I am a big fan of transparency. It makes for a better world. Transparency goes hand in hand with other concepts such as honesty and accountability.
Transparency is an important part of the anonymous comment debate and I can understand and appreciate all sides of the argument. My own position that anonymous comments should be banned is not shared by everyone.
Comments (both named and anonymous) added to recent articles on the subject suggest a fairly even split between those who agree with the need for transparency and those prepared to fight to the death for their right to remain anonymous.
Some of the comments, including some where the individual was prepared to put their name to the opinion, suggested a very worrying view. The suggestion that financial advisers are an oppressed minority operating under some type of totalitarian regime demonstrates either a complete lack of understanding of UK financial regulation or something more sinister.
We might not all agree with everything the FSA does or says but its rules and guiding principles are clear. Points of disagreement tend to be about the application of rules rather than the rules themselves.
The retail distribution review is a case in point. This was, after all, an industry-led review of retail financial services.
I wonder how many of those advisers now complaining took the time to read the early consultation and discussion papers and respond with their comments. Of course, it is difficult to know for sure as those opposed to the RDR tend to be those who omit their names from their comments.
I find it hard to believe that the FSA would ever take punitive action against an individual for expressing an opinion. To suggest that constructive and valid criticism would ever lead to unwarranted regulatory attention is nonsense.
Those supporting the need for anonymity should be aware of what is coming down the track. Regulatory change will include a much greater focus on individual accountability.
We have already seen proposals for a statement of professional standing, renewed annually. The FSA register will also be upgraded with more information about individual approved persons and data will be collected on product transactions. Like it or not, individual advisers will be subjected to greater scrutiny.
The anonymity debate will roll on, although I predict that over time a greater proportion of advisers will develop the confidence to attribute their real names to their opinions. At least, I hope they do.
Martin Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice