Let me give you examples. It is calculated that 14,600 advisers are already at QCF level four or above. I can hear a big sigh of relief from these people who can now lift their heads up from an academic syllabus and go back to their advisory work.
But higher they may have to go – to QCA level six. I suggest we all keep an eye on who is calling for this examination lift, as the last three media commentators who have said lift the bar are actuaries who will have previously taken dozens of exams and may just get a thrill from taking them.
Is there to be RDR T&C work-based assessments or not? I am lucky to have had in front of me some of the brightest IFAs in the land who are chartered, certified, account-ants and lawyers all loaded with qualifications.
However, I would not put my rich aunt in front of some of them for advice as they would have no empathy, would not make her feel at ease and would not know where to start finding, for example, a good occupational drawdown product or a residential mortgage-backed securities fund.
After the RDR, we may lose some of the best IFAs who provide excellent compliant advice if we do not have work-based assessments to attain competency and if the bar is raised to level six. That would be a big shame, not just because of what I think but because of what consumers think.
A recent YouGov survey shows that 32 per cent of consumers believe the biggest benefit of seeking an IFA’s advice is to recom-mend the most appropriate product from the whole of the market.
This is good news for companies that support IFAs but 37 per cent of consumers could not think of any benefits to using a professional adviser. Bad news.
The main issue that the RDR should be looking at is how we ensure consumers are educated about financial matters and want to engage with their need to invest and protect.
IFA Promotion has consistently conveyed the message that whole of market is the gold standard of advice. Its research shows that, on average, since 2006, the reason that people first see IFAs is 39 per cent for matters related to saving and investment, 38 per cent for retirement planning, 20 per cent for mortgages and equity release. I wonder if these numbers would alter if price comparison sites held data on all these areas?
I believe that there is a lesson to be learnt from the price comparison sites. Marketingweek’s research showed that comparethe market.com has seen a 200 per cent year on year rise in the second quarter, with 59 per cent of consumers on an online poll saying they have used a price comparison site this year.
When I hear about IFAs that do not have a website, I do despair. If IFAs do not improve their marketing and PR online capability, they may lose market share, not to the banks but to the price comparison sites.
Kim North is director of Technology and Technical firstname.lastname@example.org