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