This is the last Money Marketing which will appear before the LIA EGM at which members of LIA vote on the proposed merger with Sofa.
There have been many views expressed about the proposed merger to form the Personal Finance Society. This is right and proper as we have before us a serious decision.
Greater unity in the sector has been a longstanding issue. In the mid-1990s, a number of us made valiant efforts to bring together a variety of organisations. Unfortunately, lack of vision and protection of vested interests scuppered that particular approach.
Since then, there have been several rounds of discussions between the LIA and Sofa which came to grief for a variety of (sometimes similar) reasons.
For the first time, we are now putting the question directly to our memberships. Do they want a single, authoritative body providing a full range of services to advisers or are they content with a continuation of fragmented representation? The answer, to me, would seem clear. If we are to tackle the task of restoring the professional reputation of the advice sector, we must speak with one voice and act with one will.
Some comment attacking the merger plans has centred on the involvement of the CII. The positives arising from the CII involvement are that all members of the Personal Finance Society will have CII membership at no extra cost to themselves, that the range of CII services will be available to them on member terms and that they will be well placed to take advantage of chartered status when that is agreed with the Privy Council. How would the CII stand in the way of the successful development of the new body? Sofa has never found a problem on that front. No case could conceivably be made that Sofa has not been successful within the CII family.
There is bound to be debate about designations. The fact is that all those who have the regulatory benchmark examination or higher will be full members in the Personal Finance Society and will have the designations appropriate to their status. For many this will be CertPFS and for 20 per cent of the membership or more it will be DipPFS or higher.
To those in the LIA who are concerned about losing their achievement-orientated culture, I can assure them that the board and management of the new body are concerned to ensure that professional success is the watchword of the Personal Finance Society. This must go together with the enhancement of consumer perceptions so members are seen beyond doubt as professionally qualified, trustworthy and having integrity.
We should be looking at the merger from a wider perspective, not focusing on the minutiae of the proposal. It is the culmination of years of hard work by numerous people and will, if it goes through, deliver benefits to the whole profession.
For those with remaining doubts – have faith that we can make a difference. We need to set aside industry cynicism and put our efforts into a project which offers the potential to realise the vision of those who founded bodies such as the LIA.
John Ellis is public affairs director at the LIA