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The professionals

It is just like old times, 500 words, little inspiration and a fast-approaching deadline. It is more difficult for a retread like me. Can’t use the word “polarisation” or I’ll lose half the younger audience.

And I am out of practice. The payments industry does not even have one trade magazine. Still, it was nice to be asked (at the Aifa 10th anniversary bash, so I was in mellow mood) to contribute to Money Marketing.

I have looked up my old columns and considered whether a marginal rewrite would get by but I do not know what the professional indemnity market is doing and fear I would be caught out by some dreadful solecism. Maybe all is sunshine and light with PI insurers now. If so, why did they give me so much grief a few years back?

I wondered whether to get all sepia-tinted and recall a day when there was still a pension review and when we were all going to get Sandler products which needed no advice to be sold – a time when Aifa was still in a basement office at the foot of Regent Street with no meeting rooms and few members.

But the association didn’t get where it is today by being nostalgic. So congratulations to Aifa on representing 85 per cent of the IFA community; my only question is what is keeping the other 15 per cent.

This body has delivered significant cuts in regulatory levies. The reduction in FSA fees goes straight to the bottom line of a business and an organisation which does that should get your support.

I was also pleased to see Aifa announcing it represented the adviser profession. We never quite used that description while I was there, perhaps we were too conscious of not wanting to portray ourselves as a professional body.

However, the description rings true and represents how most advisers wish to appear. Being a profession is not just an assertion but is also a commitment to professionalism, and I am glad that Fay Goddard is at the helm of the PFS as I am aware from all my dealings with her that she knows the difference between assertion and delivery.

I realise from talking to Chris Cummings that the FSA is still the key audience for so many Aifa activities but the themes seem depressingly familiar. When once we were reviewing polarisation, now we are reviewing retail distribution. The two exercises do seem to cover an awful lot of the same ground. Why does history repeat itself, not as farce but as another round of consultation?

To return to my hobby-horse, we have got to talk about the value of advice, not just the cost.

I hope Aifa’s next 10 years are as successful as the last, and it would be nice to think that by 2019 we had a profession whose prime focus was on maintaining a high savings ratio and keeping a growing client base happy and growing. We can but dream.

Paul Smee is Apacs chief executive and former Aifa director general

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