Stephen Gay: Why I quit Aifa

Outgoing Aifa director general Stephen Gay has defended his decision to step down from the trade body and says he is proud of what Aifa has achieved during his time at the helm.

It was announced this morning that Gay was leaving Aifa to take up a role with the Association of British Insurers.

Speaking to Money Marketing, Gay says people will have their own views on the timing of his decision to leave, with less than a year to go before the implementation of the RDR, and ahead of the move to a new regulatory structure.

Gay says: “A year and one month is not that long to be at an organisation. But you can never tell when an exciting opportunity is going to come up. When it does, you have to weigh up your options.

“The role at the ABI is an exciting one, it is about pursuing the issues regarding an ageing population and the reputation of our industry, and the saving gap, and these are things that I feel passionately about, and I know many IFAs feel passionately about.

“It should not be considered that this is in any sense going from one side to another. Aifa’s always had a close relationship with the key members of the ABI who are associate members of Aifa. The agenda between the two organisations varies at times but by and large we are all after the same thing, which is to do the right thing by the British public.”

Gay believes Aifa has made significant progess over the last year as an organisation, and says it is now in a position to “go forward with greater confidence.”

Money Marketing revealed in November that Aifa had posted an operating deficit of £194,419 for the year to June 30, down from a surplus of £14,919 for 2009/10.

Gay says: “The numbers were what they were. Seeing that when I arrived a year ago it was clear the organisation needed some strong direction. The costs of the organisation have been taken down very considerably under my direction. The revenues of the organisation have improved. The organisation has started now to move back to profitability. The operation of the organisation has been overhauled and improved. And on the policy side, there are a string of things we are very proud of given the difficulties with resources and the reducing headcount of the organisation that I felt was necessary.”

Gay counts among Aifa’s successes last year the lobbying of the Treasury select committee over the RDR, which last July called for the RDR deadline to be put back by one year. He says Aifa is making good progess with the FSA over trail commission, and has also worked with the FOS over its current plans to change the case fee structure and increase the number of free cases for advisers from three to 25 a year.

He also highlights Aifa’s work with the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, which led to firms who were overcharged in contributing to the interim levy to pay for the compensation costs of Keydata being able to resubmit their tariff data. Aifa is continuing to challenge the FSCS over the way it has sought to pursue advisers who sold Keydata products through the courts.

Gay adds: “Across a whole range of things we are pleased with what we have achieved with very limited resources.”

Gay’s leaving date is yet to be agreed, but is expected to be around the end of February.