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Locking horns: Garry Heath clashes with Apfa over adviser trade body plans

The launch of a new trade organisation representing advisers has reignited the debate around the industry’s ability to lobby at the highest level.

This week Money Marketing revealed how former IFA Association director general Garry Heath is launching a new trade body in May for wealth managers and independent and restricted advisers.

Heath says Apfa fails to represent directly authorised advisers and is too reliant on funding from networks on shaky financial ground.

He says: “Nobody knows what Apfa stands for and we cannot continue to drift like this.”

But Apfa director general Chris Hannant warns advisers’ collective voice will be weakened by a competing organisation.

He says: “It is impossible for the FCA or government to have a serious debate with 5,000 advice firms unless they come together to speak with a united voice.”

Do we need another trade body?

Heath’s launch comes two years after Gill Cardy – now wealth insight consultant at Defaqto – was forced to close the IFA Centre after it failed to secure enough members.

Cardy set up the organisation in September 2011 and argued that following Aifa’s rebrand to Apfa and its acceptance of restricted advisers, a separate body was needed for IFAs. However, it only managed to sign up 238 individuals from 102 firms with Cardy saying many of those who promised to join never did. Cardy declined to comment.

Heath says the IFA Centre “was the wrong thing at the wrong time” and that his organisation will accept any type of adviser to stem the risk of the FCA changing definitions “at the stroke of a pen”.

Research conducted by Action Consulting for the Heath Report, a study of the impact of the RDR carried out by Heath earlier this year, found 89 per cent of advisers would consider joining a new trade body.

Of 141 advisers surveyed, 47 per cent said they would join a new trade body, while 42 per cent said they were unsure and would require more details on the organisation to decide. Only 6 per cent said they would definitely not join a new trade body.

Heath is yet to announce subscription fees, while Apfa charges sole practioners £361.50 a year and a 15-strong firm £1,750.

Hannant says around 65 per cent of roughly 20,000 advisers nationwide are members of Apfa.

While some have welcomed the launch of a new trade body, others argue that advisers are better represented by a single organisation.

Highclere Financial Services partner Alan Lakey says: “In an ideal world we would have one effective organisation, but it is absolutely apparent that Apfa is not effective and has no appetite for being so. The options are for Apfa to be replaced, or to have two organisations: one which talks about taking action, and one which actually does it.

“Garry has a reputation for no-nonsense representation and there will be a significant number of advisers who will want to join him.”

Apfa member and Philip J Milton & Company managing director Philip Milton says: “Garry was very effective when he led the IFA Association and it will be welcome to have him petitioning on behalf of advisers again.

“Depending on the costs, I would consider joining his organisation and remaining a member of Apfa.”

But West Riding Personal Financial Solutions managing director Neil Liversidge, who is a member of the Apfa council, says there is no need for a second trade body.

He says: “Dividing our forces would not be helpful. It’s a sad fact that in the adviser community a lot of people moan about Apfa not achieving enough but they don’t want to pay for it.

“Many expect Apfa to achieve miracles on next to nothing. We run on a microscopic budget and deliver a big bang for your buck.”

Lobbying power

Irrespective of whether there are one or several trade bodies, some are sceptical of the lobbying power wielded by adviser representatives.

Former Aifa council member and recently retired adviser Harry Katz says: “The question is, if the Treasury select committee can’t get anywhere with the regulator, why does a trade body think it can?

“I was on the Aifa council for six years and cynically I found it very useful because as a sole trader I didn’t outsource my compliance and it meant I knew exactly where I needed to be. But as for whether they are a good way of changing anything, that remains to be seen.”

Last year, Money Marketing research showed in 2013 Apfa only managed to meet with FCA chief executive Martin Wheatley twice. In contrast, the Association of British Insurers met with the Treasury eight times, the Department for Work and Pensions nine times and the FCA three times.

Financial services communications firm Lansons partner and director Ralph Jackson says success for a trade body is measured in three ways: establishing relationships with key stakeholders, such as individuals in the Treasury, establishing coalitions with other organisations – consumer groups, for instance – and finding and nurturing influential “champions”.

He adds: “It used to be the case that the Government just wanted one trade body for each sector, but that has changed. There is a case for a rainbow collection of different bodies, and it’s probably even more necessary now with the pension reforms where advice is critically important for people’s retirement.”

hannant

Head-to-head

Chris Hannant, director general, Apfa

Apfa is here to represent the views of advisers.  I strongly believe that any business, industry or profession is more effectively represented by a single voice.  It is impossible for the FCA or government to have a serious debate with 5,000 advice firms unless they come together to speak with a united voice.

Apfa represents all advice firms: large and small; independent and restricted.  I believe we are stronger and more effective in having this diversity. We are member run and driven.  Our Council is made up of firms of different sizes to ensure we reflect the profession as a whole.  Any individual member can get involved and have their say through our consultative group.

Our focus is achieving a better environment for advice firms.  Our priorities are the cost of regulation, the liabilities that come with giving advice and ensuring the value of advice is reflected in the policy framework for retirement, for pensions and long-term care.

As trusted stakeholders with policymakers at all levels, we have achieved a significant amount on members’ behalf.   Last autumn we successfully persuaded the FCA to reduce the contribution that advisers make to the cost of Pension Wise.  The initial proposal of 20 per cent of costs was reduced to 12 per cent, saving financial advisers £3m a year.

Prior to that, we achieved savings for advisers to the funding of MAS with the introduction of a new formula for cost allocation developed by the MAS and trade associations.  We stopped a proposed cap on advice charges in the European Parliament from the PRIIPS regulation. And finally, our joint campaign with Zurich for the introduction of a long-stop achieved its first step with the start of the FCA review earlier this year.

heath

Garry Heath, former IFA Association director general

Apfa hardly represents the directly authorised IFA at all. The majority of its funding comes from networks which are themselves not financially stable.

Unfortunately the IFA Centre was the wrong thing at the wrong time. It was a pity that Gill Cardy launched it on her own, and restricted it to independent advisers at a time when a lot of advisers did not know whether they were independent or restricted as the FCA had not finalised the rules.

Any new trade association would not be wise to make a distinction between independent and restricted because the FCA could change the definitions at the stroke of a pen.

Why might an alternative to the IFA Centre succeed? Because my organisation will launch with an experienced team of people, and will factor in DA advisers very strongly. There is a huge group of advisers who are frustrated that no one is doing anything on behalf of the industry.

The switching off of trail commission is a big issue and one we plan to come out  pushing hard on. In the long-term we also need more accountability over what the regulator does.

Advisers do not have the leverage of large institutions like banks, and the only way we can get a fair deal is to use democracy. We want to get into parliament, make MPs aware of what the FCA is doing and get questions asked in the House of Commons.

Nobody knows what Apfa stands for and we cannot continue to drift like this.

The big question will be whether the talk about wanting better representation converts into membership.

Nick_Bamford

Adviser view

Nick Bamford, executive director, Informed Choice

We’re members of professional bodies but we’ve never been a member of a trade body. Part of our reasoning for that is the very nature of them is they are full of very diverse firms and individuals, so we struggle to see how they could truly represent all of us.

I sense that Apfa doesn’t always get a lot of support so maybe there is scope for another one, perhaps competition is a good thing in this case.

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Comments

There are 12 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Provided ‘Mortgage & Protection’ intermediaries are catered for, Gary’s credentials alone would garner my support!

  2. Dear Trade bodies

    Thank you so much. I really couldn’t ask for more. Now that you are both arguing I can comfortably ignore you all as I can with justification say that neither of you truly represent the majority of advisers.

    Martin Whatley
    FCA Head Banana

  3. I am somewhat suspicious of the numbers here… I imagine that MM could resolve the question with a poll… reaching the 70,000 IFAs it reaches every week (of the 24,000 advisers)…http://www.centaur.co.uk/portfolio/money-marketing (err go figure?)

    Whether we need another “trade body” to represent our interests can only be met with the question “what difference would it make?”. As Nick has said (and anyone reading any “trade press” would know) we are a diverse bunch with some very strong opinions. Most of the noise appears to be moaning about qualifications, revenue and regulatory cost. If you want a future go and make one instead of constanly complaining about the past.

    Expecting regulation or politics to be perfect is a huge waste of energy – what it needs to be is accountable and exposed when it isnt. As for the future of advice…. 64,000,000 population (and rising) need help from 24,000 advisers (and declining according to Gary) if you seriously think that technology isnt going to end up serving the bulk of the market witin 10 years then you deluding yourself. That means if you are competing on efficiency and price you will be competing for a smaller and smaller amount of loose change… (and firghting the wrong battle). So you can only compete on value – making a genuine difference for real people, that are willing and able to pay for you to help them to become financially independent, protecting and maintaining their chosen lifestyle. There is more than enough to go around. Frankly it seems to me that many people from all aspects of financial services have forgotten that it exists to create wealth for investors…. every gardener knows that there are seasons, which dictate the jobs that can be done, sometimes pruning, weeding or watering (blah, blah)… they dont constantly harvest.

  4. It’s all very well for Neil Liversidge to say that a lot of people moan about APFA not achieving enough, in large measure because they don’t want to pay for it, but we’ve still had no answer to the question What does APFA have to show for the £750,000 it spent in 2013 (I don’t know what the figure was for 2014, though my guess is that it would be similar).

    Neil often bangs on about how APFA could be more effective if it had more members and more money but he refuses to articulate just what it would do differently were it to obtain those things and on what basis the FCA might treat it with any less contempt than it does now. It’s a bit like somebody trying to sell you a Mercedes instead of a Ford but refusing to tell you what you’ll get for shelling out an extra 50%.

    And on what does Chris Hannant base his claim that “advisers’ collective voice will be weakened by a competing organisation”? The very reason that Garry Heath is launching his new organisation is that so many advisers regularly express on these pages their view that the representation they presently receive from APFA could hardly be any weaker and that it needs to up its game by a factor of 10, something that it has so far manifestly failed to do. It claims to “hold the regulator to account” (which is a bit of a joke) yet itself refuses to account to its own membership in terms of what it’s actually achieved, whilst ignoring direct questions as to why it appears to be making no effort to tackle a whole range of issues over which the intermediary community feels rightly very aggrieved. History shows that merely writing letters and articles and holding talks with the regulator have all achieved virtually nothing. Yet APFA appears to have no plans to change anything it does or how it does it, so it’s hardly surprising that it holds little if any respect from the intermediary community whose interests and legitimate grievances it claims to represent.

    Garry’s unequivocal objective is to strengthen the collective voice of advisers. If that means APFA getting left behind and sidelined, it will only have itself to blame.

  5. Over the years we have had Chris Hannant, Stephen Gay, Chris Cummings and Paul Smee all trying their own variations of persuasion.

    Throughout this period FSA/FCA has studiously ignored the vast majority of submissions and arguments and has occasionally offered crumbs of comfort to ensure that it is able to claim some form of interaction.

    It is highly likely that the regulator is in favour of APFA continuing its monopoly of adviser representation as a weak trade body leaves it far more able to focus on the divisive tactics it has mastered over the years.

    maybe there is an analogy with the General Election where after an extended period of indifference the voters cast out the cosy committee men providing an infusion of people determined to make a difference.

  6. This time round, and assuming Gary does get this off the ground, please let the liberals who took issue with his methods in AIFA leave him to get on!

  7. Liberals? Lily-livered cowards more like.

  8. There is one very significant quote from the above comments ! (Dominic)

    “If you want a future go and make one instead of constantly complaining about the past”

    History is very excellent starting point on where we move from present to future, past is the past, you cant change it ! as an adage, if you always do what you have always done you will always get what get what you always got !

    We need to change, the regulator needs to change the way it deals with the industry, else nothing will evolve it will just revolve around the same old axis.

    Form a personal view point (as I cant speak for the mass popular of the IFA sector) I need more money to invest in my business, and I need an end to these infuriating adhoc levies, I just cant keep to a budget when my budget is a movable feast ! I need to have 70% less regulatory burden, paperwork, reporting, compliance, etc etc I am so bogged down its like trying to wade through 5ft of porridge every time a client wants to engage !

    IMHO opinion I believe we have very good reason to complain, I would rather complain, than blindly put one foot in front of the other each day en-circling the same old mill stone to make the bread for an ungrateful and unaccountable master !

    The future isn’t made this way, slaves are made this way !

  9. Dear Trade Bodies

    Thank you so much for all this squabbling. It now makes it far easier for me (not that it was ever difficult) for me to ignore all of you entirely.

    Internecine squabbles mean that you actually represent no one.

    Kind regards

    Martin Wheatley
    FCA Head Banana

  10. Why is the priority issue challenging the end of trail commission? Surely with less than a year to go before the sunset clause, most clients will have been moved onto client agreed remuneration contracts?

  11. When it comes to appeasing politicians or consumers, our vote / lobbying will mean stuff all. What the FCA should be doing is annually reporting to advisers as to how they have addressed legitimate concerns and mitigated the effects rather than trying to justify everything with respect to consumers. It should be a mandatory requirement placed upon the FCA to reassure everyone of their independence and objectivity.
    Certainly APFA do not represent DA firms as indeed do many comments expressed on MM which is understandable. But why you would want to correct that when APFA have achieved very little? Come on APFA – what have you done? And I will suspend disbelief on the basis that past performance is no guide to the future….

  12. Julian Stevens 8th May 2015 at 4:53 am

    FWIW, my view is that the centrepiece of APFA’s strategy should be to seek enforcement of the Statutory Code of Practice for Regulators, the precepts of which the FCA, like the FSA before it, completely ignores. Read it here http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20090609003228/http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file45019.pdf.

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