I have been reading the commentary and social media activity around the recent BACK2Y conference with huge interest.
I should probably declare some interests here. I went to the first conference last year and would have gone again this year if not for a diary clash. I have known and respected founder Paul Armson for many years and think that what he is trying to achieve is both laudable and long overdue. I also know many of the other speakers, both from this year and last, and have nothing but respect for those individuals such as Alan Smith, Steve Martin and Ruth Sturkey.
All of them bring a refreshing tone and way of doing things and, in my opinion at least, are to be commended for seeking out new and interesting ways to attract and serve clients. While I certainly do not agree with everything I know about their business models and how they go about things I do love their passion for doing things right and for adding value at a fair cost.
A form of financial planning not dependant on the sale of financial products is a fantastic aim and Paul is right to challenge us all to rise to this challenge. It is also superb he continues to spread the word beyond the UK as fee-based financial planning is an international activity. I know from personal experience just how much a large contingent of Dutch advisers enjoy what is happening and love to share their experiences too.
However, having read the post-conference article by a trade journalist in attendance and Paul’s response on Adviser Lounge I was somewhat puzzled. The journalist had written what is very obviously an “op-ed” piece and despite not being there I was left with a very good impression of the day, some of the speakers and the content. I thought it was fair and, when read in conjunction with some of her social media output, it did not come across as overly critical but quite rightly questioned some of the content of the day. Once again, I would declare I know and respect the journalist. She is very engaged with the advisory profession and writes very often in support of what we do and how we go about doing it.
Surely all worthwhile “movements” are born with some controversy, not a little doubt and very often with some pain along the way? I am surprised the fact the journalist challenged some of what was said, labelled some of it as journalists love to do and brought some trademark journalistic cynicism to the article while being broadly supportive met with such a strong response.
As I said earlier, the BACK2Y conference and those of us who support its ideals and aims are always looking to challenge the accepted norms within the broader financial services arena. However, ultimately, I feel we will all be slightly diminished if we cannot accept valid challenges to our own ideals while challenging those of others.
Lee Robertson is chief executive officer at Investment Quorum