The Institute of Financial Planning can more than double its membership in the coming years, according to new president Alan Dick.
Dick formally took over the presidency from Rebecca Taylor at the IFP’s annual conference this week, following the completion of Taylor’s three-year term.
Dick says the IFP’s merger with the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment gives the professional body the “quickest route” to increasing its membership from its current level of 2,000.
Speaking to Money Marketing, he says: “We did some work last year which estimated that 5,000 of the 21,000 regulated advisers are what we would term financial planners, or people we would consider capable of becoming financial planners.
“When we were looking at whether we could stand alone as an organisation, 5,000 is the kind of number we were aiming for. We feel the merger is a quicker route to that kind of target. I’m optimistic that is achievable in the foreseeable future.”
Dick says the merger will also give the IFP the training and assessment resources it needs to increase the number of advisers taking the certified financial planner qualification.
But he says integrating the two organisations “undoubtedly” presents the biggest challenge of his presidency.
He says: “We have a high level cultural agreement that we are both looking for the same things. In theory it’s fantastic, but the challenge is going to be making sure that theory comes to fruition, and that is going to need a lot of input from a lot of people.
“For example, we have a commitment that half of the branch content will be financial planning driven, but who is to decide what that means and what content is appropriate?”
Dick argues the merger will also give the IFP more influence with the regulator.
He says: “We have a lot of common ground with the regulator, so it is frustrating that there often doesn’t seem to be the progress we would like to see.
“One of our big beefs is there is a big difference between regulated product sales and financial planning. A lot of the consultations and working groups are heavily influenced by the large banks and providers, and at the moment we don’t have a big enough voice to make an impact. But the partnership with the CISI will give us a chance to sit at that table and make a real difference.”
Dick says the IFP would only push for separate regulation of financial planning if there were guarantees about what it would look like.
He says: “I wouldn’t rule out regulated financial planning, but the danger is you get people who don’t share our views trying to stamp their authority on our space. We’ve already had the term financial planner hijacked on a number of occasions – at one point every adviser in a bank was called a financial planner when we know they were just pushing the bank’s products.”
During his three-year presidency, Dick says he would like to see the profession become more respected and “gain its proper place”.
He says: “I want the public to understand what a financial plan is, and for children of school age to leave education wanting to be a financial planner, rather than falling into it by accident.”
But he says the regulator must introduce limits on advisers’ liabilities to encourage the best talent to join the profession.
Dick says: “To encourage the best people to join the profession, we cannot have unlimited, open-ended liabilities. Until that changes, law and accountancy will continue to be the professions of choice.”