MM leader: Engage with IFAs rather than scoring cheap points

Last week’s Westminster Hall debate and Treasury select committee hearing suggest there are a significant number of MPs with serious RDR concerns.

The IFA community and MPs deserved better than the response given by Treasury financial secretary Mark Hoban during the debate.

The comparison with a McDonald’s diploma in shift work was a deliberately antagonistic political gibe that only moved us further away from the sensible debate that is needed.

Technically, the comparison may be sound but it trivialises a very emotive issue and ignores the specific concerns of many advisers and their MPs.

Few people are suggesting that qualification standards for IFAs do not need to rise. The concern is centred on experienced advisers worried about meeting the new professional requirements by the start of 2013.

The MPs speaking in Parliament were echoing the concerns of many in the industry about the consumer detriment that would be caused if access to advice was further limited. Sadly, this is not a concern that appears to be shared by Hoban or the FSA.

It was also wrong of Hoban to use a selected Which? statistic from 2007, based on a tiny sample which was skewed by the inclusion of tied advisers, as evidence of poor practice in the IFA sector.

If only the Government and regulators would spend more time engaging with IFAs and encouraging higher standards, for example through regulatory incentives, rather than making cheap political points and bullying speeches.

If only policymakers started from a viewpoint that it is in consumers’ interests that as many advisers as possible remain in the industry.

The new regulatory framework needs to encourage more people to seek advice and take responsibility for their own financial affairs. The need for decent advice will only grow but we must ensure there will be enough people around to deliver it.