I have read with intrigue and interest the many comments from advisers surrounding the diminishing of Gill Cardy’s IFA Centre.
It seems that this has attracted advisers to voice their concerns over industry and trade body representation, but it hasn’t caused enough to dip their hands into their pockets in absolute support.
I believe that there is a very real and valid reason for that, which is that we already have an effective and representative trade body and that is Apfa.
Gill is to be commended for her passionate support of the independent adviser and her time and dedication to ensuring that, during a time of market predictions of restricted advisers ruling the world, independent advisers were not forgotten.
Indeed, although the IFA Centre has not proved a success in its own right, I do believe that it has helped galvanise independent advisers to seek representation and believe that a well supported trade body is necessary for the sector.
The reality that Gill overlooked, however, is that while Aifa might have dropped the ‘I’, they didn’t add the ‘R’. Put simply, Apfa are THE trade body for all advisers (restricted and independent) and we don’t help ourselves by creating fragmented alternatives.
As a sector, I believe it would be more beneficial to put our resources and intellectual capability behind Apfa. We need to ensure that this body represents the interests of both restricted and independent advisers as well as ARs, RIs, DAs and every other type, shape and size of adviser.
Only by uniting behind our trade body and making our thoughts known to them can we ensure proper representation in the corridors of power, with the key policy and regulatory decision makers. We can’t expect Apfa to fight battles and win wars for us if it is poorly armed and resourced and we can’t expect it to declare our views and frustrations with ‘one voice’ whilst there are mutterings coming from the back benches.
Our sector, perhaps more than any and more than ever, needs proper representation. I am sick to the back teeth of advisers carrying the can for bankers’ mistakes, lousy products that shouldn’t have seen the light of day, poor and misleading literature and open ended time frames for redress which make our profession an ambulance chasers dream!
It is also disheartening to see us arguing the toss and berating each other via the blogs and message boards. We are in a period of transition and uncertainty and during times like these we are stronger together. Apfa might not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ but it is the best we have and actually I think we are pretty lucky to still have it. Apfa is used to lobbying, positioning and opposing and if it can achieve all of this with depleting members and funds, think what it could achieve if properly resourced and funded.
As a profession, we still have the best persistency, the best complaints records and the most meaningful long term relationships with our clients. To make us even better we need clearer definitions over advice labels (and dare I say it, more consumer friendly ones), a long stop on complaints and a fairer compensation scheme model. We will only achieve this by uniting together and supporting our trade body.
I would therefore urge everyone to get behind Apfa. If you feel let down by it, let the powers that be know but don’t abandon ship. If we are to add some common sense to regulation and protect our profession then we need to be united and we need a trade body that represents all advisers’ interests and not a sub section.
My hope is that we ignite the spark created by Gill and use this momentum to get behind Apfa and help mould it into a trade body that represents our profession with unity, dignity and guile.
Matt Timmins is managing director at SimplyBiz