I like being in business. When you grow up with business owners as parents, it is almost inevitable you will end up doing something similar.
But it was not until about halfway through college that it became apparent the level of academic prowess needed for a traditional degree in something like history was missing from my genetic make-up. The more practical, less academic subject of business it was then.
Whether we realise it or not, we are all businesspeople. From sole trader IFA to chief executive of a multi-million-pound network, business is the name of the IFA game but often gets overlooked when it comes to debates on the retail distribution review and the future of retail financial services.
From some recent discussions, it would be obvious to conclude that large parts of the IFA sector are voluntary or charitable. All this talk about clients no longer being able to afford IFA services after 2012 and the mass market becoming disenfranchised is confusing.
I do not subscribe to the hard-nosed definition of a business. Companies should be profit-able but there can be more to it. I am re-reading Small Giants by Bo Burlingham, which features case studies of businesses that have chosen to be great rather than big. Some common themes of businesses that are successful by measures including but not limited to profitability are community involvement and creating a great place to work.
All this starts with profitability. Without running a profitable business, other noble goals cannot be realised. Behaving like a business, where the target customer has to fit criteria, means saying no to some people.
I love that IFAs want to help every segment of society. That attitude speaks volumes about the typical people who make up our profession, assuming that the attitude exists for truly altruistic reasons.
But it is time to stop confusing this charitable ideology with running a business.
Here is a suggestion for IFAs who are concerned about disenfranchising the mass market as a result of the RDR. Why not focus on running a business that works with clients who value and can afford what you do and then, as business owners, take some of that profit and divert it to charity?
Or maybe some local IFA business owners could create a charitable foundation to provide independent financial advice to those in their communities who cannot afford to pay for it.
The IFA industry cannot continue to berate the regulator for taking away the ability to work with a client segment that probably should never have been a client segment in the first place.
Martin Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice