Sofa is presenting a younger face to the world with the appointment of new chairman John Porteous.
Porteous, aged 30, who lives in Epping and hails from Edinburgh, took over from Peter Williams, who stood down as chairman at Sofa's AGM last December after serving four years.
He sees one of his main tasks as developing talented members of the Sofa board who he feels may have been under-utilised. Passing more responsibility to board members also means that Porteous will be able to juggle his Sofa commitments with his responsibilities as a director running the London office of IFA firm the Independent Financial Partnership.
Porteous has been in the financial services industry for 10 years, starting with Scottish Widows in Edinburgh before moving to London at the age of 21. In London, he worked with Murray Johnstone for three years before deciding to become an IFA in 1998. He now has three years' experience, firstly with Robson Rhodes before taking up his current position.
How do you hope to develop Sofa in your new role as chairman?
Peter Williams and Robert Reid did a superb job driving Sofa forward in their time as chairmen. Peter is an enthusiast and that was reflected
in the way he ran the board. There are talented people on the Sofa board who have not been utilised in the past. I will be trying to persuade members to take up key positions. I intend to get the best out of the 12 Sofa board members and I am looking to appoint a vice-president to develop the society's strategy.
How do you aim to develop Sofa's relationship with other groups representing the industry such as the CII, the LIA and Autif?
I will be forging partnerships with other societies. The relationship between the LIA and Sofa has not developed as well as some people might think. They have never been able to broker a settlement mutually beneficial to both societies. For such a settlement to be achieved, we must do a win-win deal. We will not get to achieve this with a deal where one party comes out on top.
Do you think there will eventually be one society representing advisers?
There was once a school of thought to aspire to one professional body. I would never rule anything out but the current organisations are different and appeal to different people. If there was a single professional body, there would be a lot of pressure on it. It would have to be the right body. To work, the arrangement would have to see existing societies wholly integrated.
With the average age of an IFA estimated to be in the mid-50s, do you believe some might think you are surprisingly young for the position as chairman of Sofa?
I am an IFA and director of an IFA firm. I have done it and am still doing it. I am being exposed to the IFA community as I am a regular speaker on the circuit, especially on investment matters. The first reaction may be that I am young but this goes when I speak to people. It is important to attract younger people into the industry. There are not as many people coming over from the life insurance and broker side as there used to be. Young men and women will be attracted if they see there is a good career structure.
How can IFA qualifications be improved?
A challenge for Sofa is to allow members to sit exams that are relevant, add value and that interest people.
How will Sofa help IFAs get through the current pressures of the changes to polarisation, stakeholder and regulatory changes?
My personal view is the industry has to do what it has to do to survive. It must be fluid and not see threats as irreconcilable. The industry is resilient and contains naturally entrepreneurial people. There will still be a market for top-quality advice as opposed to product sellers.