REID ALL ABOUT IT
I recently attended the Financial Planning Association's conference in Denver, known as the Mile High City. The altitude has the effect of leaving you short of breath until you acclimatise. After my friends collected me at the airport, we drove straight to the Rockies. The next day I found myself 14,000 feet high on the summit of Pikes Peak. The climb was all the more thrilling as the driving was in the hands of my Italian friend, who seemed to forget that hairpin bends on a mountain need more respect than swapping lanes in the heart of Milan.
The process of acclimatisation is one we all need to go through as the menu lumbers ever nearer. The loss of Aifa's Paul Smee to the Association of Payment Clearing Services is unwelcome as the likelihood of anyone of similar ability taking up his post is nil in the current state of flux in the market.
Now that product providers have all but withdrawn their subsidies for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, what's next? I believe that funding for Aifa, IFAP, the IFP and Sofa/LIA will only continue if a sensible and commercial case can be made. The functions of the remaining bodies will expand to fill the vacuum and, you never know, we may end up with a single coherent voice yet.
The realisation that a single firm can have several faces – IFA, multi-tie and Sandler – could leave us with a logistical nightmare if the regulatory update is not revisited. Far from fearing it, we might find that it enables a solution to the blockages that exist both in the mind of the regulator and the conduct of business rules proposed to date. We need to be pragmatic and, if the FSA is stuck, we need to provide not just a response but a solution. We need to look at the big picture and not get worked up over minutiae.
Recently, the Sofa team has been on the road explaining the rationale behind the proposed merger with the LIA. For some, the name is an issue. I personally despair with those individuals who fail to recognise what is really important – the improvement in standards that this merger is capable of delivering. Instead, they moan about the name. If names dictated your future, would Richard Branson have selected Virgin?
A name can change or be promoted effectively until it is part of the dictionary but it is the substance that matters. A fragmented sector serves no one and leaves us vulnerable to being associated with those we would seek to remove from operation. Let us look at the big picture or we will regret it.
Although some people find high altitude a problem and even get sick, most of us can acclimatise without too many problems. The new commercial grown-up relationships with providers are no bad thing. Coupled with the potential merger of Sofa/LIA and the availability of a chartered title, it could be just the solution we have all been searching for but never believed would emerge. Let us grasp the opportunity.
Robert Reid is director of Syndaxi Financial Planning