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Tongue-tied multi-ties

The RDR may see some multi-ties getting all tongue-tied about their status if reports about next week’s interim paper prove true.

Imagine the calls to clients in future.

“Good morning Lord Client, I am your Saint James’s Place financial, er, salesman.”
Or this…

“Good afternoon, Sir Client McClient, I am calling from the Intrinsic er, salesforce, to see if you were aware of the recent CGT changes and what it might mean for your portfolio planning.”

Or even… “Good evening, Mr Client. In these troubled times it might be a good idea to increase your income protection cover. So I was wondering if I might pop round to give you a, er, an Openwork sales talk.”

As for Barclays. “We are very glad you have decided to transfer to Barclays for your wealth management needs. We will now, um, er, sell you something.”

Oh dear. It is all enough make one choke on one’s early morning pick me up, don’t you think?

Of course we don’t know what will be in this paper next week, but we do know that the FSA is expected to have a great deal of sympathy for dividing something called sales from something called advice.

Now before you write, telling me I’m bad, sad or mad, I’m just going to list a few places to put the border, I’m not advocating any of them.

Fee-only say the planners and the rest, although most planners have already stopped calling themselves advisers by now.

Certificate and diploma level. Too low? Too high? Chartered/ the rest. DA or RI or AR in any combination. Network against the rest. The North against the South. Celts against Saxons.

Rather than excavate any more old hatchets, let’s just concentrate on one possibility that multi-ties will find themselves on the selling side of the fence. Until next week, a lot of IFAs, at least those who still call themselves IFAs may smile at the thought that multi-ties, both the posh, the pretending to be posh and the not so posh, will not be able to suggest to their clients they are giving advice but will in some way have to say they are selling.
IFAs who have been levelling the “passing off” accusation for years may get satisfaction.

The “all IFAs are bastardised multi-ties anyway” camp may see a new and unwelcome repolarisation.

But there are a few points to make. First the multi-ties are very influential. Among their number are several Lords who may leap around causing quite a rumpus. More likely, in keeping with the style of these very influential people, they may simply have a few quiet words in the right ears.

Finally, all sorts of competition regs probably make it quite hard to force people to describe themselves one way or the other.

Personally, I get the feeling all advisers have to sell in some way whether it’s a bond, their service, their planning ability or even their fee. I am not being glib, but I am not sure how easy it is to make the call about where the dividing line lies.

The chosen few, or at least the chosen thirty odd industry people, who have been told what is in the paper already, are keeping tight lipped. I have tried throwing phrases like “maximum commission agreement” into conversations suddenly with them to see if eyebrows twitch or lips purse but to no avail.

So there is always the very big chance the FSA will suggest doing exactly the reverse of what everyone thinks they are thinking.

But if the SJP folk and others really do have to reprint their business cards, some IFAs, who resisted their charms, will find it very difficult to hide their glee.


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