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Neil Liversidge: What Apfa has in common with bikers


The demise of Gill Cardy’s IFA Centre generated a modicum of comment in the media, including a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece by Money Marketing columnist Nic Cicutti.

Nic is a gentleman with whom I have often sparred but I like to think we probably agree about more than we disagree. One interest we certainly share is two-wheeled transport, Nic with his Lamb-retta and me with my Harley.

To his credit, Nic supports the Lambretta club, which in turn supports The Motorcycle Action Group – MAG. As a biker, I have been a political activist for 32 years via MAG and its offshoot, the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations which I helped found. These organisations aim to influence social attitudes and political decision making for the benefit of motorcyclists and motorcycling.

As far back at 1988 bikers realised that most of the restrictive, uninformed and unnecessary legislation would come from the EU and by 1990 we had a small office in Brussels staffed by a full-time lobbyist.

The MAG in the UK started life in 1973 and by the late 1980s we had full and part-time activists banging away every day at the politicians and civil servants. We have some great achievements to our name but we have never had more than a few per cent of the biker community as members.

Pretty much the same is true of Apfa, which has also made great inroads despite the flak it gets. Like the MAG, though, Apfa gets relatively little material support from the community it serves. Whenever I sit in an Apfa council meeting, I am struck by the fact that Apfa faces essentially the same problems that MAG faces.

Average incomes around the table are significantly greater than those to be found in a MAG national committee meeting but otherwise Apfa could be the MAG in suits.
The strange fact though is that the MAG enjoys more support from the motorcycling community than Apfa gets from advisers.

This is somewhat ironic as few MAG members are dependent on motorcycling to make a living, whereas in Apfa we are defending those who without exception earn their living through financial services. Despite this obvious fact, most advisers refuse to contribute. Why?  Too many are just too mean, greedy and selfish to put their hands in their pockets. I know that my stating of that undeniable fact will generate a storm of abuse from those who say they refuse to join Apfa because it did so-and-so but you are kidding nobody. You know and I know that if you just do not want to pay, you will always find some excuse.

It is no different in the biker community, where some will always find a reason not to join the MAG. If they were honest about it, their true motive would be the same – sheer tightfistedness.

The MAG membership costs about as much as a tank of gas for an average bike. Apfa costs less than a set of tyres for the average adviser’s car.

Some I know will take exception to being compared with bikers. It is still true, to a certain extent, to say that we do not have the greatest public image. I have had 30-odd years’ worth of getting used to the down-the-nose look from those who consider bikers the thick and unwashed.

But those who do join the MAG are far ahead of the rest of the population in one respect at least _ they know politics is far too important to be left to the politicians and freedom isn’t free. Think on this if you are not an Apfa member yet. It’s your living. How much do you value it?

Neil Liversidge is managing director of West Riding Personal Financial Solutions



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There are 11 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Via my network, I am a fully paid up member of APFA and I consider its objectives worthy enough. But its problem is that it has even less clout than the TSC and the regulator is entirely free to ignore or just brush aside any representations put to it. If Martin Wheatley can flatly reject a call from the TSC to reimburse intermediaries for the £118m we’ve been overcharged by the FSA, without even agreeing to consider it and then writing a letter, what hope does APFA have? Merely talking about the issues is getting nobody anywhere.

    As I have written many times before, the only way forward is the creation of a Statutory Independent Regulatory Oversight Committe, towards which APFA should be directing every ounce of its energies, not least by way of Lord Deben who must surely have at least some influence in Parliament. Does he not talk to members of the TSC?

    Why isn’t this the centrepiece of APFA’s strategy?

  2. Christopher Petrie 6th February 2014 at 9:26 am

    Apfa are basically a Trade body for the Networks, and not the thousands of smaller independents. They famously gave up the cause of IFAs several years ago. They push the Restricted Model because that’s what suits the Networks.

    It’s a chicken and egg situation. The Networks fund Apfa, and IFAs don’t join…so guess what? Apfa is a mouthpiece for the Nationals and Networks, despite 80% of advisers still being IFAs. An example is Long-stop…to Apfa it’s about the most vital issue in the industry, whereas to most small IFA companies it’s not. That’s because Networks carry liability for the members for ever, whereas small business owners cans sell their shares or wind their company down when they retire.

    Networks now want to get rid of the “Restricted” moniker because they hate the name. As an IFA, I like the term, because it gives negative connotations to my competitors. Will Apfa fight to retain the current nomenclature? If so, I might join them. But I’m certain they won’t be. Their fee-paying masters – Networks – will tell them what to say.

    Apfa isn’t a home for small IFA companies, in my opinion.

  3. @Christopher : there was an alternative which was never going to be a home for the big networks … because it was only open to Independent advisers and they / you / the community didn’t appear to want that either, in spite of having asked for it when AIFA changed to APFA. Some argued that PFS / IFP “do that sort of thing”, which completely misunderstands the differences between professional bodies and trade associations, and others said “whatever their objectives I’d never join anyway cos I just don’t do that sort of thing”.
    So would you join me in APFA??

  4. Christopher Petrie 6th February 2014 at 12:45 pm

    Hi Gill

    Sadly I never joined you at IFAC, partly because I always feared my IFA colleagues would share the same reticence and that critical mass wouldn’t be reached – another chicken & egg situation.

    That’s why of course we cannot really complain that Apfa will go their own way – we IFAs had our chance and muffed it (despite your very best efforts). However, though I understand why they (the Networks) now have the field to themselves, I certainly can’t see why I would join Apfa, as they don;t represent me or my firm.

    Maybe you could persuade them to change their stance and become rather more pro-IFA than they are at present?

  5. It’s all a waste of money, nobody cares what anybody thinks. Nobody has any power or influence, Save your money and cary on whinging on here. It won’t change anything and, neither will APFA, but at least you’ll feel better with it off your chest.

    Viva la revolution!

  6. The regulators have enough on their plate without having to deal with “trade” bodies who only represent the loudest voices.

  7. Testing Chrome

  8. Gill knows I didn’t join IFAC straight away as I was still waiting to see the final RDR rules to decide whetehr I wouild need to become restricted. I decided to remain IFA and so joined, despite a nagging feeling that critical mass would not be achieved for IFAC, but I still think it was worth trying and DID keep the Independent label in mind as something to try and maintain. With IFAC ceasing to be a representative body I re-joined APFA and I would encourage all advisers to be a member of either APFA or the IFP (I am a member of the PFS as my professional body, but as Gill says, they are NOT a trade body)
    £100 per member is nothing and money well spent even if I don’t agree with ALL APFA’s agenda, but then I don’t agree with everything my wife says, thinks or does, but doesn’t mean I’d want to trade her in for another model who might agree with a different set of things I like or agree with. We agree on MOST things and I agree on MOST of what Neil and Alan at APFA say and Harry before them.
    The pity with small firms, particularly one RI firms is the firm fee, which more than doubles the cost for 1 RI firms

  9. Paolo Standerwick 9th February 2014 at 10:40 pm

    Proper bikers’ response. Totally agree with article but that’s why APFA is no good. There are bikers and bikers and variables within this analogy. For example a Harley Davidson rider is more about enjoyment with the image, dress code, which bike you ride and how one fits in with ones peers, comradeship and of course the ride out on Sundays. Whereas a track rider and racer has a bike which is a tool who makes changes to their riding skills and strives for faster lap times and constant improvement to be at the front of the pack all in the aim to win races. This is where APFA could learn some lessons, rather than being a laid back punch bag for the regulator where there is never any progress made, APFA needs to have people at the helm who act more like racers with a clear goal in mind and not those who are used as whipping boys and easily politicised. APFA needs to trade in the Harleys to proper race bikes and then they will get the following it so desperately needs!

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