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Not content with status quo support act

News has just broken that the Association of British Insurers has come out against a review of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, preferring instead to stick with the status quo. Not only that but, they are calling for a review of the amount of capital IFA firms are required to hold (and I don’t think they mean less).

It is at times like this when our profession must unite. To often, we have played into the hands of those who recognise that divide-and-conquer is still the most effective way to deal with the IFA community.

Two questions to those firms which have yet to join Aifa: Are you happy that this year’s FSCS bill will be around 1,360 per RI? Are you content that the IFA contribution has risen from 3.9m to 47.5m in just four years? To opt-out of Aifa is to be pleased to see this rate of increase continue.

At Aifa, we lobbied to bring about a wholesale review of the FSCS’ funding, but we have also seen the boards of the FSCS and FSA come out in favour of a scheme that should radically reduce the bills landing on every IFA’s doormat.

I have yet to meet anyone involved in the FSCS review who thinks that the current system is fair or financially viable in the long term.

The solution to the problem is Aifa’s, the FSA’s and the FSCS’s preferred option: Option B. This formally recognises the mutual financial interest that providers and IFAs have in the market. It is not a cross-subsidy, nor is it based on voluntary arrangements that give the whip-hand to any party, and it is not time-bound.

It is about a recognition of the mutually-supportive yet independent roles played by those whose job it is to construct well-designed products, supported by materials that clearly set out the risks and potential rewards, as well as those whose role it is to advise their clients on product suitability.

One of the iconic advertising campaigns of the 1980s was an image of a pregnant man. The point of the advert was to educate men about the need for sensible birth control – not then seen as a male issue. The way the FSCS is currently funded, means that it is IFAs who are left holding the baby.

Some providers are keen to see the FSCS review treated with the seriousness it deserves and would be willing to support the proposed solution. Perhaps my call for unity should extend beyond Aifa’s membership and be heard by those who recognise that we are part of the same financial services market, the same business – meeting the needs of clients.

It is time to reach an understanding of the need for mutual financial interest, not just when it comes to new business acquisition but also for the length of the client’s relationship.

The FSCS review provides the first opportunity for the IFA profession to find common cause – the second is hard on its heels: the FOS funding review. Here again, Aifa has seen proposals put forward that will improve the position of IFA firms. Let’s get into the habit of working together on the big issues now, as it will make life easier in future.

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