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The PFS’s view

It is six months since the vote by members of LIA and Sofa to form the Personal Finance Society. The idea had a long history. In the early 1990s there was much debate about bringing the financial adviser community together into one body which would represent them and set standards which would give added confidence to the public.

At long last, during 2004, it became evident that a single professional body was an idea whose time had come and the vote for a merger was only actively opposed by less than 3 per cent of the combined membership. We have quickly moved from that position to a fully established PFS, albeit with a few aspects which still need to be finalised.

It is worthwhile recalling that in moving from two organisations we have established a new company within the CII Group, merged the LIA and Sofa databases, reviewed the qualifications of all members and issued them with appropriate designations, rebranded the regional structure and established the broad outline of the fully merged regional offering, provided all members with membership cards and statements of the range of services available to them and, above all, established strong relationships from the Government through to trade associations.

I would stress that one of the reasons that the separate bodies found their representational activity a bit of an uphill struggle was the tendency to regard a divided sector as unable to make up its mind. There is another dimension – those in the FSA, for example, need to have confidence that they can have a high-level, confidential discussion with representatives of financial advisers which will explore options in a rational, balanced way. A professional body, concerned above all for standards and the reputation of its members, is a natural party with which to enter into dialogue.

On the issues about the find an adviser service, the board of the PFS is listening to members who have concerns but it is not just as simple as saying let everyone come into it. We must be concerned to establish that there are standards for all those listed on find an adviser which will give it a more compelling aspect than a complete listing of everyone in the sector who is willing to pay a fee. Those who want to be listed with all other IFAs can go to www.unbiased.co.uk – there is no need to replicate that facility. The power of a find an adviser facility which has some extra quality criteria is what we are concerned to provide. We will be looking at ways in which specialisms and special features of the PFS membership can be highlighted. An announcement is likely to be made in a few months when the board is satisfied that it is offering the best facilities it can.

I feel sure that most members of the PFS see the benefit of what we are doing. We have come a long way in a short time although much more needs to be done. Perhaps the time to judge the PFS is a few years down the line and perhaps we could have a moratorium on letters to Money Marketing and start talking to each other much more?

John Ellis is public affairs director of the Personal Finance Society

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