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What advisers are saying: Compliance is no substitute for strategy

Phil Wickenden Technical Area 200

Melchett: Field Marshal Haig has formulated a brilliant new tactical plan to ensure final victory in the field.

Blackadder: Ah. Would this brilliant plan involve us climbing out of our trenches and walking very slowly towards the enemy?

Captain Darling: How could you possibly know that, Blackadder? It’s classified information!

Blackadder: It’s the same plan that we used last time and the seventeen times before that.

The regulator, being the regulator (at least for the time being), will regulate. And it will continue to do so (in whatever guise). That’s what it does. It’s its job. Ensuring we’re compliant is expensive and exhausting, but it is not the same as ensuring we have a robust strategy. There’s overlap, for sure – but it’s not a substitute. While it may be tempting to pause for applause while awaiting the next set of hoops to march through, this routine is unlikely to yield the results we hope for.

As the rapid pace of change continues, there is little certainty around how the industry looks beyond 2013. We’re (understandably) very internally and short-term focussed and the industry (regulator included) is still grappling with the details of RDR. But as one adviser put it recently: “RDR won’t kill businesses; poor business plans will kill businesses”.

With so much business re-calibration and de-fibrillation centred on regulatory requirements, how far have our models been truly constructed around what the client wants and how they want it? As the shift to a higher level of service delivered to a smaller group of wealthier clients continues, so too does the need to refine what service looks like to different client groups. Most advisers segment on the basis of asset size – offering corresponding tiers of service – but is a more refined approach needed?

Just because a client meets your (fund-based) criteria for full service, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they will want to see you four times a year – as delightful as I’m sure you are.

Equally, simply dressing up your last-century IFA business as a wealth management company and adding a bit of gold leaf to the business card will not wash either… with clients or the FSA.

With every man and his dog planning to play in the £100k+ AUM pool, what will truly differentiate your business?

Walking dutifully over the top in regulation boots might not be the best way of surviving what’s coming next.

Phil Wickenden is managing director of So Here’s The Plan phil@soherestheplan.com

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