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How many professional bodies does it take to change a light bulb?

Well, its seems 4, one to ensure you have the right level of qualifications, one to tell the other one that isn’t quite good enough, another to say lets only use these light bulbs and a final one to say, no we must chose from every light bulb in the market.  I’ve not even started on a regulator that requires you to use one ladder for going up and another for going down.

The problem with this approach isn’t so much the bodies themselves, or indeed the people running them.  No, individually they all are trying to do the right thing, and are undoubtedly run by smarter and more informed people than me.  And when you look at the websites it’s hard to disagree with each objective in isolation.  (I realise some bodies will say they are not professional bodies, but bear with me why that doesn’t matter)

Reading @inspiredadvisers blog hit a cord with thoughts I’ve been having. I’m firmly from the industry, but like to think I’ve tried to support the profession.  But perhaps more importantly I’m a client of the profession.  It’s from this angle I am coming from.

When I was working in the industry the advisers I met were all professional  All looking like the advisers Paul talks about in his  professional blog.  Yet it was hard for me to see a single collective. A single collective facing off to the industry or the regulator, or to the client.

Maybe one isn’t needed, but my guess is the profession would be stronger as one, not many.  We have IFP, APFA  (google and you get Association of Professional Flight Attendants), IFA Centre, all as professional bodies.

Then you have the PFS, not as a professional body technically, but you get what I mean.

I’m not knocking the existing ones, individually they do good, collectively I sense they could do better.There is simply too much debate internally within the profession, and not enough engagement with the outside world.  When I was growing up in a small mining village when someone was CORGI registered I didn’t think they could look after the Queen’s dogs.  No I knew they could fit our gas central heating.  I also knew not to trust a plumber to do the same thing!!  Why should financial planning be any different?

Would one voice from the profession help or make any difference, is this just an industry guy talking through a hole in his head?  With one professional body would the customer get better outcomes, because that is all that really matters. RDR has gone, done and dusted and for most professional advisers it was done many years ago. Except the additional paperwork next time you meet the client, oh and the RAMR stuff, and oh yes all this new helpful disclosure. Well intentioned, as I believe RDR was the implementation has not delivered improved customer outcomes in my view.  I call it transparent complexity.   I suspect a strong and united professional body could have changed that. The regulator had little chance to be fair, multiple industry groups, factions within those groups, multiple professional bodies, classic case of no-one happy.

How will the profession respond to the next RDR, the next big legislative changes.  How will you as a profession pre-empt the regulation, and indeed start to shape it to deliver improved client outcomes.  The industry tends to have a louder voice here, in part because they have money and resource, but also because they tend to be more organised.  One thing I’m sure of,  industry views will not always lead to better client outcomes.  It’s the profession that has the discussions with clients, so why is that voice so fractured and quiet?

Then there is the client.  The recent changes to state pension makes it even more important for everyone to save.  The profession has had a few stabs at engaging the mass in the value of saving and the value of advice.  I was a huge advocate of the Value of Advice campaign led by Karen Barrett from working with Standard Life.  I hope it continues and grows.  Also we had Shaun Mullins from Fiscal Engineers working with Nick Cann from IFP on the Question of Trust campaign.  Some great insight here, but no traction from Industry or Profession on this one.

I think this is the thing the profession must sort.  Irrespective of how many bodies there are within it.  How to engage with the mass media and get the message across to everyone that good professional advice is affordable and not only valuable, but for most people a necessity.  Otherwise we will continue to have to deal with the negative press of the minority and of people you don’t even recognise as part of your profession.

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