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By Michael Trudeau | Published May 14, 2012

Moving to a new home: Robert Sinclair, Ami

Earlier this year the Association of IFAs announced that its mortgage guise Ami would operate as a separate trade body. At the helm of good ship Ami as it set sail from Port Aifa, director Robert Sinclair has said he has high hopes for the newly-independent trade body.

Mr Sinclair says his goals include a consumer awareness campaign for mortgage brokers, an increased emphasis on protection and a universally transferable fact-find for clients.

But while he is keen to push for positive change, he is equally keen to stress that progress has already been made since Ami was first established four years ago.

“Do I believe that we’ve cleaned the industry up a lot over the last four years? Yes we have. Do I believe that it’s going to be 100 per cent clean today? Well that’s unlikely. But is it in a much better place than it was? Yes.

“It’s a different industry from where it was.”

Mr Sinclair says he worries that customers are conspicuously absent from industry dialogue and there is a danger of losing focus amid the confusion of regulatory changes.

In one phase of RDR we were clear about advising and selling - if we’d kept that distinction it’s likely Barclays and HSBC would not have exited the market

In particular he says he is concerned that the Mortgage Market Review does not address key issues in the market such as a lack of education and remuneration, but he adds that it will at least focus minds on how client requirements are ascertained.

“One of the things that continues to frustrate me is that we have lots of discussions and debates in our industry, but we don’t talk enough about the customer.

“We never start from the right premise of, does the customer want and need this or is this the right thing for the customer, and are we doing it in the right way to help the customer.

“The MMR doesn’t raise educational standards, and it doesn’t change the way people are paid but I think it does focus people’s minds on making sure they do a better fact find on the customers to get a better solution.

Dividing lines

According to Mr Sinclair, one of the big talking points in the industry is the advice issue brought up by MMR.

“What they have said effectively is you can’t do non-advised anymore, it’s either advised or execution-only for mortgages.

“Actually, if a customer comes along and asks some questions, somebody who is being paid by a company to talk to them is going to give them answers and the customer thinks they’ve had advice.”

He gives the example of himself walking in to a retail computer store. If someone goes in to such a store and strikes up a conversation with the salesperson, the consumer knows the salesperson’s job is to sell computers and not to give objective advice on which machine to buy.

“If I ask for his opinion I’ve still got to make the judgement about whether how he answers that is in my interest or his, and that’s my judgement to make.

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