New Aifa director general Stephen Gay has warned advisers not to take a risk with their businesses by assuming the RDR will be derailed.
In his first interview since taking on the role, Gay, who was previously Aviva director of distribution development, says there were things about the RDR that “need improvement”, although he declined to expand further on his concerns.
Following the recent Parliamentary debate and Treasury select committee call for evidence, he says advisers should continue to pursue policymakers to try to resolve issues they are unhappy with.
But he adds: “The FSA’s position on the RDR, and the Government’s position, as stated by Treasury financial secretary Mark Hoban, have been made very clear. It is far too early to say whether there will be any change in policy.
“What I would say as a general point to members is that it is taking a risk with your business if you make assumptions that something as major as the RDR is somehow going to be derailed when even those people who are sponsoring the debate consider that highly improbable.”
Gay is looking to achieve consensus within Aifa as far as possible, as he is concerned the trade body could become disconnected and lose its influence.
He says: “The big danger through a period of change is that the constituency we serve becomes fragmented and, when that happens, policymakers lose respect. When policymakers lose respect, we lose influence.
“This is not just about a current set of reforms. This is about the ability to influence policymakers year on year. I would not want to see our sector so traumatised by the next few years of reform that we are not in a position to created a concerted influence. When we operate as much as possible from a consensus, that is when we are at our most influential.”
Gay believes Aifa remains a representative organisation, despite comments from smaller IFAs who appear to have become disenchanted with the trade body’s stance on issues such as the RDR.
He says the council elects from small IFAs and it is part of Aifa’s constitution to represent all types of IFAs.
But he says Aifa cannot produce policy that is representative of every member, as views differ so widely.
Gay says: “On the RDR, we have got every manner of opinion from those who would love to see it stopped tomorrow to those who wish it had already happened and every opinion in between. This is not a job you take if you want to please everybody. But what you can do is represent what we believe are the interests of the majority and take account of those views in the minority. That is as reasonable approach to take as any.”
Aifa this week announced a strategic review to ensure the organisation is fit for purpose.
Gay says, given the state of flux the industry finds itself in, now is the right time to review Aifa’s proposition. It will also include the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries and the Association of Finance Brokers.
The review is expected to take at least three months through consultation with members and work with the Aifa council. It will look at issues such as funding, membership and the future direction of the trade body.
Gay says: “The industry is changing a lot and it is all happening relatively quickly. We have got a new Government, we are going to have a new regulator, the European agenda is coming to the fore and we are getting into the sharp end of the RDR. There is every reason to think that this is a proper and appropriate moment to conider what the role and the future and the vision of this organisation should be.”
Gay says he wants to ensure that Aifa is responsive to its membership. He points out this review does not mean to suggest the Aifa structure is wrong, just that it cannot be taken for granted that it is the right set-up for the changing regulatory environment.
He says: “When you see the environment shifting as much as it is and you see the membership voicing its views in the way it does, you do not go into this role thinking it is going to be business as usual.
“I am here to take Aifa forward into a new regulatory and public policy environment. The organisation needs to be fit for purpose and this process will make sure that is the case.”