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Q&A: Keith Richards

Brand awareness is very important for our consumer-facing initiatives. As many people will already be familiar with reading the ‘personal finance’ pages of national newspapers and websites, it is important we use the ‘Personal Finance Society’ [rather than PFS] in all our comment and promotional material to gain better recognition.

[We have seen] greater engagement with an increasing number of our membership through a more comprehensive CPD programme. As well as greater engagement and collaboration with the FCA, government and other organisations.

While advisers have built their reputations based on client trust, not all consumers feel the same way about the profession. We want to provide visible recognition of professional standards to engender greater public confidence.

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The RDR, when detached from controversy and emotion, is accelerating a high level of transparency and is starting to deliver better outcomes overall. It’s fair to say we did lose some good people who decided to retire early or exit the market.

The increase in engagement and appetite for CPD seems to be on the increase. Most people are generally reporting more positive results.

We are also seeing a greater inflow of new customer enquiries. It is testament to thequality of advisers who remain in the sector.

There has been a significant reduction in advisers over the past 20 years and the banks pulling out of offering regulated advice. There are fewer points for consumers to engage with. That needs to be remedied.

It remains to be seen how effective the overall guidance guarantee solution is in delivering more informed consumers who feel empowered to make better decisions. No doubt there will be revelations that people will do silly things.

The culture has shifted during some 25 to 30 years, from one of save and thrift, to borrow and spend. It has contributed to the lack of financial awareness and education that needs to be addressed at all levels.

It starts with the inclusion in the education curriculum through to greater awareness including workplace involvement. Initiatives such as auto-enrolment will help to change culture towards savings.

I have found the FCA to be engaging, balanced and pragmatic. Their early commitment to being different from their predecessor has remained consistent.

The role of the regulator is unlikely to win a popularity contest. The FCA has demonstrated a willingness to listen and to change its view when appropriate to do so.

Recognition of the benefits and value of professional advice is increasing. Within the next decade the advice profession will be as established as other professions in the UK.

I think it’s safe to say change has been constant in the industry but perhaps the RDR has been most profound. Therefore it is most likely to have the biggest impact on the future shape for all sectors of retail financial services – not just professional advice.

The public are generally confused by [the independent and restricted] labels so the RDR’s introduction of advisers having to clearly explain the differences is what the consumer values and understands the most. There is naturally some emotional attachment to the ‘independent’ label given it has been with us since the introduction of polarisation.