Independent vs restricted: Who cares?
Given the arcane nature of the redefined concept of independence, it is not surprising that clients seem to have little interest.
However, when asked if they would choose a restricted adviser over an independent adviser if the former had chartered status, 67 per cent responded in the affirmative.
At one level this is of little surprise. Chartered status is something that many people will see as being synonymous with the concept of a ‘profession’, having become familiar with the label in the context of chartered surveyors or accountants.
By contrast, ‘independent’ in the context of financial advice means very little to most consumers - and will mean even less once the FSA’s nonsensical redefinition is officially applied to the term in 2013.
Are consumers really going to care if their IFA becomes an RFA, still offering the same impartial service to which they have become accustomed but with a different initialism on the business card, or revised name above the door? Frankly, I’d hope not.
The Solicitors Regulator has recently come to the same conclusions in relation to referrals and is currently consulting on plans to loosen its rules and allow referrals to non-independent advisers, where that advice can demonstrably be shown to be impartial and suitable.
I was told last year by the group operations director of IFA firm Perspective Financial Group that IFAs risked ‘dying on the altar of independence’.
His general point was that many IFAs get very hot under the collar about the need to retain their independence and how hard this will be, rather than focusing on fundamentals that will make their businesses successful in the long term.
This from a national firm that has cherished its independent status and worn it proudly as a badge of honour. More recently, Mr Craddock confirmed that it is no longer even sure it will remain independent itself and is, perhaps unsurprisingly, championing chartered status instead.
This may be a sign of things to come. That may be no bad thing.