When I heard the phrase Advice First, I was pleased that some of my
comments in the past such as “planning before product” had finally taken
root in the IFA mindset. But I was to be disappointed as this phrase was
the new name for the IFAP/Aifa joint promotion company.
Some time ago, I was asked whether I had joined Aifa and I replied in the
negative when the individual pursued me on my reasons. I explained that
taking money from providers was, in my opinion, not sensible when trying to
I was then told that I had this all wrong. It was not sponsorship. The
providers were in fact members. Despite this “distinction”, I remained true
to my original beliefs.
I must admit, though, to being intrigued by the timing, given that the
polarisation review is yet to conclude.
Do they know something we don't or is this simply a costsaving exercise.
In any event, we cannot go on expecting the providers to promote a single
channel of distribution, no matter how successful it is at present.
Nor do I believe that campaigns such as Tax Action have any measurable
effect on those individuals seeking independent advice.
The only way to ensure the growth of independent advice is to put in place
an independent quality mark similar to those used in the US and, before all
you CFP holders write to me, this is a mark awarded by the clients of the
adviser's practice and not a body where he or she is a member.
I should also head off those of you who feel that the ISO standard will
fulfil this void. If you believe this, then you do not understand the
workings of ISO. Interestingly, if ISO recognises the six-step process
promoted by CFP, then any body using the same process will be able to
access the same ISO mark, which must dilute the CFP's current offering.
The sting in the tail for such a quality mark is that the IFA must deliver
all that it promises if the client rating is to be acceptable. This
includes not just the services provided but the range and quality of other
services available but not currently relevant
Providing enough firms support this service, we could very soon have a
reliable means of the public comparing one adviser from another.
This means that, initially, some sort of estimated benchmark (albeit
subjective) will be required, with a more statistically reliable index
following as soon as possible.
A single benchmark will be insufficient to provide a proper basis. We will
need to compare the national average with the programme average against the
professional or ideal average.
By comparing your firm's rating with the benchmark,you can then determine
what changes you need to make now and in the future.
I would suggest that it is the assurance of a quality scheme for consumers
by consumers that will extend the reach of independent advice. Simply
relying on the providers will not ultimately be to our benefit. We need an
independent voice and that means we need to pay for it without looking for
money from the providers. Perhaps the professional bodies are the answer
but only when we give them our support and are prepared to pay a
professional level of subscription.
Robert Reid is principal of Syndaxi Financial Planning