set up a meeting for us to decide on direction and objective for this new body.

    On the day, there were twelve at that “formation and direction meeting” and whilst some of the none IFAs were welcome for their experienced input, such as the David Severn, there were others who stated their sole intention as observers, and then proceeded to hijack the meeting. One such vociferous attendee, who never has been an IFA, was subsequently appointed to the board of Directors. His appointment was questionable, and in my opinion was only made in order access a source of potential members – a mistake, if I may say so.

    At the meeting, I made many of the points that have already been made this morning, concerning cost, effect, benefit to the membership, and what exactly our objectives would likely be. I pointed out that yet another ineffectual “talking shop” is definitely not needed in this honourable profession of ours.

    Many of our problem issues are created by our regulator, and the commonality of these issues amongst IFAs are the obvious rallying points to draw us all together. However, we really do need to understand that our regulator has an entirely different agenda to our own, and beyond pretending to listen to us, they really could not care less. In fact there is good evidence to show that their direction and regulations are specifically vindictive, and intentionally destructive to the IFA.

    At the meeting, I advocated a confrontational stance with the regulator in the quest for a few specific objectives around which the greater part of the IFA profession could easily rally and support wholeheartedly.

    For instance, I suggested that we might rally around :-
    1) The lack of a time bar.
    2) The disproportionate costs of regulation compared to the limited number of complaints generated by IFAs.
    3) The lack of IFAs employed by the regulator and the ombudsman.
    4) The dictatorial nature of the demand that highly successful, long term and acknowledged professionals, should be compulsorily required to re-sit their stupid exams.

    There are many objectives which IFAs could easily rally around, and I advocated that the IFA centre should “adopt” the most important ones as required by the membership. We could still do this.

    Currently, we are once again being subjected to the classic policy of the regulator – that of “divide and rule”. Do you really think that their current objective of dividing the IFA ranks into “restricted” and “unrestricted” is an accident of regulatory terminology ?

    Possibly, the single biggest question for the IFA Centre at it’s formation meeting was going to be “how to get the regulator to listen AND THEN ACT on our recommendations?”

    I advocated that all members of the IFA Centre should pay their regulatory fees into an independent Trust, from which our regulatory fees would only be paid through to the regulator themselves, when they did indeed listen and act. If you wish, effectively a trade union by any other name, with the final sanction of strike action – in other words, withholding our regulatory fees.

    Without the rally point objectives, the IFA centre was never, and will never, achieve critical mass, and without the ability to threaten the regulator with mass disobedience The IFA Centre would have no voice, no potential for achievement, and no members.

    It is not too late.

  27. @Trevor
    That would work for me.

  28. Richard Bishop 31st July 2013 at 4:52 pm

    @TrevorMHarrington and what have you done in two years on the above 4 issues?

  29. Dear Harry

    Thank you for your kind words. I enjoy most of your comments which always have a valid point and I agree with all but the far right leaning ones.

    I was actually trying to make a serious point and only used an extreme to illustrate this. Clearly I will have to re-think my strategy in this respect.

    The real argument is over the use of the word ‘independent’, not the FA attached to it. Perhaps that has clouded things a little.

    For a more practical example, take the position of an IFA and a specialist investment manager (advice and discretion).

    The IFA only has to cover the universe of packaged products to call themselves independent. In practice most do not advise on equities and government and corporate bonds. Most are not qualified to give advice on pension transfers or long term care. Nevertheless, they can call themselves independent.

    On the other hand a whole of market adviser who specialises in investments, including the full range of equities, bonds etc., but who does not get involved in the setting up of say pension wrappers or offshore bonds, is restricted. There are plenty of these people around in practice too.

    The latter probably wouldn’t call themselves an IFA but then they can’t use the term ‘independent’ either? Does the IFA Centre really want to exclude these people? Possibly. But if so, all I’m asking is where the line is drawn? What’s the definition of an IFA?

    I post anon because I am a senior manager in a relatively large firm and these are personal views. A search of MM or the FCA Register would quickly link me to them and I don’t think that would be appropriate or fair. So, whilst I take your point I will continue to post as the eristic Grey Area.

  30. Dear Grey Area,

    I do follow your points, but at root this distinction is not of our making. Like it or not we are landed with these semantics. In order to maintain our escutcheon we do have to jump some not inconsiderable hurdles.

    So those of us who make the effort and defend against the regulators imposts would rather also benefit from our nomenclature. After all it has been said that Independence is the pinnacle – the Gold Standard. This description may not have traction in some circles, but if that is what the Regulator thinks then why shouldn’t we take fair advantage?

    I don’t deny that I think the divisions are (to be polite) spurious. To use my own example I find it grotesque that a stockbroker has to define himself as ‘restricted’. For heaven’s sake, if I want to go to a dentist I don’t expect to see a proctologist!

  31. I think Gill is doing an excellent job. I agree with Harry, understand Grey Areas point however. I can advise on LTC, but not pension transfers, I can advise on the exotic, but it is unlikely to be suitable for most of my clients, just as individual equities and ETFs held directly are not.
    As to Trevor’s suggestion that we pay FCA fees to a Trust and hold them back, I would be up for that as I have said before.
    If you want to find out more about IFACentre, then Gill is coming to our IFA seaside seminar in Ramsgate on 4th October and if you’d like to come along and hear her, MGM and Way so far, let me know. Phil.castle@FESCAPE.co.uk

  32. They want someone else to do everything in someone else’s time with someone else’s money.

    Which Skandia executive described IFAs as “children”?

    He might have had ginger hair and he was probably drunk as a skunk when he said it but when the cap fits..

  33. RegulatorSaurusRex 1st August 2013 at 11:14 pm

    The regulators can’t hear anything sensible, too many people screaming and moaning.

    Gill’s initiative was doomed to fail from outset as were all other attempts to herd the Katz.

    The banking lobby is another matter, show me the regulators who would want to feather their nest and work for an adviser firm when they leave Canary Towers? I bet you couldn’t think of even Severn names.

    Begone ye pestilent IFAs and don’t darken my doorstep ever again.

  34. The worst thing BIBA ever did was give up representing IFAs. If there was a body that does even half of what BIBA does for its members, I’d join.

  35. Mike Fenwick was BIBA Scotland, a great mind that still functions at levels unseen elsewhere.

    He predicted the current mess and that it would become your prison, and theirs.

    His favourite cartoon is Snoopy on his kennel saying nobody listens.

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