I reckon what this country needs is a weekly consumer financial newspaper.
The aim would be to res tore confidence in the financial services industry, which has been knocked so unjustly by those nasty journalists in the financial media. It would show what a wonderful industry this is.
In fact, I might even use that idea as a strapline under the paper's masthead, along the lines of “News about a wonderful industry”, but that might violate an LIA trademark.
The paper's title? Well, I thought of Fab Finance first, then Ace Advice or Incredible IFAs but none of those quite captured what I was aiming for. So I think I will settle for Financial Pravda. Anyone know any venture capitalists out there?
Reading the letters pages in the IFA trade press, you could often be forgiven for thinking the world is against the humble IFA.
IFAs constantly bemoan the fact that they are in a wonderful industry – there's that phrase again – but that the media, politicians and regulators are in a vast and dark conspiracy to do them down.
Their reaction? Fight, fight and fight again. Any criticism is dismissed as ill-informed, untrue or muck-raking.
But this attitude is having an incredibly negative effect on their business. I will use the pension review – or that retrospective PIA witch hunt, as some IFAs would call it -as an example.
One point that often gets overlooked is that the IFA sector was responsible for a tiny fraction of the overall number of reviewable cases – something like 5 per cent. I would also be prepared to bet that the proportion of compliant sales within the review population was higher for IFAs than for direct salesforces.
Yet I suspect the reason why this gets overlooked is IFAs' attitude to the review.
After being roundly tras hed by former Treasury economic secretary Helen Liddell as a result of the review's lack of progress, the life insurers realised the only way to deal with the issue was to sit down and get the job done.
Had IFAs had any sense, they would have done the same. Instead, they dragged their feet and railed at the injustice of it all. Yes, they had problems the life insurers did not have but no one was willing to address them because IFAs were so resistant to the whole exercise that many in political and regulatory circles felt it was not worth it.
Take phase two of the pension rev iew. There was the IFA Association's MPs' sur gery lobbying campaign, lots of fire and brim stone and, yet again, it was all for nothing.
The fact that the review was and is primarily a direct-sales problem has all too often been drowned out by IFAs' sound and fury. It has been the same in a number of other debates. The situation has got so bad, it is making people disinclined to listen to IFAs, even when they do have a valid point. Yet it need not be that way.
There are a number of IFAs who have mastered the art of getting their views across. You regularly see their names cropping up in the national press, giving their thoughts on a wide range of subjects. Quite apart from influencing debates by talking to journalists in a lucid, sensible and considered manner, I have no doubt this brings them in a huge number of business leads.
IFA Promotion, for those wondering how to emulate these people, has the facilities to help IFAs use the media to their advantage.
Your profession will not find itself exempted from hard questions and criticisms bec ause it has such a big impact on the people it serves, particularly when things go wrong.
But the profession's forward-thinking members acc ept this, roll with the punches and get on with it.
I am afraid that Financial Pravda isn't ever going to see the light of day.
The sensible IFA who acc epts this often also has links with politicians and regulators. He or she will get their views heard in these arenas. They might not achieve the ends they desire but at least they are listened to and have their points considered.
It is a shame for the IFA industry that there are not more of these people. The profession might, if there were, come across as a sensible, solid group of people whose views are worthy of more than just a sympathetic ear.
The problem for IFAs is they are often drowned out by the atavistic rants of the industry's coterie of Mr Angries.
Until that changes, IFAs have about as much chance of changing their lot for the better as Bradford City has of winning the Premiership.