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Robert Reid: The problem with trade bodies

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Many years ago I complained about the ineffective-ness of our local union representative. My father held a similar role and clearly saw this as a learning opportunity. I had just joined the company but, in my dad’s opinion, this was no reason to deter me from putting myself up as a candidate. He simply told me that if they believe in you, they will vote for you. 

He was, of course, correct. I was duly selected and my time at ASTMS was off and running.

To its credit, the training for its officials was superb and has benefited me greatly over the years, as did the experience of defending fellow staff members for both valid and lost causes – the latter being the most entertaining.

The news of the lack of rapid growth in membership for the IFA Centre and the comments on the story online show the problem is one of engagement. When many cite the modest fee as a barrier, it is clear that they have seen no value in the services being offered or they have failed to understand their extent. 

Gill Cardy had seen APFA was unable to promote independent advice when so many of its constituents by volume would head to restricted post-RDR.

The APFA board has suffered from having too many CEOs and not enough advisers – even those who had been advisers in the past would struggle to truly appreciate what it is like being an adviser now. In my opinion, the absence of provision of advice cripples the ability to put over points with real spirit.

People need to see impact from action – talking about it is not enough. To be fair, Gill provided evidence of action with the promotion of the Arch Cru issues, but I would question the choice of MP she used to advance the case. Despite the publicity generated in the trade press, he retains a less than positive image for many people.

The term IFA was coined in a hurry and is far too broad in its scope to be anyone’s unique selling point. The real message to promote is that of professionalism and making support of the client paramount. 

Perhaps St James’s Place joining APFA will be the catalyst the IFA Centre needs to achieve its growth numbers but it will only prosper if it develops a popular manifesto that prompts IFA firms to invest in its future.

We have a regulator that remains focused on product, not on advice, but we have an ombudsman that does the opposite much of the time. This is not conducive to a stable environment.

There is no doubt advisers need an adequate voice that can be heard by government regulators and the public. To do this takes money and there is a reluctance to spend. IFAs have had no real requirement to invest in the IFA Centre until now and I cannot see them changing anytime soon.

We were promised a regulatory dividend for greater professionalism and its absence is not encouraging. This is the real issue that needs to be brought to the fore – although some would suggest APFA is on the case already.

Back in my trade union days, I recall defending a failing salesman whose excuse for his lack of progression was that he had an aversion to meeting new people. This was not the kind of excuse I could defend but he needed my help nonetheless. 

That is the rub with representative bodies. Without a common enemy or purpose, few will pay their money and rally round the proverbial flag.

Robert Reid is managing director of Syndaxi Chartered Financial Planning

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