So, at last, the LIA and Sofa will merge. Members had the last word, and it was overwhelmingly yes.
Despite the underlying support for the merger, the last few months have seen an interesting upsurge of comment from a few people who emphasise disunity. It seemed to me throughout the sometimes furious questioning and debate that there was a mismatch between the anti views expressed and the views of the vast majority of advisers. That creating a single body to achieve professional status has been under debate for the past 12 years with hardly any let-up would suggest that there must be attraction in the idea. This point has been proven by the member vote.
So what happens now?
Databases need to be merged, entitlement to designations established, regional structure created, corporate identity and logos agreed, websites rebranded and the first steps taken towards the annual conference of the Personal Finance Society, due to take place in November 2005. That adds up to a lot of work.
One of the more sensitive issues raised in the debate concerned the designations which members will receive. The terminology used in the designations derives from the Nat-ional Qualifications Framework which means that, under the auspices of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, there will be a common set of descriptions for exams right across all industry and commerce and indeed in the educational system. This is a real way of removing the so-called alphabet soup.
We have already announced the designations: CertPFS for those at FPC or equivalent level, DipPFS for those who have three subject passes in the AFPC (including taxation and trusts). The higher-level qualifications (associateship and fellowship) are based on six and 10 AFPC subject passes respectively. In a few months time, I hope that we shall be announcing the addition of chartered status but that currently rests with the Privy Council.
So what do members have to do?
Once the de-duping of databases is completed, members will be transferred to the PFS. This is intended to happen by January 2005. On that front, members need to do nothing. However, because the PFS (like the LIA and Sofa) is a company limited by guarantee, acceptance of the £1 per head guarantee must be legally confirmed and we are asking members to return forms giving that confirmation without delay. Every member has been mailed with a letter explaining the position with a form and a reply-paid envelope. If those forms are not returned by January, the members concerned will not have a vote in the new organisation so the message is, get your forms back as soon as possible if you want to play a full part in the new body.
It remains for me to thank the memberships of the LIA and Sofa for their strong support and to thank those who voted against but raised relevant issues which will inform our further discussions and the forward planning of the PFS.
John Ellis is LIA public affairs director