New register will boost standards

The Institute of Financial Planning’s register of accredited financial planning firms got off to a great start at the IFP conference this week with the announcement of the first 25 firms to gain this prestigious title. This development spearheads the next stage for the financial planning profession and brings together all the components which will ultimately aid external stakeholders to benefit from a financial planning service.

Reviewing the applications has been a fascinating experience, revealing the high quality of the work that is being done and the way that it is being presented. Firms have to demonstrate that they deliver proper financial planning, use cashflow modelling, are well qualified in all the relevant areas and have a business that obviously delivers what it says on the tin. Reviewing plans and other materials will help us shape best practice, improve standards and provide far more help to those businesses that are trying to make headway through the RDR transitional phases.

The initial list includes award winners and businesses of all sizes which reflects the changing dynamic of how financial planning is being delivered and by whom. As this register grows, more will be done to present the qualities and consistencies to the consumer, regulator, Government and other stakeholders. Professional indemnity insurers are taking a fresh look at how they can improve terms and services for these businesses and it will inevitably lead to improvements in technology applications, given the consistency that these businesses are showing.

The IFP will launch this register to the public as part of the financial planning week campaign taking place from November 21. This will be part educational and part awareness so that the media can understand better how a financial planning service differs to the broader advice model.

Now is the time when bold statements have to be made to support businesses with strategy if they are to survive and become more successful. As we have said with qualifications, this is about much more than just technical knowledge.

Having the appropriate skills to apply and use this information effectively are perhaps even more important if the profession is to make a genuine difference. The register will continue to grow and the community that develops with it will be able to influence change on the whole market far more quickly as a result.

Now that the FSA has confirmed the first set of accredited bodies, work can begin in earnest to engage with those who want to be part of the financial planning profession. While there will be some businesses that want to continue to do the bare minimum, there are also those that want to push the barriers and develop excellence in their businesses.

As usual, much confusion seems to surround the issuing of the statement of professional standing as well as the relationship between the accredited body, the firm and the adviser. Why not pick up the phone and have a chat with us? After all, it is good to talk.

Nick Cann is chief executive of the Institute of Financial Planning