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We all deserve to be represented equally

For as many years as I have been in the industry, debate has raged on who delivers the best service to consumers – IFAs, tied agents or now, I guess, multi-ties. This debate has pro-bably been the most damaging factor preventing us winning the trust of the British public.

Certainly, in my experience, nearly all complaints are instigated by one adviser against another, usually to aid in obtaining an alternative sale or in some way gain favour with the client.

Now, I am not saying it is not the duty of every adviser to seek the best result for the client, but one has to question the motive and the impact on the reputation of the industry as a whole of widespread accusation and the development of the compensation culture that is sweeping our world.

Let us be absolutely clear. Independence has meant independent product selection, not independent advice. Proof of this is that every adviser has FPC 1, 2, and 3 but I am yet to see different answers being required from tied, multi-tied or whole-of-market advisers. The advice is right or wrong, not independent. Product selection has always been the second stage of solving an issue after the advice has been given.

Further evidence that an adviser is an adviser is that the vast majority of IFAs I meet have come from a direct salesforce background. These individuals did not change their characters overnight in finding the Holy Grail of the whole-of-market experience. Most, in fact, became IFAs as the big product providers closed their direct salesforces.

It is quality our industry needs, not snobbery. I expect all our advisers to give top-quality service and advice, regardless of whether they only do mortgages or full financial planning. Their career choice and route to success is their decision but they all deserve to be represented equally and fairly.

Rarely do I read in the press of one solicitor or accountant being accused of foul play by another. I believe this has a lot to do with the seasoned professions, such as the law, being represented by one major body, in this case the Law Society.

A society that can lay down a set code of ethics and which monitors the behaviour of its members is an absolute necessity for any profession, if it is serious about gaining widespread trust and respect.

Any representative body should have its members’ interests at its core but its overriding concern should be the reputation of the whole industry or profession it seeks to represent. It is obvious that an industry such as ours has no chance of proper representation until all the different factions get round a table and give us a fighting chance to graduate from an industry to a profession.

It is pointless for Aifa to be in existence if it is not prepared to represent members who go multi-tied for a proportion of their business. Have they stopped giving advice or become worse people? I think not.

Certified financial planners need to encourage the whole industry to improve academic standards across the board, not just through the certificate but in specialised areas like the mortgage market. The Personal Finance Society should be looking at national campaigns to enhance consumer awareness of what our industry does for the welfare of our economy.

I guess I am saying that we should all use our experience to represent the industry together and help create a profession. Put your egos away and aim at the common good. With the ending of polarisation, we have a unique opportunity to come together and create a better environment for everyone.

Certainly, one representative body would have so much more credibility with the institutions we need to influence to create a healthy profession going forward. It would be better funded. Certainly, it would save me many hours in funding meetings with all the representative bodies.

It would be so much more effective to be able to support one organisation that could truly make a difference because of its all-embracing qualities.

A stepping stone to this would be for all organisations to lay down the dusty prejudices of the past and represent everyone with dignity, regardless of where they may sit within our industry.

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