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Political pressure can certainly still influence RDR

Monday night’s Parliamentary RDR debate was an extraordinary affair.

To see around 80 MPs hang around late into a cold November night to listen or contribute to the debate, with no Party whipping or vote, put paid to those who have been suggesting political concerns about the RDR where emanating from a tiny number of renegade backbenchers.

Throughout the 30 or so contributions to the debate there was a near universal consensus from across the political spectrum about the dangers of certain aspects of the review.

Of course some of the contributions were a little light on knowledge- details on the new charging structures were sometimes muddled, some of the claims a little outlandish and a few MPs appeared to be simply reading off a script they had never seen before.

But there were also a number of impressive contributions – I would highlight Labour’s Michael McCann, Tory MP Sharon Wheeler and Labour Shadow Treasury minister Christopher Leslie alongside some of the usual suspects.

Leslie’s contribution was particularly significant suggesting a change in tack from the Labour Party which has showed little interest in the RDR over the last few years. Of course, some may speculate this Damascan conversion is more to do with political opportunism than a genuine worry about consumer access to advice.

But I did not get that impression from listening to Leslie’s speech. He agreed with the need to move to a more transparent charging structure and also higher qualifications for new entrants. But he also suggested that what he described as Labour’s “pro-consumerism” be extended to concern about the effect of a significant number of IFAs leaving the market and showed support for some kind of grandfathering solution.

Leslie suggested possible amendments to the upcoming parliamentary bill around the restructure of financial services regulation, even if they simply act as a symbolic gesture of MPs’ concern. This could leave some vocal Conservative backbenchers in an awkward position of having to decide whether to vote against the Government.

The RDR has snowballed as a political issue since Conservative MP Mark Garnier first gave an interview to Money Marketing in October. Many people were far too quick to dismiss the concerns of backbenchers, particularly underestimating the hunger of the new intake of MPs to act independently of their party and, especially since the expenses scandal, show they are doing a useful job in representing their constituents. 

It is very easy for lobbyists, company spokespeople, trade bodies, media IFAs and journalists to get caught up in our own little bubble. Many people you are speaking to have been enveloped in a cosy consensus around the need for reform at all costs. The agenda behind this can stretch from a passionate belief in the need for reform for the right reasons to deeply self-interested motives and also includes many who are simply bored of talking, lobbying or writing about something that has been going on for a few years and now just want the FSA to get on with it.

MPs do not have the luxury of living in such a bubble and neither do many of their IFA constituents who are either concerned about reaching the new requirements themselves or concerned about the dangers to society of a significant number of IFAs leaving the industry.

Hundreds of IFAs have lobbied their MPs to express their concerns about the RDR. Of course MPs getting lobbied about every issue under the sun but the plight of IFAs has hit a certain nerve.

In many cases the IFAs that have been raising concerns about the RDR to their local MPs are important pillars of their community and may be personally known to the MP. They are far from political agitators and rarely complain without good reason. Therefore, when they raise concerns, MPs sit up and listen.

The momentum has also been helped by many advisers who already have the required qualifications and business models also lobbying their MPs to share their worries on the RDR.  

It is nonsense to suggest that such a groundswell of political concern has no chance of influencing proceedings.

It would be folly for IFAs to down their examination books and business transformation blueprints and think the RDR will go away. It will not.

As Mark Garnier said in his address to Parliament, the agenda of MPs is not to derail the RDR or turn the clock back on the move to greater professionalism and charging transparency.

But an important consensus seems to be developing around the need to ensure as much as possible can be done to stop a large number of IFAs leaving the industry.

Senior management at the FSA will have been taking careful note of the growing political interest in RDR. I would suggest the issue of consumer access to advice is something that is also troubling many within the regulator, especially as any plans for simplified advice seem to have evaporated.

The powerful Treasury select committee is also likely to apply pressure through its consultation on the RDR. A number of committee members from across the benches raised their RDR concerns during the debate, with chairman Andrew Tyrie listening carefully and raising personal concerns about consumer costs rising.

In responding to MPs, Hoban’s speech was far less antagonistic than the one he gave at the recent Westminster Hall debate. Whilst suggesting it was right the FSA “gets on with its job” he also said it should listen to the issues raised. His message was far stronger when talking about the remuneration reforms and overall increases in professionalism than on grandfathering and the plight of existing advisers worried about the deadlines.

Heavy pressure from Parliament is almost certainly not going to make the RDR disappear. But it is quite possible a growing political consensus helps guide the regulator to look again at the current cliff edge deadlines and introduce a greater degree of pragmatism to its policies to ensure the interests of consumers are definitely being served.

Paul McMillan is editor of Money Marketing – follow him on twitter here


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There are 25 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. MM has bee very helpful and supportive of the IFA cause and I wanted to reprint an Open Letter that I have just posted to Andrew Strange of AIFA. It seem it would serve as a useful historical reminder of where this all started, before we all get knocked down in the rush for those laying credit to what can only be seen a a significant move forward.


    “AIFA is extremely supportive of this debate and grateful to Mark Garnier and Harriett Baldwin for securing it.

    I welcome the AIFA “U turn” but would just like to point out to you Andrew that your predecessor Chris Cummings did not share your enthusiasm for the debate and the original efforts started by a small movement of grass root IFAs exasperated at the lack luster approach of AIFA. I would further remind you of the negative reaction of AIFA when the original meeting took place and was reported in the press.


    The original meetings that led to this debate were the result of “crude IFA lobbying”,
    according to Chris Cummings of AIFA and this was damaging the IFA cause.

    It is this very same “crude IFA lobbying” that is starting to rock the RDR boat! I seem to recall that it was only after a number of AIFA resignations that Chris was forced to retract his original comments.


    In September 2009 Astley-based IFA Mike Jeacock hosted a meeting of local independent financial advisors (IFAs), whose livelihoods were threatened by proposed Financial Services Authority (FSA) measures. The meeting was called so that Harriett Baldwin, Mark Garnier and Robin Walker could meet with, and listen to, the concerns of local IFAs. This meeting was driven forward by groups of IFA exasperated at the lack luster approach of AIFA, many feeling that AIFA had sold out to the regulator! I was privileged to chair this meeting. Julian Stevens & Neil Liversidge spoke with passion. Many others (too numerous to mention here) contributed, as indeed have many hundreds if not thousands of IFA’s up and down the length and breadth of the UK who have been contacting their MPs. The truth is Andrew that these MPs were so astonished at the treatment of IFAs, so much so that they went on to a full Parliamentary debate. Hundreds of IFA up and down the land have abandoned hope of robust representation by the likes of AIFA and have taken matters into their own hands to save their livelihoods.

    Many if not most of these would have no future if they accepted the AIFA stance on grandfathering and allowed you to represent their interests!

    I welcome the AIFA U turn providing it is not a continuance loop! But before I can relax in the knowledge that AIFA is not a spinning top of varying pro and negative RDR views you will need to represent all IFAs and include the many whose average age should be recognised and protected via grandfathering, the same protection that AIFA have rejected.



  2. I agree with your comments and Ms Wheeler hit the nail on the head when speaking.

    I think the greatest outcome from the debate might be much more scrutiny of simply handing over the reigns to the FSA to get on with it. I trust that the Treasury Select Committe will intervene in some way to stop the FSA simply railroading through matters and ignoring the concerns of IFAs and now more importantly some MPs.

  3. Paul you ar equite correct the numbers attending the debate were indeed impressive and their knowledge in fairness very good.
    The one who read verbatum from a prepared written speach was the Treasury Minister and FSA ‘bessie’ Mark Hoban. He read this out for a full 7 minutes not prepared to give way nor did he once refer to any of the points made by his colleagues and from across the floor.
    There is still much lobbying to do to ensure that our MPs really have the facts and to push them as hard as possible for practical sense to prevail.

  4. I think that Paul has sumed up the situation spot on.
    All those wasted years with AIFA warning us not to talk to our MPs directly & leave it all to them to sort out.Thank god I saw through them never joined or paid them a penny .

    Hoban’s claimed at the beginning of his pro FSA diatrade that he had spoken earlier that day to the FSA. Judging by the clap trap he came out with, it is fairly obvious who wrote the speech for him.

  5. Michael Wainwright 1st December 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Let us hope that you are right Paul. It was particularly interesting to hear the views of IFAs who are already qulalified yet have concerns, and also about a number of probably unintended consequences that I had not thought of before. So many of the pro RDRs seem to just comment on their own brilliance in having taken the higher qualifications. At 63 I would certainly not want to use up time during which I could be looking after clients by studying for exams, part of which do not have much relationship to my day to day work. But fortuneately I am just a Compliance Consultant, concerned for our industry, who sees highly qualified advisers making just as much of a muck of providing advice, and breaking FSA rules, as some of their less qualified bretheren.

  6. It’s time to keep up the pressure, whether you agree with RDR or not. This is a current issue and my experience is that MP’s are prepared to listen. IFA’s are now enjoying the debate and consultation that the FSA deprived us of at the outset.

    It’s such a shame that so much money has been spent before anyone thought to ask us, the people who have to put this into practice.

    It’s even more shameful that the FSA chose to take this confrontational, cliff-edge approach rather than imposing the rules for new people or those with poor disciplinary record while incentivising existing advisers. If fee charging, highly qualified advisers with high capital adequacy are as good as the FSA believes them to be then they should require less supervision and hence lower fees.

    Had the FSA adopted this strategy I suspect that most advisers would have adapted by now.

  7. Well summed up Paul, the groundswell of opinion of back bench MP’s was pretty universal and the grandfathering issue I believe will have to happen as MP’s were outraged at the Hector Sants comments to the Select Committee that a 20 per cent reduction in the number of IFA’s was an ‘acceptable’ number as a result of the RDR. Of course that is not the only issue of contention and the charging and no commission issue is still likely to do a lot of damage to not only the IFA industry but the fact that the lower income groups will simply not be able or preapared to pay for advice, as will others who could afford it but just will not wish to pay for advice.

  8. For what it is worth I share the Editor’s view that the groundswell of opinion is now such that it cannot be ignored and that it will lead to some significant changes to the RDR that eventually is implemented. However those of us wo are in touch with our MPs must maintain that contact.
    It does seem that a large number of people, MPs, IFAs, Journalists are in agreement over the necessity and the likelihood of change to the RDR. There does however appear to be one particular journalist who still does not share the consensus and whose views as far as I can judge remain rigid. His name escapes me.

  9. “The truth is Andrew that these MPs were so astonished at the treatment of IFAs, so much so that they went on to a full Parliamentary debate”
    I think this came out in the debate. Some of the MPs could not believe that the FSA had so much power.
    I do not want to sound dramatic but my own belief is that the fsa has waged a reign of terror- (be afraid be very afraid), over the ifa community for too long. If any other organisation had treated any other section of society as the fsa have treated IFAs over the last 10 years the MPs might have been calling for criminal proceedings.
    So well done Simon and all the other guys who arranged that first meeting to highlight the situation.
    I too have written to my MP but I think he must be related to Mark Hoban.

  10. My own views on the RDR have been pretty much consistent all along, insomuch as I am prepared to support the FSA’s view that commission in general should be abolished, and that we should become a fee charging profession.

    However the silly and short sighted requirement that existing and competent advisors should be required to sit and pass exams within a 2 year time period is becoming unworkable, listening to the parliamentary debate on Monday evening reinforced that view. At the very least extend the time frame out to around 4 to 5 years from now, this being the average length of time it takes to obtain a degree. And as other MPs have commented, it should not be beyond the wit or scope of the FSA to offer a non-exam CPD Grandfathering alternative; the administrative systems are already in place to enable that. Do all this and 90% of the heat around this issue would go away.

    Finally, listening to the Parliamentary debate, I was genuinely moved by the plight of some Home Service folks working for Friendly Societies, together with their customers. These advisors although tied offer simple straightforward death and savings policies costing between £1 to £5 per week, presumably collected in cash from their clients each week. Their clients may not have the wealth or sophistication to afford or comprehend more complex products, but nevertheless demonstrate commitment to try to be self-reliant. My own career started 30 odd years ago as an agent with the Pearl Assurance in the Home Service industry so I have an understanding of such businesses. Telephone based help lines will never ever replace this service if lost. Why the FSA should seek to put such people out of business, destroying hundreds of years of history is beyond rational belief and without human compassion.

  11. As someone regularly assessing the quality of other peoples’ advisory work, Michael Wainwright’s comments are illuminating. Lots of qualifications don’t necessarily mean that the person who holds them is actually particularly skilled at applying his technical knowledge to real life scenarios.

    What exams prove is that you’ve been able to absorb masses of technical information from a dense and clinically sterile textbook and satisfactorily answer questions on it all in a three hour exam. Whether or not that makes a good adviser is by no means a given.

    Much of what’s in those textbooks may have little or no relevance to what you actually do from day to day, which is why a large number of advisers find such study extremely hard going. Many other advisers who’ve managed to pass the exams have declared that having done so has had very little influence over the quality of their services to their clients. Actually applying the knowledge gained through exam study in an appropriate and relevant manner to real life client situations is a different matter.

    Experience alone may be of debatable merit, but the proof of the pudding, as always, is in the eating and it does seem unreasonable to threaten with confiscation of livelihood an established practitioner who, on a range of other parameters, may well have a virtually impeccable regulatory track record but who just happens to find exams very difficult. Experience, a stable business and a clean regulatory slate ought surely to count not just for something but for quite a lot.

    It is heartening to see the development of work-based assessment programmes and, on this front, AIFA do seem to be winning some valuable ground. If only the FSA would engage constructively with those it regulates instead of paying mere lip service to the notion, this whole debate might well be a lot less riven with vitriol and resentment.

  12. To Anonymous @5.00pm
    How would you suggest the Friendly societies,with whom you express sympathy,structure their fees to clients investing between £1.00 and £5.00 per week?

  13. A very well-written and balanced piece about the current state of play on the RDR. In particular the statement that “it is nonsense to suggest that such a groundswell of political concern has no chance of influencing proceedings” is absolutely right.

    Perhaps we’ll have less in future of the shrill, “let’s close down the argument” statements from the likes of Sheila Nicoll, Fay Goddard and Helen White, all of whom ought to know better and would do well to remind themselves they are fortunate to live in a democracy, even if they have little concept of how to practise it themselves

    And talking of groundswell, it’s not just MPs who are coming out against the shortcomings of the RDR.

    Last weekend Sarah Thwaites, Director of Products and Services at the Financial Services Skills Council no less, issued a statement saying:

    “Whilst all of us would agree that a more professional approach can only be of benefit, let’s not lose sight of the consumer in all of this. The danger is that if too few existing advisers meet the new qualifications level, or the industry does not find it cost-effective to offer advice to the mass market, the very important aim of achieving good consumer outcomes may be lost.”

    Finally, I wonder what Nic Cicutti is making of all this. It’s about time he found the wit and professionalism to deliver himself of a reasoned, and balanced piece in support of the RDR. His efforts up until now have been indistinguishable from the shrill voices of Nicoll, Goddard and White I commented on above.

  14. Perhaps someone ought to tell the MPs how much the FSA spend every year on tea, coffee & biscuits…..£638,500!!!

    Next time I’m down at Canary Wharf I must remember to drop in for a cuppa & a malted milk to wash down my double whopper with cheese!!

    Seriously though it was good to hear so many standing up for us.

    I emailed the treasury select committee last weekend after the request made on Friday for written submissions & sure enough I had a reply that my email would be passed on to each of the members before the debate.

    I thought it particularly useful that the Chairman of the TSC stood up to intercede in Mark Garnier’s speech to remind the FSA that these spiralling costs at a time of massive cuts is to be paid by the consumer!

    It’s a pity this has turned into a them & us situation …& IFAs find themselves at war with the regulator…It would surely be far more sensible if the FSA sat down with IFAs, listened & agreed to work in the best interests of the consumer…and do what the RDR SHOULD be about, which is ridding the industry of bad advice & bad advisors whichever sector they are to be found in!!!

  15. For advisers like anonymous @ 5pm I would say please get on board here. Your current view is not doing IFAs any favours and I include you in that.
    Re: extending the period to take exams for existing advisers: No. Why should you allow yourself to be picked out from any other working person in this country for having to requalify. IFAs do not have as important a job to do as health professionals etc but they don’t have to requalify and neither does anyone else. Stand up for yourself.
    Re: commission ban. No. I thought it was democratic to offer people choice, which is exactly what they have now. I ask every existing client if they want to change the way I get paid to a fee basis and explain how that works and I have yet to have anyone take me up on it. One referral asked if I could take the same commission from any drawdown plan I could recommend and was happy that I took any bias out by agreeing 2% plus 1/2% trail. Don’t ban the customer’s choice.

  16. Re Patrick Schan 6.37.
    Spot on. We are talking about exams and missing the main point the CUSTOMER who buy’s our products should be given the CHOICE… the meerkat say “simples”
    Post RDR the customer will have only one choice and if they are not happy to pay… they will go to their Bank for “free” advice

  17. To many IFA’s have been digging their feet in and hoping this would sort it self out and stuck their heads in the sand! if they had got on a started the exams then at least one pressure would have been reduced or even removed!! Doing nothing shouldnt be an option!

  18. Re: anonymous @ 9.34am

    Please read the previous posts. This is not about exams but about the way that IFA’s are persecuted by the FSA.

    If you sit all your exams like a good little adviser and switch your business model to fees, RDR2 will be along in two years and the FSA will want you to sit a whole lot more exams, they will want to cap the fees you charge and will require a photograph of you naked for their files.

    Stand up and be counted- don’t say you haven’t been warned.

    BTW In case you think you can smell desperation I run a fee based IFA and we charge fees so are 95% RDR compliant. I simply believe this is wrong, that’s all.

  19. Thank you Paul for a well written and incisive summation piece. All IFAs who have taken the trouble to demand some measure of justice can be rightly proud of the result of their efforts. The FSA is finally in the political headlights – and I believe will be forced to turn aside.

    Sanity will prevail – at least until Nic Cicutti crawls out of his pit.

  20. I was just thinking the same Simon,
    Nic is surprisingly quiet after yehe parliamentary debate.
    No doubt he is planning his next onslaught against advisers in spite of the support they were given during the debate.

  21. Well Mr Smug your post did bring a smile to my face, and as laughter is good for us all, I trust your business prospers too.

    Folks, politics is all about the art of the achievable, at the moment we seem to have a degree of political goodwill so lets not waste it on what is unlikely to happen. The RDR is just that, reviewing retail investments, and that is mostly US. If the FSA abandon the concept of removing commission and allow grandfathering, they might just as well abandon the entire thing, give up, and go home.

    It is not wrong to review the way things are done, and if it can be improved do it. I think commission is a necessary evil at best, and at worst; it can be detrimental to the client.
    I don’t support grandfathering – collectively we carry a big financial responsibility towards our clients and the time has come to prove we are up to the job. Experience is a very very big part of that but it is not everything. The world changes and we need to adapt with it, part of that process is structured learning

    However, I do think this can be achieved in a better way. Either by exams, or structured CPD or for those who prefer, albeit with a degree of fairness, reflecting the fact many of us have a businesses to run and families, with a slightly longer time period to comply, hence my suggestion of 4 years to obtain what is needed.

    Finally on the issue of Friendly Societies and the Home Service assurance business I do support an opt out of RDR for them, including the retention of commission and grandfathering, providing their agents only sell Friendly Society products on a tied basis and the Friendly Society is deemed to be fully FSA compliant. The previous poster was right to point that out to me with regard to fees

  22. I have a genuine fear that grand fathering rights will be granted and the overall ethos of the FSA to do away with brokers will continue to prevail.
    The soft touch regulation of investment banks in particular led to the credit crunch. Despite this the FSA want brokers to operate in a state of fear. What other industry regulator would deliver such an oppressive statement.
    The FSA have failed to acknowledge their own failings and simply look to pass the buck to advisors, clearing the banks name in the process. There should be an enquiry into why some of the banks most a fault have become the only “winners” over the last few years. Why have so many bank staff lost employment yet their governors are considered without fault or responsibility? The FSA have failed time and again to explain the reasons they seek to lessen competition and flexibility. I have watched several clients going out of business over the last few years and I come to see the FSA as a completely destructive power. Insider trading, bribery, corruption and such like do happen – without any logical explanation of any greater good I feel the FSA have much to answer for. I hope they do not get let off the hook by simply accepting some small concession to what has been a brutal, biased and possibly criminal regime. I am also extremely frustrated that the people who currently occupy overpaid and under delivered positions look set to take up position in the new regulator – what is the point in paying for more change if such ignorance is rewarded and set to prevail.

  23. Karen - ex Aifa member 2nd December 2010 at 8:08 pm

    Simon M – C Cummings is not A Strange’s predecessor. Cummings was the Director General and Strange succeeded Fay Goddard as Policy Director at Aifa. However, that is a minor point and I’m glad you posted your open letter because I am confused as to why Aifa’s Policy Director was not at the Treasury Select Committe the other week speaking up for the policies he purports to direct. Instead, Robert Sinclair was handed the short straw. My understanding is that Sinclair is the director of AMI and AFB? Perhaps in his response to your letter, Mr Strange will let the members who pay his wages (I am no longer one of them) know why he felt unable to wear the Captain’s armband on that occasion???


    Before adding my say I should like to thank Paul for a first class and incisive article.


    Dear Mr Soames

    Thank you for attending the debate and for arranging my ticket to witness it first hand.

    The vast majority of IFAs and their clients owe a deep gratitude to Harriet Baldwin and to Mark Garnier for securing the debate. It was heartening also to see so many supportive MPs from all Parties take part.

    The debate was incisive and those taking part were very well informed. It gave many interested onlookers the comforting impression that fairness, democracy and commonsense are alive and well in Parliament.

    The great dampener towards the end was Mark Hoban’s insistence that the FSA is best placed (?) to decide what is best for consumers of financial services and for their providers – not MPs. Perhaps this would have been the case if the FSA’s history and machinations had not exacerbated the banking crisis and its cost/benefit analysis for RDR not been called into question.

    The Minister had plainly not accepted what MPs had been unanimously saying to him for the past two and a half hours. It is my understanding the FSA is responsible to the UK Government and not the other way around. I therefore ask you, Mr Soames and your fellow MPs there present at that debate to keep pressing for a review of RDR and do not leave matters to the arguably discredited regulator as proposed by Mr Hoban.

    A core group of IFAs has long questioned what cost/benefit research has been carried out by the FSA in formulating its RDR policy. We feared that its policy was geared to supporting the banks rather than the working for the public interest. I attended a mandatory FSA “consultation” meeting for IFAs – it was a “tell and sell” exercise there was no consultation at that meeting. From my experiences and observations to date I hold the view that the FSA behaves as an unaccountable self-serving state within the State. It is high time – for the good of the country – that it is held to account for its actions and is subjected to intensive scrutiny. Who guards the guards? No one, if Mr Hoban has his way.

    I listened sympathetically to a Labour MP representing a northern constituency. He reported that a local friendly society providing life assurance policies for poor people is likely to close down after c.150 years of service if RDR goes ahead in its present form. Its salespeople sell low-cost (for as little as £1 a week) policies to the less well off to cover funeral expenses. If RDR is allowed to continue without revision they will be required to prove their competence, by costly and unnecessary examination, to advise on Inheritance Tax mitigation and CGT issues – something that the less well-off do not need. This is clearly an example of over-kill in extremis. This madness surely underlines the need for Parliamentary enquiry into the activities of the FSA. MPs cannot, as Mr Hoban argued, leave matters to the FSA – the arguably discredited regulator cannot be trusted to act sensibly and in the public interest.

    Mr Hoban’s body language throughout the debate showed a complete lack of interest in what was being said. I think that his attitude and stance will be detrimental to the Coalition’s cause and objectives. Mr Hoban’s behaviour reminds me of that of “the Clunking Fist” – I need say no more.

    Momentum is gathering and a good many IFAs are very determined to draw RDR issues into the public arena. The determination, intelligence and moral indignation behind this gathering storm should not be underestimated – nor too should the depth of our anger.

    Yours sincerely

    David Chubb
    David Chubb Financial Planning”

  25. I have asked several members of the general public, including members of my own family, since the debate requesting their views on the RDR. IN ALL CASES, NO ONE HAD THE SLIGHTEST CLUE WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT!. The reason being is that this subject is so important that the tabloid press and media have yet to report on this important subject. IE- The general public seem to be totally oblivios to the changes that lie ahead. A TIME BOMB WAITING TO EXPLODE!!

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