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Tony Byrne: How I learned to stop worrying and love the RDR

Like many IFAs, I have clung on to the independent title over the years. However, with the arrival of the RDR, I have had a major rethink and decided using the word independent is not perhaps as important after all.

What has caused this re-think? Well, faced with the prospect of endless hours of CPD annually to prove I have considered every possible product, demonstrated my knowledge and decided to offer some of them and reject others, maybe the restricted adviser route isn’t such a bad choice after all. Is the title IFA a good one anyway? Most of the public do not trust advisers and are sceptical about how independent we really are anyway.

The only downside would be that we would be lumped in with all sorts of advisers, ranging from highly skilled financial planners down to direct salesforces, from the bancassurers and insurance companies, thus losing our unique differentiator that is, independence.

It was only once I qualified as a chartered financial planner recently and we decided as a firm to apply for chartered status that I could see that even if we were to become restricted advisers in the future, we could still maintain a unique differentiator, that is, a chartered firm status. As I am also a certified financial planner, we have decided to become an accredited firm with the Institute of Financial Planning too.

This has started me on a roll to get further examinations and to up our game. I have applied to sit both the CII equity-release and long-term care insurance exams. This will count towards our application to join the Society Of Later Life Advisers.

I have also decided to sit the CII’s regulation & ethics and discretionary investment management exams this year, which will enable us to offer discretionary management services toclients. This will further enhance our existing investment strategy and give a better service to clients.

Next year, I have decided to sit the Society of Trust Estate Practitioners exams.

We already advise on wills and trusts but this extra qualification will give us even greater credibility.

Last but not least, I have four more learning outcomes out of 109 to complete my gap-fill which will enable me to apply for my statement of professional standing and allow me to give advice in 2013.

My colleagues have also decided to become chartered financial planners. All new advisers and paraplanners will have to be committed to and achieve a higher level of professional exams in order to work for us in the future.

While I, like many IFAs, was not in favour of the RDR, I have come full circle and welcome it. I firmly believe it is the best-ever opportunity for IFAs to really set themselves apart.

Tony Byrne is financial planning director at Wealth And Tax Management


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There are 45 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. No doubt there are firms of IFAs who will thrive despite the RDR. Some may even thrive because of the RDR and the departure of so many existing advisers.

    We are often accused of fighting about which route is best and which business model best serves us and our clients. The reality is that all forms of advice are acceptable as it is only the outcomes that can determine the quality.

    The real issue, whether you love, hate or tolerate the RDR experiment, is that as an industry we have misguided people designing the advice process as they believe it should be for consumers who do not care.

    Good luck to Tony and anybody who is able to survive under the aegis of a regulator that values outcomes but cares not that they can be achieved in so many different ways.

  2. I love the attitude that Tony and his colleagues have. I also love the fact RDR was only mentioned twice, the first as the catalyst for his current thinking, and the second to say how it is working for him rather than against him.

    From what I can understand from the article, they are taking exams not because of RDR, but because they can see a better future for their business by doing so – how refreshing.

    Best of luck with all the exams Tony, I’m sure they’ll pay dividends in the future, if not already!

  3. Another one getting wrapped up in their own importance and academic qualifications.
    Avoiding the stigma of being called a Financial Adviser that for so long has served so many people so well.
    Poor consumer when they look at the list of qualifications presented at the introduction to ‘why do business with me?’
    I have worked abroad and met many Doctors,Engineers,Professors,and so on.
    Underneath this facade they are of an average that is not likely to instil confidence,some just passing,other there due to their ability to stay the course.
    With so much time spent getting this long list of qualifications ,is their advice any better,are they better at their job?
    Are they worth the money they want to impart this hugely overqualified advice?
    I think not.
    What satisfaction do they get out of boring their friends and family, as well as their ‘suspects, with their long list of qualifications?
    We can all drive a car,but we are not all Jenson Buttons,Shumakers etc.
    Get real and look at what the client wants compared to your own gratification that ‘I’m better than yow’
    RDR is creating a Jekyl and Hyde personality for many good honest people who didn’t have to hide behind qualifications to do an excellent job.

  4. Whilst I agree with Tony’s conclusion about restricted (but RDR hasn’t arrived yet).
    I disagree about the qualification ribbish despite using Truth for planning with clients, being 3 points off my level 4, having all gaps filled already, having Equity Release and Home reversion qualifications (the 5 points of whihc CII will not count otherwise I’d be level 4 already) and being due to sit the Long Term Care Planning CF8 in a few weeks.
    My reason is that if I have already covered all the gaps, it is B***ocks having to get an extra 3 points just to prove I have a level 4.
    The mandatory nature and lack of grandfathering has also meant the areas I wanted to study which would be of use to ME and my clients had to be put on a back burner simply to leap a fence and continue trading. That is plain wrong and whilst for a 47 year old is OK, had I been nearing retirement I woudl have said stuff you to the FSA.

  5. So ‘goody two shoes’ you have not impressed me at all with your sycophantic article to the world.
    Watching paint dry is obviously one of your pastimes.
    Pity the poor client getting bored to death by you and your qualifications and how lucky they are to have you as their adviser!!

  6. Peter Butcher 9th May 2012 at 2:23 pm

    ‘He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.’

  7. Good article Tony. I have to my own surprise enrolled to do more exams this winter. I have to say however that this is very much intended to equip myself with the necessary knowledge to undertake specialised areas of work rather than impressing clients.. They go glazed very quickly if I discuss qualifications. Clients have every right to assume I am competent to advise in the relevant areas without a certificate waving session.

    Commercially I like the RDR too. There will be many advisers who can’t make it and many firms who will go under. That means better quality work for the remaining well qualified souls at higher rates of pay. The losers of course are the RDR excluded consumers which is a bit ironic given the objectives at outset.

  8. Incompetent Regulators Award Team 9th May 2012 at 3:03 pm

    RDR is not the real problem, it’s the low calibre people running the regulatory system is where the core problem is. RDR is a sympton of a flawed system.

  9. @ Dennis Hall
    Do you work for the CII or IFS? You seem VERY keen on exams, perhaps suspiciously OVERKEEN on exams.
    I think we should be told.

  10. stephen rowland 9th May 2012 at 3:08 pm

    He might want to spend the rest of his life studying – but i have got better things to do rather than please an insatiable regulator who will stop at nothing to destoy the IFA !

    If they don’t get you through qualifications – they will get you by increasing theIr horrendous ever-ending FEES!

    As the IFAsector shrinks – Fees will obviously have only one way to go – UP!!!

  11. So Tony, how is your partner and your children, and your bank balance whilst you are doing all this studying???
    Maybe you are better off, but can you HONESTLY say that EVERYONE would be better off if they followed your path???
    Exams should only be for people that need to or want to impress their clients.
    My own clients just want more service from me and less”I’m sorry I was studying for an exam there”!!!!

  12. Patrick Schan 9th May 2012 at 3:56 pm

    I’m sorry Tony; I’m sure you are a decent chap but I don’t understand the process which has led you to love the RDR. You could have taken all these exams anyway, surely, and I can’t, for the life of me, see why you wanted to, except for being able to display them to a client who may not care much anyway. Personally I can think of other ways of spending my time. You must have a lot of secretarial help I guess, which was good thinking, or else you are an extremely good time organiser.

  13. Robin Mukerjee 9th May 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Look at all those qualifications – you’re my hero!

  14. Gillian Cardy 9th May 2012 at 5:00 pm

    I’m sorry that Tony hasn’t received a warmer response to his plans for professional development. Whether he has a good secretary and / or an understanding family isn’t anyone’s business except his own – and if he feels that qualifications add to the resources he can apply for his clients’ benefit then surely that’s a good thing??
    BUT if Chartered is “the new Independent” what happens (assuming all the IFAs have gone to hell in handcart as predicted) when all the Chartered advisers are working for St James Place – or one of the banks??
    Professional standing and regulatory status are not the same thing and let’s stop confusing them right now.
    Oh – and being “lumped in with all sorts of advisers” seems like a pretty big downside to me!!

  15. Duncan Carter 9th May 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I’m sure Tony knew he would get more anonymous trolls than praise when he penned his article but I say well done to him. RDR whether good bad or indifferent [and for the record I think it has a bit of each] will happen next January. The FCA will happen and firms that hang back will get left behind one way or another.

    We have enough on our plate to contend with at the moment and I do wonder about the motives of those who submit nasty anonymous blogs on articles such as this. Not very professional with either a small or a large P.

    Incidentally I don’t know Dennis Hall but I do know that he doesn’t work for either of the bodies suggested earlier – that was just a silly dig!

  16. Dear Duncan and Gillian
    Can you not see through this ridiculous smoke screen that is being offered as the way to ‘true independent qualified advice?
    Qualifications mean for nothing unless they are used correctly-‘its not what you know, its how you use what you know’,as the saying goes.
    Please do not gratify this diatribe he is offering as proof that he is an ardent supporter of RDR
    Remember Tony Blair with his WDM-
    It is all too familiar.
    What is the author trying to achieve if not self importance and toadying to the general IFA and FSA do gooders who have their own WMD-aka RDR.
    Signed -an experienced ‘ANONYMOUS’ who has been around the block more times that you have had hot meals.
    I am delighted to remain mysteriously ‘anonymous,having recently been accused of being-Hector Sants,Keith Carby an even a retired failed under qualified IFA.
    One of these days i will remove my mask and show the world I am but a mere mortal suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune offered by RDR.
    Up up and away!

  17. I think most would agree that knowledge is a good thing, and if it works for Tony to go above an beyond then all well and good.

    When it comes to labels I think he has a point. The FSA have re-defined independence. Post RDR it will depend on the range of products you advise on rather than whether you’re working for the client or a single/group of providers. Right now, if you don’t want to advise on UCIS but are whole of market you are independent. After RDR you can do exactly the same but will be restricted.

    More confusingly, post RDR, if I don’t advise on UCIS but do advise on long term care and pension transfers then I’m restricted. If I do advise on UCIS but not long term care and pension transfers then I’m independent.

    The client seems to have been forgotten, surely it’s the service they get that’s important, not some arbitrary definition of independence set by the regulator?

    If the current definition of independence is good enough for clients now does it matter if it’s called something else on the 31st December?

    Don’t just blindly accept the FSA’s definition and tie yourself to it for the sake of the label. Think for yourself and decide what’s best for you and the clients…

  18. For heavens sake,can all you fools not see that the RDR protagonists will love a stupid article like this.They will now be smugly saying that the world is now converted to RDR (Tony Blairitis)
    For everybody’s good we should be trying to stop them going down this disastrous route and chose a more practical and sensible option.
    Please stop writing articles that are only really for self gratification.
    Anonymous-hard luck Duncan but where were you when the discussions started on RDR?
    What sort of response did you honestly expect to this article?

  19. This just goes to show the difference between the typical IFA and the new model ones.

    See, most “advisers” left school with a few grades and went on to earn a living by selling products. They had to sell to earn money. Now that commission is being banned and they have to get proper qualifications, they despise others who work hard to improve themselves as well as the profession. It just comes down to jealousy – which is a result of a lack of education.

    Well done Tony. Keep up your good work. You are a credit to the profession. Pity that the thickos didn’t get your point which was to highlight that even though you might chose restricted, Chartered + all the other qualifications will mean you are most likely better than independent anyway. Simple to understand – for those who’ve passed exams!

    As for the rest who have a go at him, the only hope for the industry is your riddance. Do us all a favour and keep your petty jealousies out.

    Praise the worthy. Pity the half wits.

  20. Seems to me this is a matter of opinion, so to those who have disgreed with Tony under their own name I give credit. On the other hand, the anonymous criticism is pretty pathetic. I happen to agree with Tony that RDR creates a commercial opportunity IF you have a positive mindset and have the conviction to pursue that view.
    Also, I agree with Dennis Hall that it’s great to see someone not just harping on about the rights and wrongs of RDR (it’s happening anyway guys!), but instead exhorting fellow advisers to be entrepreneurial and think about how they can do well from the changes. Advisers generally have always been entrepreneurial, so I’d be surprised if the majority don’t thrive under the new RDR regime. Of course, many will not but that’s life (and capitalism, Darwinism etc etc.). I still think the majority will thrive.

  21. Showing off a bit there Tony with all those exams you are taking – took me 8 months to Pass RO1,2 and 4…..

    But on a serious point that was a good article and it shows the thought process that we should all be following to distinguish ourselves from bancassurers or direct to market consultants at the larger insurers. I am not saying these people are not skilled professionals but they ultimately have their employers interests at heart not their clients if you ask me.

  22. Everyone to his own I guess, I just don’t know how these adviser find the time for such self-indulgence!
    I have to share my life away from my office with my wife, children, grandchildren and aging parents, and I for one will not be laying on my deathbed thinking if only I’d had more time to take some more exams. Get a life comes to mind. Sorry!

  23. @Harry

    I keep hearing that we must not be negative and must open up to wholesale change and, indeed, welcome it as a natural progression, etc, etc.

    Consider the wants and requirements of the ‘typical’ consumer. Those that call upon my services do so for a specific purpose – maybe a mortgage, protection, pension, annuity – so I deal with their requirements. Often I will extend into other areas where there is a clear and distinguishable need., i.e. protection to run alongside a mortgage.

    To do this I sell them the concept. I sell them the consequences of not taking the product and the consequemces and potentially disastrous outcome of not doing so.

    The point is…I am selling them something. It’s my knowledge and skill that enables me to establish a need, persuade the consumer of this need and then persuade them that there is an affordable solution.

    Anybody who really thinks that we’re not selling something must live on planet FSA.

  24. Harry
    Thikos,half wits!
    Surrounded by jealousies or what?
    This is so far from an intelligent response that I must ask-is the pot calling the kettle black?
    If the tone of all the messages were to be sycophantic as the authors then the Industry would be steamrollered over by the Authorities-OOPS that is exactly what is happening.
    Harry-how about getting off your arse and do something that will protect the consumers who ultimately are the people w are serving.
    Anonymous and proud of it,thiko,I think not!
    Mirror mirror on the wall-look into it Harry and check out what you see.
    Loads of self opinionated well qualified people pretending to be qualified intelligent advisers-when do qualifications make you any more intelligent than others??
    Any fool can sit an exam-as is proved by all those University graduates working in fast food companies.

  25. Yes I am impressed at the commitment shown here for the future; I am now level four and have completed my gap fill and have the Certificate of Professional Standing but this begs the question,SO WHAT?
    Most of the british public do not now receive general financial advice, saving and pensions are down among most ordinary people and the protection market is shrinking. We have internet and marketing from the supermarkets but the real difference is made by the man in the suit sitting on your sofa! Compared to 20 years ago 80% of those men are now working somewhere else and those that are left are seeking HNW clients and Joe Customer is more confused than ever.

  26. Yes but Thomas, 25 years ago there were 240,000 “financial advisers” out of a working population of 24 million i.e. one person in 100 working people were a financial adviser!

    This was clearly ridiculously top-heavy and indicative of a supply-side excess (due to fat margins) rather than demand-led custom. As a result, many “ordinary” clients just got ripped off.

  27. Anon @ 12.44pm

    What a ludicrous argument when we have the largest savings/ pensions/protection gap in history.

    Since when was long term savings/pensions demand led ?? If it was stakeholder and the forthcoming train crash NEST would be over subscribed and everybody you met would have a savings plan and a pension and a protection policy – they dont anymore that the point.

    People ultimately deal with people not exam certificates and they dont buy sausages they are sold the sizzle !!

    The nearest thing this industry got to getting it right was Polarisation.

  28. anon@12.44.
    So where did you get financial advice from in times past?
    What qualifications were there to build a credible industry.
    Where were the schools that would be prepared to offer courses in Financial Services?
    Why not have a large sales force to ‘sell ‘what people should have.
    The real shame is not the large numbers ,nor the rip off merchants(many of the large IFA firms and networks have been guilty of this,as has the mortgage industry that all these itinerant insurance sales people fled to when exams came about.
    In 1985 the IFP started with a drive to create a new breed of ‘fee paid advice’ advisers.
    Hundreds joined from across the spectrum,very few qualified but all wanting to be associated with the credibility offered by such an organization.
    Yes there were many thousands of non qualified advisers,but there was no other route for the industry to build on,apart from the Life inspectors or the man from the Pru.
    Where are they now?
    How many people have no form of savings,no life cover,no insurance just because a few self opinionated people have shouted that without qualification the rest are no good!!
    Its is the poor consumer who has suffered,they have lost their ‘relationships ‘that enabled them to get some form of advice and products.
    How long before this is realized and something is done about it.
    RDR is NOT the answer!

  29. @ Derek Gair…so what’s your point? That having 1 in every 100 people working as financial advisers wasn’t enough? How many do you suggest – 5 in 100? 10 in 100? Many people might think we need more doctors, nurses, teachers and – heaven forbid – a few more folk in manufacturing first.

  30. @ Anon 2.26.

    What on earth has life cover or insurance got to do with RDR?

  31. it sounds a right barrell of laughs at this company,,

  32. IFA @ 2.37

    Now you’re just being a sillybilly.

  33. “How I learned to stop worrying and love the RDR”

    More nonsense written by someone who hopes one day the FSA comes calling and offers him a job. It’s about as useful as me saying “How I learned to stop worrying about my toothache and love the Pain it causes me”

    I have myself have decided to become a fully trained dentist as I think that’s the way forward where toothache and pain is concerned. Tuition fees at 9k a year might be a problem though but I’m on a roll so what the heck.

  34. Duncan Carter 10th May 2012 at 6:10 pm

    Ok -so a fairly predictable set of responses.

    It is a given that qualifications are not the be all and end all in any walk of life. It is the blend of academic, vocational and professional qualifications coupled with hard experience that provides the best results. There are not many top QC’s or brain surgeons knocking around that only have an O level in metalwork.

    As a fledgling profession it is not good enough to simply hark back to the usual mantras that ‘my clients love me’ or ‘I’ve been doing this for 30 years’ as a justification for maintaining the status quo. I’m no apologist for the RDR, the FSA or any other over-intellectualised initiative that doesn’t improve our clients lot one jot but I do passionately care about the work we do and I do believe that independence is best.

    What we can’t do is just carp on and moan, that’s exactly what led to the RDR with its significant warts and all being imposed on us. It would have been better if the necessary change had come from within but it didn’t on the whole. QED.

    So back to Tony and his mission to improve his knowledge and professional standing, why is that a bad thing? If he does everything that his detractors do for his clients AND expands his learning, on average are his clients going to get a better or worse service as a result?

    I realise that with only 26 years experience I’m a Johnny come lately for whom qualifications, jobs at the FSA, working for IFP/PFS/IFP et al and a huge ego are my raison d’etre but some of the comments here are hugely depressing. As mentioned earlier, we’re stuck with the RDR etc so it needs to be dealt with. A professional response will generate a better result for everyone!

  35. IFA
    Oh dear,Oh dear,Oh dear!
    Help is required.
    Matron, the patient is having delusions that he is ‘holier than thou’.
    A quick shot of reality is required, with regular top ups.
    How many more are there out there that think like this?
    Answers on a piece of paper(preferably toilet paper for ease of disposal)

  36. Tyrone Murphy 11th May 2012 at 9:03 am

    The RDR is here to stay. So people have to either decide to accept it and work out a way to prosper or go into another line of work.

  37. @ Duncan Carter

    Well said – without anonimity you have politely and eloquently expressed what I am thinking.

  38. So with all these admirable qualifications every body should be doing an amazing job of wealth creation for their clients.
    What a load of hogwash!
    Qualifications mean for nothing if you cannot manage wealth and this is the crux of the matter.
    How many of you so called fully qualified advisers,sorry fee base advises sorry IFAs(or whatever you want to call yourself) have actually done a good job for your clients.
    Been in cash when you needed to be,bought at the bottom(where is the bottom?_)sold at the top,offered your client a range of product provider lead investments,ran for cover when it all went wrong,hope you PFI policy was a good as it set out to be,had the courage to admit ‘you’ were wrong and that it wasn’t the market!!!!
    You co called Wealth managers make me laugh.
    Rushing to offer the latest idea,Equities are bouncing back,gold is a safe bet,Green investments are good,environmentally friendly funds are for you,ISA are just what the doctor ordered(this is NOT qualified advice in any respect)
    Annuity planning,Final salary schemes, shares, stocks,SIPPs, Keydata style investments, Life policies, drawdowns, Managed Funds, Fund of funds, Fund supermarkets, and so on.
    Where has advice on these lead your clients?
    Its about time YOU got your act together and stopped hiding behind RDR ,FEE charging and your insurance policies and FSCS.

  39. Duncan Carter | 10 May 2012 6:10 pm

    “Ok -so a fairly predictable set of responses.”

    What followed wasn’t predictable was it? You even go on to mention you’ve been involved in this business for 26 years. Do you really think the reason RDR came into being is because of advisers Carping and Moaning? If you’re going to start a post by pointing out the predictability of the posts before you please come up with something at least a little bit unpredictable. You might see the irony but I have my doubts.

  40. huw | 9 May 2012 2:47 pm

    ‘ The losers of course are the RDR excluded consumers which is a bit ironic given the objectives at outset’

    About 95% of the population

  41. If you wanted investment advice from an EXPERT you would go an speak to Warren Buffet, or read Ben Grahams book.

    You dont need all this egotistical nonsense, its for the FSA

  42. Has Tony thought about taking a law degree and studying an accountancy qualification too. This will ensure the client is given the best possible advice from every angle!

  43. Mark Coughlin 14th May 2012 at 2:10 pm

    To: Duncan Carter | 10 May 2012 6:10 pm

    “There are not many top QC’s or brain surgeons knocking around that only have an O level in metalwork.”

    True but then I’d say that what they do is considerably more technical than what 95% of the advising community deal with on a day to day basis.

    Most of what we do is common sense and selling the desire to address a shortfall, whether that be in retirement provision, life cover or savings.

    Whilst those at the FSA may associate with the richest 1% of the population the reality is that for most people their financial requirements are straight forwards and only need an honest adviser who will recommend them something appropriate.

    Qualifications will not make a dishonest adviser become an honest one.

  44. Funny I’ve never heard of Accountants or Solicitors moaning about taking exams.

    They embrace them as true professionals should.

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