More must be done to prove advice value to press and public

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

Adviser numbers continue to dwindle while the regulatory infrastructure continues to put extreme financial pressure on many good adviser businesses.

The recent announcement from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme that its levy on investment advisers will rise by 34 per cent is yet another blow to an industry whose regulatory resilience is certainly being tested. Costs, yet more costs.

And the recent update on the sorry affair that is Arch Cru from the Financial Conduct Authority shows that the regulator is happy to take a hard line on the industry, even when advisers’ clients do not support such a stance.

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I find it particularly revealing that less than half of the investors who were recommended Arch Cru funds have taken up the offer of redress (insisted on by the FCA) against their adviser. This statistic suggests that the majority of clients feel their advisers were not to blame for the Arch Cru debacle and that other parties, namely Capita as authorised corporate director to the funds, were the culpable ones. Strangely, but not surprisingly, the regulator does not agree, fuelling the suspicion that it finds advisers are easier targets compared to one of the country’s biggest Plcs.

Against this rather gloomy backdrop (sorry, readers), it is great when a little blue sky emerges to suggest that professional financial planning is alive and kicking. I saw this with my own eyes a few days ago when I was asked to speak at a meeting of the Cellar Club in deepest, darkest Birmingham.

A group such as the Cellar Club is a rarity these days, if not a loner. It provides a forum for some of the country’s top financial planners to meet, exchange ideas and enjoy some rather splendid food. Sadly last Christmas I was told that the Thames Valley Life and Pensions Society, a similar meeting group, had folded following the death of its chairman. I do not know now of any other adviser meeting club – if you do, please let me know.

The Cellar Club, quite thrillingly, is thriving. Based in Birmingham, it is now 40 years young and its two founding fathers, Paul Etheridge (of Prestwood fame) and Alan Smith, continue to attend every meeting, smartly decked out in their black ties and maroon smoking jackets (the original dress code requirement). The younger of the group still dress in black tie and dinner jacket.

New life has been breathed into the club with the appointment of guitar playing Mark Rogers as chairman.

He has set up a website – cellarclub.org – and moved the meetings from Simpsons Restaurant in Birmingham to the city’s University College Birmingham where students both cook and serve the food. It was an excellent decision. My pan-seared scallops, wild sea bass and artisan cheese were a delight. It is just a shame I could not enjoy a little of the Malbec, although wine waiter Andrew (young enough to be my grandson) kept me happy with a stream of diet tonic water.