We need a trade body that is as strong and as well resourced as possible to ensure the interests of advisers and their clients are properly represented in Westminster, Canary Wharf, Threadneedle Street and Europe.
With this in mind, Aifa’s decision to allow restricted advisers into its membership, and so ensure all its current members can continue to be represented by the trade body, is the correct one.
Aifa director general Stephen Gay last week spoke of the moral case for continuing to represent advisers whose definition will change due to the FSA “moving the goalposts” as part of its new advice requirements.
In such instances, advisers will still have to attain QCF level four qualifications and ensure any remuneration is agreed with the client and without any provider interference. Would it be correct for Aifa to abandon these advisers and suggest they no longer deserve to be represented? We believe not.
Pushing the vital message to policymakers that decent advice is of huge value to individuals, companies and society is tough enough at the best of times.
Driving a wedge between the advice community would weaken the voice of the trade body and play into the hands of the banks and insurers with huge PR and lobbying resources whose interests are not always aligned, and sometimes directly opposed, to the adviser cause.
Strong representation of the UK’s unique advice landscape at a European level is only going to get more important as national regulators become supervisory arms of a European regulatory regime. This requires significant resources and, as Aifa is already struggling with funding, a further cut would harm the interests of all advisers. Diltion of the independent-only message is a concern but a dilution of the trade body’s ability to claim it is the “voice of the adviser” would also be a worry.
The renamed trade body will comprise three colleges for mortgage brokers, IFAs and restricted advisers. As the market segments, it is important that the needs of the diverse adviser marketplace are catered for.
However, it is far better that this diversity is represented within the single adviser umbrella as a significant amount of common ground will exist.
A united adviser lobby focused on promoting the value of advice and ensuring the best interests of their clients are being served is far more likely to succeed than a number of fragmented groups.