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Matt Timmins: Time to stop moaning and get behind Apfa

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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 

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Comments

There are 6 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Yes, despite Gill’s efforts – for which she must be both thanked and commended – we now have just one trade body, and we need to make sure that we don’t lose it!
    Yes, it is largely funded by product manufacturers – but that’s not from choice, as Gill has found, advisers seem unwilling to finance their trade bodies themselves. APFA has done some very good work, probably more than we realise as much lobbying does have to be done in confidence, on behalf of the whole advisory community. Without an effective trade body we would be weaker.
    APFA is not, by a long way, the perfect answer but we can move it in the right direction by supporting it and offering constructive criticism. As Matt says, all the negative blogging doesn’t help. If we have criticisms then let’s address them to APFA direct and see what they do about them. All the negativity must make it much harder for APFA to be taken seriously by those they are trying to lobby on our behalf.

  2. Spot on Matt. No one is more passionate about independent advice than me but it will only take a flick of the wrist from the regulator to make everyone restricted. You need bulk to be listened to

    APFA needs to attract £2m pa to start to be effective

    It then needs a long term plan to extract professional advisers away from the FCA and toward the professional bodies

  3. E L Wisty (an only twin) 16th December 2013 at 12:51 pm

    If APFA wants our support, then it would help its case by showing that it has the will and the capability to fight for advisers.

    Its virtual silence in respect of the CF Arch cru debacle does, in my book, prove that it either does not care about this dispicable abuse of power, or that it is not prepared to fight a battle that it does not think that it is capable of winning.

    In either case, its lack of action has left its credibility in tatters.

    IFA Centre was far from perfect, and far less funded that APFA, but Gill showed mettle and determination.

  4. Christopher Petrie 16th December 2013 at 9:43 pm

    The problem is that many IFAs seen APFA as being a platform for tied-agent companies such as Towry and SJP.

    For my own part, I’m nervous about a key member of its board being someone who set up a whole campaign group (which failed) to fight RDR. A campaign group that used vitriol and predicted the apocalypse of financial advice etc. All which turned out to be so much hot air.

    It’s not for me I’m afraid

  5. In this diverse and wonderful world there are all sorts of individuals.

    In financial services there are those who choose to act because they believe strongly that changes should be made and are prepared to give up their time and energy to make them happen. There are also those who from the comfort and security of their office and preach their febrile opinions via blog postings.

    Christopher Petrie’s comment with its marginally veiled allusion to me confirms him in the latter camp. Last year I stood for the APFA Council and was unopposed. I am saddened that with his inspirational reasoning powers and vast 22 years experience and he chose not to stand against me.

    Myself and many others fought against the RDR because it was a pro-consumer theory that produced anti-consumer outcomes, many of which are still feeding through.

    Whilst APFA is often described as a broad church it may be too narrow to comfort somebody with equally narrow sensibilities.

    Incidentally, for somebody who clearly supports the RDR changes I am surprised that your website still advises clients that they can pay for investments by fees or commission. Oh well.

  6. Yes, we should all get behind APFA ~ and administer a resounding boot up its collective jacksie in the hope that this will galvanize it to concentrate its efforts towards the creation of an Independent Regulatory Oversight Committee instead of trying to pretend that by itself it has any meaningful influence over regulatory policy.

    Martin Wheatley seems to be more willing than his predecessor to to take note of the concerns of intermediaries, though I suspect this is more because of what he’s hearing from MP’s in general and the TSC in particular rather than representations from APFA. APFA’s heart may be in the right place but heart alone isn’t enough ~ to make any real difference takes balls as well.

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