The only place to get proper advice is from an IFA

Independent financial advice rules, it always has and it always willIt was interesting to read Wai Man Cheung’s arguments recently in Money Marketing for giving up his IFA status in order to become a partner at St James’s Place Partnership.

Of course, you will not be surprised to learn that I think he has made the wrong decision. The wrong decision, that is, for his clients, not necessarily wrong for him.

It has taken many years for the public to realise that if they want proper advice then the only place they are going to get it is by going to an independent, whole of market, well qualified financial adviser who offers their clients a choice as to how those services are paid for.

Sadly, this complete package is not available from a sales organisation such as St James’s Place Partnership.

They are a very professional sales organisation but they are, of course, heavily dependent upon the distribution of their products and that will continue to be their focus in the future.

They may wrap up certain advisory aspects in their proposition to their clients but it will never replace an independent offering.

Wai Man Cheung may well have been suffering from some form of commercial loneliness when he made his decision(“I enjoy working in a team environment”) and had probably not built much in the way of value into his IFA business (“I get stock options and a clearly defined exit”).

I also do not think he understands what whole of market means.

The limited range available in the future from St James’s Place Partnership will not even come close to competing with a whole of market range (“St James’s Place also has a panel of pensions providers for stakeholder and the range will shortly increase to include GPP and S32”). It would be a shame then if the client needs one of those now.

I concluded from reading the article that Wai Man Cheung was never actually an independent financial adviser, he was probably an independent financial salesperson, there is a big difference between the two.

I will not criticise him for his decision but I do hope that the regulators will come down very heavily on any organisation that purports to offer pseudo-independent advice because that is exactly what the depolarised world is going to bring.

I can see plenty of benefits to him in joining St James’s Place Partnership and few, if any, for his clients.

Nick Bamford, Managing director Informed Choice,

Cranleigh, Surrey.

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