Estragon: “Nothing to be done.”
Vladimir: “I’m beginning to come round to that opinion.”
I attended the excellent Winning Advisers event last week, with key decision-makers from some of the top advisory business. During one session, weighing up the merits of independent v restricted models, I couldn’t help but think of Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett’s absurdist play, in which the protagonists, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for Godot.
In much the same way, we are an industry at some-what of an impasse. There is consensus only on the level of misinformation doing the rounds and many business leaders are waiting for greater clarity before they feel able to commit.
Yet, as we know, the FSA is not and will not be prescriptive in its approach. This won’t change. It is why waiting for a clear set of rules and definitions is a bit like waiting for Godot. Sorry to ruin it for those who have not seen or read the play, but he does not show up! (It’s not so much a holiday read anyway).
Dictionary definitions of paralysis describe a loss or impairment of the ability to move a body part, usually as a result of damage to its nerve supply. Having encountered a fair few frayed nerves across the industry, could the level of inaction have more to do with fear than information (or a lack of)? And with good reason – Interpretation is required, yet advisers fear reprisals should their reading be deemed (retrospectively) wrong. Which way the media blows is a big concern, given the power that it wields to influence consumers one way or the other. Advisers are also keen to distance themselves from those restricted-model businesses that have only their shareholders’ interests at heart.
Starting with how the media may respond, with what the FSA might do retrospectively or what peers you may or may not be associated with is understandable but unhelpful. And a bit back to front if I may say.
What kind of a business are you or do you want to be? What do your clients value? What, ultimately, do you stand for? These are the most important questions. Be clear on what you believe and choose the best way of delivering your promises (while, of course, ensuring consistency of process and a clear record thereof).
The firms that can answer these questions clearly, concisely and compellingly are those that will thrive.
Phil Wickenden is founder of So Here’s The Plan
All interviews conducted with QCF level 4 qualified advisers and above.