A criticism that is often levelled at those who share their opinions on these pages is that they have an agenda. That we all have a vested commercial interest in the views we express should come as no surprise to anyone.
Looking at some of the recent scaremongering attached to the new definition of independent advice, it is easy to conclude that agendas are driving opinions.
The FSA is saying one thing in quite a clear and cogent manner and others appear to be placing their own interpretations on the guidance.
This should come as little surprise as there is a lot at stake, particularly for some of the bigger players in the retail financial services sector.
As we get ever closer to the implementation of the RDR on December 31, some of the scary consequences of the changes are becoming more apparent. The tide is going out and we can see who has been swimming without trunks.
Will demonstrating independence to the regulator from next year onwards really be any tougher than it is today?
Some firms believe it will be and are touting the restricted advice route as the preferred option. Other firms are committed to independence as they believe this will continue to represent the gold standard of advice. Another group is sitting on the fence until the implications of such a decision are better understood.
I suspect the decision for individual firms will be driven by a variety of considerations. What is best for the client will hopefully be the dominant factor – it should be the main consideration.
For bigger firms, the commercial aspects of the decision could play a bigger part. While the RDR should ensure greater transparency in terms of remuneration, there will also be some firms where financial considerations become the deciding factor.
Perhaps what we must accept as we move closer to December 31 is that every opinion comes with an agenda.
Some agendas are hidden while others are more visible. In every case, where business models are selected and interpretations are applied, an agenda is driving those decisions.
As for my own vested commercial interest, we are backing independence all the way. It is the closest fit not only to our existing business model but our team structure enables us to evidence independent advice in line with the latest FSA guidance and our clients really value our impartiality.
Martin Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice