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Neil Liversidge: Advisers of the world, unite

Neil Liversidge MM blog

One of my favourite movies is Lawrence of Arabia. At the end of the film, having rid themselves of their Ottoman Turk colonial masters, the Arabs set about fighting amongst themselves. Meanwhile their next set of colonial masters, the British and the French, are waiting and scheming in the wings.

There are innumerable historical parallels. The Romans sought friendly tribes to play off against the less friendly tribe and they found them here in Britain. In Africa, one tribe sold out another to slave traders. Likewise the native Americans.

It is therefore with a weary sense of déjà-vu and a certain amount of despair, that I see some of our colleagues determined to perpetuate the independent versus restricted schism which the FSA has so cleverly generated.

Added to all this is the propensity of a large number of our colleagues to sit carping on the sidelines about what they see as APFA’s failures, without ever lifting so much as a finger to contribute to it’s success.

Every time another regulatory outrage is perpetrated, every time the FSA or FSCS issues another demand for money and every time they tighten the screw to restrict advisers trying to run their own businesses, there is a chorus in the blogs blaming APFA for supposedly doing nothing.

The plain reality is that APFA does as much as it can with the resources it has available. But the resource it really needs, the membership of every single adviser in the business, is denied to it by those very same people who will not put their hands in their pockets for the paltry subscriptions asked.

The fact is that freedom is not free. Until every adviser is prepared to sacrifice a couple of hundred pounds a year they will continue to get the representation they deserve in place of the representation they need.

When they deserve better – when they are prepared to pay for it – then they will have it, and then the regulator will be the one on the defensive.

Broadly speaking advisers are not the sort of people naturally given to trade union activity.

That is, however, precisely how advisers need to start thinking. If ever a profession needed a strong union it is ours.

The axis of a cowardly Government, capricious regulators and a predatory claims culture is a formidable adversary. If we carry on as we are we will end up like the ancient Britons, the tribes of Africa and the American Indians.

It is long past the time to realise that if we all go our own way, we will all go the same way.

Neil Liversidge is managing director at West Riding Personal Financial Solutions

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Comments

There are 14 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Analogies are often fraught. Why compare advisers to a bunch of primitive (In those days) Arabs?

    Personally I’d rather be like the Swiss. Fiercely INDEPENDENT, steadfastly ensuring their own interests and with a general policy of ‘a plague on the rest’. It’s served then pretty well.

    No doubt there will be those who find my analogy just as lacking.

    For the record I am still a paid up member of APFA.

  2. Neil, bless your little cotton socks, what are you on about?

    The time for all advisers to unite against any unfair treatment is long gone, we will all have to tolerate a regular whipping at the hands of our regulatory masters for the rest of our lives, not to mention FOS, FSCS CMCs etc etc and if they don’t ruin us, NEST will take over pensions provision for the major portion of the working population.

    Add to this mix of denigration is the requirement to “justify” a product recommendation by stating why other products of a similar nature are not suitable. Who made that one up?

    Then in a few years yrs time when the clients want to complain about a new mis selling (lol) scandal about fee hungry adviser recommending an investment that did not perform or whatever else the CMCs can con them into believing they are entited to COMPUNSASHUN for, will put the final nail in the coffin of most professional advisers, no matter what their qualifications or record of achiement, that is if they already haven’t given up, sold out (are practices worth anything now) or simply become a victim of dementia due to stress and their families will then have to pay up.

    When this mess, the FSA called the RDR, I had a dream, I thought that if the changes coming into force were workable, we (the IFA community) could put ourselves on a par with other professionals such as doctors, accountants and solicitors, I was deluded. The purpose of RDR is now clear, render the iFA community into an irrelevant distribution channel, put the provision of financial advice for savings, investments and protection into the hands of internet comparison and banks and ignore the needs of the general public for fairly and economically priced advice, products and services.

    The increased costs of regulation and defending every recommendation against a beligerent and determined regulator dedicated to such a task will see the inevitable end of mass market IFA services.
    It has already begun, thousands of advising RIs are leaving or being made redundant along with the ancilliary support staff in nearly every major firm and network and provider.

    ‘Nuff said”

  3. Julian Stevens 1st March 2013 at 9:46 am

    The one thing you fail to articulate, Neil, is just what APFA is likely to be able to accomplish with more members and more money flowing into its coffers.

    Can you tell us in simple language just what APFA expects to be able to do with the extra money to make the regulator any less inclined to brush aside all and any representations put to it for fairer treatment of the intermediary sector?

    Why isn’t APFA campaigning and lobbying for the creation of an Independent Regulatory Oversight Committee?

    Why, as far as I’m aware, does it never say or try to get anything done about the regulator’s wilful disregard for the Statutory Code of Practice for Regulators? Surely, that should be the foundation stone of its efforts to bring about positive regulatory change?

    What is APFA doing to build alliances with more infuential bodies than itself?

    Simple questions, Neil. Over to you.

  4. Neil F Liversidge 1st March 2013 at 10:24 am

    I really should have finished the article with ‘Let the carping from the sidelines commence.’

  5. I agree with Julian. We need an organisation to stand up and defend us. I have seen little of this from APFA.

  6. “Broadly speaking advisers are not the sort of people naturally given to trade union activity.

    That is, however, precisely how advisers need to start thinking. If ever a profession needed a strong union it is ours”
    A trade union would look after it’s older members, unlike AIFA.
    With less than 5 years to retirement,I have spent all my money on exams, so I have nothing left to contribute to a useless organisation.

  7. Neil
    I agree with the thrust of what you are saying, ie that we ought to have an effective voice (we must be the WORST represented industry group in the country given what weve been put through and have to endure) and that a united voice is one way to achieve that. But, you cant then immediately deride anyones differing opinion as “carping”.
    You approach unity by persuasion – if Im not an APFA member yet its either because its too expensive (I dont think it is) or because Ive not been persuaded that it will achieve anything for us.
    Take the FSCS paper recently – a HUGE issue (especially for business owners) – the FSA acknowledged within its paper that arguments had been made by respondents that overcame some of their previous supposed problems with the product levy. They then went on to say it was irrelevant to them as that would be a matter for government not them! So the regulator opens the door but says it has to go to Govt. I would therefore have expected that WITHIN DAYS your (and other) organisation would have thrown itself into an effective, professional and relentless campaign to persuade “government” to make the change, which I would imagine 99% of your members (and non members ) would be in favour of. But so far I havent seen any such campaign, so I and others will have to spend time taking action via MPs and TSC. This therefore is the sort of reason why Im not persuaded that anything truly effective is achieved. But I am of course open to persuasion……..

  8. APFA (AIFA) under Cummings and Gay was a joke and was not taken seriously by the Regulator (they were FSA ‘patsies’) or anybody else come to that (just told to run along sonny and play !!).

    The problem (which still persists) is that those within and that run the organisation do not understand the issues much less how to challenge them (how to mount Judicial Review, the longstop, RDR fees and grandfathering were perfect examples).

    I have to say that with Neil Liversidge and Alan Lakey now on the Council (both of whom I know and have great respect for) we start to have at least a chance but lets not forget until and unless we get representation that

    a) understands the issues and

    b) is willing, able and most importantly understands how to address them if necessary getting legal and fighting

    We are disappearing down a toilet bowl as far as unity is concerned !!

    APFA may well be the least worst option but should they fail as miserably as AIFA did in the past they too are doomed !

    By the way, on a good note I am sure RDR is doomed too just a matter of time before restriction of trade argument is used by Providers etc,

  9. The old AIFA was more problem than solution.

    The view from down here was that it was run as Cummings own private fiefdom and served to represent him rather than its members.

    Steve Gay, whilst a pleasant chap, was pro-RDR and this pro-RDR element has served to connive with the regulator and the stupid politicians to disenfranchise both advisers and their clients.

    Let us hope that a strong and committed APFA can put this desultory history behind it and finally stand up to be counted – like Garry Heath did.

  10. Those who want to promote Restricted are trying all ways to do so. The wailing ‘Independence doesn’t matter’ is covering page after page of the pinks.
    The question ‘why do these Independent chaps care about Indpendence so much’ is answered by the very fact that the Restricted want to play it down so much.

    I’m with Harry

  11. I’m fascinated by how excited some advisers are getting about the restricted v independent issue.

    Isn’t this a typical case of how the FSA divides and rules? They moved the goalposts, they scoured the dictionaries looking for one that tainted the public’s understanding of the phrase.

    It’s more than likely that more advisers will end up as ‘restricted’ and these advisers need representation as much as the IFA community.

    I consider myself skilled at protection but I don’t involve myself in drawdown, VCTs or involved pension planning. This, according to Canary Wharf, denies me use of the independent accolade even though I deal with all of the protection companies including the smaller friendly societies.

    Let’s accept that when the regulator does its business we are all splashed by the ordure.

  12. Julian Stevens 1st March 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks for sending me a copy of the agenda for that Implementation (of the Statutory Code) Workshop for Regulators convened by the BERR on 27th February 2008, Alan.

    Anyone want to hazard a guess at just how many delegates from the FSA attended (no, I don’t know). Here’s a laugh, though, for Friday afternoon:-

    Overarching aim: to promote a compliance-based approach rather than an enforcement-driven one.

    A compliance-based approach makes more use of advice and support to encourage compliance.

    The focus is on helping business to understand & comply with legislation more easily

    Enforcement actions are proportionate & targeted.

    Approach is effective and efficient: improves outcomes without imposing unnecessary burdens on the regulated.

    And so it goes ~ totally ignored.

    BTW Neil ~ any chance of a response to my questions which, I think, are pretty reasonable.

  13. Neil F Liversidge 2nd March 2013 at 9:54 am

    @ Julian Stevens | 1 Mar 2013 9:46 am: The points you make are reproduced below. My answer to each is marked #

    Can you tell us in simple language just what APFA expects to be able to do with the extra money to make the regulator any less inclined to brush aside all and any representations put to it for fairer treatment of the intermediary sector?

    # I wouldn’t accept that regulator brushes aside all representations – we’ve had successes see page on APFA website. Its in part about being able to speak for maximum number of advisers – numbers matter. Also resource enables bigger team – policy staff currently 3.

    Why isn’t APFA campaigning and lobbying for the creation of an Independent Regulatory Oversight Committee?
    # We certainly would not rule it out, but there are already a number of select committees in Parliament that look at regulator’s performance. Do we need another?

    Why, as far as I’m aware, does it never say or try to get anything done about the regulator’s willful disregard for the Statutory Code of Practice for Regulators? Surely, that should be the foundation stone of its efforts to bring about positive regulatory change?
    # As a matter of fact, APFA’s Council will consider this issue at its next meeting later this month.

    What is APFA doing to build alliances with more influential bodies than itself?

    # We have regular dialogue and coordination with other trade bodies – BBA, ABI, IMA, APCIMS and BIBA to name but a few. We work together where interests coincide. For example, we were successful in getting product providers and banks to contribute to the FSCS if the intermediary threshold is breached. This was a coordinated effort of the IMA, APCIMS, BIBA, AMI and APFA.

    @ Anonymous | 1 Mar 2013 1:36 pm: I am Independent.

    I would guess that most of the people contributing to this thread hold themselves out as investment experts. If not, then at least you understand what investment is. You have invested in your businesses, your staff and your own skills. That’s what all that time and effort on exams was – investment. We all started investing the first day we went to school. We all learned that to get something back, you first have to put something in.

    If I want my Harley to run sweet I have to put in a few hours in the garage on a regular basis. If I want the garden to look good I have to get down and dirty doing the weeding. To get my exams I had to put the study in and to build my business I had to invest more time and money. My investment in APFA – time and money – is precisely that – an investment, in the future of my business. It is also, whether you want to recognise it or not, an investment in the future of yours.

    It’s time advisors stopped expecting something for nothing, and started investing.

  14. I agree with Derek Hair. Neil L and Alan L both good guys and so was Harry K when at AIFA. I am focusing my efforts on IFACentre for now, but may become a member if both again in due course once I decide on which Professional buddy to get my SPS from next year, not that either issue SPS just that you can be a member of too many bodies.

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