Is Advice Elitist?

There’s a couple of debates raging in our profession where different parties disagree at their core seem to be about one thing….

Elitism.

Elitism – an attitude that states that a select group of people with a certain ancestry, intrinsic quality or worth, high intellect, wealth, specialised training or experience (or any other distinctive attributes) are those whose influence or authority is greater than that of others, whose views on a matter are to be taken more seriously or carry more weight.

Elitism.

A concept which doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I’d prefer a profession where we embody principals which are the polar opposite of Elitism.

Equality and Democracy.

A profession where debate is encouraged, where ideas are challenged but where these conversations, either online, face to face or in the press are conducted respectfully and whilst trying to appreciate other peoples perspective.

A profession where if an individual doesn’t agree with a particular ideas or concepts then the challenge should be to persuade, encourage to explore the alternative point of view, not discounting their opinion because they ‘just don’t get it’.

A profession where we avoid making it personal but instead if we don’t agree respectfully challenge on the ideas and concepts of someones point of view. A profession where we play the ball, not the man (or woman).

A profession where we’re conscious that the huge majority of us have the same goal – To provide a brilliant service to our clients and to build decent businesses but where we all might have different perspectives on how to achieve this.

Maybe I’m being idealistic.

However I can’t get away from the fact that with the entire collective intellectual capital within our profession we’d be better off finding the common ground and working together than creating often artificial petty divisions?

One of the challenges we face as a profession (and as society at large) is the fact that the provision of advice itself is elitist.

The reality is that most financial planners clients are in the top tiers of the UK’s most wealthy. Nice people. People who understand the benefits of what we do. People who appreciate our help.

I also fully understand the reasons (as you will) the reasons that for most financial planning and advice businesses looking after clients who are less wealthy isn’t always commercially sensible.

Dealing with a small number of high wealth clients (per adviser) who can afford a bespoke consultancy based financial planning service makes business sense under the current regulatory regime.

However a brilliant recent article by Lee Robertson (which you can read here) highlights the fact that there’s a significant issue of trust when it comes to ‘financial advice’ together with a perception that for most people we’re too expensive (which for many is probably true).

Now you could argue that for those approaching retirement Pension Wise will provide support where required.

You could also argue that the fantastic work by many in sharing useful knowledge and ideas, more often than not for free, is another route for those who won’t or can’t afford to access our services.

You could also argue that auto enrolment will mean millions will start to save for their financial futures where they didn’t before.

I’m pretty sure the hard work by pension wise, the long term impact of auto enrolment and the individuals committed to sharing knowledge will contribute towards filling this gap.

However I reckon the gap between the support provided and the demand for help, even with everything going on to reduce it, will be hugely significant.

Again maybe I’m being idealistic. Maybe the problem is too wide and broad in scale to solve.

However I can’t help but think about working towards solutions which provide our knowledge and expertise to those who most need it.

I can’t help but think about finding innovative (and commercially viable) ways to ensure that financial planning can delivered more democratically.

and

I can’t help but think about ways we can make our services less elitist….and more equal.

So, here’s my final thought…

How about an environment where the people involved in our profession, although they might disagree, work together to make things better…and what if ‘better’ meant not only better for those of us who chose this as our vocation, or the wealthiest in the land but to ensure we work towards finding solutions which work for us all?

Now that’s a revolution I’d happily be a part of!

What do you think?