Following the publication of the retail distribution review, the response from both practitioners and the media is probably best described as mixed. Some of the commentary has been astute, some less so.
But what is certain is that the role of the CII/PFS is key, not only in terms of helping to shape the discussions but also as part of providing the solution. It is our intention to continue to provide our membership throughout the coming debate with clear and consistent leadership.
Our core objective is simple – to focus on professionalism. That means not allowing ourselves to be distracted by side issues.
The other item, indelibly inked in at the top of the CII/PFS agenda is the importance of consulting members – and on a regular basis. That way, we can ensure we remain fully aware of their views as the discussion evolves and at the same time are able to keep members fully informed of insights that we may have.
These events have already started. The PFS Leaders’ Summit hosted one of the first high-profile meetings to discuss RDR issues, six July meetings for members to be held around the country have been arranged in conjunction with the FSA and a major institution and a series of RDR taskforces will follow, culminating in a summit meeting at the PFS annual conference in November. And alongside regular polling of members’ views, quarter four regional meeting workshops will be taking place at each of the 25 PFS regions from October to December, rounded off by a major presentation and panel debate on RDR which are planned for this year’s PFS national conference on November 13-14.
But it is not just effective communication with members that is important. It is vital that the PFS builds and maintains its links externally, too. We have regular dialogue with the FSA and other stakeholders on RDR, key external opinion formers in trade bodies, Government, consumer and industry lobby groups as well as key corporate contacts and the media.
Readers of this column may find this next observation hard to believe but anecdotal evidence suggests that in spite of the media coverage prompted by the publication of this discussion paper, there are still a lot of people in this industry – sadly, some CII/PFS members included – who remain wholly unaware of the RDR and its potential implications. We have an awareness-raising campaign in train but it is baffling nonetheless that people who wish to be known as well informed industry professionals should somehow always have been looking the other way.
After all, we have some important key messages to convey. To the public at large, we need to put hand on heart and be able to say that this is an industry that embraces professionalism and can be trusted, that seeks to ensure that consumers are well-informed and therefore better equipped to understand the nature of the financial decisions they make.
And to those opinion-formers and policymakers within the industry, we need to be able to demonstrate that we are committed to raising professional standards, improving levels of competence and to providing a framework that is understandable to the public that shows how our different qualifications can support their very different needs.
The RDR is not something that professionals should allow to pass them by.
Tim Eadon is chief executive of the Personal Finance Society.