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Keeping advice at the core

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This is my farewell column in Money Marketing as director general of Aifa. It has been an honour and a privilege to lead Aifa over the last five years. These have been times of great change and great opportunity. While I am sad to be leaving Aifa, I can do so in the confidence that the organisation is better respected and more resilient than when I joined.

My time at Aifa started seven years ago when I was invited to launch the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries. It is rare that you get the opportunity to bring an entirely new trade body to market – and rarer still to launch an organisation that goes from zero to 80 per cent market coverage within a year. That achievement is a high-point in my career.

The AMI represents its members with vigour and robustness of thought – at the FSA, the Treasury, the Bank of England and in Europe. Our econ-omic reviews are sought after and it was a notable day when we published our solutions to the credit crunch before many in public policy even understood that there was an issue.

The launch of the Association of Finance Brokers, as a sister trade body to the AMI, for the secured loans industry caught the mood of the market. While that sector has suffered even more harshly than the first charge market, mem-bers can be assured of the strength of our lobbying to protect the good businesses in that market.

Last year, in our tenth anniversary year, we won the award for best trade body. Public recognition for the Aifa team’s dedication to serving its memb-ership. This was the latest in a series of awards and accolades won by the association as we built a first-class reputation for influ-encing politicians and policymakers in the EU and at home.

I shall be handing over the reins to my successor. I know that members will want to be assured that the “newbie” will stand up for them and fight for their interests. We are here to promote and protect the firms which are within our ranks so they are better placed to serve their clients.

With the challenges that face the advisory community, there are undoubted oppor-tunities. The challenge of increasing regul-atory scrutiny and rising operating costs are more than matched by the growing demand for advice from an ageing population, where individuals will be expected to make better provision for themselves.

The coming decades will see a multi-trillionpound wealth transfer as the “decumulation” generation gives way to the “inheritance” generation. Those in this cohort are more demanding than their parents, use tech-nology without even thinking about it and will want to deal with advisory firms on their own terms. For the practices who under-stand how to use tech-nology, serve existing clients and reach out to new ones, these are exciting times.

As a final thought, I hope the advisory profession recognises its own strengths soon. For too long, too much time and too much energy has been wasted in internecine wars between different types of adviser holding different types of qualification.

The challenge has always been to serve those who are under-saved, under-protected, under-pensioned but over-indebted as a result. I sense achange in Government policy to address these issues. It is my belief that the advisory profession could be a core part of the solution – but it is for us to prove our case. Our future is in our hands.

Chris Cummings is director general of Aifa

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