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Stephen Gay’s Aifa legacy under the spotlight

During his short absence from the world of insurance to head up the Association of IFAs, Stephen Gay was involved in several major pieces of work, including a comprehensive review of the organisation that resulted in plans to open up the membership beyond independent advisers.

During his one-year reign, Mr Gay, who it was announced today (13 January) is to leave the trade body to join the Association of British Insurers, also admitted Aifa was hundreds of thousands of pounds in the red and saw several rival organisations established to challenge its role as the primary trade body for the advisory sector.

At the Association of British Insurers, Mr Gay will be returning to what some would see as the folds of the less confrontational provider side of the industry. He remains at Aifa for the moment, until a departure date is announced.

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As is clear from comments on FTAdviser’s breaking news story of his departure this morning, his legacy at Aifa is the source of much discussion.

What is clearly a fact, though, is he only stayed with the trade body for little more than a year.

In September 2010 it was announced that Mr Gay, who led Aviva’s work around the Retail Distribution Review and also worked for Prudential and Standard Life, had - in his own words - embraced a “fantastic opportunity here to build on Aifa’s successes and to take the organisation forward through this transformational period for the industry.”

By January 2012, he was going to the Association of British Insurers.

Opening up the membership

Shortly after he left provider Aviva to start his role as director-general of Aifa, Mr Gay announced the organisation would undergo a strategic review that would consider all aspects of its operations in order to get it ready for the post-Retail Distribution Review world.

Eight months later, the controversial results of that review were revealed. The report outlined new membership rules to allow restricted advisers to join post-Retail Distribution Review as part of a controversial plan to split Aifa into three arms that will serve IFAs, restricted advisers and mortgage intermediaries.

Plans for the future were swiftly followed in November by the revelation that Aifa’s accounts were less than rosy.

Mr Gay admitted the year had been “challenging” after the association’s accounts for the 12 months ending 30 June 2011 showed it posted a deficit before tax of £194,419, compared to just £14,919 previously.

Mr Gay said the increasing costs were caused by a loss of membership which was brought on by economic woes.

Reception

During Mr Gay’s reign, many IFAs expressed their discontent with the new direction Aifa was taking and several even set up rival bodies.

Adviser Alliance, run by Alan Lakey, is a not-for-profit focused lobby group established in 2009 out of the remnants of the IFA Defence Union.

Ashley Clark set up AdvisersUnited.com, another lobby group.

Recently former Financial Adviser columnist Gill Cardy recently launched IFA Centre, dedicated to supporting independent advice and representing IFAs to the regulators, but on a full-time basis.