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Skating on thin Isa

As I was putting the finishing touches to my latest five-page letter of

recommendation for a regular-savings Isa, I reflected on a programme on

Radio a few weeks ago.

A couple of learned industry professionals were in the studio to answer

questions about Isas from members of the public.

Most of the questions were unremarkable, typically from people who had put

some money into an Isa but didn&#39t have a clue what they were doing or why.

Multiple Isas with banks and building societies were a common theme.

How can so many people have been advised to roll over funds into a cash

mini Isa with nothing whatsoever in the way of a fact-find having been

carried out? This would, of course, have identified that they already had a

cash mini Isa.

Peach question of the show, though, was from a woman in the West Midlands

who, with no experience or knowledge of investments, had been persuaded to

hand over £7,000 to a well-known and apparently respected stockbroking firm

for investment in a self-select stocks and shares Isa. Could the panel help

her choose some stocks? I suggest such cases are far from rare.

This raises a few questions. First, are stockbrokers subject to an

entirely different and evidently vastly less stringent regulatory regime

than IFAs? Or doesn&#39t the Securities and Futures Association bother itself

with tedious chores such as compliance visits?

If stockbrokers are supposed to be subject to the same – or at least a

similar – set of rules as the rest of us, then how can such brazen

disregard for all the protocols that IFAs are required to observe be

allowed to go unchecked?

Is the regulator aware of such (mal)practices and, more to the point, is

it making any effort to do anything about them?

When the FSA assumes responsibility for what are presently the duties of

the SFA, will it address these issues? Or will it instead be too

preoccupied with devising the next cat-of-nine-tails with which to lash the

beleaguered IFA?

For what are we being charged our annual levies by the regulator when, as

IFAs, we are being hounded almost out of existence while banks, building

societies and stockbrokers seem able to carry on as if this was 1980 as

opposed to 2000? I despair.

Julian Stevens

WDS Independent

Financial Advisers,

Kingswood, Bristol


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