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RDR can polish up IFAs’ image

The term IFA may be tarnished but consumers understand it and it can be reinvigorated by the retail distribution review, says Sifa.

Speaking at the Pims conference last week on board the Arcadia, Sifa managing director Ian Muirhead said professionalism will be crucial to consumers’ perception of advisers and to help break down the barriers with other professions such as accountants and solicitors.

Muirhead said: “You cannot say that advice means one thing if given by one type of person and something else if given by someone else. The term that the consumer understands is IFA. What the hell is in the Sunday press every weekend in the pers-onal finance columns?

“It is certainly tarnished but the FSA has already taken the first stage towards rehabilitation of the IFA by insisting they offer a fee option. The second is independence, not being tied or multi-tied, and the third is having an advanced qualification.”

Institute of Financial Planning chief executive Nick Cann said the fact that Muirhead acknowledged that the IFA brand is tarnished is significant.

He said: “There is a danger that the advanced qualifications and new models required by the RDR could be seen as a ceiling but there are firms who have already made these changes who would see it as a floor. Those individuals who already have chartered status need to be recognised and motivated to go further by allowing them to use the term financial planner.”

Muirhead added that Scotland is likely to lead the way in increasing the number of adviser firms partnering with accountants and solicitors.

Reforms allowing solicitors to take up to 25 per cent non-solicitor partners are likely to be implemented in England and Wales during 2009, with more extensive reforms allowing the creation of fully inter-disciplinary firms not expected to come in until 2011 or 2012. Scotland may start implementing similar reforms in 2009.

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