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Keep your distance

Maybe it’s just me but a lot seems to have happened in the financial world since my last IFA View in January and not much of it is the sort of stuff that puts a smile on your face.

In addition to the contents of what must have been the most leaked Budget in British history, we have seen a UK high-street bank brought to its knees and nationalised, a French bank seriously wounded by a single member of staff and a US investment bank – a Wall Street institution, no less – reduced to a shadow of its former self and sold to a rival for a song.

The sad truth is that things look like they will get much worse before we see any signs of improvement. The FSA is to launch a probe into potential market manipulation by the spread of false rumours about one of the UK’s biggest banks, HBOS and, apparently, the US regulator is launching a similar investigation into trading ahead of the collapse of Bear Stearns.

Most of the bad news floating about is not directly related to the financial adviser community but we will not be able to escape the knock-on effects which are already being felt by different people in different ways.

One of the most significant and long-lasting effects for the adviser community will be on consumer confidence. Having spent years being tested to the limit, the financial services sector has just taken another massive knock which will mean another generation develops a lifelong distrust of the industry.

The public perception must surely be that the entire financial industry is badly run by bunch of greedy individuals whose only focus is on making as much money as possible in the shortest period of time.

The sad thing is that not only will these scandals continue to happen but they will always be headline news and will always have a contagion effect on other areas of industry, including financial advice.

As with many other quality advisers up and down the country, Helm Godfrey identified the issue a long time ago and has been working hard over the years to move as far away as possible from any potential danger.

By this I mean that we have been positioning the business so that new and existing clients of Helm Godfrey do not see the business or its advisers as part of the problem. Core to this is being an independent business in its truest sense.

This stance has proved to be hugely positive for us over the years. By placing independence at the very heart of the business and ensuring it figures in everything we do, we have been able to build a successful, well funded and profitable business.

Indeed, it is only by doing this that we have been able to constantly align our business interests with those of our clients rather than product providers – unfortunately, not the way things have traditionally been done – and in doing so avoid being seen as part of the problem.

This approach has served us very well and, I hope, has added credibility to our occasionally vocal interventions in industry debates. This is perhaps one of the reasons why, to my great delight, Helm Godfrey was voted IFA of the Year at the recent Money Marketing awards. This is something I am immensely proud of for a number of reasons.

It goes some way to recognising the huge amount of effort and hard work that has been put into making the business the success it is and it hopefully reflects the fact that the business has been hitting the right note regarding the issues we have been vocal about.

Bruce Wilson is managing director of Helm Godfrey

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